Thursday, June 29, 2006


I love traditions. Perhaps my affinity is a result of growing up in a home with few traditions. We did have Dominos pizza every Thursday night for several years, and we went to Jekyll Island every summer for about eight years for a convention for my step-father’s job. I’m not sure those count as traditions.

I think it’s telling that with one exception every guy I have “dated dated” (six guys) has been from an intact, traditional home. Fortunately my extended family does have traditions. Sure it’s just family reunions and a Christmas get-together, and yes, I’ve had to go to those alone on occasion because my immediate family doesn’t get excited about traditions quite like I do, but nevertheless wonderful traditions that have lasted for decades. And since I can remember the family matriarch has been my Aunt Jean. Every year at our Christmas gathering at the cabin she led us in “Silent Night” and welcomed new members of our family. And at family reunions, she ensured that we did more than just eat and leave. She organized skits, handouts, detailed family trees, and the like. She wanted us to know each other—often skipping the superficial conversations that are, in my opinion, too prevalent and asking you to really share who you were and where you were with her. Sure my Sunday afternoons with her often left me feeling exhausted, but they also inspired me.

Aunt Jean’s accomplishments are too long to list, but she was the dean of an amazing liberal arts college and the head of a college psychology department among other positions. That’s extra cool because in “her time” women rarely held those positions. She recently died, and I had the good fortune of attending both her funeral and a memorial service held in her honor last week.

Long story short, Aunt Jean is the best example I have witnessed of someone living a life as Christ would. Several speakers from her funeral and memorial made comments that have stuck with me. One speaker explained that Jean “knew how to give herself away.” Another noted that “You could not know Jean without knowing how special you were to her.” After our visits she always asked me if I knew how much she appreciated our time together. She would often call and thank me for sharing myself with her. And it wasn’t just her family—she gave her time to prisoners, undergraduates, mental patients, and everyone in between. Particularly upon her death I have learned so much more about how she has given herself to others. And financially too—she left a very considerable estate to be given to a Baptist college and her extended family, although she never earned that much money by today’s standards. But she lived frugally and invested wisely.

One last quote from her funeral: “Jean was more concerned with what might be than being right about what might not be.” She looked for the good in people and often found it. She wasn’t worried that she might be wrong about them.

Now I just need to take all of this inspiration and actually act on it! Do any of you have any cool family traditions? One of my favorites was my grandfather’s family’s tradition of reading the Bible together every night. When their mother died when they were young, they asked their father “What are we going to do?” And his reply was “I don’t know, but I do know that we’re going to read God’s word tonight like we always have.” How awesome is that? How comforting.

p.s. I had a nice surprise at the memorial last week when my nieces showed up! Fun!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Quote that is Making Me Think Today....

"The idea that you can trust Christ and not intend to obey him is an illusion generated by the prevalence of an unbelieving 'Christian culture.'"

Dallas Willard

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Happily Ever After...

In an effort to avoid the melancholy I’m in threat of wallowing in, I am blogging about the very happy events of the last three days.

Saturday night I attended my most favorite wedding to date. The groom and I have been friends for a few years, and last spring we had several discussions about whether he was ready to pursue a relationship with the bride. He wanted to make sure it was the right time. I am the kind of person who immediately classifies “boys” into "friend” or “possibility,” so it was interesting for me to see him contemplate asking out a woman he had known for years. I can’t imagine. I’m also the kind of person who can’t eat just one cookie. I’m clearly not an expert at delayed gratification and would not have exercised the patience that he did.

In part, the groom had not asked the bride out earlier because he was beginning law school and knew the first year would not be an ideal time to begin a relationship. They had known each other for years, had developed a friendship, and knew each others' characters and beliefs before they ever went on a date. And things progressed quickly with an engagement within about six or seven months. While at one time that kind of whirlwind courtship would have seemed insane to me and is still kind of hard for me to imagine being a part of, they have my complete blessings (not that they need them).

Their ceremony was centered on God and included more than the rote marriage vows and scripture reading. One of the pastors admonished the bridal party to not take sides when the couple argued but rather to remember the priority was God and the marriage rather than their respective friendships with the bride or groom. The other pastor spoke at length about how the bride and groom must rely on Christ to fulfill their marriage vows as they could not possibly love one another as they should without Him.

It was all the more sweet because they had both maintained their purity and had clearly made God the center of their courtship. The groom can’t stop talking about the Tim Keller sermons on marriage that he has listened to for the past few months. His favorite thing about the bride is her heart for God. They took premarital counseling seriously and have discussed important issues of how they want to give to God’s kingdom.

And their courtship lacked the drama and heartache that I’ve become accustomed to in my relationships and those of some of my friends, and their courtship serves as a reminder of how different things can be when we choose to follow God’s plan for us and be obedient to His word.

More happy events to share, but for now here is a photo of Donatello (he even danced at the wedding!!) and me at the lovely reception.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

What Does “Afford” Mean?

This is a “particular personal vexation” of mine. Our firm administrator just crunched the numbers to show me what financial effect of increasing my 401k contributions. And I said “Well I need to increase the amount I contribute.” And his reply was “If you can afford it.” What does that mean in America? How can I say that I cannot afford it when I can afford eating out for lunch every day? Or occasionally spend $4 on beverage from Starbucks? Or buy suits for work that cost several hundred dollars (speaking of very annoying things)? I live such a life of excess, but that is another blog. When I think of people who cannot afford something, I think of people who literally will not be able to buy food or pay for shelter as a result of the expenditure.

I think my annoyance at the use of the word “afford” began when I was a nanny in 2000. I was paid about $425/week (I paid taxes in cases you were wondering), provided with a two bedroom/two bathroom apartment, a car for any nanny duties, and a gym membership. Oh, keep in mind that I only worked Monday through Friday for about four to five hours a day. It was a fantastic set-up in many ways.

One day the mother was home and expressed to me that she wished she could have afforded to stay at home. I almost spit the water I had just sipped across the room. In addition to what they paid me to play parent, they had an expensive country club membership and TORE DOWN a nice brick house in Buckhead to build their current very nice and very large home. The mother routinely received deliveries of unattractive and expensive antiques (like a $10,000 table that didn’t even have chairs or an $8,000 clock). Oh, did I mention that they owned the house next door to them as well? And it sat empty for over a year! They wanted complete control over who lived there. Needless to say, I found it ludicrous to think that this family could not have “afforded” for the mother to stay at home with their daughter. I think, for whatever reason, she used that notion to justify her absence in her daughter’s life.

I’ve been stressed out lately with buying wedding and shower gifts and other unplanned for expenditures ($309 yesterday for that dumb little sticker on my tag), and I’ve caught myself saying “I just can’t afford this.” That’s not true because technically I can “bear the cost” of these things. Of course, it’ll mean I’m not saving (or even worse—dipping into my small savings) or I’ll have to give up something else—like going to lunch with coworkers. I think the more apt expression of what I mean would be “This doesn’t fit into my budget.” I rarely hear people say this, but I am trying to learn how to do so.

Am I just drawing a distinction without meaning?

p.s. Another discouraging use of “afford” is when Christians say they cannot “afford” to tithe. And to be honest, I felt that way when I first started working and did not tithe regularly. I would miss church and then “get behind” and all of a sudden I would “owe” an amount that I simply felt like I could not afford. That’s why now the first thing I do when my online payroll deposit clears is pay my tithe online. I like the idea of that coming first, and I’ve been amazed by how after a few months, I did not miss the money. It is yet another way that God shows me His faithfulness.

Friday, June 16, 2006

"Gay marriage?"

This has been on my mind a good bit lately, and I've been struggling to figure out exactly what I believe. Our elected representatives are not very helfpul since, from what I can tell, they have not put much thought into the issue. From what has been included in the news, a lot of them have just been droning on about their own great marriages and the "sanctity of marriage." Neither are very compelling or logical arguments. For every senator or representative who has a good marriage, there is another who has had an extra-marital affair or divorce. Oddly none of the elected officals in the second group are speaking up about that.

The sanctity of marriage argument is an interesting one. I wonder if it came up when states passed laws to permit "common law marriage" which gives heterosexuals marriage benefits despite the fact that they are "living in sin." I somehow doubt it. And if we get down to it, I'm not sure that permitting gay marriage is any more dangerous to the "sanctity of marriage" than the incredibly high rate of divorce and the divorce laws that make it incredibly easy to sever that union. Or television shows like the Bachelor. I guess my point is that our government does not otherwise seem very concerned about the sanctity of marriage. It's predictable that this issue has come back into the spotlight as it obviously gets the religious right out to vote.

The saddest part about this is that so many Christians express their disapproval of "gay marriage" in such an ugly, hateful, and non-Christian way. This response is a good example of how Christians can be the biggest threat to Christianity. Homosexuals' sin is no worse than any other sin, and in fact, the sin of homosexual sin is easily analogized to the sin of two unmarried heterosexuals. It saddens me to see how riled up Christians get about homosexuality, yet they don't have that same passion for the continual sin in their own life. Nor do they say a word about the unmarried couple in their Sunday school class who live together.

And alas, abstinence is a homosexual's cross to bear just as it is my cross to bear as a single person. So for a homosexual Christian, the answer is clear; pursuing a homosexual relationship is not God's will. I know that must be so tough for a homosexual Christian to conclude, but God's amazing love for us makes it so much easier to put aside our sinful ways and follow Him.

While I believe in the separation of church and state, I do not believe our government should permit "gay marriage." Doing so would force Christians to approve and support such sin--whether it be a business owner having to extend healthcare benefits to a homosexual's partner or a court clerk having to issue a marriage license to two men. This is asking Christians to do much more than tolerate sin; it is asking us to approve sin and in a sense, encourage it. Sure our laws permit a lot of sinful behavior, but I cannot think of any existing law that could potentially require me as a Christian to support sin.

As for what our government should do, I'm not sure. An amendment to the Constitution seems inappropriate. Practically, however, we might have an issue if a state permitted these unions. And already we have real issues given the fact that homosexuals have families, whether through artificial insemination or adoption. The problems arise when their relationships end, and only one parents has a "legal right" to the children from their union. Some issues can be circumvented with well written wills and other existing legal methods, but some cannot under the current state of the law.

I'm sure I'll have more to write about this at some point as my opinions and views on this issue are constantly evolving as I consider all of the different perspectives and considerations involved. I hope those that speak publicly on this issue will proceed with compassion and love rather than disdain and condemnation. We are all sinners after all.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

"Let me see that thong...."

This may be the first blog that would not be better with a photo.

My old boss wore a thong. You may wonder how I know this. Well I was more than aware of his penchance for thongs because I saw him wearing them--hot pink faux snake skin, purple, and leopard print. And no, my boss was not a young gay man.

Bob* was about 58 years old when I worked for him and his family as a nanny. He had a suit and tie type of job with a large finance company, and when he got home he enjoyed wearing a thong to swim laps in their pool. You can imagine my surprise the first time I witnessed his apparel choice. I had just started work as a nanny a week before, and I was taking advantage of my employer's heated lap pool on a Saturday afternoon. Bob came out to the pool in a robe, and I didn't pay much attention to him. Well shortly thereafter I looked over to see his practically bare (and very tanned) butt floating just a feet away from me. Needless to say I only availed myself of the pool during the work week after that afternoon.

The catalogues he received were also quite interesting (I brought in the mail). I also wondered what his very conservative wife thought about his affection for wearing a thong around, especially since their nine year old daughter was witness to it.

Unfortunately and despite my avoidance of their pool, I still could not completely prevent thong viewings. I was upstairs one day, and I looked out at the pool and saw Bob naked! Well, at least I thought he was naked. I later realized he had been wearing a flesh colored thong.

My favorite thong memory occurred in July when I was going on a blind double date (is it blind if you've seen his identical twin brother?). Everyone was meeting at my apartment, which was a two bedroom/two bath in-law suite with its own entrance, before we headed to a Braves game. My friend Sarah arrived first, and she came in singing the "Thong Song" and lauging about seeing Bob in the yard in his thong. Of course, she was quite curious about Bob's thong habit but all in all thought it was humorous. About twenty minutes later the twins arrived at the door, looking repulsed and literally sickened. Bob was doing yard work in his thong, and the young Republicans had the poor fortune of witnessing it.

p.s. I think a Braves game is a perfect first date, especially if you stop by the Varsity on the way there. The onion rings are perfection.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Why Am I Still Awake?

One of the biggest adjustments I've had with joining the working world as an attorney has been the lack of free time. So that I feel like I have a life and have enough time to just be, I often stay up entirely too late. Tonight is no exception even though I know I have to wake up in less than seven hours. But I love being alone, and as an introvert, I literally need that time to feel energized.

When I taught school I had to be at work about an hour earlier than I do now, but I was home from work by 4:00. I now routinely don't get home until close to 6:30 or 7:00 or on nights like tonight (meeting/dinner for work), I get home around 9:00. By the time I went to the gym and showered, it was 10:15.

The best hours were when I was a nanny for a family who only had one child. Sure they were a very odd family with lots of problems, but I only worked Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to about 9:00 a.m. and from 2:50 to 6:00. That left so much free time to read, think, pray, sleep, play, and do all of the other things I enjoy doing or need to do. Of course, there was no intellectual challenge with that job. Where is the balance?

And my hours aren't that bad. 8:30 to a few hours here and there on the weekend and at home. Ten days of vacation plus the major bank holidays. And flexibility when I "need" to leave early on Friday (I just make up the hours on another day). But I just don't think I'm cut out to work as much as I do. I know that sounds ridiculous, and perhaps I'm just a product of my generation. And/or I'm lazy.

Or maybe I have unrealistic expectations because my mom is a school counselor and enjoys approximately 60 more days of vacation a year than I do. That's a LOT more time off (an additional 3 months really) plus she has real sick days (when I miss work, I essentially have to make up the hours). I definitely struggle with comparing our jobs, especially at the holidays when I have a day and a half off from Christmas, and she has almost a month off from school. When I taught school I definitely loved the constant holidays and time off and the hours, but I had a hard time imagining the monotony of teaching the same subject material year after year. My current job offers an enormous variety of work and the law is always changing, and I'm constantly challenged on an intellectual level. I guess I need to find a compromise.

I especially think that when I think about the fact that I'll never have more than two weeks off at a time (assuming I used all of my vacation at once) for the next thirty years....crazy! Other countries seem to value vacation time a lot more than we do, although I realize there are a lot of reasons and implications for those countries' vacation policies. Perhaps I'm just having some growing pains and coming to terms with being an adult. Is anyone else struggling with this? Does anyone else think about quitting their jobs and being a nanny or waitress or teaching English abroad or just living off their savings and selling their car, etc. so that they can relax and just be without the constantcy of the real world?

p.s. Don't worry Dad....You know me--ally all talk.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


I want a passion.

I so admire people who have a passion. My friend Tim loves his job and has known for years that he wants to work in the healthcare field. My Aunt Jean had a passion for psychology and obtained her Masters and Ph.D in the field. She was a college professor, and her passion was evidenced in so many ways--whether it was taming a litter of wild kittens or leading a group of students to help potty-train an entire ward of adult psychiatric patients. Donatello's mom loves to paint; has a studio; takes classes; and devotes a lot of time to perfecting her art. Donatello loves baseball and played in college and continues to play in two leagues.

I have always enjoyed sports, but I never could understand how someone could like a sport so much that they wanted to do it every day for hours. I would go to basketball or tennis camp in the summer, but I couldn't fathom day in and day out of playing the same sport. I guess that's why I stuck with track and cross country in school as the practices were only an hour. Even now when I think about signing up to play in a tennis league, I balk because it requires you to play tennis three days a week.

Rather than passions, I have what would better be described as curiousities I suppose. I'll feel very passionate about something for a day or two (like joining the FBI after watching Silence of the Lambs), but the strong feelings always pass. For example, last year I decided I wanted to write a book. I worked on it a lot for about a month or two, but then my desire passed and I slowly stopped making time for it. While I really enjoyed teaching Spanish to 4th and 5th graders, I couldn't imagine doing it for years like most teachers do.

One article I read said that in discovering your passions, you should examine what you would be willing to do even if it was for free. Hmm. That's not that helpful but as for what I love to do....spending time with my nieces, baking and eating baked goods, exercising (or at least some of the time), being lazy and sleeping, traveling, trying new restaruants, non-surfacey conversations, and listening to people's stories. But I don't consider those my passion. I would think that by 27 years of age I would know what my passion is!

Perhaps I have an unrealistic notion of passion, and it is something that must be cultivated and requires you to force yourself to focus on it? Or maybe I just need some Adderrall like a doctor once suggested. I would love to hear about others' passions....maybe it'll inspire one in me!