#028 Unread letters from a 13 year-old me

I have a box.

It’s a wooden one, medium size, with painted zigzag lines dancing across the top.  A golden little latch lifts to open the top and reveals a red felt lined inside.

But the box itself isn’t significant.  It’s what it holds inside that remains special to me, even after all the years they have sat in there.

Inside my little box, a stack of letters, written on notebook pieces of paper, sit waiting to be read.  The letters start in 2001 and the handwriting scrawl varies as the dates get closer to present day.  Some are short, some are longer, and some are signed with XOXOXOXO.

Not just anyone can read these letters.  Only one person will be allowed to hold and read these letters some day.  That person would be my future husband.

The first letter dates all the way back to my thirteenth birthday.  I had stayed up late that night, probably listening to Relient K and singing along horribly off-key.  I just decided to tear out a piece of notebook paper and write.  The penmanship still holds a bit of childish cursive, complete with a couple of misspellings.  I remember writing it with one of those glitter gel pens that were all the rage back in the day.  A detail that I am sure I thought would surely impress any boy.

I got the idea to write a letter to my future husband from a book series that was my absolute favorite growing up.  The Christy Miller series had a main character who did the same thing, only on her 16th birthday, and who later on in the series did get to give the series of letters to her husband on their wedding day.

Now, yes, this is a highly romanticized idea I had.  But I was thirteen.  It made complete sense to me to make sure that my future husband, who I probably hadn’t met at that point, knew that little 13-year-old version of me.  What thirteen year old girl DOESN’T think about getting married and dreams about that fairy tale day where she got to wear a long white dress and become the focus of all of her friends and have a boy promise that he really did “like her tons” and would keep liking her forever.  For me at thirteen, having a guy say he “liked”  me was basically the ultimate dream anyways. She, in return, would hand over a bundle of letters declaring all of her thoughts and feelings over the course of the years to that boy.

I liked writing that first letter so much that I ended up keeping that tradition and wrote one on my birthday every year for quite a while.  I haven’t written one in a while, but I recently went back and read through them again.  I laughed at that first one, as I read some of the things that I thought was important that my future husband would know.  I promised him I hadn’t hugged any guys yet.  You know, for the sake of purity and all that.   Sorry future husband, I have given some side hugs since then.

But the thing that really got to me when I re-read that glittery little note was my ending statement.  I told him I already loved him.

Now, you must realize that this is a pretty private matter for me.  The letters are meant for only one pair of eyes.  And I want to keep how sacred they are to me in tact.  After all, I am laying the dreams and thoughts of the very vulnerable young me into the hands of an internet of unknown readers.  And I wouldn’t have shared it before really thinking about what I wanted for you my reader, to walk away with.  Over the years, my dreams and expectations for what that future husband needs to look like, act like, be like, have changed pretty drastically.  And I am sure that any realistic, mature, single Christian lady’s perspective have changed their dreams as well.

Here I am, so many years later.  And my letters remain still tucked away, waiting for their reader.

Since penning that first letter, I’ve dated a bit.  I’ve dreamed more.  I’ve changed my ideals.  And let’s face it.  That’s probably a good thing.  I won’t want to marry the kind of man I dreamed about as a 13-year-old.  The most important thing to me is no longer if he like Relient K or if he can ride a mean 10-speed bike around the neighborhood, doing cool tricks.  In fact, that is pretty much NOT on my list of things I am looking for.

I read a blog article a couple of months ago, written from a Christian single gal’s point of view, that basically said Christian men weren’t manning up and that the men really needed to just get their act together.  It was written out of the author’s frustration from the lack of godly men who were stepping up to the dating and marriage plate.  Her list of wants and requirements wasn’t being checked off.   I posted the link on Facebook, and boy did I get an outbreak of responses.  Some didn’t like the way they thought she bashed men, and thought it was an unfair perspective.  Some thought it was a pretty accurate picture of the dating scene in the Christian church today.    I could respond, point for point, to some of the things she brought up.  But I want to be a bit more original.

This is the section in this post where I could start doling out dating advice.  I could start telling Christian girls what we are doing right or wrong.  I could do the same for the Christian men.  I could make excuses for why I am still single, or blame all sorts of things for contributing to my single status. I could tell all the ladies that there must be some one left over to be the reader of our letters.   But honestly, that would all be based on stereotypes or be based on a singled-out view or be just another rant from a single person looking at the lawn on the other side of the fence.  It would be skewed.  And you would question me on what are my qualifications for the advice that I would give.  You would be right to.

I am not qualified to give dating do’s and don’ts.  Everyone has different theories on what works, what doesn’t and a lot of people has a theory on what everyone else is doing wrong.  I could give valid tips for the dating game, but I am sure just as easily, someone could counter-point those with an equally valid opposite view.  So I won’t sail my boat into that treacherous sea.

However. I will share a thought I had as I re-read my letters.  I liked the perspective that “past Emily” had about the future reader of her letters.  She wrote that she loved that man.  Even though they hadn’t met.  She wondered out loud what he was doing to get ready for her.  Of course, if he was near to her in age, he was probably out with his buddies tearing  up the neighborhood on that cool 10-speed bike and having serious conversations on what b-bguns were the best.  She probably wasn’t on his mind yet.  But she told him that regardless, she was going to pray for him.  She was going to pray that God would walk with him before they met so that later her walks with him would be so much sweeter.  And she told him that no matter what decisions he made or what mistakes happened, as long as God brought them together, she would be there waiting for him, no matter what.   Because she cared about him already.

Was it sappy?  Sure.  Idealistic?  We are talking about a 13-year-old homeschooler’s perspective.  Yeah, it was a bit sheltered.  But still. She held a precious thing in her young hands.   Hope.  A view that hadn’t been rocked by a culture who thinks that marriage is out-dated, over-rated and old fashion or gender blind.  She wasn’t feeling pressured by all of the happily married couples around her to “put herself out on the field.”  After all she was 13, they probably DIDN’T want her to date!  She had a perspective that didn’t have years of relationships that told her that men would never measure up or that all the good ones were taken.  She trusted that he was out there.  Enough to write him a letter and sign her name as a promise.  And I think I can take a reminder from that younger me.

She didn’t demand that they meet in college.  Or in her twenties. Or in her thirties.  Or forties.  She didn’t beg him to be rich or really smart or have a cool hobby she could boast about to all of her jealous girlfriends.  She just asked him to love the Lord.  And she said she would wait.  And hope. The rest would fall into place.   And when he did show up and promise to like her forever, she would hand over her letters.  And let him catch up on a pen-pal correspondence that he never knew he was a part of.

So my only advice to the Christian ladies is to pray for your unknown reader of the letters you have written.  Whether actual letters, or letters just tucked away mentally in the corner of your heart.  My advice to the Christian men is to think about the girls who years ago wrote you a letter, hoping you would someday come along, and live consciously of what an honor it will be to  read those letters.  My challenge to both of you, men and women, is to try to live for God, the ultimate love letter writer.  While you wait for a person to read or write your letters, read His.  If His is the only letter you ever get to read, you will feel complete.  Because he loved you first and most.

And to you, my unknown reader, I have your letters.  Make sure you are reading His.  And some day you can read the ones I wrote.


#027 When You Can’t Fit Into Your Smarty Pants

Okay, I am going to confess something.  This is vulnerable time.   I love lookin’ good.  Especially in a good pair of jeans.  I love the feeling of pulling on that worn-in friend and it fitting just perfectly.  I work hard to stay slim and when my jeans say, “Hey, you still fit after indulging in that brownie, congratulations!!!”  I can’t help but feel like they are saying to me, “we think you are awesome!”

But I also like another kind of pant – the smarty pants.   Smarty pants show off something other than physical curves.  I put on my smarty pants and strut around and make sure that everyone can see how good it makes my….brain look.   Stop rolling your eyes!  This is serious!  Even with that cheesy jean pun analogy, I am trying to say that, well, I struggle with the very same thing that got Satan kicked out of heaven and Adam and Eve kicked out of Eden – pride.

I think for the longest time I have really, really wanted to be that person that people go to for advice.  I wanted to be the person sought after for tough answers.  I want to be the one at work who can troubleshoot problems and be the go-to-person.  Even with my blog, sometimes I feel that it becomes too important to me that my blog posts be witty and thought-provoking.

I just love wearing those smarty pants.

However.  One of the problems with pride is that the more you “eat” all the things that feed it, like compliments and flattery, your head gets bigger….and you need a bigger pair of smarty pants.  And that’s just what happened to me.

For the past three weeks, I have sat down quite a few times to write down about three separate topics for this blog.  I wanted to write about the “Bitcoin”/Global, Digital Currency issue that I talked about on Facebook.  I wanted to write about relationships and how I see Christian singles approaching the whole boy vs. girl thing.  And I wanted to write about intelligence and it’s role in the Christian’s life.   All of those are a lot more heavy topics than some of my previous posts about hipsters or driving in the snow or dead plants.

And I had nothing.  I have had the worst case of writer’s block.  I would just sit at the computer and stare.

No amount of coffee or discussions with good friends was able to spark that “inspiration” that I get before I bust out a decent blog post.  It was so frustrating to tell people that a post was coming and then only get to the first paragraph that kept getting backspaced.

I finally realized what the problem was.  I actually think that this major case of writer’s block had something to do with my smarty pants.

For the past few weeks, I have been wrestling with what was going to happen with my career.  Bascially, my company is changing how they do the various accounting tasks, and they are starting a centralized billing department.   In Lancaster, PA.

Back in February, My company offered to move me across the country to work in their new department.  I answered back very firmly that I just couldn’t move across the country for a variety of reasons.  And in my mind that was that.

However.   The upper management at my company have called me a few times since then and expressed how impressed they are with my work – and I think it really stroked my ego. They even paid for me to take a trip out there to check out the location and meet with some more managers.  That made me feel like such an “important” person and even if I didn’t want it to get to my head, I think it did.  People were pleased with me and I liked that feeling.  It’s hard not to gain “fatty” pride when flattery is involved.  When those managers told me that they really wanted me in the new headquarters and sang all of those praises to persuade me – I couldn’t help eating some of those delicious compliments.

I put on those smarty pants.  And the more I looked at myself through their flattering eyes…the more I liked the way I looked.  I just wanted to start every conversation with, “I’m awesomesauce and my boss said so!!”  I felt like a kid who had drawn what they think is an awesome drawing  and mommy puts it on the fridge.  ”See I did that!”

But hey I am a Christian, and I know what I am supposed to do in a situation with a life-changing problem.  Duh, Sunday School answer.  I am supposed to pray!  See I am awesomesauce there too!

I have prayed a lot in these last few weeks.  These weren’t long, elaborate, eloquent prayers.  I feel like they were more text loop prayer questions spoken in my head for only God and I to wrestle back and forth with.  ”What should I do, what does God want, where do I want to live for the next five years, where do I want my career to go, who will I make this decision for”  Imagine those questions just looping through you head continually for hours and hours.  Take my word for it….it makes you go crazy!

Here’s the kicker to the whole thing.  I had known what my decision SHOULD be way before I decided to go out and check out the new job potential.  I had felt very secure in the fact that God wanted me to stay in Denver and be the best biller/accountant/whatever-job-I-can-get-out-here-next and start growing in other personal areas of my life.  I knew that this is where I am supposed to be.

But the compliments kept coming.  And the flattery came.  And the promise of opportunities and perks came.  With that came that sense of importance.  And I was enticed.  And I outgrew my smarty pants.

Proverbs 27:6 – Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.

I am by no means saying my company was the enemy. They were just recruiting like they did to all the other billers, but I let it get to me.  In this case, my pride was the enemy.   I let my pride “wine and dine” me a bit.  I let myself be “kissed” by thoughts of self-importance and visions of future promotions.

Having said all that, I don’t want it to appear that I am just throwing a bit of a self-realization pity party.  That’s not my point.  I am being transparent with you, my reader.  The point of this blog for me is really to communicate some of my daily struggles as a believer, for better and for worst, and hopefully have my words point you to Christ.

I am just human.  And after struggling with all of the above, I stand before you at least a little humbled. When I was on my trip in Lancaster, meeting with managers, boasting about all that I can do and blah, blah, blah – I had a moment alone.  And instead of turning up the volume of the TV or radio, I turned up my listening to my Shepherd, who knows where this little sheep is supposed to go.  He said the same thing to me that He had been saying for weeks and weeks but I had let all of those compliments drown out His words.

He said, “Listen.”  He said, “Stay.”  He said, “Trust.”

So I listened.  I took off my smarty pants that told me that the most important thing in life is to feel important.  And as soon as I took those tight, constricting pants off…..I had peace.  Like God is awesome kind of peace.

So all those other blog posts I was going to write?  I decided that all the things I want to tell you guys in the other blog posts really don’t matter when I was saying them for the wrong reasons – to make ME look good.  After all, it’s hard to write when your smarty pants have gotten to small for your ever growing ego.

And I decided to just tell you that smarty pants might make you feel like you look like awesomesauce – but they are deceptive.  They really look like XXXXL Men’s Walmart sweatpants and are very unflattering.   You know what I would I would suggest to wear instead?  No, not skinny jeans….ewww, no, that’s another topic for an entirely different day!

Wear the helmet of salvation.  The breastplate of righteousness.  Shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of PEACE. And in situations where you might really want those smarty pants – I would recommend the shield of faith to protect you from those flaming arrows of pride that might come your way.

And you will have peace, my friend.  Because no pants in the world will make you feel as awesome as being secure in God’s will.


#026 hipsters, cliches, trials and fedoras

Today I was told I was dressed like a hipster.  Yes, yes I was.  I don’t know if the person who made the comment knows what a hipster really is, as I believe the closest thing I was wearing to indicate any slight form of hip were my knock-off version of converse.  But, hey.

I am not one to throw away an opportunity.

Naturally, this comment made me want to go to a coffee shop,  wearing a fedora, sip a latte with one splenda and blog all of my deepest, darkest feelings.

I tried to think about the coolest, most unique thing to blog about with my hipsterness going on, and my very hipster mind came up with cliches.

And so here I sit.  Listening to the most indie music I can muster….One Direction….and trying to think like a hipster.

Talking about Cliches is pretty cliche’.  We give cliches a bad rap because everyone says one now and then and therefore we can easily lay down judgement on every single person on earth for having the audacity to repeat a trite saying.  And we hipsters love to judge.  Cuz we are cool like that.  :::Sips coffee:::

How are you doing today?

Seriously.  We all beg that question of every single person we meet.  It’s like the most unknown thing in our human existence.   Please tell me how you are doing….but I will only give you five seconds to answer before I require you to ask the same of me.  Also, please sum up your entire existence and how you feel about it at this particular moment and make it just interesting enough that I will have something to use as a follow-up question.  Remember, don’t make it too depressing or too cheerful as I am using these social ques to make judgement calls on who you are as a person.   You have five seconds.  Go.

Talk about pressure.  Social pressures are beneath us hipsters.  :::sips coffee:::

We humans are silly creatures of habit. We say the same things over and over because it’s what we have done all of our lives and we don’t know what else to do.  Well, not us hipsters, but the rest of you.  We hipsters have chosen a lifestyle of individualism where we all act like hipsters and read our poetry and listen to obscure music so as not to be lumped into any social group…….  ::::sips coffee:::

However, all of that tongue and cheek being said, I do actually have a point to make.

The cliches that I think we humans (hipsters included) struggle with the most are the ones meant to comfort.

It’s going to be okay.   You will get through this.  Don’t worry.  What doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.  Every storm runs out of rain.

I am guilty of saying every single one of those phrases.  Although the last one happens to be one of this hipster’s favorite country songs.  So I usually sing that one.

As I often like to do in my blog writing, I want to challenge you, my reader.  And in doing so, challenge myself.  Preach to the choir, as it were.   Ahem. :::sips coffee::

Sure those cliches have some merit.  I mean, in most circumstances, yes that person may get stronger through a tough time.  Or they may not.  They may become so wrapped up in their situation that they become their own victim, tied down by the very whims of the day’s emotion. It isn’t our responsibility to dictate or predict by pretense how any one person may react to a situation.

In accordance to the above, this next challenge is to my Christian brothers and sisters.  We are called to be iron sharpening iron.  We are called to call out each other on our sins.  We are called to be closer than a brother.  We are called to love and exhort.  We are called to love as Christ loves.  We are called to extend grace.  We are called to restore.  We are called to be salt.

The Bible is so rich in language when it talks about how we are to share in each others’ burdens.  And yet, in general, here we are just repeating phrases like, “it’s going to be okay,”  from the clearance psychology section that ultimately means nothing and is as effective as the wind on a wall.

You have gone through a trial.  Don’t pretend you haven’t.  Everyone has.  We all have our stories.  And that’s our problem, as humans.  We are looking at our story and comparing it to others.  We like to share our battle wounds and expect everyone to have a similar scar as us.  But surprise, surprise -Your story isn’t their story.  Your background and emotions and experiences aren’t theirs.  You don’t know what God has planned for them and how He is working in and through them.   Their trial may, in fact, not even be for  their own benefit but for another who is watching how they respond to said tribulation.

So this hipster’s lone advice to you who are comforting the brokenhearted is to be unique.  Don’t be cliche.  Don’t judge.  Be rich.  Be sincere.  Be you, not some dictated psychology course.

Be hipster.


#025 Valentine’s Day

My Grandpa is adorable.

He may not describe himself as such.  However, as his granddaughter, I am allowing myself that privilege.   He is a rough sort of man, tall yet slightly bent with age and physical wear.  Chain-saws, tractor engines, and gunshots have robbed his hearing, so don’t be surprised when he doesn’t hear what he doesn’t want  to hear.  If you ask him a question, he may just rhyme  your words.  ”Want to eat some dinner, Grandpa?  ”You want to be a little thinner?”   Classic Grandpa.

Even though he is in his eighties, his shoulder muscles are still thick and taunt from wielding an ax against the forests of Oregon during his logging years.  His face is nice and wrinkled, but they are well-earned.   Each crease in his browned, sun-kissed face speak of his life as a miller, a logger, a soldier, and a farmer.  His hands are hard and rough with callouses.   Those hands built a house  for my grandmother and their family.  The family my dad grew up in.  The house that he and my equally adorable, wrinkly grandmother live in to this day on a Christmas tree farm in Oregon.

My grandma is the queen of the house, but by the way she still smiles at her prince, you know that he doesn’t really suffer by letting her get her way.  I could go on about grandma, but I wanted to focus in on my Grandpa’s point of view for this post.  

My Grandpa is a quiet man.  Well, okay, he has been known to let out a string of colorful words if he gets angry….like the time the house cat fought with the outdoor cat in the garage (His words as he got between them to break it up was a shocking time for my innocent ears as a small kid, my ears are STILL ringing).  He is a redneck through and through, an Oklahoma boy who never quite got rid of that Oaky accent.

I don’t let him fool me though.  I know he is a softy inside.  How do I know?

I look at how he treats Grandma.

What does my Grandpa have to do with Valentine’s day?  Everything, at least to me.

My Grandpa and Grandma’s life together is the reason why we should celebrate Valentine’s Day.  In their marriage, Grandma gets two votes.  In their marriage, they swear they both win if Grandma wins (refer to the whole voting arrangement) and no two people could be happier together.   They raised three kids, worked at the local high school as a janitor and secretary, went berry-picking in the summers to make ends meet, grew Christmas trees to help my dad go to college, and are the glue of the family to this very day.

Last time I visited them, I asked my grandpa about his first date with grandma. Now, my Grandpa LOVES telling stories.  Considering all the stories I HAVE heard, I can’t believe I hadn’t heard that one.  So over coffee, and with Grandma tucked right next to him, beaming all thorough the story, I got the scoop on how Grandpa turned a car trip into a first date.

Almost sixty years ago, my grandpa had just come back from the Korean war, after serving as a medic.  Before the war, he had quit high school and  had started his own milling business with his brother. They went into the milling business before there was much competition and made a decent amount of money, around $15 a day.  The story telling stopped here and Grandpa proudly informed me that he saved up and bought a brand-new Studebaker pickup.  Apparently, that made him pretty cool back then (okay, that makes him cool now too).

He came back from the war, and this is where it gets real cute.  He said he knew Grandma (Lois) was the kind of girl he wanted.  He repeated himself several times at this point and made sure I knew that he had known about her for years and had seen what kind of person she was from afar.

“I rode my bike past her house on my paper route as a kid.”  He said.  Even though they grew up in the same town, they had been a few years a part, but had mutual friends in high school and he knew her parents.

Now you must know.  My Grandpa is shy around women.  In his day, men and women interacted more conservatively around each other.  To this day, he will still chuckle awkwardly whenever I pat him on the back affectionately and he’ll mutter, “well, now….”  and awkwardly pat my back in return.  It’s the most precious, awkward exchange I get to have with anyone and I will intentionally give him hugs just to make him blush.

Well, back to the story.  Some friends of theirs were getting married and Grandpa volunteered to drive Lois and another couple to the wedding.  He had grandma sit next to him in the front and the other couple rode in the back.  As they were driving along, Grandpa began to realize that this could be considered a date.

But he wasn’t sure.

Good ol’ Grandpa decided he really needed to know if it was.  So.  He started to reach for her hands, which he says were holding a purse or something.

Now I am sure Grandma knew what was going on.  Guys, we know.  We just do.  But grandma was good, she made him work for it a little.  She turned to him as his hand was slowing inching closer and said in a rather demanding voice,

“What are you doing???”  That’s probably my favorite line my grandma has ever said.

My grandpa’s hand shot back to his side and he just hammered and hawed for a bit.  My Grandma had to help him out.

“Do you want to hold my hand?”  She asked, rather bluntly.  My kind of woman.

“Well…..yeah.”  He answered.  Mind you, they had a watching (probably giggling) audience in the back.

Apparently, that was the right answer, and she grabbed his hand in reply.

After the wedding, he drove them back and intentionally parked the car away from the watching windows of her parent’s house.  He got out of the car and walked her to the door.

Now here is where he started blushing some more and I had to use my imagination to finish the story.  Basically, insert a first kiss here.

Sixty years later, my grandparents still ramble around the country together, visiting coffee shops and jawing about the days gone by.

They still hold hands.  

If you google (like I did) the history of Valentine’s Day, you will find that the man who started it all fought for that very minute and what it led to.    Marriage.  While the history surrounding “Saint Valentine” remains more legend than actual documented facts, the legend does lend a very heroic tale of someone who stood up for something that cannot actually defend itself.  And he paid the ultimate price for his stance.

Catholic tradition claims three martyrs by the name of Valentine.  The one whom Valentine’s Day is probably based on was a priest in third century Rome.  King Claudius banned marriage, as he thought single men would make better soldiers.  However, Saint Valentine went against his decree and began to perform secret marriages.

This is where I stopped in the story and thought about how the decision and bravery of one man, while his history can be summed in one little paragraph on Wikipedia, impacted two young people, sixty years ago, and now me today.    Valentine thought the idea and the importance of marriage was so great that it was worth dying for.  Maybe I let that surprise me more than I should have.  But I think I compared his sacrifice to the attitude placed on this holy institution in today’s society and even my Christian-girl-raised-up-traditional mind.

I don’t appreciate Marriage like Valentine did.  But I think my Grandparents do.  I hope to get there someday too.

And with that all said, I sign off with a letter writing tradition from our new Third Century hero.

From your Valentine,

Emily


#024 writing year-end newsletter paragraphs

Dear readers,
Every year it sneaks up on me and I like it even less than the year before.  That would be the family newsletter.  I like to write. Obviously. But for what ever reason, I can’t bring myself to enjoy writing one paragraph summarizing my life in a year.

I can’t explain why I don’t like it. I just don’t. Maybe I don’t care that Joe from my parents’ high school years wants to read about my life update. That’s what facebook statuses are for.

Maybe its cuz my life has been rather boring up to this last year. I mean once you are out of school, life stops progressing as fast.  I mean, who wants to hear, “Gained three pounds, put another 10k mileage on my car, paid off 1k in student loans, got 50 more friends on facebook.” Lame. Average.  I think that is my excuse for my scrooge-like attitude on year end newsletters. Who wants to hear the same thing every year, the only thing changing is my age and student loan amount.

However, this year was different. My perspective, view, opinion, everything on life and how it should be lived completely changed.

I want to say it changed for the better. Although the process was nothing short of frustrating and agnozing, I came out smiling. Not the fake, pretend-everything-is-okay-but-its-really-not smile.
Nah, that’s not for me. It’s the smile that say I have lost something but have been given more than I lost. The smile that says no matter what, I am thankful for what I have and to hell with what I have lost. God is good and nothing I do can add to how much good He is.

As my little brother would put it, here’s the thing.

This was the year of not working not because I couldn’t get work but because I wasnt allowed to. There was such a suffocating tone with not being able to advance myself in the career I have chosen. But this was also the year that ended with the perfect fit job with employers that are nothing short of awesome to work with. How can I complain?

This was the year that was one eye surgery after another. I know I have talked endlessly of my eye stuff and please know I still wish this trial wasn’t a part of my life. Even I don’t like hearing people go on and on about what’s wrong with their bodies. However, I feel like this aspect or “thorn” (as Paul might call it) grew me more than all my years of being a Christian combined. Up to now, everything was just so easy and the word “trial” was a silly word in the Bible. I don’t want these trials to be a point of pity in my life but rather a source of encouragement as people see me deal with it. This whole thing made me stronger but reminded me I am no Superman.

And my struggles have given me a story. Who doesn’t like a good story!!!

This was the year I discovered I wasn’t perfect. Crazy, right? I found out I really am a limited stupid human being who lives in a broken world where not everything goes your way. I found out you can’t force people to see things the way you do. I found out other people aren’t perfect and not to expect them to meet my lofty expectations. I found out that people have pasts that form who they are and not to judge them by my past. Maybe its horrible that I am just now figuring all this out. Maybe next year I will make fun of myself of how little I learned this last year. Maybe.

This was the year of the big move. I tore out of my comfort zone. I left all that was familiar. I left most of my friends and family. To be real, the change.hasn’t been as easy as I thought it would be. I am pretty lonely at times and just want to crawl back to my “little cozy Hobbit hole in the shire.” ( yes that was such a nerdy analogy, I embrace that.)

I miss Taco Tuesdays with inviting everyone over for dinner and making fun of the contestants of The Bachelor. I miss being able to text five friends and having a spontaneous outing on a Friday night. I miss borderline and lindygroove. I miss knowing all my friends and knowing their struggles and talking til 2 am because that’s when the good talks happen.

I think this struggle will be part of my new year’s resolution. I am naturally an introvert and I struggle to come out of my shell when surrounded by people I barely know. I feel very vulnerable and not as confident as I normally am. Learning area? Definitely.

So, my dear readers, that was my year. It had a few LOTR analogies, but as Gandolf said, ” there is more to this hobbit than meets the eye.”

And mom, you can just copy/paste this into our family newsletter. Bam. Blog and newsletter done!


#022 Californians in the Snow

Here’s the thing.  Californians can only drive in one weather condition.  Sunny.  That’s it.  If there is any precipitation of any kind, even one drop of mist, we all freak out at once and swerve our cars into the middle dividers on the 405 freeway.  It’s what we do.

I’ve seen cars turned a full 180 degrees on the freeway with a light sprinkling of rain. We are the ones who end any sort of inconvenience with “maggeden.” 405 freeway closing down for a day? “Carmaggeden.” Light rain in the forecast? “Rainmaggeden.” We are ridiculous. But we also have Hollywood. So that should explain a lot.

That being said, imagine three Californians attempting to drive through what Midwesterns might describe as a light dusting of powder and what we three deemed as the Great Blizzard of 2012.

The setting of the story was my move from Sunny LA to Colorado.  Three friends, a GPS and a tiny Ford Focus that is literally duck-taped together drove through four states to get me and all my earthly possessions to Denver, CO.   This is the story of our journey.

We started out on November 9th, 2012.  The weather in CA was calm and non-threatening.  Life was good.  We got through Nevada and Arizona with little drama.  

Utah was where we panicked.  To be fair,  Utah was just so blah.  It was flat, boring and filled with truckers going a gazillion miles per hours down a highway covered with two inches of snow.

What….SNOW?!?!?!?! More like Snowmaggeden!!! Okay that’s just what we called it. It was more like a light dusting of no more than a couple inches in any one place. But we were Californians. We decided to prepare for whatever this white natural disaster would throw our way.

What did this Californian do at the first sign of those cute little snowflakes? Why, I stopped our whole road trip and went and bought snow chains, gloves and the biggest bottle of windshield defroster liquid the gas station would sell me.

Picture this next scene. Our windshield kept icing/frosting over so visibility was barely acceptable. I was sitting on the passenger side and came up with the brilliant idea of leaning out the window with a water bottle WHILE WE WERE STILL DRIVING and try to slosh away some of the snow. Yeah. All that happened was I got a huge splash in the face with cold water after discovering that velocity and wind do exist at 70 mph. I have a college degree people. I swear I am smart.

Our next brilliant idea was to pull over and do the same thing on the side of the road. You know, at a stand still. So I stood by my car, in flip flops, and threw water on my windshield while we used my one good bath towel to sludge off all the moisture. All of this happened while truckers in their hot shot wheels flew by us, blowing snow back onto our newly cleaned windows. Productivity.

My turn to drive next. After getting back on the road, I tried a tried and true snow driving technique by following in the carved tire tracks in the snow. However. I never was good at drawing in the lines. Ahem. So I will let your imagination fill in the blanks of me trying to stay aligned to a set of slippery tracks on an hour long stretch. There was much knuckle whitening and squeals from me….and my passengers….as my tires would hit that middle section of packed snow between tracks and I swerved to correct my trajectory. Yeah.

And if my parents are reading this…well we did leave out parts of this story when we on the road so as not to alarm them. Now you can freak out. I am expecting the phone call lecture any moment. I was wearing a seat belt mom!

Anyways, that road trip was so fun and marked such a huge transition for me.

This past year has been one of endless obstacles. Every time I thought my life was about to get back to normal, my eye would explode (or get glaucoma or something) and it was back to a swollen face for two weeks. Over. And over. I had over eight eye surgeries in a year. My eye was sown shut, vaccinated 4 times, and vaccuumed. I was jealous of people who could just go to work, hang out and live. Uninterrupted.

And the next part was the hardest of them all. I had the worst fight with one of my closest friends. It was over the stupidest thing. As these things usually are. I hated it. And that whole thing put a huge gap between me and people who had such a huge part of my life just a few months before.

I kept asking God, “when do I get my life back?” When do I get normal back?

My favorite phrase that is repeated in the Bible was my answer. “But God”. Psalm 73:26 NASB

“My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. “

But God. But God gave me an opportunity to minister to a bunch of families who I would have never met because I would have been too busy at work. But God forced me to get out of my comfort zone and find new friends and learn what friendship really came down to when times are hard.

But God grew me this last year. It might take 8 eye surgeries for me to learn patience and contentment, but I learned.

I am only human and I know that Denver isn’t this magical place where I won’t have hard times. But God seems to think my next set of lessons will be best learned out here. Snowmaggeden and all.


#021 Dead Plants

I am not anti-plant.  I say this as a disclaimer because I have been getting potted plants as gifts a lot lately. First of all, if you just gave me a plant (and statistically speaking you probably did, judging by the growing number of pots on my porch)  I must publically thank you.  I love those smiling green friends.  Really. Your plants greeted me for the first two days while they still looked alive and “perky” and gave me hope that something in the world was still good.

But this is getting a bit awkward.  Because of all the plant gifts, I now have a lot of dead plants decorating my front porch.

Perhaps I  give off that “I can take care of plants vibe” pretty seriously.  Or I just walk around and people think to themselves, “man, that girl really needs a plant in her life.”  Maybe it’s my sunshine personality that screams “photosynthesis!!”  I have no clue.

Here’s the bottom line.  I kill plants.  Or maybe I should soften my words and say “I am bad with plants.”  You know how like some people are just “bad with kids.”  That doesn’t mean they are horrible people, you just don’t invite them to your kid’s birthday party.  Well, don’t invite me to your plant’s birthday party.

The facts are I live somewhere with no backyard, no soil, and my porch has either scorching direct sunlight or freezing shade.  That’s not even the worst confession of them all.  I suck at watering.  Like completely suck.  My plants are either drowning like soaked rats during a storm or parched like a carcass in the Mojave Desert. (Lovely analogies aren’t they??)  I can’t seem to find that happy medium.

Now, I know what you are thinking.  Emily, you are just exaggerating your tale so you will have a blog post.  I will let the picture evidence convince you either way.

First picture is of a plant I was just given at a party two days ago.  Remember this life while it is still with us on earth.  

Here are two dead plants, along with an empty saucer that used to support what was my cactus I had for like three months.  It must have committed plant suicide since I don’t know where it went.  And it wouldn’t be the first plant to commit suicide as I used to have a cute plant from Trader Joe’s that I named “Poe” that jumped off my balcony.  Twice.

My house is kind of like a plant morgue.  Or a hospice.  Where plants go to die.  At any rate, no one likes dead plants.  So please, give me fake flowers next time.  Or don’t ask how your plant is doing.  Because it’s most likely jumped off the balcony.


#020 When your conversations regularly include topics involving afterbirth…..

Afterbirth.  Yep, I tucked that word into at least three conversations last night at bible study.  I know, I know, it’s true, I can be a fantastic conversationalist.

First of all, I better dispel all rumors right now….I haven’t given birth, nor do I expect to any time soon.  But of late, my life has involve more of the ambiotic tissue than a person of my life stage would have ever expected.  It just so happens that I have some afterbirth at this exact moment….sown on to my eye.

Wait! NO!  Don’t click the close window button!!  Well at least after you are done throwing up, come on back to hear all about it! 

For the sake of not completely alienating all of my remaining blog readers, I will try to explain this disgusting claim in one sentence.  I have a donor cornea in my left eye, and whenever it gets scratched from a blink or gust of wind or whatever, it has trouble getting my own abnormal stem cells to heal the donor stem cells and so ambiotic tissue (aka afterbirth) can be used to help the two stem cell types come to an understanding and heal up that corneal edema.  Whew, one run-on sentence did the trick!  

I am sure all of you are smart enough to understand all that and have absolutely no questions.  Ironically, I have found that once I mention all of the above, people do tend to kinda shut up and just nod rather politely.  I know it’s super gross, but unfortunately this has been a big part of my life the past few months and when someone asks, “how are you?”, I just can’t seem to say the expected,  ”oh, good, good.” WHEN I HAVE AMBIOTIC TISSUE ALL UP IN HERE!!  Just saying.  So for those of you who are easily grossed out, I highly recommend not asking how I am doing….

Well okay, I do have one more thing to share.  I am moving to Denver in three weeks!!!  WOOHOO!!!

I know, it’s a bit out of the blue, but I assure you there are many solid reasons for leaving the 20 mile radius region where I have lived my entire life.  I will put it in bullet form for a more organized presentation.

  • There is a cornea specialist in Denver who is amazing and will eventually be implanting my artificial cornea sometime in the near future.
  • There are awesome coffee shops in Denver.  Seriously, I am that much of a coffee lover/addict.  I move where the coffee is, people.
  • The job market is much better out there, at least from what I have seen.  Out here in California, I feel like I am competing for jobs beneath my college degree, with the pay of what I got while I was in college.  I hate the feeling of never being able to get ahead.
  • The Rocky Mountains…..need I really have to explain that one?!?!?!?!  I mean there is Lyme disease too….but we have sharks here in California. That’s my counter argument.
  • And I have tons of friends, a place to live and a church already out there!  Bam!

So now you all are caught up with my life.  Afterbirth and all.  Colorado just isn’t going to know what hit them


#023 moments I almost didn’t have

While I was riding the train to work, I was thinking about this whole 12/12/12 thing.  People were making such a big deal about this whole repeating thing not happening again for a long time.  I was laughing to myself how nerdy that small obsession over unique dates was.  Then, I thought to myself.  Actually, every date is unique.  Every day is a day that isn’t going to happen again.  Who cares about the number of the day, the day itself and the people who are in it need to be marveled at.  You never know what the day ahead might bring.

Just a good reminder for us all.  As I was reflecting on that, I remembered this blog post I drafted this last summer.  I wrote this on the year anniversary of my mom almost dying.  This is a very, very tender/sensitive memory of mine.  But I want to share it.  Because, even I forget how precious life, even in the mundane everyday living, can be.  This post ends a bit abruptly, but I think I actually like it that way, because it gives my memory a little more strength.  My mom is fine now, she came out of her coma that she went into that prevented me from talking to her, stayed in the hospital for a few more weeks and has been doing physical therapy every since.

I dedicate this blog post to my mom.  I am thankful for God giving me more moments with you. Every day is special when I get to talk to you.  I love you.

Year Anniversary Post: Today, I heard a laugh that almost didn’t sound, saw a smile that almost didn’t reach the far corners of her eyes, and breathed in a thankful prayer that today wasn’t a dream or a wistful wish.  Today, I got to just hang out with my mom.  If you had told me five years ago that I would love going errand running with my mom for a good six hours, I probably would have told you that you were crazy.  That shows what change when you are looking through the glasses of “almost lost moments.”

As cliche as it may sound, I remember one phone call almost a year ago that changed my life.  As a lot of other life-changing events happen, the day had started as any other day.  I got up, dressed, and was driving to work, thinking about everything I had to do that day.  My thoughts were on me, me, me.  I was struggling quite honestly.  My new job was harder than I had first thought, my eyes were giving me a lot of problems, and I felt like life was one big high rope walking act.  My morning prayers usually rambled on about how much God should give me this and give me that and make everyone like me, etc.  Me, me, me.

My phone rang.  Sigh.  Why was someone interrupting my “me” time?  My drive to work was the best 10 minutes of my otherwise rather stressful day.  I normal let calls go to voicemail, so as to answer when most convenient for ME.  But I glanced down to check who dare disturb my sacred 10 minutes.  It was my mom.  Decisions, decisions.  I almost didn’t answer that call.  But something made me answer.

“Hello?”

“Hey sunshine girl, it’s mom.  I just wanted to let you know I am going in for that scheduled surgery.”

Oh right, that was today.

“Okay, well good luck, I’ll be praying for you.”

“Thanks, and just know that if I don’t make it, and I am sure I will be fine, I love you.”

There goes mom, being all sentimental and exaggerating how much could go wrong.

“Oh mom, don’t be silly, you will be fine.”

I was approaching my turn into work at that point and just wanted to get off the phone.

“Okay, well I love you any ways.”

“Alright.  Well I gotta go.  Talk to you later.”

:::Click::::

Those were the last words I heard from her for two weeks.


#019 Angsty Poetry

Okay.  I admit.  I get in weird moods sometimes.  Blame the moon, an overdose of caffeine, or way too much free time.  But what better way to deal with thoughts that make no sense by writing poetry that doesn’t even rhyme very well!

Normally, no one wants to read about how you like pie in your eye that makes you cry.  because no one likes bad poetry.  Fortunately, I have a blog that let’s me publish the very stuff that no one likes.

So world, here is some bad poetry to make you want to go run through a field of sunflowers and wish that unicorns made rainbows.

I’m not the monster in your closet

By Emily Philpot

I’m not the monster in your closet,

You keep laying awake at night,

Trembling, making yourself all upset.

Your eyes fixed on your stupid nightlight.

 

You wait for me to jump out and say boo,

Your ears strain for the bump in the night.

You give me eight eyes, and the worst hairdo,

But I’m not there, I’m not in sight.

 

I’m the wind, I’m the freaking breeze,

My song rustles all through your dead trees,

But stop making me that scary creature,

I’m not the star of your crazy motion picture.

 

If you are so scared of me, find me,

Stop saying you are so brave

In the sun, when it scatters light on all you see,

It’s in my dark that your words won’t save.

 

I don’t care what you put on,

You bedcovers won’t hide you,

From your own thoughts

on which you lie upon.

Cuz I’m no monster, and you are the one who ate yourself.


#018 Not having a camera

Today, I really wished I had a camera.

I volunteered at a horse therapy center for disabled children and words won’t do my experience justice.  There is a beauty of a huge draft horse with broad, thick shoulders and muscular hindquarters that can pull stage coaches and plow rocky fields cradling a small, underdeveloped child who can’t walk on their own,  and giving them the power to walk with not just two legs, but four very powerful legs.

Today I saw a kid with a heart pump who probably isn’t allowed to run or jump on his own, stand on the back of a horse, spread his arms out like wings, tilt his head back, close his eyes and tell me, “see this is so easy.”

I wanted to tell him that it wasn’t easy.  I would be scared.  I hate heights and the thought of balancing on the back of a living animal who could easily crush me is terrifying.  But you can’t tell that to a little boy who is transformed into superman once he is given the strength of an animal with a thousand muscles.   I wish I could have taken a picture,  but all the film in the world wouldn’t be able to capture how his bravery affected me.  Instead, I just stood there, held my breath, and hoped he wouldn’t fall.  But he didn’t and he got up and stood on that horse a couple times before the lesson was over.

Today I got to met superman.  And his horse.  Why didn’t I have a camera??


#017 Interview questions

In my opinion, interviews are the greatest paradox created by man.  Think about it.

You put two people in a room, make one of them dress up ten times fancier than any normal life situation, have one person stare down the other from across a maple, polished desk and stare.  You then have a complete stranger fire random, useless questions at a nervous, sweating, uncomfortably dressed fellow and then expect a logical employment decision to come out of that discussion. Um…..really?

My worst interview.  I showed up 1. wearing jeans (I was called during class and had no time to change) 2. had no relevant experience and 3. spontaneously hugged the poor girl who interviewed me at the end.  In front of a client.

Yep.  I hugged my interviewer.  The person who was supposed to professionally hire me.

So don’t worry.  No matter how bad you do on an interview.  I’ve probably done worst. The best interview I had (that lead to my dream job)  I left in tears because I thought I didn’t get it.  Basically, I don’t really have that natural intuition for these things.

However, don’t get me wrong.  I have improved.  I like interviews now.  Especially after getting a degree, experience and sticking to my no hug rule.

So whatever you do, don’t hug and you’ll be fine.


#016 doubled and blurred

When I close my eyes, I can see perfectly.  Sometimes, I just want to shut my eyes and never have to open them to the blurred world that presents itself to me every morning.  In my mind’s eyes, colors are crisp, distant things are considered a view not a blur, and I can recognize a friendly face from more than two feet away.  But when I wake up, I see the real hazy, dimmed version of the world around me.  Objects are doubled in one eye, and faded in the other.  I have a very rare disease in my left eye, that threatens the remaining vision.

It’s so weird that the most microscopic bit of scar tissue and blood vessels threatens to change the way I see my life going.

To be fair, I demand one thing.  I don’t want sympathy.  I don’t like it when people grimace and tell me how sorry they are for me.  It’s not that I don’t have my frustrations or down moments, because, hey,  I do.  I’m human.

But, honestly, I’m not sorry.  It’s just another lesson, another life adventure.  I’m not noble to think that, or brave, or extraordinary, or special.  I’m just Emily who happens to have poor vision and random eye diseases.

I quit the best job I ever had (at least in my short work life that is) in order to take care of my eyes for a bit.  In 2012, I will be having multiple eye surgeries and procedures done.  The worst part isn’t the actual surgeries (I don’t have to do any of the work hahaha); it’s actually the waiting.  I hate waiting.

Waiting.  It’s like pacing in a room for six months to find out whether my life will be one that will include driving, getting my Master’s degree, becoming a CPA, and getting to do “my list” or finding out that my life will be one of fading colors and blurred shapes that has all sorts of restrictions .  I can accept either side, but the waiting….is torture.  I can find hope in either of those situations, but I want to know which one I will be living.

The plan.  I will be flying out to OH to visit a specialist who is the only doctor in the US who is published on my condition and try to get some more answers.  After that, my wonderful doctors here in LA will try to salvage my damaged cornea.  A couple surgeries, a few laser procedures, a couple month’s healing in between will all decide my future.  Well, sort of.

I know God has a plan for me, and it’s my job to bring Him glory regardless of which of the above situations happen.  And I will.  I know I will.  Even as a kid, I knew something drastic would happen in my life where I would always point back and say, ‘that’s the moment.”  What I mean is I knew I am meant to make a difference, as a lot of people are.  Some people are given more opportunities to make differences than others, with all sorts of circumstances and game changers.  Some people can sing their hearts out, go on American Idol and wow a nation.  Others are given lots of money to buy wings of hospitals and libraries for low income school districts.

I was given an eye disease.  But I was always given a God whose grace continues to surround me, friends who support me, a family who will never leave me.

Regardless of what happens six months from now, when my wait in the waiting room ends and I find out the ending of this chapter, I know I have hope.  My hope is that no matter how well my vision is for the rest of my life, I will have a sort of eyesight.  Because of what God is teaching me, I can see how to help people, I can see how to minister to someone who has it much worst than I, and I can see how I can show that in my weakness, God is strong.

There are no clichés or poems to make blurred vision sound good, but when you can’t see very well, sometimes it helps bring other things into focus better.

For now I see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Don’t let your good vision blur what you should really be seeing this coming year.


#015 Accountants

Accountants.  Basically, the only people who actually  like us are other accountants.  Admit it , if you aren’t one of us you just hate us.

We are the ones who screwed up your bill that one time and forced you to spend three wasted hours of your life on the phone arguing about fees and rates.  We caused your taxes to be  that high  and almost forced your children not to eat for a month.  We are the reason little Jimmy didn’t get Christmas that one year.

You are on to us.  You make it your mission to make sure we know our place.  The billing department is the first place where you can call to unleash your anger pent up from an unhappy marriage and an unsatisfying paycheck.  If you find a mistake of ours, you will act like it’s discovering the constitution was a conspiracy.  We know.  It’s okay.  We can take it.  After all, we never had a good self esteem to begin with.  Why start now.

Accounting.  We are the first to be blamed for anything that goes wrong and we are the last person to be let off the hook.   Sometimes we must act like a negotiator in a hostage situation.   Seriously, try to be the poor accounts payable person on the other end of the phone of “I want my money, I want my MONEY, I WANT MY MONEYYYYYY!!!!”

Sometimes I feel more like a 911 operator.  In one day I got three calls, a voicemail,  two faxes and an email to my boss and myself trying to collect on a $3.60 invoice.  I then had to take this call and say ““Ma’m stay calm and tell me what company you work for…..Okay, hold on, please breathe….yes we owe you $3.60.  I will cut a check next week.  Please remain calm.”

To those aspiring accounting students expect one of two reactions from strangers.

1. “Oh my gosh, you are an accountant?   You must be super good at numbers!  What would you recommend for my long term investment portfolio? ”  You instantly become the one that gets handed the restaurant bill to “figure out that crazy split” and you are expected to calculate tips and percentages instantly in your head.  Apparently being an accountant actually means being able a walking calculator.

Weirdly, people also  instantly expect me to know everything that is going on at Wall Street.  Sometimes I wonder if I have one of those red banner ticker things scrolling across my forehead announcing the latest swells of the financial markets.  Or they come running to me with questions about how to budget or refinance.

2. “Accounting, huh?  So you are really boring, right?  You don’t like having fun or making jokes because the numbers have gone to your head.”

Accountants.  We ruin Christmas and we starve children.  We got 300 correct billing statements out the door this month but we messed up yours and now we must pay.

But.  I warn you.  We know your secrets.  Accountants know things.   Don’t yell at us.  We can ruin next Christmas too.


#014 The proverbial life lemon

They say – and I have no idea who “they” may be – that when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.  It’s a great saying and I am sure thousands of gallons of proverbial lemonade have been made by people who have been thrown plenty of curveballed lemons.

To be quite honest, I am horrible about turning my lemons into lemonade.  I usually just throw my lemons on the ground, stomp on them and all the while whine about my problems and de”lemons” (get it?  De”lemons” aka dilemmas:)  I might take my lemons and throw them at mailboxes or a nearby cat – but I never want to add any sugar or maturity to my problems.

I always boast that I am becoming more mature that I was the day before and that I am starting to get the whole “grownup” thing down more and more – but the slightest wind can knock all my little duckies out of their straight line and maybe even completely out of the water.

Right now, my eyes are being my two biggest life “lemons.”  As I type this, I can only see out of one eye and some might compare one of my eyes to Rudolph’s little red nose – except way less cute and singable.  I went to the doctor yesterday and they warned me that if I didn’t take care of my eyes, I could go blind.

I panicked.  Blindness is not a part of my 1o year plan.  My prayers became a string loop of words “please don’t let me go blind, please don’t let me go blind, please don’t let me go blind.”  My eyesight yesterday was so bad that I couldn’t see more than a glare of light and vague shapes and colors.

Today, I woke up and the eyesight improved ever so slightly.  With that minor improvement, I stopped panicking.  My duckies began swimming back into a line and I relaxed knowing my eyesight would eventually return to their normal state.

However, that whole panic attack left me wondering why I could be so easily shaken.  I could still see great out of one of my eyes and the rest of my health is very solid.  I can still do my job and I have great friends who care for me.  There are many people in the world who have it far worst, and they have pitchers of lemonade.  I had a tiny problem and I turned it into a squashed lemon on the dirty sidewalk of my reactions.

So.   No one likes life lemons.  But you know what lemons are good for? They are great at giving you a big sour punch to the reality of your true self.  I wish I could promise to zest the next life lemon that comes my way- but I know that I am too stupid to mature that quickly.  I need lemons to show me where I need to grow.

Sometimes I need a little lemon to find my paper cuts.


#013 Living with old ladies

About a month ago, I moved in with an old lady.  I have learned one thing:  never have old women as roommates.   It can get complicated.

Unfortunately, as a young lady, I know that I am in danger of becoming an old woman – watching t.v. at high volumes, listening to talk radio about metapause, reading books about political corruption and talking about “when I was your age”, and treating my dog like a child.

To help further illustrate the horrors of old lady roommates, allow me to share the stories of my pain.

Old women cackle.  Really. It’s not just an stereotype, they really do.  I was sitting in my room, minding my own business, when I heard a sound that sounded like a chicken being harassed.  Turns out, my roommate was watching reruns of America’s Funniest Home Videos.  And laughing hysterically.  Continually.  At every clip.  Now, I totally get a kick out of watching kids hit their dad in the crotch, cats slide across a wood floor, and ice fall on a half naked man.  But I don’t cackle.  I chuckle.  Quietly.

Old women have weird hearing issues.  One minute, I am being told to “speak up, I can’t hear you!”  and another minute I am instructed to “take your phone conversation in your room, I can’t hear my tv!!”  Also, me walking into the kitchen at 7 am in my high heels wakes her up, and “can you please wear slippers instead, even though it’s only for the thirty seconds as you walk out the door to work.”

Old ladies with dogs…..that was a relationship designed to show God has a sense of humor.  My old lady roommate has a puppy.  That she treats like a child.  These are the sounds I hear as I sit my room.

“NOOOOO!!!! You WILL sit!  You WILL stay! NOOOOOOOO! Don’t you dare get up! Eat your dinner!  You are not being a good girl!  I told you to be a good girl!  Now you are going outside!  Think about what you did!”

Yep.

Oh.  And watching old women do a 70s televised exercise class?   It’s better than watching America’s Funniest Home Videos and it is the closest thing that will make me cackle.

Basically, my house rules have been given as follow: I can’t turn on the heater, I can’t make noise, and I can’t cook for fear I will make a pan dirty.

When I grow up, I hope I don’t become an old woman.

 

 


#012 Fancy Sports Equipment

After going to the gym for the first time in quite a while, I concluded two things.  One: I am dreadfully out of shape.  Two: I should not be allowed near fancy sports equipment, simply because it’s a hazard to my health.

I began my hour workout by stepping on this rather large, pimped out, remix version of an elliptical.  I am sure that if I had been able to read the brochure on this thing, it would have promised buns of steel, rock abs, and arms that could break cinder blocks  (since that is such a big goal of mine….)  However, as I began to pedal, I quickly became very confused.

My legs were being moved up, down, to the side, and back and forth –all at once.  I am pretty sure that it was invented by aliens who were not familiar with the generally accepted belief that humans usually only move in one direction at one time.  The idea that a human could occupy two places at once was apparently a possibility to whoever invented that machine from hell.

I then got off that machine and moved on to one that obeyed the laws of physics.

After putting in a couple of miles on that one, I decide it was time for me to go do some strength training.  You know, so I can get buff.

So I went over to this little area that was deemed the strength training circuit arena.  Every station was a different machine, all designed to target different muscle groups. The instructions were to do up to 12 “reps” on each contraption, and push each muscle to the “exhaustion point.”   Now when I read the words, “reps” and “exhaustion point,”  I should have gotten a clue on what I was getting myself into.

I walked up to the first machine and sat down.   And waited.   There were bars, and pulleys, and straps and weights sticking out from every which way, and I had no clue what I was to pull, push or shove.  The seat itself was positioned in a sort of astronaut, heels up, butt up, head down way.  I got up and circled the machine.  The directions for the machine were printed on a tiny piece of paper that read that I was to actually push up with my legs, while laying on my stomach.  After ten minutes of looking like a drowning fish…..I just moved on.

After finishing my “reps,”  I moved on to what was one of the more difficult exercises of them all – opening my friends sports water bottle to refill.  I walked over to the water fountain, and in front of the entire gym, began to try to figure out this “new-fangled” piece of equipment.

While beefy men, wearing those thick, leather back supports, grunted up 100 lb. barbells, I groaned as I tried to twist this top off.   However, being a fancy bottle, whenever I twisted the top, the only result I got was a straw would pop up.

After all that effort, I strongly considered just pouring the water down the straw.

Of course I didn’t want to look silly.

Not that I could look any sillier than standing there for all to see, with a water bottle between my knees, arms straining against the top, my neck veins popping out, face red with intensity, teeth grit together in a sort of gorilla grimace.

I finally sheepishly walked over to my friend and asked her to help me get it open.  She barely moved her arms, and the top came off effortlessly.  I went over to the fountain, filled up, and proceeded to pretend to stretch for the remainder of my time there.

No one should ever like gyms.  They make people feel stupid.


#011 Hospitals

No one likes hospitals.

The past few weeks I have spent many hours in the hospital.  Not for myself, but for my mom.  Some of my readers may know that my mom’s health struggles have been chronic and rather debilitating.  She has been in and out of the hospital for years, and this time it was to get a defibrillator implant as  a protective measure against a heart attack.

As I was sitting in her hospital room, listening to the beeping of the heart monitors, the paging of doctors and the rasping cough of her roommate, I started to get depressed.  I felt so human.  I knew that only a few years, a lifestyle of just a couple poor choices or maybe even just a few bad genes separated me from the hospital bed next to me.

To be honest, I hate being around sick people.  I mean, I love the person, but I really can’t stand to see someone suffer.  When someone throws up near me, I gag.  If someone starts to cough violently, I have to leave the room.  I know to some this may seem very insensitive and rather rude, but I can’t seem to see past the germs and bodily fluids.

As I watched my dad take care of my mom, helping her crawl to the bathroom, wiping her nose, and stand by her side as she threw up, I realized something.

This was the “for better or worst” part.

Twenty five plus years ago, my parents stood at an altar and promised “for better or worst.”  While the organ music played and the candles flickered, they promised that no matter what, they would stand by each other’s side.

I am sure that very few glowing couples think about the possibility of that future hospital room, where the sound of a heart monitor is the only indication that the person you love the most is going to make it.  They especially don’t expect it to happen before they hit their fifties.  They might not think about the fact that you may someday be the only person doing the serving because the other person is too weak to even go to the bathroom by themselves or take a shower without assistance.

Fast forward to present day, where I am sitting in the corner trying to maintain my composure as I hear my mom heaving with violent gasps for air. I watch my dad lovingly stroke her head.  He doesn’t care about the spit or the germs or the sobbing.  He is just keeping his promise.

I’ve never heard my dad complain.  Ever.  And as much as I am sure he hates hospitals as much as I do, he deals with it.  Because he has a promise to keep.

For better or worst.


#010 “Fun” sized candy bars

Man,  times have changed.  I don’t remember the word  ”fun” being defined as, “the cheapest, smallest way to cheat the hungry American public.”  When I was a kid, a fun size of candy  was  a huge bar of caloric goodness crammed into your mouth with the hopes that you wouldn’t choke.    

I guess they started naming the small candies the “fun size” when their marketing team found that “the chintzy size” didn’t sell as well. 

Never fear, I am here to spread the facts.  The facts about fun.

Fact. Me having  to eat twelve candies before I start to  taste any sort of candy-like molecule – that’s not so fun.  A serving size of candy should not be “ten pieces to unwrap individually and carefully place in the middle of your tongue so you can find it.”  Seriously.   No one has time for that.  This is America.  We are a busy culture.    We have cancer to cure.  Schools to build.  Facebook statuses to update.

Fact.  Candy that weighs less than the wrapping around its little chocolatey body – that’s not so fun.  The fact that the company spent more on packaging than on product….that’s just intestinally disturbing.  Yes.  You read that right.  I made up a word.  Intestinally.  It’s going to be huge.  Like colon huge.  (The colon is your largest intestine.  You are  learning just so much, aren’t you?)

Fact.  If you give “fun” candies away, you actually aren’t fun.  You are mean.  And cruel.  And possibly the most uncool person on earth. 

Fact.  If we allow “fun size” candies to actually define “fun,” then amusement park roller coasters better stop after two seconds, engagement rings should be made of twisty ties and jagged pieces of fiberglass, puppies should be drowned, and No Tears shampoo should be infused with acid and bleach. 

So.  Be fun.  Know the facts.  Don’t give out ”fun size” candies.


#009 Motivational Life Coaches

If you cannot figure out what do to with your life, and if you have ruled out being a doctor, a firefighter, an accountant, a ballet dancer, an astronaut, a professional bowler, or the President of the United States – don’t worry. You can become a life coach. 

What is a life coach?  A person who doesn’t know what to do with their life and instead tells everyone else what to do.  The requirements are very simple:

1. You must have ADD or ADHD.  Or at least drink 20 energy drinks a day.  If you are going to persuade someone to do something that they already HIRED you to tell them but really don’t want to do, you better have an arsenal of on-edge nerves and an ability to convert caffeine to jet fuel in your bloodstream. 

2. You must like and repeat the word “level” constantly.  Your clients will want to hear you say things like “take this to the next level,” “success is only a couple of levels away,” “level with me,” “the five levels of money and success and awesomeness are very simple,” ”levels are like stepping-stones,” the next level is where you want to be.”  

Other words and phrases you must memorize are: 1. success is as easy as paying me $140 an hour to tell you things that you could read in a book, 2. rocket past your doubts and touchdown on the moon of your successful astro-blasting potential, 3. don’t rock the boat of goals when you are floating on river of energy and efficiency and knowledge and power. 

3. You must have the ability to say a bunch of words that sound good, are attached to irrelevant analogies, and don’t mean anything.   ”Success in life is like licking a lollipop and knowing that there is a Tootsie roll in the middle of your ultimate level of life.”  “Live life like there is an alligator chasing you through the swamps of your worst nightmares and inadequacies.” And my favorite corny one: “Be the Smartphone among the Blackberries  with their thorns.”

4.  You must write at least four books with five-step plans.  You must allow two of those books to have titles that contain a play on words.  Like — “Urine for Success: 5 ways that the bladder teaches discipline.”

If you have those qualities, you are ready to be a life coach.   Having trouble getting started?  Contact me, and I will give you the five steps to  launching your dreams into the next level of your buzzing beehive of success. 

Favorite life coach quote:  ”Life.  Live it!”


#008 Convenience fees

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—  
I took the one less traveled by,  
And that has made all the difference.”  
   

That’s your piece of awesome writing for the day.  It was written by Robert Frost, who also happens to be my great, great, great, great, great, great uncle.  Random?  Yes. What does it have to do with this article?  Nothing.  I just wanted to let you read some good writing before I unleash my corny side.

You have been warned.

Let’s just say this is the reason they create a two drink minimum at comedy clubs.  These are all the stupid one-liners I thought would be good to open my article.

  1. Convenience charges….what’s so convenient about them?
  2. The only person that receives the convenience is the person receiving the extra $4.50 into their bank account.
  3. Convenience charges?  More like INCONVENIENT charges!!! (hardy har har har)
  4. What else are we going to be charged for the convenience of doing?  Breathing?  (This one was suggested by a friend.)
  5. There is a reason that the word “con” exists in these fees.

So.  Now that I have driven you to drinking, and probably vomiting, I suppose I should bring it all home with a rant of why convenience fees are stupid.  Let me lay it all out with a true story.

This last summer I got two traffic tickets.  Bummer.  When I got the invoice in the mail, one of the tickets came to a total of $400.  They generously directed me to their online payment center where I could “conveniently” take care of my “inconvenience.”  Not wanting to get in trouble with the law, I dutifully visited the site and started the process of paying the darn thing.

Lo and Behold.  They tacked on a convenience fee.  To pay something on a site that they instructed me to visit.  How convenient was it?  Uh…..it wasn’t.

I had to search for the ticket by serial number.  And the system couldn’t find it.  So, I searched by driver’s license.  Still couldn’t find it.  Then I had to figure out what department had written me the ticket.  Definitely not as easy as it sounds.  Did you know that they have a LA traffic department, a LA sheriff’s department, a LA Metro Transportation office, a LA public safety department, a LA county traffic security department, and a LA we just want to make another department to write tickets department?

After writing a logarithm to figure out what greedy government department was getting my money, I proceeded to the checkout.  Where they said due to my convenient online experience they were going to charge me $30 over my ticket.   With this injustice, I wonder….

How in the world did California get broke?


#007 Astro Boy

I am declaring a world-wide ban.  No one should like the movie, “Astro Boy.”  No one.  Ever. Liking it is right up there to liking drowning.  Or bacteria.

Now.   I am no movie snob.  I’ll watch just about anything.  As long as there is not too much filth in the movie, I’ll watch it.  To prove my point, I watched three seasons of an 80′s T.V. show about cowboys and Indians and the pony express.   The big drama in that show?  One of the riders was a girl pretending to be a boy so that she could earn money to go save her brother and sister from an orphanage and who got kidnapped by their fake father and she has to go rescue them from a fort.  Then she falls in love with one of the other pony riders.  Oh and all of this was accompanied by 80′s music.  

Now you know why I blog.  To put some sanity back into my life.

But back to Astro Boy.   I work in animation, so I figured that this animated film might be a good way to observe some of the industry techniques.

Allow me to sum up the plot.  The main character is a boy living in a high tech society.    Of course, to make the main character stand out, they make him a genius…..and misunderstood. His father ignores him and his mother is dead. Getting too attached to this poor boy?  That’s okay.   They kill him.  After ten minutes.  With a missile.

Uhhhhhh, WHAT????  That was my initial reaction.  It should be yours too.

They kill off the main character in ten minutes.  Yeah.  Who taught those writers how to craft a good story?  A cracker jack box?  A monkey?  A youtube video?

Then Nicholas Cage, who plays the scientist father, creates a robot boy to replace his son. Why?  Because if he couldn’t have his real boy, he might as well make a robot that looked like him and can shoot bullets out of his robotic butt.  It’s like a modern day Pinocchio without the cute cricket….or any sense and logic.

You might be wondering “how does he give the robot power?”  I’m so glad you asked.     He puts a star in him.  Yes.  A star. Like twinkle, twinkle little star.   Oh and it’s blue.  Because apparently red stars are bad and too unstable.  That’s their big good vs. evil symbolism. 

Of course every story has to have a love angle in it, right?  The boy turned robot falls  in love with a  girl with black and purple hair.  But she doesn’t know he is a robot.  Oh the suspense!!!  When she does find out his oh so dark secret, she decides to love him anyways.  Uh.  Yes, that’s something we want to teach out children….fall in love with robots.

And every story has to have a moral thread, right?  Disney is famous for their “believe in yourself” lines.  Well, guess what this profoundly deep movie was trying to teach.   Robots have feelings.  Yep.  Your coffee pot?  Feelings.  Your lawn mower?  Feelings.

Please.  Never watch Astro Boy.  Because, I’ll save you the moral struggle- robots do not, in fact, have feelings. And the color blue is no more righteous than the color red.  I promise.


#006 The Comfort zone

I have a confession to make.  I hate my comfort zone.

I know what you are thinking right now.  Everyone loves their comfort zone, hence the name “comfort.”  If everyone loves it, why does it get a dedicated post on a blog that rants and raves about things that no one likes?

Frankly, things like LA traffic, moldy bread and piles of dirty dishes don’t matter when you think about other things.  Kids in Africa.  Do you ever think of them, at least besides the times that your mom demands you clean your plate of week old leftovers?

The person who sits by himself every day in the cafeteria because he don’t have the courage to go introduce himself to a boisterous table of friends.  Does anyone care about him?  What about the slightly strange kid who slightly bugs you?  Do you care about that person?

A very close friend of mine lives by one simple rule.  Live life with no regrets. Can we really live without having a single regret?  Probably not.  But we can die trying to live the best we can with what we have been given.    I feel like we should live life like a movie trailer, living for the big moments that make the rest of the movie worth watching, and perhaps enjoying the small details along the way.

Yes.  Everyone has their comfort zone.  But I want to call you out on something.  Do you really like it?  I know you think you do, because I have deceived myself into thinking I like mine many times.

However, it has been my experience that the times that I feel alive the most is when I am miles and miles away from that zone.  There is another word for the comfort zone.  It’s called a rut.

You go to work, school, doctor appointments, the gym or wherever else the typical day takes you.  And then you go home.  You watch two hours of some pointless t.v. show that will be canceled after the next season.  You read the news about war, corruption, racism, technology advancement and the latest sport scores.  Then you go to bed.

There may be moments where you tip toe out of your comfort zone for a mere second just to see what it feels like outside of your walls.  But then you step back inside, shut the door and close the drapes.

My purpose in writing this is not to guilt you.  We have all created our comfort zones for a reason.  Life is hard, and sometimes it’s easier to get through the day when you are safe behind the walls of fake smiles, shallow conversations and work that gets your mind off the pain.  Some of us have built bigger comfort zones than others.  We build fortresses and dig proverbial moats to make sure that nothing can get past our masks.  In fact, some of us have done such a good job of building walls that we have forgotten to add a door or window.

The world is full of other things besides yourself.  Sometimes we need that reminder.  If you just step outside that comfort zone, you may find that the smiles that you give and the conversations you have become more real.  Life isn’t about building your zone and making sure the gates are locked shut.  It’s about breaking out of there and living.

You’ve only been given one life.  Don’t spend it locked away, trying to avoid the hurts or pains while missing out on the victories. Comfort zones make very lonely places.

So.  Let’s just be honest.  No one likes their comfort zone.


#005 child safety scissors

I don’t believe in evolution.  I just had to put that on the record.  But if I did believe in evolution and cavemen and flintstone bedrock ages, I know for a fact that if cavemen had invented child safety scissors instead of clubs and hammers…..mankind would have gone extinct.  Why?  Because when it comes to cutting paper or any other severing activity, child safety scissors do about as well as Lindsey Lohan does with rehab.  But perhaps the child safety scissors accomplish their goal with less alcohol and more apple juice.

I’ve taught enough children’s Sunday schools to know it’s pointless to even pass out the darn things.  It would take the skill of a surgeon to be able to coax those tiny, dull, plastic scissors to cut anything other than water.  None of the kids can ever make them work and it becomes the Sunday school teacher’s job to saw out fifty-four Jesus’ arms to brass bracket to the lesson sheets so that Jesus can wave to a crayon scribbled crowd.

Of course, the goal in the creation of these pointless scissors was to promote children safety.  But really?  What is this?  Prison?  Are we afraid the children will weld the scissors into shanks and start forming their own classroom gangs, like the Crayon Warriors, the Hell’s Doodlers and the ABC homies?

Let’s just think about what Dwight Schrute from the NBC show, the Office would say.  He would say that we should hand out machetes to all the children.  It would weed out the weak ones from the older ones.  Then he would hand out not paper but boards to cut for beet boxes.  All Schrute children probably had to do this.  And we can be sure that none of them had child safety scissors.

If you are really concerned for your child’s safety and education, you would give your kids real scissors.  The safety ones only cause blisters and fatigue, all of which I am sure are considered child abuse.  Real scissors will teach your kids motor skills and the dangers of sharp objects.  If a few fingers are lost in the process, even more lessons will be learned.  Like how to tie a tourniquet.

Say no to child safety scissors, say yes to learning.


#004 The Double Negative

Let me tell you.  Our society has its priorities mixed up.  Really.  A person could get shot down on skid row and a report may be filed and the body dragged away, but just TRY to say a double negative.  Just try.

I was in a meeting recently.  In this meeting, I was attempting to express my frustration of not being able to resolve a simple database problem. 

Me: “I can’t hardly enter in the text when….”  

Five heads turned on me like I was Harry Potter confronting Voldemort. 

Person #1:  “WHAT did you say????”

Me: “Uh….I said I can’t har…”  My jaw snapping shut as I realized my linguistics error.  “I mean,  I couldn’t figure out how to enter the text without screwing up the pre-programmed formulas….”

Person #2:  “You do realize you said a double negative, right?” 

Now.  Okay.  Yes, I said a double negative.  Iblame it on the fact that my ancestors are all deep-rooted rednecks with no book learning. 

To rednecks, a double negative just means that you are emphasizing the negativity.  When you can’t hardly do something, it means that you really, really can’t do it.  They don’t understand all those scientific reasons why two negatives such as  -x and -y multiplied together will make a positive xy.   All they know is that marrying your cousin will probably give your children six toes.  Or two heads.

But no one in that meeting cares about that.  To them, my double negative gives them the authority to go after me like the Po-Po in the Ke$ha music video.  And shut me down. 

After a five-minute discussion on why double negatives are the reason society is headed to near destruction, I was allowed to walk away from the firing squad.  I don’t know how those entrepreneurs at “I can’t believe it’s not butter” got away with it. 

Double negatives must be why Albert Einstein had crazy hair.  At least, that’s what I am going to blame.  I’ll also blame rusty nails, splinters and cat hairballs on double negatives.  It’s only fair. 

Have you ever said a double negative?


# 003 when a new radio song is almost good

The almost good song.  It’s like a box of chocolates.  That your boyfriend picked up at the gas station on his way over to your house.  It was a nice thought, but you could have done without the sawdustlike filling and the crumbly, cracked chocolatelike coating.  Just another thing to add to stuff we don’t like. 

 Don’t you just love the feeling when you are the first person to discover a good/potentially soon-to-be popular song on the radio?  It’s like being a record label agent and knowing that you have discovered the better stuff.  Like .

The worst thing to happen to you on the way to work or on the way home?  Discovering the almost good song.  You know, when the DJ comes on and introduces the newest single from The Shizzlites feat.The  Mad Hot Bodies, “Sugar Daddy’s lil’ Shawty.”  

You get excited.  The bass starts pumping and your car vibrates.  Oxygen rushes through your cells.  You mash on the gas petal.  The singer’s voice breaks through your speakers.

Then.   The singing is off.  The chorus doesn’t jump up and demand you dance.  It just kinda sits there like a limp, cold French fry. 

With no ketchup.  

No car dancing.  No hands in the air.  No screaming about clubs and billionaires and G6s and OMGs and beautiful girls. 

Just lameness that goes on for three minutes and forty-five seconds.    

Yep.  That’s the stuff that no one likes.  Which means it can’t be like Snapple.  Please tell me you know what Snapple commercial I keep referring to.  Please. 

You know what’s even worst?  When the commercial songs get stuck in your head.  Don’t tell me you haven’t hummed the “Keyes, Keyes, Keyes  on Van Nuys” song. 

Go to this website

I won’t believe you like I can’t believe it’s not butter.  Tomorrow’s topic? 

Double Negatives.

(p.s. did anyone notice how much food came up in this post?  I must be hungry.)


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