Monday, February 28, 2011

Arrested in Chicago, Part Deux, A Post Written Out of Boredom

So, I'm still stuck in Chicago. It's officially been 24 hours. I've done a lot of good people watching and am trying to deepen my understanding of the difference between American fashion and Canadian fashion. The two primary differences: The men look more metrosexual (at least certainly more than Colorado men), and the women have shorter hair and tighter pants. But women everywhere have tighter pants than us Colorado hicks. These are the types of things you start thinking about when trapped in faraway cities for large periods of time.

I waited on standby for a flight into London at 2, but couldn't get on (even though I was number 1. Darn!). So now I'm waiting for a flight to Toronto. I'll get in to Toronto at 9 pm, then dash with all my might to try to catch a 9:30 shuttle to London. As it turns out, Toronto is fresh out of rental cars. Who knew there would be such a shortage? But at least rather than braving those scary Canadian roads myself, I'll have some trusty driver to do it...if I make the shuttle.

If I miss the shuttle, I'll catch the next one at 11:30 pm, arriving at 1:30 am. Blerg! Then I'll no doubt be unrested with bags under my eyes and frizzy hair to meet my new coworkers the next day. Oh well, my plans to be good looking and charming upon first introductions are always foiled. Pride goeth before a fall, and all. Which reminds me, have I told you about my first impressions in China? Yes? No? I'll tell you anyway, as a nice wrap up to my post and as I have nothing else to do anyway.

So I've travelled half way across the world, and I'm all excited to meet the people I've been working with in the Asia area for about 3 years and, naturally, want to look my best. The only problem is that me and humidity don't really mix. Bring me the desert any day. China was unbelievably humid. It was so humid that the Indians were complaining about the humidity, which is saying something. I'm a sweaty gal to begin with. Then on the first day, before the others arrived, Rick and I hiked Moon Hill. It was a hard hike and besides that, it was as if we were hiking through the sea, so wet was the air. Our Chinese ladies who insisted on accompanying us up the hill kept saying, "many, many" to me, indicating the sweat dripping down my face, nose, everything.

My shirt, by the end of the hike, was as wet as a swimsuit. Needless to say, in that kind of humidity, shirts don't dry out. So as we arrived back at the hotel, I met Provashish and Jayaseelan for the first time. Provashish, the most earnest man I've ever come across says, "Amber, you are very wet," indicating my shirt, my face, my everything. Awesome. Of course, Rick was just as wet, but men are allowed to be gross. So there was one first impression down the drain.

Second first impression: I met all my other Asian coworkers on the 2nd day, and by this time the humidity had begun to do a number on my already fragile desert complexion. So I had one large blemish smack dab between my eyebrows.

I met Tonny, from Indonesia, and he said, "Amber, what is wrong with your face?" indicating the general brow region.

"Oh, I'm just having a little trouble with my complexion in this humidity," I said, trying to brush it off.

Not to be put off, Tonny replied, "Well, is it going to get any bigger?!"

"Well, I sure hope not," I replied, hoping we could now move on with the conversation.

No, Tonny kept pressing on. "Everyone, gather round. Everyone, we need to take a group picture. Everyone, hurry, before it gets bigger! It's going to get bigger, hurry!!!!" he yelled to the entire group of 9 coworkers whom I was meeting for the first time.

So, see what happens when I try to make a good impression? Mass humiliation. I should just give up and adopt that whole humility thing I've read so much about.

Arrested in Chicago

So, this morning I should be in ye olde Canada, but instead I'm arrested in which I mean "stopped" or "checked," not taken in by the police. My flight was cancelled because of weather, and all flights into London are already full today. I'm on standby to fly out at 2, and if not that, I'll fly to Toronto, arriving at 9 pm and driving two hours to London. A Canadian adventure! This is the first flight I've ever been on that has been cancelled, so I guess I'm about due. I'm just so glad it was in Chicago and not someplace like Delhi or Kigali.

I got a room at the Hilton, which is connected to the airport. I was so flustered and goofy by the time I got to the hotel, that when the nice French man at the front desk asked how he could help me, I stuttered for several seconds before I managed to say, "I have an appointment." I had no clue what one was supposed to say in order to indicate you wanted a room.

But after standing around for a couple of hours with a bunch of grumpy complaining people, I was so happy to have a nice quiet room and a bed. A king bed with 5 pillows all for me! There is a silver lining. Another silver lining: I got to watch the Oscars. And now I got to eat an $11 yogurt parfait for breakfast. Don't you love airport prices?

Today, I'll be hanging out at the airport, waiting and hoping.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Into the Great White North

I'm leaving today on a jet plane headed into the Great White North. In the past when I've traveled for work I'm heading someplace warm, nay, hot. It's always such a welcome break from winter.

I like to consider myself a toughie when it comes to cold, but as I reflect on it, I realize I am not. Mind you, I'm not as wimpy as the rest of those girlies out there who wear parkas in the office when the temp is set at 71. (Fun fact: My average body temp is 97, meaning I don't get as cold as others and that I suspect I'm actually from an alien race.) But nonetheless, I realize that I can't really handle any more cold weather than our ridiculously mild Colorado winters.

Yes, it will occasionally drop below 20 and sometimes even below 0, but nature always makes it up to us very quickly with a 50 to 60 degree day. (Which is why ice cream can do OK in Colorado year round.) In fact, this week nature plans on rewarding us with a 60 degree day on Tuesday. I love you, Colorado, and your coddling March weather. For when March rolls around, I've just about had it with cold.

And yet today I fly not to Kenya or the Philippines or India, but to the cold white north. I'm packing not tank tops, but boots. I don't need sunscreen or malaria pills, just a "toque" (Canadian for hat). So I'm trying to focus on the positive, not on the negative. Here is my pro and con list.
  • Pro: I'll get to meet lots of famously nice and polite Canadians who will make me feel all warm and cuddly. (The older generations were admittedly very nice. One old man even brushed snow off my car for me, after he saw me looking thoroughly helpless in the snow with no car scraper.)
  • Con: It's cold.
  • Pro: By going to this cold place, I get to have the coolest job ever that I love and that gives me all kinds of flexibility and the ability to use my skills on a daily basis.
  • Con: It's cold.
  • Pro: I'll get all kinds of free food at business lunches and dinners. Few things make me more excited than free food.
  • Con: It's cold.
  • Pro: By flying so much, I officially now have "Premier" status, which means I get to push the little people out of my way and sit in my seat approximately 3 minutes faster than the rabble. (Sadly, I've found, it doesn't mean anything else. I sitll need a billion more miles before I could actually get a free ticket.)
  • Con: It's cold.
  • Pro: I love seeing new places, and I'm sure London is a beautiful and fascinating place...if I could just see it underneath all that snow.
  • Con: It's cold.
  • Pro: I don't have to fly 15 hours and get some crazy Thai-rus or get into drug-induced stupors in which I embarass myself in front of my seat neighbors.
  • Con: It's cold.
  • Pro: Being in a hotel where I don't have to pay their heating bill, I feel absolutely no compunction about cranking it up to 72, up from the measly and miserable 63 we keep my house at. Come to think of it, perhaps this is why I'm so dang grumpy about the cold.

So, as you can see, I'm keeping a positive face on things around here. Don't know if I'll be blogging much while in Canada, but I'll try to think of some clever things to say about Canadians while there.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Put a Bird on It!

I couldn't resist posting a couple of more clips from Portlandia for all my hipster friends. Is it local?

Put a bird on it!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How to Get Noticed

Now that I've been blogging a couple of years, I figure I'm pretty much an expert. So you might be wondering, "Amber, How can I, too, have 27 people read my blog a day?" Well, let me tell you.

I first learned how to see what searches were driving the most traffic to my blog through this one guy whose blog I read. Monthly, he posts what his top ten posts were and asks what your big posts were. Curious, I eagerly go to my little Statcounter and Google Analytics accounts to find out what beauty my blog has brought to my dear readers. It's always a very humbling experience.

Rather than competing for the thousands, my posts compete for the tens. But that's coo. What's really fun is why people are apparently interested in reading my blog. Is it my brilliant and deep ventures into the question of God's will? Is it my moving posts about poverty? Is it the stark beauty of the words that drip from my fingertips?

Nah, it's Katy Perry's rack. I've learned the key to blog success: Post a picture of Katy Perry in a bikini and use the key phrase "boob job" in a post, and you're golden. You can also post the lyrics to popular Hawaiian rap songs, with such dazzling lyrics as "Me eat nuff food ‘cuz me real big boy." And, as it turns out, posting pictures of half-dressed Amazonites also doesn't hurt. (My traffic is going to triple now that I'm posting these again.)

And, so if you're just dying to improve your blog's success, take a lesson from me, and make sure to work these phrases into as many posts as possible. Here follows a list of some of the top searches that lead people to my blog:
Katy Perry boob job
Katy Perry nose job
I love my fish and poi
rainforest people child
tree hugger dirty hippy phrases
how to be a crazy shut in
what do rain forest people wear
dutch boy
amber vanschodenveld (nice)
tribal children rainforest

See what lovely things I apparently bring to the world? From now on, I'm going to stick with what works and just post photos of celebrities in swimwear while quoting rap lyrics and occasionally dropping the phrase "rainforest child."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To

My first blender only made it through one year of marriage. It pooped out after my protein-shake body-builder phase, in which I made daily liquid breakfasts. I soon pooped out myself and went back to Frosted Mini Wheats. Life is too short not to eat Maple and Brown Sugar Frosted Mini Wheats.

Recently my parents were given one of those Vitamix blenders that super healthy people use to blend all their greens and fish oil and whatnot together, so they gave me their old trusty blender circa 1975 that I grew up with. Looks a lot like this one, but with 10 speeds!
This blender is a friend. I remember countless chocolate milk shakes that my dad, from whom I learned my love of eating, would make for us. I made many a frappe in it, inspired by my sister Chris' daring blender creations. I even made a few protein shakes in it in my time, back when I didn't realize what protein shakes were, but thought my dad's powder that he put in milk was yummy.

Mike, upon seeing this old friend on the counter, gave a shriek. It's cousin to the very same blender that tried to eat him as a small boy, and he still has the scars on his wrist to prove it. Mike likes to parade this story about as evidence of his great intellect, even as a 5 year old, but I'll let you be the judge.

Little Michael was alone in the kitchen and wanted to make himself a blended treat. He turned on the blender, but it wasn't working. Using his supreme skills of logic, he reasoned that he should just put it together one piece at a time and try turning it on, in order to discover which part wasn't working. Brilliant. So little Michael got to the stage where he placed the blade on the motor, but before it was secured down by the carafe. The blade spun wildly off the blender and slashed his hands to ribbons. Little Michael bled pools of blood all the way across his home, looking for someone to help him.

That is why Mike doesn't like our blender. I say it shows what a fine-tuned blending machine it is. This blender is as old as I am (I think), but it's still got as much get up and go as I do. Now that I work at home, I can eat questionable lunches, like fruit smoothies. Hooray! There's no better celebration of being a woman than a fruit smoothie lunch. My current combination (based on my random pantry). Is frozen mixed berries, tangerine juice, whole-fat Greek yogurt (life is too short for fat-free dairy), and honey. It's everything I thought it could be.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Emilda Goes to Greece

I first read about Emilda about two years ago when Edwin sent in a story about her. She is a mentally challenged 18-year-old girl living in a squatter community in the Philippines with the mind of a 3 year old. This girl who had little hope for a chance in life found hope when she was sponsored by Compassion. She also found that she could run. She won the gold medal in the Filipino Special Olympics.

Now she has qualified to go to the 2011 Special Olympics in Greece! But we need to raise about $20,000 to get her there.

Some people say, "What's the point of that? If they're so poor, why don't we just give them money?" I thought my friend Chris had a great answer to that...which I can't find. So I'll paraphrase: Besides the fact that handing a huge chunk of cash like $20,000 to someone is rarely a good idea (just look at what happens to lottery winners), so often children remain trapped in poverty because of the mindset they are taught: Don't try, there's no hope, you can't make it. Real change can happen in a kid's life when they learn that they can change their circumstances, that they do have value, that they do have good ideas and skills. Compassion is a "holistic" ministry in that it not only supports children in their physical needs, but also helps to develop the mindset to change their situations. That's why we help them seek out and attain opportunities like this.

Emilda's case is a bit different because of her extreme challenges. But what a way to bring some life and hope into a girl's life who hasn't been given a whole lot!

About half of the funds have been raised to send Emilda to Greece. Let's send her all the way!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mikey on TV

Guess what? Mike was on TV to promote Glacier. He always wanted to be an actor, and I've always thought he should be a voice actor, so this was his big break. We got the hook up from a woman from Fox who was trying to sell Mike a commercial. Instead, she recommended him to be on the morning news show on "Job Swap." (Which I mark up to his winning personality.) Pretty cool, huh?

Here's the video. (A very bad quality version, sorry.) Or if that's too quiet, you can follow this link and go to the "Job Swap: Gelato Maker" video. Not sure how long it will be up.


Mike was sad that, in his words, he looked like a homunculus. That guy was huge, like 6'5". You can tell Mike was a bit nervous as his voice sounds way more serious than usual, except when his real self busts out in some goofy impression.

This aired 4 times on Friday and this weekend we had a ton of new customers, so we think they came from the show. Hooray for breaks and free advertising! In other Glacier news, Mike just finalized that Glacier will be one of the proud sponsors of the Women's US Open this summer at the Broadmoor. Which means we get 35 free tickets. Start sucking up now, golf fans.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's 2011

This weekend, we took our annual Valentine's trip to Estes Park, one of my favoritest of places. We arrived around 5, the magic hour when the sunlight highlights all the contours of Lumpy Ridge. We had dinner at our cabin at the Y, wild mushroom lasagna from Garden of the Gods Gourmet, and made a fire and read. Our friends Brenda and Eric made it later that night and we did a puzzle with the fire crackling in the background.

Saturday morning, we went to Notchtop Bakery for coffee and then took Eric and Brenda to see the Stanley Hotel. We ran across Wile E. Coyote at the Stanley. We got to hear him bark/howl, and when another coyote answered back, he bolted off toward the noise.
After shopping around town a bit, we headed into the park and went to Sprague Lake for its beautiful views.
Then Eric and Mike had contests of who could slide the farthest on the ice. I only tried to slide once, which resulted in a nice purple flower that blossomed on my knee.
Then we had lunch back at the cabin. We intended to do a more serious snowshoe, like this one we did last year, but Mike's ankle was ouchy and Brenda was sick. (Which was lucky for us because Eric and Brenda would have run us into the ground. They're hyper health nuts.) So instead we hiked into Morraine Park from the Y.

I took us on the long loop back to camp, rather than the well-marked trail. The trail was rather hard to find under 2-3 feet of snow, so I did get us ever so slightly lost. The sun was close to setting and we heard a pack of coyotes all howling together. It was one of the coolest things I've ever heard. Brenda thought it was less cool and didn't appreciate my jokes about us being eaten alive by coyotes as we were lost in the woods. Luckily, we made it. We had dinner at Poppy's, followed by another puzzle at home and a game of Ticket to Ride.

On Sunday, we went into the park for one last time. We hiked to Alberta Falls. Here Brenda and I are watching Mike and Eric make questionable choices while climbing on the frozen waterfall. Brenda and I did a lot of looking on while our husband made questionable choices involving water and ice this weekend.

We parted ways and Mike and I had lunch at Notchtop. It was delicious! I never like the food in Estes, so I'll definitely add this to my repertoire. Today marks 9 years since the fateful day that we started flirting one lonely Valentine's Day long ago. I love you, Mike!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Women I've Wanted to Be

I wasn't sure what to write about today, until I saw over there to the right one of my "followers," Gretchen, which spurred embarrassing memories of childhood and adolescence. Gretchen was one of the first women (or girl, at that time) who I wanted to be. So here is my top ten list of women I've wanted to be in life.
  1. Gretchen: When I was in elementary school, Gretchen was the cool girl. Through the luck of geography, I got to be her friend as her house was up the block from mine. Gretchen was the girl that boys chased. I can still picture Scott and Keith Homersham, the cute twins of '84, chasing her around the see-saw while us other girls would run squealing, pretending we were being chased too. I'm a logical kind of gal, so I thought, "There must be some reason the boys chase her." She had long, flowing blonde hair, which I couldn't exactly replicate in first grade, but I also noticed that when she walked, there was a slight sway in her hips. I thought, "Aha! This is my ticket to boy chasing." The next week, I decided to start my own experiment in hip swaying. I thought, in my 6-year-old mind, that I was pretty clever and subtle. Until one day at home. I was walking up the stairs, and my mom was behind me. She said, "Why are you walking like that? Is there something wrong with your hip?" Crushed, I gave up all attempts at alluring boys. For a year or two.

  2. Susan: Moving on to middle school...My best friend in elementary school had always been Susan, the long-legged blonde. In middle school, her good looks got her noticed in the upper social echelons. I wished that I could have been as funny and charming as she was, but when her popular friends came around, I would hide my head in my locker, terrified. Growing up with a gorgeous best friend, I did learn about the perks of beauty. That girl got some free stuff, she did. But there were also drawbacks. One time at Parker Days, the Tilt-a-Whirl attendant thought she was too cute to let off the ride, so he kept making us go around and around and around, popping out to say, "Boo," each time we went by to gain her favor. It didn't work. Note to boys: Don't try to woo a girl by making her want to puke. I learned that day that it's hard being so pretty.

  3. Sarah Brightman: Moving on to high school, I had delusions of going to Broadway and making it big singing and dancing. The less said about this one, the better.

  4. Elizabeth Elliot: Moving on to college, I had more delusions of grandeur and dreamt of being a daring missionary in some jungle helping starving babies. And yet, here I sit in my comfortable suburban home, writing a blog, and sipping tea...Hmm...

  5. Candace: After college I met Candace while working at a publishing company. She was an editor (how chic) and had perfectly smooth bobbed hair and a green pen with which she marked up the world. Everything about her said storybook. I do believe she has afternoon tea with Benjamin Bunny and Squirrel Nutkin in her cottage. But I've already written at length about her here. I always wanted to have her poise and grace.

  6. Amy: Another editor. I seem to have a thing for blondes and editors. Amy always signs her name with an exclamation mark, like this: "Amy!" This is very telling. She is exuberant yet thoughtful. She has dozens of published books, yet she is one of the most humble women I know, who looks to bring attention to others rather than herself. (And it was she and my friend Pam who gave me my big break into the world of writing and editing.) I would love to have her generous spirit.

  7. Heidi: Working at Compassion, I get to meet some pretty groovy people. And none of them dresses better than Heidi. She gets the Best Dressed at Compassion Award. That woman knows how to accessorize, and she is always perfectly put together. This is of course boiling down a very amazing woman who helps get clean water to children in Uganda and shelter to babies in Haiti. She's much more than just her clothes, but she is my style icon. See, look, she even looks good in India.

  8. Ree Drummond: Better known as the Pioneer Woman. I wish I could write as funny as her. It is one of my secret ambitions in life to be a humor travel writer, a la Bill Bryson. But alas, I am not quite funny enough. If I were as funny as Ree, perhaps I'd become successful and have to do book signings, a fate worse than death. In my heart, I know that my personality would actually abhor being a successful writer.

  9. Dorothy L. Sayers: She was smart and witty. I've always wished I were smarter. As it is, I'm just smart enough to get myself into trouble, but not necessarily out of it. She was a writer of mystery novels (among other books), but started out as a copywriter. She even wrote jingles for Guinness before moving on to write theology and a translation of Dante's Divine Comedy. Maybe there's hope for this copywriter yet.

  10. Mom: I don't know how she does it, but my mom (and my dad) does everything. She always seems to keep all of the hundreds of balls of her life in the air without dropping one. She does this while caring for and loving everyone in the family. Love you, Mom!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Completely Normal Celebrity Declares Herself "Happy With Her Curves"

My attempt at an Onion-esque article.

In a bold move this week, singer Katy Perry reported to Elle magazine that the 5'7", 130 pound woman is happy with her weight. The star, known for singing it up with Snoop Dogg in "California Gurls," has reportedly decided to embrace her curvy self, which is in the lower range of "normal" according to the Body Mass Index.

Perry follows in the footsteps of other brave and completely normal weight performers who have stated that they are happy with their figures, such as Eva Longoria, Kate Winslett, and Drew Barrymore.

Women around the country, who would die to look anything like any of these svelte ladies, have reported how comforting Perry's admission is.

"If someone who is completely gorgeous, with flat abs and a big chest, like Katy Perry can decide to be happy with her looks, it really gives hope to me that maybe I too can be happy with my looks someday, after I get a boob job, a nose job, and lose 20 pounds," reports Jennifer Hardick, an average looking woman from Madison, Wisconsin.

In fact, some curvy ladies are making the bold step of accepting their weight right now.

"I know that I'm curvy, and I probably always will be," says Cynthia Green, who is 5'8" and weighs 125 pounds. "But I've realized that I just have to learn to love myself and my curves now, even if I am still a size 4."

Retailers are considering new fashion lines for completely normal weight ladies like Cynthia who are ready to love their curves.

"We're working on a line right now called 'Free to Be Me' that will help women learn to embrace their plumper size 4-6 figures," says Mila Kepowizc, of The Gap.

Women looking to embrace their curves can find clothing that will cater to their unique needs at stores such as Banana Republic, J Crew, and other "plus-size" retailers offering extended sizes from 2-8.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I'd Rather Be Affirmed Than Eradicated

I'm a nature lover. I love to sit on a log and watch a leaf slowly make its way down a stream, one leaf in a great big forest. The peace and beauty and complex simplicity of nature are divine. But I've never wanted to become the log. I've never wanted to dissolve into the droplets of the water, becoming utterly one with nature. I love nature, but I'm distinct from it.

Buddhism and so many of our current pop religions loosely based on it are proponents of this river melting. It sounds poetic, doesn't it? Drifting back into the material to become fully united with nature. But I believe there is nothing so repellent.

What this "unity" really means is the utter eradication of self. Although all our soft pop religions don't really admit it, the highest aim of Buddhism is eradication of all that is good along with all that is bad. The end of suffering only comes with the end of love. Peace comes at the cost of family. Nirvana means nothingness.

And yet, how is it that Christianity, which is so amazingly affirms the value of the individual, is labeled as narrow and bleak, while Buddhist spin-offs are supposedly the vibrant and colorful ones?

We've been reading 1 Corinthians 15 in church and talking a lot about the resurrection of our bodies. What an odd yet amazing truth that we will have bodies in heaven. And that body will be "glorious." For some reason there's this pervasive idea of drab tunics and a bunch of similar looking people strolling about on white clouds. How silly. If this world is so amazingly full of color and variety and beauty, why would we think heaven, which is far better, would somehow be shrunk from it? Would somehow be less interesting than this world?

We can see from how God created this universe that he is creative. He's not content with just one galaxy, he has to create billions. He's not content with just one type of bird, he has to create thousands - some of which are hard to believe. God's creativity, based on our limited knowledge, seems limitless.

Does the God who created the bird of paradise
seem like a God who would create a boring and sterile heaven?

Now the bird of paradise is cool, but how cool will we be?

"But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor." 1 Corinthians 15:38-41

God decided to make fish like fish, birds like birds, and animals like animals. He made the sun like one thing and the moon like another. Every star differs from another in its splendor. And according to this, our heavenly bodies will have splendor. Pretty neat, huh?

Just as on this earth we each - along with the birds and fishes and animals and stars - are unique as a testimony of how cool and creative God is, in heaven we will be unique and splendid! Our individual selves won't dissolve into oneness or nothingness. Our worth as individuals is affirmed, and we will have a splendor even better than that of this world. Not so that we can glory in ourselves, but so that we can all look around, just like we do at the bird of paradise, and say, "Wow, God is amazing."

Mike is personally excited for his splendid body so that maybe it will reach 5'9" and have fewer tendon problems. I'm hoping for some fantastic electric blue plumage, like a bird of paradise, or some over-the-top Egyptian style neckpieces, like this. But I'll just have to wait to see in which way God wants to uniquely express his creativity in me. Pretty exciting, huh?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

An Afternoon Tea

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of hosting a tea party/baby shower for our friend Jennifer. She and her husband have been trying for several years to get pregnant, and she now finally has at age 40. So that's pretty cool.

Jennifer collects tea cups, so I used some of hers along with some of mine for guests to choose from. I also got to use this pretty teapot my grandmother gave me for a centerpiece.

Then I set up a tea station, where ladies could choose which kind of tea that they liked out of my endless variety. I got to use the silver tea set we inherited from Mike's grandmother.

We had all kinds of yummy foods, like strawberries and cream. (With a centerpiece using a teapot my sister gave me.)

I made tea sandwiches - mint and cucumber, and tomato, basil, and mozzarella, with a gluten-free version for Jennifer, who is allergic to wheat.

A friend also brought delicious scones with clotted cream and lemon curd and another friend made a gluten-free carrot cake. We also had veggies and homemade hummus for good measure.

I made favors of fancy tea bags with honey sticks. (My mom's idea.)

Here's some lovely ladies enjoying tea.

And several of the pregnant ladies showing their bumps. (We are having a serious baby boom in our church right now.)

And all of us ladies together. See Jennifer in her Mom-to-Be Crown on the right?

As my great-grandmother would say, a good time was had by all.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Gift of Melancholy

Since I've been at home now for a couple of weeks, I have noticed an old friend paying me a visit: melancholy. As I sit on the couch and read or wash dishes at the sink, it sneaks up on me and tugs at my sleeve. It's that familiar feeling of wistfulness and longing with a hint of despondence.

I had barely noticed that my old friend had been missing for the past year or two. How sad not to have noticed the good. But I don't believe the return of melancholy is all bad. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, my melancholy is a shade of the real me. Perhaps it's been buried in busy-ness and meetings and travel the past several years but burial is not proper for an impulse so human and real.

Recently a friend of mine posted these words which are also friends of mine: "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity)

I've learned in life not to run from my melancholy by denying it or stuffing it or burying it, but to understand it and hug it, as a relic of the life that we should have had and a life that we still will have. It's a pointer to the truth that this world is not all in all, but is broken and not enough. Just as gazing at the stars on a black night can remind me of the grandeur of creation and my own smallness, a visit from my melancholy can remind me of my need for God and a world beyond this house, this mountainside, this life.

Of course, depression is real and that's not what I'm talking about or experiencing. (I definitely don't recommend someone simply hug their depression.) But twinges of longing are a signal of something far off yet close, something imminent but not yet here. The gift of melancholy is the reminder that we were created for a life of beauty and purpose but that this life is broken on this side of heaven. Praise God for his Son's gift of life, that we might be fixed and fitted for another world with Him.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Widows of Ambition

Here is one of the most interesting articles I've read lately. It seems especially applicable to my own home of Colorado Springs. Although people are fitness-oriented all through Colorado, Colorado Springs is the most extreme I've lived in. My small group leader is an Iron Man. One coworker runs to work 20 miles several mornings a week. Others do hardcore "Triple-Bypass" bike rides (so called, no doubt, because it could induce a heart attack). I myself, since coming to the Springs, engaged in my own act of self-punishment (which was actually incredibly fun).

But I do sometimes wonder how much is too much? Are we really just "being healthy and setting goals," or do we sometimes stray into a humanistic pursuit of perfection and selfish ambition?

Being slightly Type A myself (is it possible to be slightly Type A?), it's good that I married Mike, who must have some Hawaiian in his veins. He dropped out of swim team because the swimmers got too serious and competitive (though he was one of the best swimmers, or so I'm told). Mike is the king of not going overboard. I'm the queen of going overboard.

So we can help balance each other. I can motivate him to submit a business plan for an ice cream store to an investor. He can help me not become a crazy rock-hard Iron Maiden. I never want Mike to become a widower to my own ambition.

This past summer, training for the Courage Classic on Saturdays, I would want to bike about 4-5 hours. Mike would want to bike 1 hour. He was OK with my training for this summer (he loves biking), but I don't think he would appreciate me assigning 5 hours each Saturday to fitness for the rest of our lives. And I'm OK with that. Of course, there are benefits to training, like my smokin' legs (just kidding) and my improved confidence and joie de vivre. Mikey likes those things, and he's glad I did the Courage.

But I know my own tendencies, and it's easy for me to move from a fun idea - biking through the mountains for three beautiful days - to an extreme - focusing so much of my time and energy on my "temple" that it actually becomes my idol.

So what is the balance? There are plenty of people who are obese in the Springs. On the other hand, there's plenty of people dedicating so much of their energy and life into fitness.

What do you think? How do you find balance in your own life?