Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I am slightly excited. I am too busy right now, and too many nuts and bolts are rattling in my head cavity. Whenever I hear the clang and scrape of metal against metal in my rusty head, I try to drown out the noise with thoughts of that blue water licking that white sand.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Now on to the real topic: Patience.
I started doing some freelance for Group Publishing again, so now I'm writing a Bible study on patience. Those of you who know me well, know this is not a particular virtue of mine. I'm kind of like that lady on You've Got Mail. Do you remember that scene where everyone is trapped in an elevator and they're saying the touching things they'll do if they get out, like marry their fiance and start talking to their daughter again? Then Tom Hanks' girlfriend who is frantically searching through her purse, oblivous to the touching moment and only concious of her own minute inconvenience, screeches, "Where are my tic tacs?!" I'm kind of like her.
I'm very excited to write the book, so I can study what the Bible has to say about patience more and perhaps become less like the tic-tac girl.
So, tell me...
- What situation makes you the most impatient?
- What wisdom do you have to share on patience?
Sunday, October 26, 2008
In the spirit of Halloween, we dressed up as Flight of the Conchords characters. Here is Murray, Bret, and Mel. You probably don't know who they are, but we pretty much look exactly like them.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Now what crazy thing can I do to get in on some of that business?
In other news, I wrote this blog for Compassion today and this one the other day.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Some large part of me still wants to flit about like Peter Pan's shadow in life, unfettered by the choices that life keeps reminding me I should pay attention to. Choices like where to live, what church to go to, where to settle down...they're all things I want. I want a picket fence and a church family, but I'm afraid to let my toes slide over the doorway. Because I am all or nothing, when I give myself to something, I give myself fully, which is good. But it also means that now I am shy, like I've just been in too many bad relationships and don't want to get tied down or have to break up again.
Like now. Mike and I are thinking of buying a home. Nothing terrifies or thrills me more. One second I'm so excited. Another second, I want to quit my job, run off somewhere crazy, and just forget this whole "adult" thing.
I want home and roots, but a hundred "what ifs" invade my mind. What if we should really run away to a goat farm in Kauai? What if Mike should become a dinner theater actor in L.A.? What if we should go be baristas in Starbucks in Edinburgh? What if?
So I'm shuffling on the stairs, unsure whether to go up or down, to grow up or run away.
And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet...
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
We got yet more fall veggies today from the farm. Honestly, I'm a bit veggied out. I just ate a pound of spinach. But we got some fun winter squashes this week, which I love.
We got a butternut squash. I love that name. Butternut. Butternut. Butternut. Humperdink, Humperdink, Humperdink! I wish it were a spaghetti squash. Spaghetti squashes are like God's surprise to the world. Spaghetti squash and platypus. Spaghetti squash and platypus and those crazy birds on Planet Earth.
The pumpkin is a decorative pumpkin. What does that mean? What happens if I try to eat it? Will it taste like sawdust, or will the Martha police be called on us, or will it actually be filled with sparkly glitter?
Although it's our favorite holiday (2nd to Christmas, of course), we don't know what to do for Halloween. So this Friday, we tricked some people into coming over for a covert Halloween party. (They think they're just coming over to watch Flight of the Conchords.) We're going to make spiced chai cider, chocolate chip pumpkin muffins, caramel apples, and puppy chow. Yum.
Does anyone have a Halloween party they want to invite us to on the 31st? Anyone? Or if we had a Halloween party, would anyone come? Anyone? Anyone?
Monday, October 20, 2008
A woman, 26 and beautiful, isn't married yet and so she thinks she must be seriously messed up because she hasn't achieved what's expected. A guy hasn't figured out what he wants to do yet or found his niche and thinks he must be a big fat loser. A woman hasn't gotten 2.3 kids and a minivan and thinks she must not be a real woman.
It's dumb. We put expectations on oursleves, and others put them on us. Based on what is most common. In the sometimes sameness of the church, living up to the expectations of your demographic means you must be right with life. Not meeting these expectations means there must be something wrong with you.
And expectations mean a sense of entitlement. God never promised us a minivan or 2.3 kids or a picket fence or a degree in engineering, but when it becomes the norm of those who seem to be spiritually sound, it seems like what we must also desrerve. The norms seem to become equated with spiritual success. But God never promised us these things.
I think of all the things I've been discontent about in life. So many of them I felt wronged by the universe or God because I had this expectation that it's what any "normal" person "got" in life. How wrong I was. How sad to have wasted so much time discontent that I didn't have something I took for granted was my right.
My case: Although it was never something I yearned for in life, based on my expectations, I thought I should be at home, having babies, not working. Now there is nothing wrong with this. It's a beautiful, wonderful thing to do. And becasue it is what many of my friends ended up doing, I thought I must be messed up for not having that path, and like I'd somehow been cheated. But there's nothing that guarantees me this lifestyle. In fact, what we consider normal is very often a very recent lifestyle development in the history of the world.
And what God has given me instead is incredible. It's different than what I expected, but also far more than what I expected. God turns out to be more creative than I am.
All this is to say, I'm tired of living my life with expectations of how I have to be or how others think I should be or what I think I deserve. All I really have for sure is today. I can spend my todays fretting that tomorrow would be how it's expected to be, or I can live content in today, with no sense of entitlement, but a sense of joy for the unique life path I have been given.
This is far better than anything I could ever write. It's Schnappi, das kleine Krokodil, a German music sensation started by one little German 4-year-old. You're going to sing it all day, and you are going to love me for bringing Schnappi into your life.
Ich schnap so gern; das ist mein liebenspiel.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
There's the classic: You know you're not in high finance, considering secondhand underpants. Check yourself, how'd it get so bad? What happened to those other underpants you had?
Or there's this one: Laundry day. See you there. Underthings, tumbling.
This week my favorite line in my Friday Video is the backup singers': Overwear! Underwear! Anytime! Anywhere!
This song is from the musical Aida, and I love it. If I were the kind of woman who videotaped herself singing and posted it on the internet, this is totally the song I would do.
So I went searching, and there are apparently plenty of women who are this kind of woman. This woman really makes me feel embarassed (but not nearly as much as many), but I can't find any other good recording of the song, so just close your eyes and sing along.
If I ever post videos of myself on the internet with myself as my own four backup singers, please ask me to go on a walk and lead me in a new direction.
Question of the Day: If you were the kind of person who videotaped themselves and posted it on the internet, what would your video be of? (Please make sure to comment. It's how I make sure whom not to make fun of on my blog.)
And no, Jon the Hart, posting videos of other people their freshman year of college does not count.
Chapter 4: The Summer of Dreams
Although our night in the woods had certainly bonded Michael and me, I still was not ready to date. Some in our church had a strict taboo against dating. One was supposed to simply pray hard enough until a man proposed, without ever actually going on a date together. This hadn't exactly worked out for me, but I still had the guilt of legalism keeping me from dating. But Michael persisted in pursuing me, and I got over it.
Although I was leaving for Amsterdam in three months, I agreed to start dating Michael...just to see. I figured I better find out if this was the man I should marry before I left indefinitely. He knew that he had a very short amount of time to win me over before I left forever, so he packed the summer with outrageous fun every day. One day we would hike in a beautiful forest, another day we would raft down the Poudre in a very insufficient raft we bought at Walmart, our bottoms bouncing up and down on the river rocks.
By the end of the summer, he knew he wanted to marry me and I him.
Chapter 5: Amsterdam
But I had already committed to go to Amsterdam, and I went. He waved me off at the airport, sure he'd never see me again. I had dreamed for years of living in Europe. It was my long passion to be a missionary to Europe, where church seemed to be long dead. I was miserable.
The Netherlands is beautiful and I was studying literature at a medeival university and being a part of something I believed in, but I knew I'd rather be cleaning toilets in America with Michael than pursuing even the best of dreams without him.
So, after six months of loving the European life but missing Michael horrendously, and after many a raised eyebrow, I decided to return home. My favorite memory is a man in the church who, upon hearing of my departure, said, "But aren't you worried everyone will judge you for leaving?" Well said.
Chapter 6: Happily Ever After
I returned home at Christmas and visited Michael at his parents' in Sterling.
We went to chimney canyons, a little known canyon outside of Sterling. We stood on the broad flat plains of Sterling and looked across the canyons, their walls pink and orange like sherbet in the sunset. We decided to be married that summer, in July.
And so it was.
And so we are, happily married. Never dull, sometimes hard, but always precious.
Thank you for reading our story and commenting, it has reminded me of such good memories with friends! This is the beginning of our story...
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Years passed, and we forgot the incidence of our first meeting. We were aquiantances, but that's all. I was planning to move to Amsterdam as a missionary, anyway. Until one Valentine's Day...Michael had been thoroughly depressed at one more V-Day, and called up Sitcom Sarah to say, "It's Valentine's Day, and I have no valentine." Sarah said, "Why don't you come over to Jen's for Thursday Night TV? Maybe Amber will be your valentine." So he arrived. I, also mourning the passing of one more single V-Day, was comforting myself with a baguette and Nutella on the couch. He thought, "what an odd duck, but kind of cute."
We talked, and he told me about his web site. He, it turns out, was a philosopher, English major, and poet like me, and wrote online (pre-blog days). He gave me the address.
The next day, I visited his site, and read. He had posted a poem in Italian and offered a prize to anyone who translated it. That was like catnip for nerds. I, studying Italian and doing my thesis on English translations of poetry, naturally had to find the translation, which I did. We started thus emailing back and forth. Long, ridiculous emails. Long, ridiculous emails about literature and philosophy and dreams and ideals. Anyone else reading them would have probably puked all over the keyboard, but I had found someone who was an idealistic dreamer poet like me and revelled in it. We emailed long and hard.
He quickly found that I was the type of woman he wanted to marry. But I, all ready to move to Amsterdam in the fall, had no such thoughts.
Chapter 3: Good Friday
On Good Friday, my boss gave me the afternoon off. It was one of those unseasonably warm spring days. I called up Michael, and we decided to drive up to Pingree Park to hike, one of the first things we ever did together. After the hour's drive up to the park, we started up a snowy road to the trailhead. I thought the road was questionable at best, but not knowing him well enough to be a backseat driver, kept my mouth shut.
We lurched up the snow-packed road until finally we could go no further. He realized we need to turn around, lest we get stuck. He put his Blazer in reverse and we moved about 3 feet. And then...nothing. We were high-centered on 3 feet of snow. Careless as we were, we decided to hike for awhile, then come back to the car to shovel out. We hiked, threw snowballs, got wet. We got back to the car and started shovelling. And shovelling. And shovelling. Until we finally realized the car wasn't budging. Period. Mike had a little yellow "Worst Case Scenario" book in his car. We read about what to do if you got stuck in the mountains. We realized that by the time we hiked the 8 miles back down to the main road, it would be midnight, no cars would be on the road, and we'd be frozen. Although this March day was warm, we knew the March night would be freezing.
So we took the book's advice and decided to sleep it out in the car. The car had no blankets, and we had on wet jeans and only light jackets. It got down to the 20s. We spent the night shivering...no, convulsing it was so cold. When we got to the point that we were shaking uncontrollably, we'd turn the car on to thaw a bit, trying to conserve gas. The cold, wretched night finally passed, and in the morning, after splitting the one granola bar we'd brought along, we started hiking out.
In this course of time, I had stood up three social engagements, so everyone knew I was missing. Some figured out I had gone out with Mike. They knew we were either in Estes Park or Pingree Park, so they called the county sheriffs. Search parties were sent out in Estes Park and Pingree Park to search for us. Four of our friends piled in a car and set out to scour Pingree Park for our lifeless bodies. They even brought backpacking gear in case they had to rough it out in the backcountry.
Meanwhile, Michael and I were happy as larks, hiking down mountain valleys on a beautiful morning. Singing songs and laughing. At the moment we reached the main road, our friends happened to drive by. They saw us and rescued us. After a stern lecture from the sheriff's department, we were on our way home to assure my frantic mother no mountain lion had gnawed my leg off, and to consider what had just happened.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Chapter 1: The Proposal
I went to college at Colorado State where two girls from the Colorado cow-town of Sterling changed my life.
I lived in Newsom Hall, where I met Krista and Sarah, roommates from Sterling who went to the same church I did. Sarah was the dry, ironic one that every good sitcom needs. Krista was the sunny one who would ask you everything about your life, and tell you everything about hers. She told me about her dad and her mom and her litttle brother, Michael. I saw them on occasion, and they were nice. But as I was 4 years older than "little" Michael and, at the time, literally double his weight (not because I was so large, but because he was so small), I thought little of him.
Four years later, he came to Colorado State and joined our church. The church went on a retreat to the mountains, a cold October weekend in Winter Park. Sarah was my roommate by then and the wry, dry Sarah and the sardonic Michael were naturally friends. He jokingly asked her to help him find a wife at the retreat.
Sitting by a warm fire in cushy leather couches, Sarah said, "Why don't you propose to Amber? She's nice." Never having formally met me, Mike slid over to me on the couch, and said "Hi, I'm Michael. Can I borrow your ring?" I handed him my ring, and he slid down to one knee in front of the fire and proposed. I, being a sporting gal, said yes.
to be continued...
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Then last week, I got a phone call. It was a pastor asking me to come speak at his church, as they're doing the Hope Lives series. That's my second invite to speak. I've always had this secret dream of being a speaker, but in dreams it seems so much hazier and far away and much easier to deal with. For various reasons, I decided to say no. But I checked the church's web site out, and it looked like just what we were looking for: smaller, friendly, focused on relationships, so we decided to visit it.
I told Mike in the parking lot that he wasn't allowed to give away who I was because that'd be weird. But the problem is that I'm not a very good liar myself and I think very slow on my feet. So the very first person we ran into introduced himself and asked us how we found out about the church..."Uhhh......," I stalled. "I talked to the pastor about it." He said, "Oh, and how do you know him?" Flabbergasted by his quick rhetoric, I stammered awkwardly, "Umm, I wrote this book and umm, you're doing it...." It was embarrassing.
After the service, as we turned to go, a man dashed over to meet us before we could escape. I really appreciate that. For years in my old church, I would struggle with meeting the new people who would come, thinking they would think I was weird for talking to them. Now, as a seemingly professional church hunter, I thank God for those people. The pastor also came over and blew our cover, saying, "Hey, did they tell you who they are?", but they were so friendly and he prayed for us and made us feel welcome.
As we left, the same man we'd met on the way in asked me if I was going to speak or something. I didn't know how to tell him no, we were just there because we're looking for a church and you just happen to be doing a series on a book I wrote (though, come to think of it, I could have said just that). So instead, I stammered some more, explained that I'd been asked to speak but wasn't going to, that I had decided it wasn't a good idea, blah, blah, blah...Mike said I made it sound like I was struggling with alcoholism and couldn't be speaking in churches at the present time or something.
Despite my embarrassed stammering, we really enjoyed the church. It seems to answer all of the things we have been looking for in a church. We'd love to return and go to a small group...but now I don't know how to make the entry. Being the author of the series they're doing isn't exactly how I like to introduce myself into situations. It's weird. Can you see me going to a small group doing the book as a study? Someone will answer a question, and I'll cough, look down my nose at them, and tell them they got the answer wrong. I mean, seriously, who wants to do a book study with the author there?
Anyway, we hope to return...but maybe in a couple of weeks.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
I love Friday video. Here's a song from Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog. I know I already posted the link to the movie, but I don't think you actually watched it. So now you have to watch Neil Patrick Harris sing and wiggle his shoulders, a good way to start any Friday morning.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
I can't think of what to write tonight, so I'll steal from my blonder half.
We review books and movies for a family web site (which is funny, considering we're not parents, but I guess we're the ones with the expendable cash and time to do it). Mike reviewed the graphic novel The Watchmen, which is supposed to be the best graphic novel ever written and is releasing as a movie soon. He has strong feelings about it. So, before you go spend money on it and let your toddlers watch it, read his review.
Hey and I got more friends on my blogroll! Check they pretty selves out.
And, we put up our annual fall tree. Yippee! Blondie is currently busying himself about the place, putting up fall decor. Upon searching through our seasonal decorations, Mike found that we hadn't thrown out our decorative corn last year...and found it in a pool of liquified corn mold in our storage tub. Yum. Its released powers have now functified our apartment. Nothing says fall like a crisp night and the scent of liquid corn mold wafting on the cool breeze.
Today's topic: Some observations from me, a yo-yo when it comes to weight, about how you're treated as a healthy-weight woman. Women are funny birds. Men, quite expectedly, treat you a particular way based on how you look. It's pretty straightforward. But women are caught in this complicated web of positioning and posturing and competing. If your weight changes, your position on the web of womandom changes.
Note 1: It's OK to be a bit snarky to skinny girls. Hey, their life must have been easy, right? The world loves them and caters to them, so they can take some bite from the bigger girls. Now that's just silly. It's like reverse racism. You can make a snide remark about a skinny girl and her weight, but we are (rightly) outraged if the same is done to a bigger girl. But we're all in this together, girls! At any point in time, we don't know what's going on in the other person's life or mind. And it's not easy for any of us--very often the ones you think have it so good are in a bad place.
Note 2: If you are at a healthy weight, women will assume you can eat whatever you want. I base this observation on the many times I've been told in recent years, "You can eat whatever you want." Au contraire, mon souer. What silly notion is this? Very few skinny women eat whatever they want...(though I do know this one). It's not a big deal, but this thought (often an accusation) does create this subtle us-them mentality. The idea that we're fundmentally different from one another...and even more subtly, against one another.
Note 3: If you are at a healthy weight, it must be easy for you. One lunch time, I sat and ate my half turkey on wheat, hold the mayo. My friend sat and ate a plate of Italian nachos, and discussed how it's just much harder for her to lose weight. My dry boring turkey had to disagree while I salivated over her Italian sausage. There are many psychological and emotional factors that play into weight, but my body does the same with a plate of Italian nachos as anyone's does. Stores it.
Note 4: If you are at a healthy weight, you will be accused of such. "You're so tiny." Note that this sentiment isn't said appreciately, but accusatorily, like, "I saw you on the night of September 10th with the accused!" How to respond? "Umm...I'm sorry?" I did that last time. It was pretty funny.
Once again, it's this us-against-them attitude, competing and posturing, jostling for position. Can't we all just get along?
Monday, October 6, 2008
Here is Jon. The quick fingers of a camera man. The strength of a puma. The wisdom of a man.
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Recently, I had a discussion with a friend who was having a hard time believing the truth that she's beautiful. It reminded me of this age-old struggle of woman in my own life and how much God has delivered me from.
I grew up, like many, with a very low self-esteem. This bred with societal influences and circumstances to create in me the common belief among young women that I wasn't pretty enough, skinny enough, smart enough, or, in short, perfect enough.
Then I got married to a man who seemed each day to see the beauty in me. It was nice. This guy who each day thought I was pretty, smart, wonderful, and beautiful, even when it seemed quite obvious to me that I was quite otherwise. Even so, I accepted this love.
But we both realized at some point that I really didn't believe him. He would tell me he thought I was beautiful, but some far-back part of my head was saying, "He's just trying to be nice," or "He's just really biased and, clearly, blind." It's completely illogical, but my brain subconciously decided it was easier to believe that my husband was either delusional or a liar than believe that I might be beautiful. Mike, obviously, was not flattered by this.
But even when I persisted in doubting either his taste or veracity, he persisted in believing I was beautiful--mind, body, and soul--and telling me so.
I'm a slow learner. But eventually, it seems, I was taught. My resistance was slowly worn down, and at some point, I now realize, I started belieiving him. Believing that I'm smart and pretty and valuable. And now, because of his Christ-like love and persistance, I am more of the confident, capable, beautiful woman I was created to be.
A part of me whispers, "but isn't that just vain and prideful, believing in yourself and your beauty? But I'm struck by how, since I've started ignoring the lies that I'm worthless and instead started believing what is lovely about me, I'm so much less self-focused and self-consumed. How much time did I waste worrying about myself? Without the constant fretting about my own merit, I'm able to focus on others, no longer caring who's the prettiest woman in the room. I'm able to serve others because I no longer doubt that God created me wonderfully in order to bless others. I'm able to be a joy to Mike because I know that's what I am to him.
"A woman of true beauty is a woman who in the depths of her soul is at rest...She exudes a sense of calm; a sense of rest; and invites those around her to rest as well. She speaks comfort; that all is well; that all will be well. A woman of true beauty offers others the grace to be and the room to become. In her presence, one can release the tight sigh that so often grips our hearts, and breathe in the truth that God loves us and he is good." Stasi Eldredge
I'm far from the point of inviting other women into a sense of rest in my presence, but I thrill at the fact that God is slowly refining me to be more like this woman, and I remember how much God has delivered me from in the past. From a woman who could offer no peace to others because she had none with herself, to a woman who can bless others with who she is because she is no longer obsessively concerned with who she is.
I'm far from perfected. But thank you, God, for your patience and love and perseverance with me. And thank you, Michael, for being the embodiment of such faithful and sacrificial love.
Friday, October 3, 2008
Thursday, October 2, 2008
And as we determine our environmental, economic, agriculture, and trade practices for today, it's good to remember the lessons of our past. (Like don't try to force semi-arid grasslands to be lush farmland.) Now I understand why they were always trying to teach me about the New Deal and the Dust Bowl in school. Wish I'd paid attention. I recommend the book, though it's long.
Good ol' Pampa, Texas, where my daddy is from and my grandma still lives, was the eye of the Dust Bowl. Woody Guthrie blew through there in the 30s and was blown out by the dust, about which he wrote this song.
My grandma, a dynamo of a woman even now in her eighties, has helped organize a museum for Woody (one of several museums she's a driving force behind), and they are holding their annual Woody Guthrie Days next week. (My grandma has even written a book on Woody Guthrie. She has a lot of energy.)
No point to this post, really. But I like books about the Dust Bowl and Pampa and this song.