Saturday, December 25, 2010

Name Change Notification- You've Been Served

To Whom It May Concern,

I know that you have known me as Maura or Frankie for years. Since birth, in fact, for some. I think that they're both perfectly nice names. Sure, I resented Frankie as a 5 year old- the bowl cut with the stirrup pants led to gender confusion galore. And these days, I've realized that Maura, while lovely, is a little too staid to fit me.

So, after much soul-searching, I have decided that neither of these options are sufficient for me anymore. They are nice but all wrong. I must be true to my inner self, and my inner self's name is not Frankie and it is not Maura. It's Susie, pronounced "snu-ffle-u-pa-gus". I am not interested in nicknames- I mean, why would I change my name to Susie only to be called Snuff or Paggie or Luffagus? That would just be silly.

Now, I know this will be an inconvenience to you all. I mean, aside from having to redo all of your address book entries and referring to me in conversation by my new name, you also have to endure the brow beating that I will give you when you inadvertently call me Maura or Frankie to my face. Not to mention the indignant responses I will send when you incorrectly spell my name Snuffleupagus instead of Susie. No worries, that's just part of the process of helping everyone remember my new (and real) name.

When you commit these unintentional faux pas, I will pointedly and loudly remind you that every time you refer to me as my old name, you are wrenching open a wound into a gaping, oozing laceration on my soul by forcing me to relive the days before the adoption of my true name. And that my grandmother's dying wish was for me to change my name. And that my religion requires me to make this transition. And that all of our mutual social acquaintances will now gossip about how ignorant you are to continue to call me by my old name. Don't worry, it's nothing personal. Just a verbal electro-shock therapy to shame you into complying with my new name change.

Anyways, I'm really happy to announce this important transition! I know that you will be walking on pins and needles around me for the foreseeable future- maybe forever. But that's really a small price to pay to enforce this unexpected and unusual decision on those around me.

Best,
Susie

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

An Advent Meditation: The Cost of the Incarnation

Not to toot my own horn too much, but I've always had a nice singing voice. I think this must somehow come from my dad's side because my sister has a nice voice, too, but you sure wouldn't guess this from the way my dad sings. Any natural ability I had was enhanced by the fact that I grew up singing Disney tunes, church hymns, and soulful oldies- the common denominator? Melody driven music that requires actual singing rather than breathily whispering to a beat as seems to be the current fashion.
This ability secured me several prime roles in school musicals. I was Mrs. Noah in first grade- rave reviews, let me tell you. Then in third grade, I was one of a trio of featured angels in the Christmas play who sang a special song in the interlude. I was soooo sick the day before the performance. Actually, now that I'm thinking about this, I'm pretty sure this was the year that I puked behind the risers and my friend Alisha slipped in it. Probably too much information.
In any case, I recovered enough to make the performance. I rocked my faux alto that I thought was tres chic (this was before embracing my inner 2nd soprano) and sang my part of the song. It was a song basically talking about how destructive mankind is and how puzzling it was that God cared about them at all. I remember the chorus: "We really don't understand (man is by nature a sinner), Why God should bother with man (man is by nature a sinner)."
This chorus has been running through my head this Advent season. One of the pros of going to a liturgically heavy church is the emphasis on the ebb and flow of the church calendar. We have proudly lit our Advent wreath for weeks now, reminding ourselves that the big day is just around the corner (delighting children with our church sponsored Christmas countdown). Advent is the time of year where we are meant to revel in anticipation... our culture has converted this into a manic season of hurry and scurry that we now all enjoy and dread.
As I've been trying to still my heart and meditate on anticipation, this is the chorus that has stuck with me. Why all the bother? Why all the planning? I mean, think about it. Before the beginning of time (actually, outside of time, since God is not in our dimension- wrap your mind around that one), God knew He would make man, He knew that man would sin, and He knew how He would bring everything back into balance. He      saw us for what we would be and choose to provide for us.
It's the ignominious nature of the whole scheme that's getting me this year. The King of the universe became a human baby. He came down and lived and breathed and had relationships with people. He cried and laughed and got sick sometimes. He went through the whole drama of life- without sinning. My friend Mary tied this into the whole Kinsmen Redeemer concept- only God had the power to redeem, but only a human could do it for humanity. So the Guy who had the means to pay took on the form that He had to be in to pay it. His divine nature was still there- that never went anywhere. But His glory, His form, and His rights- He forfeited all the things that we most cling to and came here. He came to serve us- how crazy is that? The one being in the universe that actually deserves loyalty and service gave that up to serve the people who by all rights ought to have been the servants. I would never do that. The human body, while a good and beautiful thing, is also frail. He took on those frailties and felt them in their full measure on the cross. It's all so counterintuitive and beyond my ability to relate.
All this to say, I am being completely humbled by the costliness of Jesus' pursuit of one soul. I think of my own life- all the twists and turns so far. There were so many points where He pursued me, and not just for salvation, but for relationship. It just seems like an awful lot of effort for little old me. That makes me think of a story I heard about a girl who Amy Carmichael worked with in India. She became a Christian through the school run by missionaries and then left her father's house to travel with Amy. He couldn't legally do anything to her since she was of age, but he wanted to make sure that no else became a Christian. He led a group of men to burn down the school and home of other Christians. The Christians grumbled and said that surely all the problems weren't worth the conversion of a single girl.
The cost/benefit analysis for any relationship doesn't match up for us, more often than not. That person is too frustrating or hurts us too much or is just plain too different than us for a relationship to be worth it. We can't be bothered to invest the time, or risk the pain, that love requires. But the perfect God who created us and everything around us- He can be bothered. He counts the costs and deems them worth it. I am really just staggered by this.
So this Advent, I am brimming with anticipation. I am remembering that once, many, many moons ago, my Savior came to earth, beginning the climax of a long-plotted plan to bring me back into relationship with my Father. He gave up so many of His rights and served me. And as I look at all the lights and general splendor that are meant to inspire awe within me, I will try to focus my awe on the One who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Panty Hose: A Poem

Forgive my shoddy meter:

As the cold wind blows,
I look at my bare legs,
and think of panty hose.

Come rain, snow, or shine,
I wear a girly skirt-
The essence of femininity divine.

Even in the bitterest of snows,
I sport my adorable frocks,
without panty hose.

I know I'm probably mad,
But the nylon fabric,
Is a most unfortunate professional fad.

To combat vendor foes,
I'm expected to wear a navy suit,
With complementary panty hose.

But I despise the synthetic cloth,
And those old lady knee highs,
I openly scoff.

What happened to the trends of long ago,
When garter belts and silk stockings,
Were worn instead of panty hose?

This inelegant modern style,
Is unmistakable to the old-fashioned eye,
As the embodiment of everything cheap, fast, and vile.

Yet as everybody knows,
In the winter it's cold and more tempting,
To endure the pain of panty hose.

I pluck up my resolve,
And decide to never give in,
No matter how the weather evolves.

So when to lunch my project team goes,
I bare-leggedly tag along,
Still resisting the lure of panty hose.

I think of the judgmental teeth,
Digging into my flesh,
And I want to weep.

But then I remember my parking garage lowest of lows,
When a stiff wind blew up my skirt,
And I'd longed to be wearing panty hose.

So just as I've given in and made up mind,
I see my boss' open toed shoes worn with tights,
And I see it's a sign.

Because no matter what the advice from the pros,
I do not like the look or feel,
Of the practical but uncomfortable panty hose.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

S@!t My Daddy Taught Me

In preparation for my departure for the holidays, I've been doing a winter cleaning, primarily sorting my massive backlog of Real Simple and Food Network magazines. I've been clipping the relevant articles and pictures and recycling the rest. In the midst of this purge, I've read some interesting articles, one of which reflected on the ten pieces of advice that the author's father had given her over the years that turned out to be on the money. You know, those ridiculous truisms your old man has been spouting out for years that you always rolled your eyes at, but found yourself repeating once you'd left home.
That got me thinking about my father, or Daddy, as any proper Southern gal calls her pater familias. There are a lot of things that I don't think he's right about (who knows? maybe I should just give it another decade) and many things that I've learned reverse lessons from. But he's pretty wisdomous in many ways and as I make my way through the "real world," I increasingly realize that he knew what he was talking about. This is my salute to the top 10 things my Daddy taught me about life.
As an aside, you might be wondering why my Mama doesn't get this same honor. The simple answer is that she is sickeningly right about everything in life, so a tribute to her "I told you so" moments would be exhausting. The upside to this uncanny tendency of hers is that women are supposed to become more like their mothers with every passing year, which means that I am constantly inching closer to omniscience.
  1. McDonald's Is Evil: Long before Supersize Me or Fast Food Nation came out, my father hated McDonald's with an unconcealed fervor. His reasoning was not rooted in a belief of the superiority of organic foods or a sense of indignation at the calorie/fat content. He just knew a bad burger when he tasted it. "That food is crap and you have to be crazy to waste your money on it. We're going to Wendy's." Until the age of 9, he successfully convinced me that his car was physically unable to enter the McDonald's parking lot, like there was some invisible force field that repelled it from the premises- yes, it is embarrassing that I believed him for that long. I used to get unusually excited when I got to eat McDonald's with a friend. I thought I was so denied- everyone else got to eat McDo's. The upside? He was right. That is one crappy burger, and since I didn't grow up eating it as an afterschool treat, I have no nostalgic associations with it and rarely stop there. I have plenty of other gastronomic vices, but the Golden Arches ain't one of them.
  2. Wear A Hat: My father is follicularly challenged (read: bald) and is a little touchy on the subject. I don't understand this problem with men. They accuse women of being vain, but the second their receding hairline comes up, they get completely self conscious. I hardly even notice those things- anyways, I digress. Daddy has taken the only sensible route to this problem and shaves his entire head. It makes him look distinguished, I think. In any case, I have never known him to have much hair and I have always known him to have a hat of some sort with him. He is outspoken on the subject- as a child, he reminded me on a daily basis that you lose X% of your body heat through your head. The percentage varied based on the amount of emphasis he wanted to place on the point. The statistic itself, whatever the true percentage, is based on faulty study, or so my roommate tells me. Nevertheless, I have found that a hat really is a good idea most of the time. First, as a fashion statement, since not many women still wear them. Second, in the winter, it does make you feel warmer and more snuggly when you're walking around in the snow.
  3. There Are Some Things You Can Never Take Back: Sometimes, when we're watching golf together and I'm about to settle into a nap, my father will suddenly drop one-liners of wisdom on me. A recurring one as I was growing up was, "Be very careful what you say to people, because there are some things you can say that you can never take back." I'm not sure why this was such a mantra with him, but I guess it worked, because that one piece of advice is something that I have repeated to myself and others countless times. It's just so true- as I've found myself having to have hard conversations with people and just repeating this in my mind over and over. You have to be so careful about what you say to people with whom you have an ongoing relationship. Because even if you say you're sorry, if you cross a line, the memory of it is still always there.
  4. Handy Skills Will Make You A Hero: My daddy is a contractor, meaning that he's handy with fixing things and using tools. Make that super handy, with the notable exception of questionable electrical skills (sorry, buddy, it's true). I'm not saying that these handy skills have been transmitted to me by osmosis. Quite the contrary- he has always been of the "I'm going to show this once so you better pay attention" school. Regardless, for a clumsy girl, I have acquired quite a repertoire of around-the-house skills, making me a modern, independent woman. However, more importantly, I am able to grunt and talk tools with my male coworkers. Daddy has similarly enabled me to talk sports with the same group, dazzling them with my piercing insight into the television broadcasting practices that discriminate against the SEC. 
  5. There Is A Correct Way To Load A Dishwasher: I was vehemently reprimanded as a child for incorrectly placing a dish in the dishwasher. At first, I thought it was because he was abnormally proud about his dishwasher loading skills, since that was his only contribution to the family meal. The most complex culinary process I've seen him execute is defrost on the microwave. So dishwashing has always been his area of expertise. I thought he was just being uptight. However, according to an article I recently read, his technique is actually word-perfect for maximum dish cleaning in a standard dishwasher. And since I've been so trained to follow this process, my loading skills are likewise ideal. Gracias, papa.
  6. Being In Love Doesn't Last Forever: Again, my dad drops random words of knowledge on me every once in a while. I forget the context, but one time he turned to me and said, "Nobody stays in love forever- you'll fall in and out of love all the time. You can love someone without being in love." This is a pretty counter-cultural concept, when you think about it, one that is reinforced in church teachings on marriage. What it means is that being in love is great, but that's not what marriage or any long term relationship is really about. The giddiness and giggles fade, at some point. They may and probably will return some day, but just because they're gone doesn't mean that all hope is lost. If you've chosen someone decently suited to you and invested in your relationship with that person, even when you're not in love with them, you'll still love them.
  7. Pay Your Bills- Every Month: I didn't realize how vital this lesson was until the recent economic downturn. One gift that both of my parents gave me was an open dialog in our house about finances. Not specific dollar amounts, but financial principles, which my CPA parents were obviously well-versed to speak to. I took it for granted that I knew basics about playing the stock market (don't panic- buy low and keep it) and buying real estate (don't bite off more than you can chew). The most pertinent lesson, however, was that barring some unusual situation, you pay off your credit card every single month. I later learned in my business classes that the principle behind this practice is that credit cards are essentially unsecured loans at extremely high interest rates. Well-thought out and planned debt isn't a bad thing- but paying 18% interest on an iPod is just silly. Friends would get into sticky credit situations as I went through college- I didn't get it. Why would they put themselves in that position for small luxuries that they just couldn't afford? But upon further investigation, I realized that their parents had never mentioned any of that kind of advice or maybe didn't even have it to give. I learned these lessons through no merit of my own- I'm just lucky.
  8. Everyone Starts Off As The Grunt: My daddy has never been a teddy bear. I mean, to me he's obviously dear and his bark is worse than his bite, but he's definitely a no-nonsense, down to brass tacks kind of guy. He scared my friends a little bit as I was growing up. In any case, he's just not the kind of guy that you go to if you're looking for sympathy.* I'd be venting about not getting enough playing time on the volleyball court or about getting stuck with the crap work on a project and he'd just deadpan, "Suck it up. Everyone starts on the bottom. You won't get anywhere without working hard and proving yourself." And again he's right. Geez. When I started my job, there wasn't much for me to do, so I volunteered for every kind of bitch work you can think of. I made copies, I got lunch, I procured office supplies, and generally just made myself useful. One of the managers that I was working with would say, "This is a disgrace. If my daughters were doing these kinds of things, I would tell them to quit." Well, there's a reason why I'm still at that client and he rolled off right after that. Because I'd been faithful in the small things and done it with a smile, the partner personally recognized me and gave me a much more responsible role than I should have had for my level. 
  9. Intimidating People Are Less Scary When They Have Patronizing Nicknames: My dad calls people "Big Boy" when they get on his nerves in negotiations. It's said in the most contemptuous, placating tone you can imagine. It incenses the recipient to the point that they just look pathetically red and don't seem nearly as intimidating. I've not determined my own equivalent yet, but I'm thinking maybe "honey child." Or "sweetie cakes."
  10. Stories Are Important: It may be strange to those who know his general dislike for books, but my dad is a huge part of why I want to be a writer. It's not because I saw him with a nose in a book all the time. It's because to this day, there are few things that I enjoy more in life than listening to him tell a story. He tells them with such warmth and character, spinning even the most mundane incidents into tall tales. If you've seen the movie Big Fish, he reminds me of that a little bit, except not as fantastic and more believable. In any case, I know that my mother pushed me more towards the form of expression my love of stories would take, but there's a reason why both of my Daddy's daughters are avid readers. 
*I will note, however, that last winter when my key wouldn't turn in the lock at 11 o'clock at night in a snow, he stayed on the phone with me while I loudly wept. He stayed with me until I finally made the lock turn thirty minutes later and was the picture of comfort and sympathy. Maybe he's getting soft in his old age... or maybe he just couldn't bring himself to be hard on a crying woman ;)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Confessions of a Chef/Crafter/House Frau Wannabe

I feel a little shame faced about this post, for some reason. There is nothing lecherous or sinister about it, but I feel like I'm simultaneously betraying feminism for admitting these desires and female instinct for not naturally being an expert at this stuff. I'm a decent cook, fair housekeeper, and moderate craft/creative project maker, but I want to be better. There, I said it. I want to improve my domestic skills, and I don't care who knows it! Take that, Gloria Steinem* and Irma Rombauer. I don't need your approval.
It's not that this is an all-consuming desire. I don't lie awake in the night, quietly weeping because I've still not mastered the art of timing my meals so that every component finishes at the same time. I'm not in therapy talking about how I've never managed to knit anything more complicated than a simple scarf in a truly tragic shade of sickly pink.
Yet I see this inner yen manifest itself in small ways in my daily life. I admire my uber-cook roommate's culinary skillz. I read Real Simple in the hope that the practical how-tos or decorating ideas will seep into my subconscious so thoroughly that I will know what to do the next time a domestic emergency or impromptu party comes up. I find myself browsing www.smittenkitchen.com to get recipes and look at the pretty pictures that I could never take. Or www.anceletphotography.com to look at other pretty pictures that I could never take. I look at the beautifully decorated homes of my friends or in magazines and try to memorize the arrangement of the candles and the bric-a-brac. I procure beautiful and helpful cookbooks, which, honestly,  end up serving as talismen. I feel like their presence on the kitchen cookbook shelf will somehow magically make me Julia Child overnight. I clean- well, sometimes. I won't lie about that, because my roommates could tell you how often I do an actual house cleaning. But I do tidy- my room is almost always perfectly tidy (though as I say that, I just remembered the state I left it in this morning...).
When I've summoned up all of my energy, I experiment with new recipes. I bought this Southern cookbook because, God love her, my mom is from St. Petersburg, Florida, which means she's a yankee with a tan. Despite the other cooking lessons she passed down (and that woman put a hot meal on the table every night after a full day of work), I never learned to make many of the country delights that I grew up enjoying at other people's houses. I've been trying to make a new recipe with a different central ingredient every week, and the results have been good, thus far. But it just doesn't feel like enough. Shockingly, even watching Julie and Julia on repeat doesn't seem to miraculously make me the innately skilled housekeeping, crafting wunderkind that I long to be.
I think most people are surprised to realize how strong my inner domestic diva urges are. Probably because I was surprised by them, myself. I was carefully groomed from an early age to be a Professional Success, to be a Go-Getter. I remember thinking pityingly of the other members of my sex who longed to be housewives. I would indulge their games with dollies and housekeeping, but left to my own devices, I played teacher or business woman or writer. I knew better. (In case you haven't been reading this blog very long or are just a bit dense, I was borderline insufferable from ages 5 to 11. Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery.)
However, to my sheepish surprise, as I went to university and had to actually make plans for what I was going to be when I grew up, I began to make a startling discovery. I didn't really want to be this business woman that I was so prepared to become. The more I reflected and looked ahead, I realized that I wanted to be a writer, working from home. And though it was too late at that point to change my degree, nor did I feel a real calling to do so, I was chagrined to admit that what I truly desired in my heart of hearts was to be a writer, stay-at-home mom, and general house frau. Oh boy.
These days, I'm definitely not working from home. I am working in a small, windowless room with 6 men for 12 hours a day, every day. I drag myself home, shove something fast down for dinner, and fall into bed. I'm not married and have no children, and my writing does not yet pay my bills so that I can quit my job or anything. And even when I'm at home, writing to my heart's content whilst wrangling a couple of children and waiting for the hubs to get off of work, I know that I won't miraculously have all this time to indulge these kinds of urges. I think it will just be more of a priority than when it's doing all of these kinds of things for more than just myself. It's a lot nicer to cook,etc. for people you love than only for little old you.
Regardless of when this time with others comes, I want to make more space in my life to enjoy these activities for myself. I want to be a little domestic goddess, even if it's just for me. So I will keep reading my Real Simple's and lucky cookbooks, and hopefully someday soon, I will make space in my life for my own enjoyment of cooking and crafting and general homemaking.
In the mean time, to all my far handier friends in these fields, your tips and wisdom are appreciated! Skill me in your ways!

*As an aside, how does one make "American feminist" one's title? When spell checking her name on Wikipedia, this is how she is described. Can my profession be "American person-with-an-opinion?" Please add this to my Wikipedia page, devoted fans. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Imagination - The Organ of Meaning

One of the side effects of being raised as the only child in the house is having a particularly vivid imagination. Or at least, it should be, assuming that TV time has been properly limited and reading has been sufficiently guided towards those books that improve the mind. Given that my parents were unsuccessful in restricting my TV viewing (I was a sneaky and stubborn little devil) and that I read every last installment of the Babysitter's Club that had been written up that point by the time I was in 3rd grade, one might surmise that my imagination was irreversibly spoiled.
Luckily, fate stepped in and my imagination was granted two saving graces: 1) an innate passion for movies of an epic nature and 2) an inexplicable love for the classics. The first imbued my seven year old mind with a sense of adventure- that life is a grand tale and that behind every seemingly innocent rock or bush, a unexpected surprise may be waiting to whisk you away into some journey unknown. The second opened my mind to the complexity of plot, character, and meaning that a story could embody, as well as to the power of atmosphere. The Three Musketeers, Tale of Two Cities, Pilgrim's Progress, CandideThe Age of Innocence- at 9, I definitely didn't understand most of what was going on in these books (resulting in a slow process of rereading in adulthood), but what I did grasp was the fact that they were all damn good tales.
I say all of this because I've realized recently that an active imagination, like a super power, can be used for good  or for evil in my own life and lives of people around me. See, I'm always writing storylines in my head. All day long, I'm making connections in my head between what happens and what it means and how it relates to other areas in my life.
My propensity for the fantastic often results in equally fantastic stories. I come home, notice the door isn't locked. There's no one else home. I go into the bathroom and think that the shower curtain is slightly out of place from when I left it. I go into the kitchen to get a knife and then return to the bathroom- I yank the curtain back, fully expecting to meet either a serial murderer or a dead body that serial murderer has disposed of in our house. (Just to set your mind at ease, I have yet to find either)
Or I am meeting someone for coffee and they are a few minutes late. I remember the ambulance I saw passing me on the way to the coffee shop. I realize that the person must have been into an accident, and within moments, I'm eulogizing them. By the time they arrive, I'm half in tears, besotted by void that they will be leaving in my life. They're not always such macabre stories- I'm sure if the long lost King of Prussia were to  materialize, I would soon realize that I must be his long lost daughter.
My narratives don't always run to the fantastic. It is the ordinary ones that really can get me into trouble. C.S. Lewis once said that "Reason is the organ of truth; imagination is the organ of meaning." This quote has really been sticking with me lately and convicting me deeply. I gather small data points all day long- objective points of truth. But I also attribute significance to all of the data points that I've gathered- subjective points of meaning. To be clear, I'm not saying that meaning is subjective. The shower curtain askew does not mean a serial murderer is in the house- it means that one of my roommates moved it slightly after I'd left for the day. The friend who is late has not been tragically killed on I-66 - they fell asleep and napped past when they needed to leave to be on time. However, I so often have just enough data points to make a subjective guess rather than an objective assessment of the meaning. The simple answer is that I need to be more disciplined about waiting until I have enough bright lines from data points to make the objective assessment.
The maddening part, however, is that I most often make these guesses when I will in all likelihood never have enough data points to make the objective assessment; matters of the heart and soul aren't often quantifiable. Extrapolation is necessary to attribute meaning. If your friend is acting quiet, you have to decide- is he mad at me or is he sad about something or is he just tired? I am displeased to realize that the extrapolations I make invariably cast the person in question in the worse light possible. I don't assume that they have good motives or even neutral motives. I always assume their motives are bad, and that's a really ugly thing.
There's one person at work who seems to always make my life harder. In my mind, I have developed a truly vicious storyline of why he's so thoughtless or inefficient. But rarely do I ever take a step back and think, "Maybe he's having a hard time at home right now. Maybe he's feeling a lot of pressure from the client and is just not focused on how he's treating me. Maybe someone in his family is sick and he's distracted." I am capable of this kind of empathy. I extend it to most strangers. Yet I've recently noticed that if my rights or comfort are infringed upon in anyway, that's when I get mean. That's when I assume that the person is purposefully trying to make me mad or deprive me of what's due to me.
I guess what I've been reflecting on is that even if someone really is as diabolical as I am imagining them to be... who cares? If someone infringes on my rights... who cares? I won't try to expand these statements to everyone, because some people are in circumstances where they are in genuine suffering because of the way people are treating them or the rights that they are being denied. Their heart in those situations are their business, not mine. But for me, in my life, most bad treatment or denial of rights result primarily in  my discomfort, annoyance, or inconvenience. For those outcomes, I can definitely decide in my heart not to think the worst of the people in question. Their motives are between them and God, and it's really none of my business. I guess that's where "turning the other cheek" starts. It's not placid apathy or perpetual victimization. It's a predetermined mindset to value loving someone well over asserting your own rights.
I want to use my imagination for good things. I have a pretty powerful one- it's what makes me good at my job. People don't realize that being imaginative and being analytical are really just heartbeats away from each other. At work, I see the relationships, meanings, and possibilities between logical entities or numbers or deliverables or tools. In the rest of my life, I can see the relationships between what I do and how that affects other people and God. I can understanding the meaning behind what someone says or why an author used that image for something. I can see the possibilities for where different paths might take someone or what I could become. I want to use my imagination to empathize with people, to love them better, to understand God more, to write stories that people enjoy.
So that's my next little project. Using my powers for good, not for evil.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Church - A Prayer Request

Many of you know how much I love my church here in DC - it's probably my favorite thing about living here. The level of welcome I've experienced there, coupled with a deep love for Jesus and His gospel, have truly made it a church home.
However, the church home that God led me to came with some baggage when I walked into it. After a lot of prayer and discussion, the church decided several years ago that it could no longer try to reform their denomination from within. There were too many signs of going down a path that permanently rejected key tenets of the Christian faith (most notably, the uniqueness of Christ's salvation... kind of Christianity 101 :)). The church voted and decided to leave that denomination. Along with several other parishes in the Northern Virginia area, our church decided to place itself under the authority of the Convocation of Anglican of North America. This is a missionary district of the Anglican Church of Nigeria-- so basically, the English brought Anglicanism to Nigeria, and now Nigeria is sending missionaries to America to reinstate Biblically based Anglicanism. My archbishop is Nigerian- so cool to be connected to the international church so closely!
Anyways, all this to say, when the church decided to leave the old diocese, the former bishop worked with our church along with several others to negotiate a peaceful separation, where everyone could walk away as happy as possible. However, right before we were about to wrap up and walk away, the national denomination leadership ordered the local bishop to stop negotiations and instructed their lawyers to sue all the churches in our area who were leaving for possession of our buildings.
Now, if you know anything about our facilities, you will know that George Washington commissioned the building we hold many of our services in. The property actually predates the existence of the denomination our church was leaving. We have paid all the bills, taxes, costs, etc. associated with our building- the entire campus has always been funded by the congregants, not the national church. Yet, because of a church act passed in the 80s, the old denomination is claiming rights over the property.
Our church, along with the others, has been engaged in a long bout of litigation to keep our property. The initial judge ruled in our favor, but the Virginia Supreme Court overruled his decision and remanded it back to the first judge. This new wave of proceedings is gearing up this week.
To all of you out there who do pray, I would ask that you think about our church and lift up your prayers for these things:
  1. That the national leaders in the old denomination would see their hardness of heart and seek reconciliation. The various churches have tried numerous times to discuss negotiations and have been categorically rebuffed, with the answer of "The only discussion we're interested in is when you will turn over the keys." The head bishop gave testimony and essentially said that she would rather see our building turned into a saloon than ever see us worship there again. I feel comfortable giving these examples because they were shared with our church body- they are only meant to illustrate the spirit behind the proceedings from their side and why I perceive them as being hardhearted. For people who are supposed to be in the same body as us, and whose theological predilections are supposed to be more progressive than ours, these reactions are very harsh and very hurtful, especially in since our leadership are former colleagues of these folks.
  2. That funds to continue this legal battle would be made available. We have spent an incredible amount of money trying to keep our property, money that had been allocated for other uses. Our church has also helped pay for the legal expenses of other, smaller sister churches.
  3. That our leadership would continue to hear from the Lord on when to push, when to retreat, when to press forward, and when to concede. That Jesus would be glorified by the actions of every church representative, whether they be a lawyer or clergy.
  4. That the judges who hear our case would be equitable and fair, seeking justice above political drama. This case is an important one for setting precedent and one that should be very important to other religious bodies, Christian or no. It is a question of whether or not a congregation has the right to keep its property if it has a theological disagreement with the body it has affiliated itself with and wants to leave. 
  5. That the American church as a whole would be gearing itself up for continuing conflicts like this. However small this suffering is in the grand scheme of things, this is an intra-church instance of persecution. The church is being punished for defending its position to adhere to the truths that Jesus taught as they are laid out in the Bible. This is not an isolated incident and will continue to spread as every church is forced to decide whether it will succumb to secular pressure to be PC or continue to stick by orthodox theology that has been with us for 2,000 years.
This Sunday, we watched a video from one of our Nigerian bishops as he described the bloodshed his congregation has endured for their faith. Their businesses and homes have been burned, their families killed- his own wife was brutally raped, beaten, and left blind as a warning to him. One of our bishop's main roles there is to remind his people not to react in anger but to endure these attacks without hateful retaliation. He himself was dragged out into the streets to be killed- he began to pray and his attackers left him lying there. He says that he doesn't know why he was spared- he knows one day he will be killed but that "with every breath I have left, I will proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a gospel worth living for, and it is a gospel worth dying for." As we here in America begin to get such a tiny taste of the systematic suffering of the body around the world, let's pray that we continue in the example of our brothers and sisters- to proclaim the gospel boldly, to live in peace with our neighbors so far as it depends on us, and to not back down from serving a Savior who is truly worth living for.

    Monday, November 15, 2010

    Just a Middle School Love Song Playing on the Radio...

    To keep things festive, I like to change up the music I listen to when I'm up in the gym working on my fitness. I used to stick primarily to those crazy rappists of Lil Jon and 50 Cent variety, due to their infectious beats and emphasis on dropping and shaking, which are 2 essential movements in exercise. However, after I "fasted" from secular music for 40 days, my taste for that genre has decreased. If I wouldn't allow someone to talk about my womanly figure in those terms in real life, I should probably not allow someone to talk about it that way in song form. I digress.
    This reevaluation of music choice has led to a great expansion of my music when I'm sweating. First, I explored running to Frankie Valli, the Rolling Stones, and the Temptations, which was a success. I ventured further into the 70s and 80s, with equal enjoyment. And then I hit a playlist I call "Middle School to College." I created this particular playlist so that when I'm old and gray, I can reminisce about the good old days when I had all my teeth and danced the night away to such classy ditties as "The Cupid Shuffle", "Buy U a Drank", and "The Macarena."
    On my first foray into this playlist, however, I was greeted primarily by songs of my early middle school days. As I listened to the pop songs that brought up my age group, I was struck by the messaging that we were formed by. Well, at least most of my peers. I was "that kid" when it came to this genre of bubble gummie goodness. Having been brought up on the likes of the Beatles, Sly & the Family Stone, and even those pop pioneers, Abba, I could hear the crassness of the music of the late 90s from a mile away. This ain't the kind of music that lasts. And I would smarmily inform my peers (yes, I'm looking at you, Michelle and Kayla) that in 5 years, they would be very embarassed about their obsession with the likes of BSB and NSync. Now, I was right that they were embarassed (or maybe not, I don't know- they can speak for themselves on that score). What I was wrong about, however, was the lasting impact of those groups. Not only on music, but on pop culture.
    So I started listening more closely to the lyrics of all these songs of my generation and realized that there were some interesting thoughts underlying the snappy tunes. Here are some musings on a couple of these sugary confections:
    1. "As Long As You Love Me" - Backstreet Boys... This particular delight has all the beautiful melodies one would expect from the group who arguably got the ball rolling on the boy band movement. Underneath the smooth harmonization, however, I can't help but be rather disturbed by the words that are being so tenderly crooned. One assumes that the intended message is that you should focus on who a person is now rather than dwelling on the past. A debatable position, but at least an understandable one. Unfortunately, the way this message is conveyed is "I don't care who you are, where you're from, what you did, as long as you love me." If someone loving you is truly the only criteria for select amorous partners, we may quickly run into trouble. On this logic, stalkers make the ideal mate. Their all-consuming passion is to love you. My advice, gentle reader, is to focus on who a person is in the present... but if they have some kind of violent felony conviction in the past, maybe that needs to factor into your decision making process of whether or not to date them. Just a suggestion.
    2. "Bye Bye Bye" - N Sync... This is one I can pretty much get on board with. If someone's treating you badly in a dating relationship, probably time to move on. A good message for all the tweens out there today who are obsessed with Twilight ("We'll be together forever- you don't understand our love!").  I do wonder how this translates into our generation's overall view of marriage/the purpose of having relationships in general. He doesn't ever really seem to explain how she's been making him a "fool in this game for two." Cheating? Not paying him enough attention? Eating the last of the tortilla chips? More information would make this easier to judge. Anyways, this gets a passing grade. 
    3. "Case of the Ex" - Mya... Again, I'll give this one a big pass. I was surprised because I think this was one of the only songs I heard all morning from this era that I thought was a genuinely empowering song. Basically, check yourself before you wreck yourself. The possible exception is the end of the bridge- not sure that threatening to reciprocate with your own round of infidelity is the best way to keep your man.  Or maybe it is... I'll let the seriously committed gals of the world school me on the most effective threats to encourage fidelity. 
    4. "Nookie" - Limp Bizkit... Well, there's not really a whole lot of ambiguity on this one. Or need to explain why it might be objectionable for tweens to listen to it. But what I find interesting is that in the midst of the declaration that he "did it all for the nookie," the bridge reveals the hopelessness that old Fred has from this kind of life style: "Leave me alone - it'll always be the same, ain't nothing going to change, it'll always be the same, I'm just gonna stay here." So actually, I have less of a problem with this song than with others on this list. It seems to be a pretty honest presentation of where the guy is in his valuation of sex over the simpler pleasures, like a woman who doesn't cheat on him. Though, I still would argue that this is not 12 year-old appropriate, TRL. That's right, I'm looking at you, Carson Daley.
    5. "Baby One More Time" - Britney Spears... Okay, yeah, so this may be one of the catchiest songs of all time. Even now, if it comes on, the windows are rolling up and I am belting this out at the top of my lungs. And how many tunes boast a mid-song pause for dramatic wind noises? But where to start with the problems it presents? First of all, this is a song about indecisiveness. You had a reason you broke up with him, sister. Stick to your guns! Basically, at the first sign of loneliness, she's ready to do whatever it takes to get an old relationship back. Not only that, he's evidently the "reason she breathes." Wow. This reeks of codependency. But finally, let's talk about the chorus. "Hit me baby one more time." I have no idea what this means. Domestic abuse? Get back together again? Dominatrix? He's a bartender and she's asking for another shot? Love her again? There's really no way to know. And if you don't know what something means, you shouldn't say it. I learned that with "Milkshake." Ick.
    Ah, middle school.

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    About to Die

    I am justing putting this out into the hazy gloom of the world wide web... I am about to die at work right now. Imagine someone standing over your shoulder for 13 hours a day say, "No, do it this way, change that, do this, now, now, NOW." Now multiply that by 5 days a week. Now multiple that by 8 weeks of your life. All of this equals a very tired and tense Frankie. Ah, the joys of being simultaneously micromanaged and firedrilled. It's the American dream.
    That being said, I am hoping that things will ease up soon and that I will return to some semblance of a life. I really want to get the hang of this insane rhythm and actually be able to thrive and serve the people I'm working with. I am hoping for renewal this weekend. Here's hoping!
    And here's hoping I can get back into my writing schedule. I really want to dig in over the holidays!

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    Batteries- Recharged (Or a Word on Joy)

    Whew! This weekend has really been a whirlwind. I have been anticipating Kayla's wedding and accompanying hoopla for so long now, it feels surreal that it has actually come and gone. I won't go into all the details, the personal jokes, the small moments that would likely mean very little to anyone outside of myself. Suffice it to say, I was fed by this weekend. The word I would use to describe the entire time would be joy. Every moment was so filled with joy for me.
    Joy for Kayla and Austin, as I watched a couple that I have sincere admiration for and that the Lord has used to minister to me. I can truly say that I love the Lord more for having been a part of their relationship- as He has taught me this year so much about the Church as His Bride and the tension of already/not yet in our relationship with Him (and how that mirrors engagement!), He has consistently used their ups and downs as a tangible example of the spiritual metaphor that romantic love was designed to be. I am so thankful to have had these experiences before I have to try to do all this marriage stuff myself!
    Joy, also, to relish time with sweet friends, old and new, who give me energy. It's been so long since I've been so completely at my ease that at times I was a little overwhelmed- I had to battle not to go internal. I got such peace from basking in the presence of friends who know me so well and with whom I laugh so heartily. Is there really any sweeter sound than laughter between friends long separated? I'm sure there are, but it was the sound that I have been longing to hear for many moons. It's so strange to me- the time that I spend with these old friends completely reenergizes me to invest more in my new friends in DC. I think it's because my old friends remind me that (prepare for me to toot my own horn) I am fun- I do have things to offer to people. I am a good friend who is loyal and therefore has loyal friends. They give me the confidence to build relationships with people who are still learning these things about me. And then there's just the relaxing state of non-work... my relationships with old friends don't demand all that work, at least when we're face to face. It's plenty of work to keep up over the phone/Facebook/Skype- but when we're in person, our relationship is easy, comfortable, and known. In other words, it is the things that a friendship is after an extended period of being hard, a bit awkward, and unsure.
    Joy to spend time with my family. The heart truly has grown fonder in our distance, and things that I wanted or needed from them at one time don't seem as important. They certainly would crop back up if I was to spend an extended period of time with them, I'm sure :), but I am so thankful for the gift of being able to be in the moment with them and fully enjoy the security and love that they unwaveringly offer me. I love giggling with my mom, debating with my dad, hugging my sister, and playing with my niece. They are so dear to my heart and it really is a blessing to have the perspective to fully engage and enjoy them.
    And finally, joy to be in the landscape that I was raised in. As I descended into the McGhee-Tyson airport, I gazed out the window at the Smokey Mountains. It had been raining earlier in the morning and it was still misty over the mountains. The eponymous smoke had settled on them- through the wispy veil, I saw the oranges and reds of the autumnal trees, and the beauty of the green meadows that stretched around their base. The small country houses and churches that dotted the grassy expanses looked so much like a Thomas Kinkade painting it could have been a little nauseating. But it wasn't. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen and I realized that I was crying a little as I continued to watch the tableau get closer and closer. I felt so silly- they were mountains I've seen all my life. But as I've been away, I've discovered how much the external landscape that you grow up in becomes a very important internal landscape. Others who have moved away from where they spent all their formative years have echoed this to me- I think you can never really feel at home anywhere else. I, anyways, believe that I will never feel completely at ease away from the mountains. I'd like to think my heavenly house will be settled at the top of a mountain. Anyways, between the mountains and it being my favorite time of year, fall, my thirst for aesthetic comfort was thoroughly satiated and I drank up every visual glass of water greedily.
    Anyways, this was a little sappy, looking back, but I guess I'm in that kind of mood. I always return from my hometown with a renewed vigor for engaging in the present tasks at hand. Next on the agenda- exploring how God is calling me to serve others and give more. I've really been mulling over what it means to seek to give more generously versus to seek to live more simply and therefore give more generously. We'll see where He's going with this...

    Monday, October 25, 2010

    An Ode to the Crazy Man on the Metro

    One of the beauties of living in the Big City is all the colorful people who converge in one place. Tonight, I'd like to give a little shoutout to one of those interesting people I encountered on my way home from Philadelphia.
    Me and Bess got split up on the return journey, so I rode the metro on a Saturday night from Union Station to my home metro stop. To be fair, so did Bess. On Bess' solo ride, she found a fellow Tennessean who went to high school with our old roommate, Heather. If I learned nothing else on this trip, I discovered that the inner joy of Bess' heart draws strangers to her, like a moth to a flame. These strangers are invariably charming, asking her to take their picture for them or complimenting her on her outfit.
    My strangers are nearly never charming or complimentary. They are usually scary or crazy or both. I have to wonder- what kind of different vibes am I putting out into the universe?
    Par exemple, as I rode home, I noticed a man with an abundance of odd bages and purses around him. He was in mismatching clothing and sat hunched over in his seat. I felt for him- he clearly was disoriented and seemed to be trying to refocus on something in his hand. That's when I realized that the thing in his hand was a tiny little notebook that he was frantically scribbling into in small even lines. For the record, any time you see someone doing this, you should go ahead and scoot away. There's nothing good that comes of tiny notebook keeping (see "Conspiracy Theory" for further evidence). And when he started referring to other, already filled tiny notebooks, I started inching away.
    I had not made it far when he shoved the notebooks into an old purse and made direct eye contact with the guy next to me. Cocking his head to the side, he queried, "I speak Russian- do you speak Russian?" The man confessed that he did not. He turned to me and repeated, "I speak Russian- do you speak Russian?" I shook my head no. He continued with this question to everyone in our car, repeating it as many times as was necessary to get a response. The question was asked with such gusto and earnest interest, it reminded me of a 5 year old asking you if he can show you his new trainset. It was ascertained that no one in our car spoke Russian, so he sat back down until we got to the station. One might infer that he spoke no further English- however, the question was asked in a fake Slavic accent that was highly reminescent of Boris and Natasha, of "Rocky & Bullwinkle" fame. So I felt a limited amount of pity- should a Russian speaker have been located, I am not sure that the conversation would have continued for very long.
    Anyways, he continued his search once we got to the next platform, and nary a Russian was found. Once I realized that he was crazy but not scary, I felt a bemused affection for him. He was a lot less depressing than many of the homeless people I see around the city, because he was happy. He had his notebooks and his quest, and he wasn't worried about finding anything else. I mean, I'm sure he was- I'm sure he thinks about getting food and somewhere warm to stay and maybe where he'll get drugs. But for that moment, he didn't seem to be thinking about any of that.
    So here's to you, sir. I hope that you found your Russian speaking friend and rode off into the sunset a happy man.

    Saturday, October 16, 2010

    A Brief Pictorial of Mi Casa

    Now that I'm unevicted, I thought I would post a couple of pictures of my new place. Any cuteness can be attributed to my aunt's wonderful good taste...







    Anyways, I'm glad I get to stay here! :)

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    Unevicted and Loving It

    I am sitting here in the midst of a crazy hectic week at work- I've worked late every night last week and through the weekend. But I wanted to take a moment and reflect on the roller coaster I've been on for the last 3 weeks.
    Last Wednesday, my roommates and I finally were able to send a letter that we were all comfortable with that addressed some of our concerns about the notice of lease termination we'd received. Basically, after doing some homework and requesting more information, we realized that the way that they were attempting to terminate the lease was questionable, at best. It was a long and sticky process to develop a unified letter to the property managers. We all had different opinions and different perspectives on what should be in the letter, how it should be expressed, and what we should ask for. It has been a major growing experience for me- having to make a decision with others, depending on other people for their stengths, working through disagreements in a way that builds relationships rather than hurts them. All of these things were essential to the process of making a group decision with people that you have to share a bathroom with. It would make life damned unpleasant to chew someone out that you can't escape from. I am very blessed to live with women who are probably more mature than myself and definitely have more experience in conflict resolution. And still more blessed to share with them an understanding of the order of things, of the Mover who moves all the puzzle pieces of life in ways that are mysterious, yes, but unpurposed, never.
    And upon feeling the wave of relief of pressing the send button and knowing that we have made our requests and concerns known, Thrusday morning we awoke to a complete retraction. Our landlords emailed us themselves, expressing apologies for their waffling on the issue and any distress it may have caused us, but definitely reversing their decision to take residence back up in their home and ours. It was very pleasantly conveyed, but I could only laugh. Laugh because Jesus has known this entire time what was going to happen. And laugh because of all the ups and downs of the last few weeks.
    The news of the eviction came on a day when I was particularly raw. I won't go into the details, those who need them have them, but being away from my support system for this last year has systematically compelled me to deal with nearly all of my issues and hangups. My coping mechanisms were stripped from me in the disruption of picking up my rooted life in Knoxville and unceremoniously dumping into a rootless DC existence. All the creature comforts fell away- significant comforts like longterm and initimate friendships or being able to see my niece grow and learn, to small pleasures like not needing a GPS to go anywhere or knowing where I could take visitors out to dinner. The only creature comfort I had to lean was my nearby family, who were and continue to be far more gracious to me than I deserve.
    But in my heart, at night in the dark, all I had left was Christ. And I deeply resented Him for that. I cried out and I was angry and alone. I didn't understand- why did I have to be in the strange city with no real ties by myself? Couldn't I have a friend here who would be in the same boat? Couldn't I have a boyfriend or husband for companionship? Why did I have to do this hard thing against my will by myself? (though, let's be real, God didn't ask me to live in a hut by myself in Siberia- so things really could have been worse).
    So I "punished" God. Which is hilarious- I'm sure that God was greatly persuaded by my sulking and pouting, by my thoughts and behaviors that I always turn to to push Him away. It wasn't until after I had a refreshing and renewing Christmas break in Knoxville that I began to come back to myself, come back to Him.
    And I can say that since that time, I have leaned into Him and I have seen Him respond, over and over again. I'm not exaggerating when I say that nothing in my life right now is easy- every single area is a struggle. But I can also say that while things have not gotten easier, in many ways, my life has become infinitely more managable because I stopped trying to manage it. God took me away from all of the comforting support that I've known, I believe, to teach me to see these things as the blessings that they are, but not necessities. I don't HAVE to have those things. What I really do have to have is God, and His strength that is perfected in my undeniable weakness.
    So as I rode the roller coaster of eviction, I can see now that it was a microcosm of the journey that we have been on for the last year. I started in denial. Then as reality set in, I dissolved into an anxiety meltdown, kicking into survival mode, running around trying to figure out how I was going to get myself out of this mess. From that place of brokenness and anxiety, I was forced to recognize not only my need for God and His strength and peace, but my need for community and their intercession and provision for me. I can't count how many people prayed for me, people who offered their spare bedroom or basement apartment for the interim, my aunt who was ready to buckle down and find me somewhere amazing to live, the friends who sent out SOSes looking for a roommate on my behalf. In coming to the end of myself, I did not find despair or chaos- I found hope and provision on every side. And as I reluctantly took the chill pill that God handed to me and relaxed, I relearned the lesson that He has been teaching me all year- I cannot and will not make a decision without waiting for Him to move and speak. I cannot and will not make a decision in rush or haste or in anything other than rest in Him.
    Right before our landlords sent us that email, I was having my morning prayer time. I said, "Look, Lord, I get it. I'm really not going to make a move until You speak. I will wait for You and do as You ask. But, in case You don't have a calendar handy, we're kind of on a time crunch. So if You could go ahead and let me know what You'd like me to do, I'd appreciate it." I closed my Bible and went upstairs to be greeted by the news that I didn't have to move after all. He's a funny guy, that God.
    Anyhoo, here's looking at all of you wonderful people who have been supportive and listened to my meltdowns and revelations. It has been much appreciated! And now that I know that I won't have to move it until next year, I'm going to the William Sonoma outlet and getting me a waffle iron.

    Tuesday, September 21, 2010

    The Digs: Trusting the Lord All Over Again

    So, as you all know, I completed a move away from hip, chic Arlington to quiet, untrendy Falls Church just over 6 weeks ago. Traumatic might be a little bit of strong word for the experience, but it was certainly unpleasant and not something I was looking to repeat any time soon. Ah, the best laid plans.
    When I returned home on Friday, there was a small letter waiting in the mailbox, informing my roommates and I that our lease is being terminated early and that we must be out by November 30. There was no reason given, though before I moved in, the owners mentioned that they were thinking about moving back into our house. I can only assume that that is exactly what they have decided to do, a month and a half after they renewed our lease. I was shocked- and angry, and frustrated. What in the world? Could they even legally be allowed to terminate without cause? Upon reviewing our lovely 30 page lease, my roommate who is a lawyer realized that there was a clause that said, yes, indeed, they could legally terminate our lease without cause.
    It was so surreal. How could this be possible- after all the money and trouble to be able to move into this house, it's all been a waste. I have to expend the finances and energy all over again.
    But as the initial shock and visceral reaction begins to wear off, I can only laugh and shake my head. Something so out of the blue has all the regular markings of the Lord up to some kind of crazy plan.
    See, we want answers so immediately. I do, anyways. I want things to make sense to me and I want to be in control of them. But that is just not how life really works, and that's definitely not how God works. I have spent my whole life trying to be in control and to make life adaptable to my desires- but really, when I'm still and I'm honest with myself, what I really desire is Jesus. The great part of that is that Jesus promises that those who seek Him will find Him. The hard part about seeking Him is that you do a lot of waiting and a lot of listening- two things that I have never been that great at.
    God has promised to lead me, protect me, and guide me. But I have to let Him do it. It's like a toddler who gets a trike for Christmas that has to be put together- he wants to do it himself. When his father reaches to help, he stubbornly yanks the pieces away, and at the end, he has a one wheeled junk heap, with extra pieces laying around that wouldn't fit. I want with everything in me to give up and let Him take the pieces and reassemble them so that it all fits together the way that they were destined and designed to.
    So I'm waiting and praying that He will do put together the pieces in a situation that I definitely don't understand right now. I'm still confident that God led me to this place, so I will be just as confident that He is leading me out. Now, whether He's leading me to somewhere by myself, to somewhere with roommates, to somewhere inexpensive, or to somewhere that will cost a little more, I'm not sure. But that's why my Father lets me talk to Him and sort these things out with Him.
    I am unsure of what's going on right now, but I am very sure that one day I will understand why God led me here and then away so quickly. In the mean time, I'm trying to be patient and wait on what the next steps should be.
    If anyone has any housing leads, let me know. I will definitely be thankful for any prospects to consider!

    Wednesday, September 15, 2010

    Keep Your Shirt On and Other Essential Points of Gym Etiquette

    Since I've finally made myself start getting up to go to the gym at the crack of dawn instead of pretending that I'll go after a 12 hour day of pencil pushing, I've become awakened anew to the minutiae of gym life. The regulars, the inepts, the loud mouth-breathers, the inappropriately dressed. The gym is the mecca where all of these characters, who usually exist in completely separate worlds, converge and collectively run without going any where or lift objects whose sole raison d'etre is to be heavy or punch invisible attackers.

    I arrive at the gym around 5:45am, meaning that my mind is not fully coherent or rational. My rapier wit and glowing beauty are not fully evident at this time of morning (read: slack-jawed, bleary-eyed, and bed-headed), but this state of blurry muddle-mindedness is conducive to observing my fellow early-birds. I have seen many wonders: men kissing their own biceps after completing a challenging rep, women checking themselves out in the mirror as they jog on the treadmill, an old man working out in what looked like a safari outfit. But what I've mostly noticed is that there is a significant paucity of basic etiquette between different members of Gold's Gym Merrifield. So, for their benefit and mine, I have disstilled my observations into some basic rules of the road:

    Correct Machine Spacing (Creepy Guy Violating Personal Space is Not Okay): I was on my eliptical, running my little heart out. There was only one other person on the row of machines, with 10 or so elipticals in between, and another 6 or so past me. All of  a sudden, I realized that some creeper had planted himself on the eliptical right next to me. I'm not sure if he was hitting on me or just had some kind of intense codependent complex that forbids him exercising without someone within smacking distance, but this violates common decorum. When you begin taking seats, you go as far away from other people as possible. Then when new people come, they half the distance, and so on and so on, until people are finally forced to sit directly next to someone else. This same principle applies to gym machines. In addition to making me uncomfortable, I purposefully try to not exercise on a machine next to other people, as I am a competitor at heart, and I find myself craning to see their screens so that I can make sure that I'm running faster than them. Which throws my whole schedule of intermittant speed and rest into a tail spin. All because some weirdo isn't following the basic laws of respecting others' personal space.
    Grouping Like TV Channels Together (Which One of These is Not Like the Other?) To mix things up, I slept in on Saturday and rolled into el gimnasio around 10am on September 11th. As a sober day for all Americans, the good folks of Gold's Gym had rightly discerned that many people would like to watch the memorial while they ran off the booze weight they'd put on the night before. So I'm running along, trying to focus on Laura Bush and Michelle Obama, but out of the corner of my eye, I keep seeing alternating shots of a pencil and then a close up of a woman's bottom on the TV next to mine. Alarmed, I turned to see that this particular infommerical had devised an entirely new measurement by which women can judge their bodies and find them lacking. Place a pencil under the crease of where you bum and thigh meet. If you can hold it there, your tush is too big and sloppy. If the pencil drops, you have successfully used their product to lift and firm. Aside from the fact that sloppy or no, I like my bum and resent anyone trying to make it feel bad, I found this in rather bad taste. I was trying to focus on and pray for the families still feeling the effect of a terrible and traumatic day in American history. Instead, I was now forced to be distracted by my own backside in comparison to the energetic supermodels in spandex onesies. Common courtesy and sense would suggest that grouping like TV shows together. Probably workout videos and Jersey Shore in one corner, CNN and CSPAN in another, and Friends reruns in the middle.
    Appropriate Modesty While Sweating (Stop Kissing Your Guns and Put Your Shirt Back On): What I'm about to say may be controversial and bring some hard realities to bare, but, Gentle Reader, know that this is said with love. The gym is air conditioned. No one in there is so uncomfortably overheated that they need to remove their clothing- or if they are, they are not in good enough health to be at the gym. The bottom line is that people who are taking their shirts are doing it because they think that they look hot and want to flaunt their physiques. This can only be for one of two reasons: to attract amorous attentions or to wordlessly judge the less toned. Either the shirtless offender in question is hoping, like a peacock, to entice a potential mate, in which case a bar might be a more appropriate venue to do their strutting. Or they are trying to prove to everyone in the weight room that they are in better shape and are therefore superior, thus discouraging the attendence of the people who most need to be at the gym. Unless you are at the gym during what I refer to as "hot people hour", either motivation is inappropriate. The "hot people hour" phenonmenon was discovered by my roommates and I during college. In this case, all the sorority girls in itty bitty tanks and cheerleading spanks would converge upon the campus gym at the same time to lightly jog in front of fraternity muscle men, who would reciprocate interest by shirtlessly lifting mammoth weights while winking at the girls in question. If you go to this kind of establishment and your primary motive is finding a date for Friday night, then the fewer articles of clothing you can legally get away with, the better. Otherwise, put your shirt back on and focus on what everyone else is thinking about: working on your fitness (I'll even be your witness).
    Non-Threatening Hovering (Share, Don't Scare): Part of not having your own personal gym is having to share equipment. This requires a certain level of patience and flexibility as you wait for machines to become available. Some people get around this by politely asking the current occupent to let them "work in," meaning that while the current occupent is resting in between reps, the new person does a rep and then switches back. Others find this approach too straight-forward and instead stand directly behind the current occupent, staring at the back of their head, presumably hoping that the current occupent will become so uncomfortable that they will hurry through their last rep and vacate the machine. While the latter method is highly effective, it is also extremely creepy. My suggestion would be to strap on a pair and ask to work in, or be a good little pet and wait your turn.
    No One is Getting a Prize for Parking Closest to the Door (You're at the Gym- Walk the Extra 20 feet): The shopping center where the gym is located has only 2 major businesses: the Gold's Gym and the Great Wall Supermarket. Unfortunately, the peak usage times for both establishments are concurrent- after work and Saturday morning. This leads to a lot of angry yuppies in beamers battling annoyed Asians for a finite number of parking spots. The customers of Great Wall are, in my opinion, justified in desiring a parking spot near the door, as they need to haul a load of groceries back to their car. However, the intense determination gym members have in obtaining a front row spot is, I must confess, somewhat puzzling. You pay money to the gym every month for a place to get physical activity. You already have the clothes with you that you're going to sweat in and you have tennis shoes. Would it really be a tragedy to walk a couple extra rows to get into the gym instead of frazzling some old woman whose trying to unload her groceries into her Buick? I know DC is filled with competitive, Type-A overachievers, but maybe you could just sit this one out and get into the gym faster, without nearly hitting pedestrians and causing a fender bender. Just a suggestion.

    Anyways, despite these lapses of logic or politeness, I'm enjoying my renewed commitment to physical fitness. And maybe I can send these guidelines into Miss Manners to see if she approves.

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010

    Reflecting on the Song in My Heart

    So I woke up this morning with this song in my heart and head, and I remembered how much I love it. It was the first song from this album that really jumped out at me, and I've come to think of it as "my song" with God. I think everyone has that song- one the connects with who you are, where you've been, how you are changing. For me and my life, this song best expresses how I feel about Him and what He's done for me and generally just makes me joyful and thankful. I've had some hard, traumatic things happen to me and I've definitely done my share of messing things up, but when I think about my life, I think about where I was before Jesus, and who I am now since He's come into my life. I'm glad that there are so many people who knew  me B.C. and can testify to the difference- His mercy and healing for me takes my breath away.

    The words don't really come alive without the music, but I thought I'd share them with you anyways. I am humbled and grateful for the love of my Savior for me:

    when i think about the Lord
    how He saved me, how He raised me
    how He filled me with the Holy Ghost
    how He healed me to the uttermost
    when i think about the Lord
    how he picked me up
    turned me around
    how He set my feet
    on solid ground

    it makes me want to shout
    hallelujah! thank you, Jesus!
    Lord, you're worthy
    of all the glory, and all the honor
    and all the praise!
    Hallelujah! thank you, Jesus!
    Lord, you're worthy
    of all the glory, and all the honor
    and all the praise!
    -- Shane & Shane, "When I Think About the Lord"

    Thursday, September 9, 2010

    Ebony and Ivory, Side by Side on My Piano Keys: Reflections on Prayer

    I generally have a difficult time figuring out when to push and when to wait. Do I call someone every day until they respond, or do I call once and sit by the phone indefinitely? (I think He's Just Not That Into You probably addresses this quandry with respect to the opposite sex...) Do I go to the store one day for that sold-out book I want or return daily to six bookstores until it's finally in stock? Do I ask my manager for a face-to-face four times a week until he caves or put in the request on Monday and assume he's too busy if I don't hear back?
    See,  there are two conflicting impulses within me that are always in tension. There's the go-getter that wants to hunt the person or thing down that I need to accomplish my goal and will not relent until that they succumb to the sheer incessant force of my will. There's also the passive people-pleaser whose desire is to be liked and not rock the boat, which too often morphs into laziness.
    As I've been reading passages of the Bible addressing prayer, I can't help but muse on these tendencies within me. These stories shed light on 2 different perspectives... there are the stories of persistence, comparing God to a callous judge who will relent only to the incessant pleadings of an old woman, God as the annoyed neighbor who comes downstairs after lots of loud knocking, etc. Then there are the verses that seem to imply a one time dump of worries onto a God who will go off and come back with results ("Cast all your cares upon Him", "Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, present your request to God," "Ask and you will receive").
    When it comes to down to it, I feel real conflict about the right theology in this area... and, traditionally, I am realizing that my patient (or passive) side overwhelmingly prevails in how this practically plays out in my life. While there are definitely themes about what is on my heart and therefore what I pray for, my mentality has always been that once I've asked, I can forget about it and move on. There's definitely something to be said for this- I think I can honestly say that I have a small gift of faith in this area, because I know that many people really struggle with philosophical mechanics as to whether God hears us or how we can know that prayer does anything. That has not been a large obstacle in my prayer life. I am coming to realize that I see prayer almost as a fact finding mission to a completely wise and fair judge. I bring the facts as I know them and my recommendation to Him and walk away assuming that He will do as He sees best.
    However, I'm realizing that this view is what may keep me from praying persistently for something. The piece of the puzzle that I think I'm lacking is the faith that what I ask for will change what God does. I see prayer as bringing the situation to God's attention; I don't understand what it means to believe that I am bringing counsel to the Counselor that will be seriously considered. We have to be really careful here, because it is all too easy, especially in our current cultural climate, to morph our view of prayer as our rabbit's foot, a way to manipulate the Governor of the universe. Any such view is facile and, ultimately, just silly. However, God makes some embarassingly extravagent promises about His willingness to listen and act on our behalf ("He will give you the desires of your heart", "If your son asks for bread, will you give him a stone?", "Ask and you will receive"). The Bible is filled with people who bargain with God and get results (Abraham about Sodom, Moses about the protection of Israel). Frankly, these stories would make me a little afraid of trusting a God who was completely governed by the will of men, if they were not balanced by stories of people who do not get what they request (Job, Jesus in Gethsemene). The whole picture shows a God who is open to the desires and requests of man, but not dominated by them.
    That's a bigger picture than my simple mind would develop on its own and I'm sure I'll never fully grasp the subtleties. The key to all of this, of course, is the heart behind it. "He will give you the desires of your heart" is prefaced by "Delight yourself in the Lord." Again, having the heart of delight isn't something I really understand- I suspect I have my moments of it, but we spend our whole lives seeking it on earth.
    All of this to say, I feel that God has called me to pray for something persistently and consistently- try every day!- and I'm feeling like a wimp in the face of this challenge. I feel like a brat sitting in the backseat of the car on a long road trip saying, "Are we there? How bout now? Now? Now? Now? Now?" It seems so repetitive and frustrating. But I'm trying to think of it as the cute tow-haired tot who comes to her Daddy every day for a hug and an "I love you". I have to believe that a daughter's small act of obediance has to feel like love to her Father. And I have to trust that there are battles going on that I can't see or imagine- that I am throwing the my weight into the battle (Eph 3:18).
    Both one time prayer and consistent petitioning have a place in our prayer lives. I'm curious- How do other people balance persistence and patience in prayer? Any insights would be welcomed.

    Saturday, August 28, 2010

    An Update on My Experiments in Bravery

    I am somewhat sad to say that I have not kept up with my page-a-day commitment. I do genuinely hope to get into that habit by the time the 365 days has rolled up. However, I am happy to report two steps that are, to me, very significant and that bolster my wobbly feet on the path to becoming a "real" writer.

    1) I have officially plotted the novel that I'm working on. It started off as an image of a scene that I have seen in my head for 5 years. Then I got a crazy character named Primrose Pebbleton. Now, I see how I want the whole thing to go. I've taken all the disconnected scenes, characters, and themes and mashed them together in a way that I think will be a compelling and meaty book (providing that I pull the writing off, of course) :). I've plotted projects out before... but then immediately abandoned them because I could see where the holes were or just because the simple act of working out the plot was all I needed to do to feel closure- the story was not compelling enough to move my pen to continue. But this time, I am still so engaged and excited to continue. I am excited to see what kind of things these people get up within the structure- and I'm anxiously awaiting to find out why they end up doing some of the things it seems like they are going to. Full steam ahead, captain!

    2) I have done something I would never have dared do, even a year ago. I have picked a couple of the literary agents that I am going to query once I have made better progress. It seems a little surreal, but I am stepping out in faith that I will finish and that what I produce will be worthy of the attention of a professional. Yikes!

    So all that to say, I still need to figure out where I am in my countdown (I think maybe 25ish pages?), but regardless, I am feeling empowered to move forward, and shockingly, motivated and excited to do that. Maybe you'll find me on the shelves of your local Borders one day, after all...

    Monday, August 23, 2010

    I Can't Do That Because I Am Astonishingly Well-Bred

    Do you have those moments when you just stop and think, "I wish I didn't know better than to do that. I wish nobody had ever taught me manners and I was in such a state of ignorance that I could say or do something without feeling the slightest twinge of guilt or social embarassment." I think this often. Here are the top five acts I would commit had my Mama not taught me better than that:

    1) Following oddly dressed strangers, taking their picture, and sending it to friends to mock: It is my humble opinion that  if you go out into the wild sporting an uncomfortably deep camel toe, spandex/fanny pack combo, or anything acid washed and bedazzled, you have granted the right to all onlookers to document and distribute your image to be laughed at. I have so often longed to run after an inappropriately dressed denizen and ask them to pause so that I can capture their ensemble for posterity. Besides, if this practice was socially permissable, the number of poorly dressed people on the street would diminish considerably. Really, it's a service. Clearly, they have no person in their life setting these kinds of boundaries and saying, "No, Bob, you can't wear a beer-gut exposing belly shirt in public. Invest in those 6 extra inches of fabric and do everyone a favor." This kind of peer-shaming will help them establish better personal boundaries with their wardrobe and improve their abilty to seek gainful employment and romantic partners.

    2) Telling people what you really think of them: I don't especially mean yelling at people and telling them all the ways that they are terrible human beings, though that would be nice, too. I mean providing piercing psychological insight into their displeasing behavior. For instance, when I'm being yelled at in a meeting by an unreasonable vendor, I'd like to be able to pause the conversation, and say, "Look, Clive, I know that you've been really pissy since you got that divorce. But yelling at me won't bring back your wife and kids. You know what I think? I think that the person you're really screaming at- is yourself. Just think about that next time you want to get snippy about contract terms." Pointing out people's Daddy issues, codependent  tendencies, or attempted use of material goods to fill the empty void in their life might make things a smidge awkward in the interim, but both the exposed party and their therapist will thank you in the long term.

    3) Crying in public when you are upset: Sometimes, when I am tired or annoyed or hot, I want to be able to openly pout. Not just that, I want to be able to cry. Without dignity or reserve- the way you see frazzled toddlers wailing in department stores. It's not the adult or productive thing to do, but it really does make one feel so much better. I should be able to carry on without judgment or censure.

    4) Being honest about why you're not going to do something: I'm not not going to your party because I'm tired or have to be up early tomorrow or don't like Chinese food. I'm not going because I don't like you. Or I don't like your friends. Or I do like you and your friends, but the idea of socializing with you for that length of time overwhelms me with a premonition of forced, dull civility that I have neither the energy or patience for. Or I'm really bad at bowling or karoke or dancing and it would be uncomfortable and embarassing to be compelled to engage in those activities in front of an audience that I will have to see again. See, if we are all just honest about why we're not going to go somewhere or do something, it means that when we are just tired or really do have an early morning or ill-disposed to certain ethnic foods, there are no hard feelings or suspicions because everyone knows that if there was another reason, you'd just say it.

    5) Not pretending that you are interested in something that you are not: Why should I have to pretend that your grand-niece's most recent trip to the grocery store is interesting, much less worthy of photographic documentation? Why should I have to nod along and pretend your dream of becoming Poland's foremost street mime is sane and well-advised instead of mad and bizarre? Again, I go back to the service this would provide for society at large. It would keep people from making a fool of themselves and alleviate everyone else's obligation to pretend that they're not. It would help temper people's fixation on their young relatives, which is not healthy for any party involve. And, most selfishly, I would not have to plaster a vague and pleasant smile on  my face and nod along like a bobble-head.

    Ah, rereading this I realize that in my heart, I am really very mean. So maybe it is fortunate that I am so astonishingly well-bred... otherwise, I would be quite the little monster, wouldn't I? Wouldn't we all?

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010

    Waiting Well

    Most of our lives are spent waiting. At the hair salon, for the test results, on the interstate, for the promotion, at the hospital... in small increments or in large, our time is broken into expansions of waiting punctuated by brief furies of activities. For how often our lives can be characterized as busy, how often is it really busy work? A laundry list of going-through-the-motions and time fillers that simulate activity, but all the while, we are really waiting for the things that we really want to be using our time for or that single event that will utterly change the nature of all the time fillers that we engage in.
    I say all this because I am in a season of waiting. I feel confident (or at least I do in the cold light of day) that God has been showing me some crazy, exciting, and terrifying paths that He will be leading me down in the future. We haven't started down them, or rather, we haven't started down the part that seems to lead directly to the end destination. But in mean time, what am I to do with myself? Prop up my feet and eat bon-bons? Frantically race around preparing for the journey?
    I think the answer is somewhere in between. Walking that tightrope of balance between the two is stressful,but it is exactly in this place that I see God meeting me, growing me, and changing me. It is is this place that my heart, mind, and spirit is the most malleable and we are able to deal with more of my baggage and He is able to teach me the lessons that I will need. It is wearisome and sometimes I want to put my burdens down and return to Egypt. It is His faithfulness and gentleness that beckons me on.
    So many people hate God for the business of waiting. They hate that He isn't a genie who grants their wishes when they ask. They shake their fist and say He's forgotten and walk away. It's an understandable temptation. But it's tantamount to waiting in line for 4 hours and then throwing up your hands and leaving when you're next. The problem is that we can't see that we're next. It feels like our "turn"will never come and we are fools to  have waited for it at all. But, to quote an old maxim, He is God and we are not. What seems like an eternity of waiting to us doesn't mean we are forgotten. He sees the way all the pieces are moving together and sees why we need to wait somewhere for 40 days, 40 months, or 40 years.
    And the thing that I have been increasingly realizing is that more often than not, God is waiting on us. As I meditate, I am staggered by His patience. He spends so much of our time together waiting for me- to understand a lesson, to change my ways, to wake up and listen to what He's saying, to just flat-out have faith. To be crass, He's freaking God. He could swoop down and reveal Himself in a blaze of glory, tell me what I needed to do, and then walk me through it like a child through their first book. But instead, He waits. He woos. He gently places His hand in the small of my back and nudges. He does all of this because He respects my independence and process. He wants me to get there myself...but when I am listening and waiting on Him, He is with me at every juncture, whispering quiet instructions. Philip Yancey contrasts the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit with demon possession. With demons, their presence is overwhelming, binding the human will, over taking their every sense, faculty, and thought. With the Holy Spirit, His presence is quiet but persistent. He makes Himself known through His words to us and His guidance.
    I guess where I am with this whole waiting thing is that, in the immortal words of Aerosmith, I don't want to miss a thing. I don't want to be distracted or too busy plowing down a different path to miss what He's doing. And as I appreciate His patience with me and His waiting on my heart, I am just floored by His humility and love.
    So here I am- hanging out here, waiting to plunge ahead on the path. I'll be here when it's time, Friend.

    Thursday, August 5, 2010

    Books Like Whoa: A Bibliophile Reflects on the Kindle

    This year for my birthday, I took the plunge and asked for a Kindle. I can say that I did with this with a not inconsiderable amount of trepidation. The result? Surprisingly satisfying.
    First, this review will be most relatable to people who love books. I'm not talking about people who love stories or plots or characters. That's a part of loving books. No, I'm talking about people who are in love with the entire process of reading, of being engulfed by the words and the twists and the endings, of flipping the pages and impatiently counting how many are left until curiosity can be satisfied. Honestly, to endulge in a little melodrama, there is something transporting about a genuinely complete reading experience, and there's no good way to explain this to someone who doesn't already know. The need to finish it is all comsuming and only pleasurable after it is satiated. But I digress.
    Part of the essential reading experience for me and anyone else who loves books is initimately tied to the physicality of the tome itself. The smell of fresh new pages or the familiar mustiness of old, the feeling of delicate or thick or pulpy pater as you flip through, the sound of the sheets rubbing together absentmindedly between your fingers. And the cover. I don't even know where to begin with the cover. The adage "you can't judge a book by it's cover" may be something nice to teach your toddler, but it is absolute crock within the complicated and ruthless realm of book selection. I judge a book by it's cover whenever I go to the bookstore- we all do. It is impossible to read every one ever published so there is necessary discrimination from a practicality standpoint. Sometimes I arrive at the bookshop with a preconceived idea of what I am looking for. A title that I have heard good things about, an author I want to further explore. But other times, I enter the shelves with no prediliction as to what I will go home with. (It just occurred to me that most normal people my age go to the bars in similar mindsets...).
    The cover is a pivotal component in the my enjoyment of a book. For one thing, if the book has an embarassing or weird cover, I am much, much less likely to read it in public, limiting my available time to read it in general. Additionally, if it is a book that I don't particularly want to be seen reading (i.e. books too young for me or with topics that will reveal my inner dork), I very much care how prominently the title is displayed. Color me vain.
    I'm not saying that there aren't some great books out there with deplorable covers (see "Changes That Heal" and "Strong Women, Soft Hearts"... come to think of it, these have terrible titles, too. It's a miracle I ever read these. Well, I'm glad I did- they are very convicting and thought-provoking). But I confess that if, conversely, a book has a very modern and hip cover or one with beautiful artwork or a snappy title in chic typeset, I am much more likely to buy it and take it out in public.
    This is all tangential, I suppose. What I intended to write about is my Kindle experience. But before I could really dive in, I wanted to make it clear that if anyone wasn't going to like the Kindle, it was going to be me. No cover? No page turning? No paper smell? No creases in the binding? I was highly suspect of this new-fangled device. Books have been around in roughly the same form for hundreds of years. If it was good enough for Gutenberg and his cronies, it should be good enough for me, right?
    Well, gentle reader, I am a convert. Now let's be clear- I am too in love with books to ever go completely wired. However, the Kindle has far exceeded my expectations.
    First, it's so light and thin- it is much easier to keep this in my purse than most of my beloved but bulky books.
    Second, everything that people say about the seamless interface is spot on. You truly do forget that you are reading on the screen and it fades into a non-entity as you get lost in the book.
    Third, books published before 1923 are in the public domain and therefore must be offered in *free* format. Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, Vanity Fair, War & Peace, Pride & Prejuidice... all of these are free on the Kindle Store.
    Fourth, Amazon offers software applications for all of your devices for free- and they all keep track of what page you're on. That means I can be reading something on my Kindle, then go to the app on my Mac and pick up exactly where I left off. This also means that you can buy books through the Kindle store on Amazon and send to your computer, even if you don't have a Kindle.
    Fifth, since the books are cheaper, you can take more risks. Books that I might not be willing to spend $14.99 on, I might be willing to risk $7.99 on.
    Finally, no one will judge what you are reading when you are out and about. I will confess it here- the first book I paid for on this thing was a Chelsea Handler. Trash, I know. But it was $6.99- and no one would ever know I was reading it in the mechanic's waiting room.
    All of this to say, I went into the technilogical world of book reading with trepidation. I was skeptical. I was prepared to hate it. And... I didn't. In fact, I rather like it.
    So for those of you on the fence, the Kindle has recently taken a dramatic price plunge and is now very affordable. If in doubt, I'd tell you to go for it. I've not encountered many people who didn't enjoy it once they bit the bullet and gave it a try.