Sunday, May 31, 2009

Stumbling Onto Glory

If I were a saint, I'd be Saint Fracis of Assisi:

Glory to you, my Lord, for brother wind
And for air and cloud and serene sky...
Glory to you, my Lord, for our sister mother earth
Who sustains and governs us
And produces different fruits
And brightly colored flowers and grass.

Nothing, to me, gives glory to God like this flowered and fruited Earth. This afternoon, we had an ideal day, hiking deep into Red Rock Park. So deep, in fact that we, unknowingly, left it and entered "Section 16," which very much sounds like we should have stumbled upon some government mysteries.

What we did stumble onto was glory, God's glory in the creation. Each step seemed to stir scented memories of other trails we've walked. This is why I love the mountains. No matter what windy paths I'm on or have been on, they're there, testifying. That God is, was, and ever shall be.

We stepped deep into the pine forest, and that soil-scent of needles and bark brought back the Indian whoops of childhood as we stacked teepee logs on Swan Mountain and afterwards ate hot dogs and Cheetos on Lake Dillon.

We wound back on a ferny path to a waterfall that was just a drip, but that was dripping with rembrances of Hanging Lake and sunny, salt-faced days.

We dropped into a valley of wild, white lilacs. The scent of lilacs is joy itself. It wafts back college days, walking in the Arbor, circling and circling the lilac trees as I would pray my silly girl prayers.

We came upon Indian paintbrush and yellow snapdragons and mountain bluebells below Pikes Peak, like the meadow flowers on Rabbit Ears pass in the summer days we stole before Amsterdam came.

We hurried against the rumble of afternoon thunder, the sound of June, the sound of afternoon in Estes, the sound of far-off intrigue.

All this is joy; all this is glory. I stumble along the paths of God, and I stumble onto glory.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Definitions

Some definitions to give you a glimpse into my days.

Ann Taylor Loft [lawft]: The county seat of flat-chested East Coast WASP style.

Depressing [dih-pres-ing]: Going to Ann Taylor Loft and not filling the cups of a size 4 dress. Let's review: The Loft. Size 4. Depressing.

Best Cube Ever [ɛvər]: Seeing from your desk what Biden and Bush fly from D.C. to see.

Unwise [uhn-wahyz]: Watching the Thunderbirds airshow outside at noon for an hour and a half with no sunscreen.

Promising [prom-uh-sing]: Having your smart whippersnapper of an intern start.
Cute [kyoot]: My husband.

Addicted [uh-dik-tid]: My husband, to Craigslist. Latest acquisition: kitchen cabinet hardware and a floor laying starter kit.

Beautiful [byoo-tuh-fuhl]: Wildflowers in Ute Valley Park after four unprecedented days of rain.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Head Start

So I cheated and got a little head start on my 90-day Bible reading  that starts on June 1st. (Don't worry, those of you thinking of joining me, I just read 15 pages.) There is a lot packed into 15 pages (well, thousands of years of biblical history, to be more specific). Here are just some of my random thoughts on the first 15 pages.

  • The Genesis account throws doubts into my head (about the creation). I say this simply because I always think it's comforting to know that others sometimes doubt too. But I'm comforted by the thought that the point is that God created the Earth and all in it.
  • According to the Genesis account, God took walks in the garden in the cool of the day. I like to think of God taking a pleasure stroll, especially because it's something I love to do.
  • God gave garments made of skin to Adam and Eve after they sinned. So God didn't forsake them, but helped them deal with the consequences of their sin (they were ashamed of their nakedness). But this would also be the first animal killing--man was still a herbivore according to Genesis. Adam and Eve would have seen clearly that death was the result of their sin. I know I'm squeamish now living so far from the farm...just think how horrified Eve would have been witnessing the first death (or at least the results of the first death) because of what they had done.
  • Was it harder to get pregnant back then? If men were living 900 years...that's an awful lotta babies. I mean if that guy in Arkansas can have 18 at 44, how many would he have at 900? Yet Noah only had 3 sons by his 500th year. That's not a very good average...
  • According to the story of the flood, evil "fills God's heart with pain." We sometimes paint God's Old Testament punishment as a reflection of his harshness. But punishment is in part a response to the pain of evil--it is an act of compassion, as God was responding to those who cried out to him. The account repeatedly talks about the violence of man. I used to misunderstand the punishment of the flood or of Sodom and Gomorrah, being naive of the huge evil that exists. But now my eyes have been opened, sadly, to the great evil and violence that still occurs--like child sacrifice and the sexual slavery of children. Knowing these things happen helps me at least partly understand the need for utter punishment.
  • God is "the God who sees me." God saw Hagar, who wouldn't have been much noticed in that society--a runaway female servant. But God saw her pain and had compassion on her and blessed her. That's cool.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Check It Out!

This is what our bathroom looked like a little over a month ago when we moved in: Then my husband tore it up and it looked like this:
Now my husband, who has zero experience in anything handy, has in one month transformed it all by himself to look like this:

Bravo! Doesn't it look incredible? Baseboards are still to come, but he tore out the vinyl floor and laid ceramic tile. He tore out the old toilet and sink and replaced them with new efficient ones. Installed the decorative tiling around the center of the room. Painted it. (Thanks to those of you who helped us choose the paint color.) All with just a little moxie and a lot of sweat.

He has also finished various other tiling jobs he started. (This all started with a visit to Craigslist by my addicted husband.) Here's the tile inlay in front of the back door so we won't track so much dirt in.
Here's the tile in front of the garage door (where he ripped out more of the old green vinyl). These pictures are making me want to rip out the old ugly brown doors and replace with nice new ones...One thing leads to another, doesn't it?
And, finally, here is the tile he laid in the front entrance. We tore out the carpet in the front, as you can see here, because the all-consuming stank became too much.

All I can say is Mike rocks.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Chipped Beef and Business Speak

I mentioned how I was being taken over by a level of business jargon at my workplace that would make the Onion proud. To combat the onslaught of nonsense, my cubemates and I started a business jargon board to identify the offending phrases. We had to erase the board this week, as my intern is starting and will be habitating this cube. But I have posted it here for posterity so you too can escape the mumbo jumbo monsters. My personal favorite, "chipped beef."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

To Promote or Not to Promote

I am an author, and I would like to stay an author. It's one of the things I feel called to do.

But to get published and stay published, publishers want you to be self-promoting. It's one of the things you hear over and over. Like in this interview with my friend who's an aquisitions editor at NavPress, and like my marketer at Group has brought up several times.

But though God has given me a love of writing, he has given me a loathing, a deep slimy loathing, of promoting. I hate it. I really do. I am the exact opposite of a marketer. And have you met many writers? We're not all exactly social whizzes, flitting about our finesse at the parties. Heck, I'm not even the one in the corner at the party. I'm the one at home in my old college T-shirt blissfully eating cereal from the box and watching What Not to Wear reruns.
And I like it that way.

So I find myself in a quandary. Do I shout my name from the rooftops. Do I start a web site devoted to me, Me, ME! Do I seek out as many public speaking opportunities as possible? Do I make this site: Clever Phrase Here: Amber Van Schooneveld Is So Hot Right Now! Do I Twitter my status to tens of adoring fans who want to know that I just clipped my toenails?

I would rather eat the mortar Mike is scrubbing on the floor right now. Yet I feel the pressure. They unholy pressure I create for myself: That tightening of the chest. What if I don't get out there and get mine? But also the justified pressure: Publishers can't abide hermit authors in a time when you hear of another publishing layoff every month.

It's not about getting mine. If the world passes me by, I'll be all the happier. But the two realities remain: I feel compelled to write, but I hate to promote.

Sarah Swanser

This post is in honor of the birthday week of my friend Sarah. Her family celebrates birthdays for a full week. This is lucky for forgetful me, as 7 days is a much larger target than 1 day. 

I wasn't sure if I should write a post for  Sarah. Cause I talk about her a lot. I mean creepy a lot. I mean Single White Female. If you'd like to see some pictures of Sarah, you can see here and here and here. In short, I like Sarah. 

Her job is just like that guy in Office Space. She works with engineers, but she's the people person. "So do you actually take down the specs and take them to the engineers?" "Well, no actually, my secretary does that..." "Well, what is it you'd say you do here?" "I'M A PEOPLE PERSON!!! Can't you people understand that?! I'm good with people!" That's pretty much what she's like. 

Her hair gets cooler fortnightly. Really, it does. The problem is, that I don't see how she can get much hipper. Where can she go from here? I think she's probably going to be bald in a couple of months. 

She is also completely ambiguously ethnic. My husband has a picture of her from every year in school, kindergarten on up. (I told you we're creepy.) In each one, she could be from a different people. Sometimes she's Jewish, sometimes Latina, sometimes Greek. I'm personally putting my money on Armenian. She really should be the next Maya Rudolph because she could play anyone on SNL. 

She's very domestic. She loves baking and gardening and cooking. One time we made Chinese fighting muffins together. 

Most of all, I like her because she is her. She is a caring, smart, fun, interesting, honest, lovely person and I'm much the better for knowing her. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Acquisitions

It's about time for a home update, don't you think?

Mike is now officially a manual laborer. No longer are his hands lily white. They are coarse and cracked and blackened from all the house work. He's almost done with the tiling projects. Which is a really good thing. Because we're tiling the laundry room, we haven't been able to do laundry for several weeks. We're getting down to the weird underwear. The ones that you find in the back of the drawer and ask, "Why do I even own this?"

Mike has also been hard at work meeting questionable characters in dark alleyways. Our latest Craigslist finds:

A lamp for the living room for $30 (instead of at least twice that much):
A banquette for $75 (retail, $1,500):
Not quite sure what we'll do with this yet and it's pretty impractical, but I'm very excited about it. It smells a little musty, but welcome to my life.

One other thing I'm finding with buying a new home is that suddenly people want to visit you...and bring you gifts! Our backyard has been nicely flushed out by kind friends and family:

Here are our many gifts from well wishers: A lavender pot, a birdbath, some columbine, a hummingbird feeder, and a patio set!
And this weekend, we have the honor of having two Swans visiting us.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Summer Reading Program: The Bible in 90 Days

So, we don't have TV. And I'm finding that books usually just annoy me, like this one and this one. So, I've come up with (read: stolen) an excellent new plan for our summer: The Van Schooneveld Summer Reading Program: The Bible in 90 Days. 

My coworker, who has an excellent last name, decided to read the Bible in 80 days, starting today. I said, "80 days? Ha! I bet I could read it in 90 days! Take that, Mr. Bray!" So Mike and I decided that we are going to read the Bible this summer cover to cover, starting June 1st and ending August 29th. I estimate this is about 24 pages a day, in my big fat Bible.  

I figure this is probably a better use of my time than watching Futurama reruns on the laptop or fuming about modern writers all summer long. 

Would any of you like to join us? 

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Dress

Today I had the great honor of going wedding dress shopping with my friend Becky. I love dresses. One of my ultimate life goals is to wear a dress every day of the week. (Really, it is.) I love being a pretty, pretty princess.

So I LOVE wedding dress shopping, which is the Ultimate. The Super Bowl of female beauty, if you will (for you men out there who don't understand what the big deal is about wedding dresses). Women love to be beautiful. God made us beautiful for the delight of our husbands. And the wedding day is the ultimate expression of that. It's what we were made for. (OK, don't go all feminist on me, it's one part of what we were made for. But a really, really fun part!)

Anyway, we had a long day of shopping. The first shop was a super cute boutique with great service but boutique prices. The second one the lady kept calling us "kid" (though she was in middle school when I graduated college, probably) and agreeing with every single syllable we uttered. The third place, Becky tried on one dress, and that was it. It was the one. It was so perfect and wonderful. I can't tell you about it, of course. But it's good.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The 15,000th Viewer!

Lately, I've been watching my little ticker there on the side, eagerly anticipating the moment that the fifteen thousandth view of my blog would arrive. I had great prizes and celebrations planned in anticipation of the event. Then today, as I logged in to check on my little blog and see how it's doing, I saw that...ummm....I was the 15,000th viewer. Now I suppose I'll have to go buy myself a huge box of donuts.

Last night, I got to hang with two of my favorites, Jenny Jen Jengineer and Shanny-Bananny-Bing-Bong. (I know, my friends have weird names, huh?) It was fun to see, so many years after college, where each of us has landed based on what different people we are. Jen designs computer chips for Intel, Shannan is a Hollywood wardrobe stylist (she touches naked people all day), and I'm a writer and editor. So I guess we all are different for a reason, and sometimes that works out.

Loved seeing you girls last night!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Name Dropping

This weekend, we had our first official house guest, the highly esteemed and much sought after Mrs. Candace McMahan. I felt quite privileged. We drank milkshake-sized iced chais at Agia Sophia and she developed a love for my favorite shop, Olive Tree Traders. She said the guest bedroom was the perfect nest. Small things, but they are what joy is made of, methinks.

By the by, in the above linked post, I mention that the esteemed and much sought after Mr. Gary McMahan looks like he just stepped out of a painting. Well, now he has stepped into one in Denver. So next time you're driving down Wazee near Union Station, look on up at Mr. McMahan.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Demo Babe

We've been continuing to work on the house. Mike has laid 5 tiles today with much trepidation. I, on the other hand, have done some demo, which I am very proud of. I cut the carpet and carpet pad out in front of the back door, where we're going to lay tile. Something so satisfying about cutting and ripping.

Then I ripped out the wood in front of the front door, where we're laying slate, with a cold chisel and a hammer. Yeah, I'm pretty cool. All I need is a tool belt and a boob job, and I'll be just like the lady carpenters on Extreme Home Makeover.

The only problem is that with each plank I ripped up, a fresh waft of something funktified drifted up to my nose. I told Mike, but he thought I was crazy. I told a neighbor who had dropped by, but he also couldn't smell it. Then I worried it was just the neighbor's feet I was smelling.

But after about 30 minutes, our home was definitely permeated with the aroma from the underlaying floor. At first I thought, "swamp." Then dog pee. Then dog booty. Then the feet of this guy I went to college with. Then vomit. (Since the flooding of our front room, in which our home smelled like a dead wet dog, we've gotten quite adept at pinpointing smells.) Once Mike finally was convinced it did smell, he took a big whiff and identified it as, "salsa in which the main ingredient is poop." Awesome.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

References to Arcane Trivia Replaced With Action

"If I wanted to see young, attractive people doing cool and exciting things, I'd go watch sports."

I'm writing a review for Star Trek right now, but really this video says it all.

Trekkies Bash New Star Trek Film As 'Fun, Watchable'

Friday, May 8, 2009

Deep, Dark Secrets

I'm usually a very open, honest person. So, here's to openness: I'm going to share with you one of my deepest darkest secrets. (Really, I keep this ferretted away in my heart.) So I'll just say it:

I'm afraid I'm being judged all the time because I'm a working woman. That's really all it is, fear, and not even necessarily a merited fear, but it's what my secret heart frets about.

If we're just talking intellectually, I'm fine. I know that my actions are clean before God and my husband. I'm doing what I'm doing because it is what is best and necessary. But in many of our circles, it's simply not the norm. Men work, women stay home and have chillins. Intellectually, like I said, I embrace my situation. I know that I'm not a bad woman for my career.

But nonetheless, my silly, silly emotions and fears eat at me. I worry that I will never be considered valuable until I have children. I worry that nothing I do will be taken seriously until I have children. I worry that I am considered some ball-busting workaholic, selfishly pursuing her own gains instead of her family's.

People say little comments here and there, not knowing my neuroses, and I take their little dropped gems and hide them away to fester at them later. It is all mainly in my mind.

For once, I just wanted it outside my mind and outside myself.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

To the Top

Mike and I are continuing our afternoon "walks" which are more like killer stair-stepper sessions on the side of a mountain. I'm quite pleased that my plan is working. Because me and the gym have baggage together, my hope has been to simply live life in a way that makes me healthy, not implant artificial sweating on a machine. (No offense to you gym goers; I just have issues.) And living by this mountain seems to be doing it.

While scratching my hamstring last night on the way up, I noticed that it felt somehow different, odd. Then I remember that's what muscles feel like. I'm developing nicely rounded dihpthongs from the mountain. (Linguist joke, name that quote.)

So Mike and I, feeling suddenly like young healthy goats, kept going up and up and up and up. Until human prints ceased. And mountain lion tracks began. (I was carrying my killing rock, and making lots of noise, and had my sweatshirt ready to put over my head and make me look big, mom.)

And finally, after much huffing and puffing and mental curisng, perhaps, we made it to the top. Yes, the top! And saw over the other side. The other side of the mountain was all that we could see. But it was so worth it. We felt so good and goaty, we ran most all the way down. Goodbye knee cartilege!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

How Could You, Colleen?

This weekend, I threw a mini-tantrum while reading my next book-club book. A girl can only take so much. I've been reading Literature with a capital L since college (my major), and I can officially do it no more. I'm so tired of pretentious modern books in which every character is insane, there is no real plot line, and there's enough trash in it to make a sailor blush. 

So, in a huff, I returned all my library books, on a quest for some true, down-home, wholesome adventure. I placed The Princess Bride on hold, which I've been meaning to read since James and Shannan told me it was so good. 

Until it arrives, I wanted some book normal people read. Not the stuffy intelligentsia. Nothing Oprah would ever recommend. So I found a new one by Colleen McCullough, of Thornbirds fame. I thought to myself, "Richard Chamberlain was exceedingly handsome in that mini-series, so this must be a good book." 

It's called The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet, and is a continuation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, which is the pinnacle of romantic fantasies of many a girl, much to the chagrin of men like my husband who hate that Darcy. But I love Pride and Prejudice, and every spinoff ever made of it.

So imagine my chagrin upon reading this book in which:
  1. Turns out Darcy's actually a horrible, evil brute who wishes he never married Elizabeth.
  2. Bingley is an oppressive slaveholder in Jamaica, with another mistress and family there.
  3. Though Darcy dislikes his own son for being effeminate, he is having a bro-mance with his murdering hitman. 
  4. Mary Bennet (the ugly, annoying, pious one) is now the most beautiful woman any man has ever laid eyes on, and many swoon at her feet. 
  5. She has been kidnapped by a blind cult leader who thinks he's the son of God and lives in a cave...
Umm, yeah. So needless to say, I'm not a fan. I'm reading it pretending it's some other Bennet family. 

But I have to ask, how could you, Colleen? Darcy hates his wife, and Bingley's a slaveholder? You've taken the most beloved "happy-ending" of English literature and said it was all lies and fairy tales. I was trying to escape the modern, realistic tripe I've been reading in which there are no happy endings, only to have you shred my fairy tales. A girl has got to have her fairy tales. 

It's going to take me awhile to get over this. My mom said it took her years to get over Scarlet...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

God Provides

Today at church the pastor spoke about what I've been thinking all week. Funny how that sometimes happens. (Side note: If I haven't mentioned it, Mike and I have been going to a church for about two months. Thanks, Becky, for inviting us. We're really enjoying it and getting to know people. In fact, we're taking dinner to our small group tomorrow! A Mexican feast for Cinco de Mayo.)

What I've been thinking about is how God provides for us, just not how we necessarily anticipated. Granted, I'm part of the middle class so it may not seem all that impressive at first, but I've never gone without something I really needed. I'm fed and sheltered and loved.

But the way God has provided those things isn't quite what I imagined. I imagined myself at home being domestic Barbie, which I'm surely not. But does that mean God has forgotten me? No, it just means my plans weren't his. But that doesn't mean they're not good. Good sometimes in an obscure, far-off way when you're in the moment, but still good.

The pastor exhorted us today to take hold of whatever station of life we happen to be in right now. Don't fret about what station you think you ought to be in or the one that is coming next. Drink fully from what you have now. How many of us are sad and depressed and discontent because we can't accept where we are? God provides us what we need, just not necessarily how we think we need it.

On to home stuff. Segway: God provided us with a home. Are you getting bored of home stuff yet? We're redoing the guest bathroom. Mike has torn up everything out of the bathroom, and is going to paint, put in tile, put in a new sink and toilet, etc. etc.

We bought a curtain yesterday to separate the guest room from the laundry room (which are attached) and our tile. (The curtain was from Walmart's Better Homes and Gardens line, which I'm starting to love--$12!) Now we're trying to figure out what color to paint it. Will you look at these two options and advise? I like one and Mike likes the other. My flash washed out the white paint, but it's more of a nice cream (or "frappe" if you will).
Number 1: Urban Nature
Number 2: Tranquility
So which do you vote for? We really wanted to paint the bathroom something from the cool family (green, blue), but it's hard to match cools to gold.