Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Growth Spurt

Do you ever have periods of revelations, understanding, and growth that are so rapid that you're unable to process it all and reflect and write it down before you forget it (and then have to make the realization all over again--probably years later as a result of some different experience)?

The last few weeks my mind's "off" switch has escaped me, and I've been finding all sorts of pieces to the puzzle--some that I didn't even know were missing. I imagine I could write many posts from all that I'm discovering about life, relationships, myself, and other sundry topics, and I imagine the posts would take hours to write and would probably seem rather dull and introspective.

I'm also reevaluating the fit of some of the puzzle pieces, realizing I shoved them into place many years ago when I was a different person with very different beliefs. It's a slow and somewhat overwhelming process, but I'm beginning to reconsider some of my long-held beliefs. And while parts of my life have been transformed over the past few years as my faith has grown, this growth is more constant, rapid, and daily. And I suspect it's the result of the freedom of time and brain "hard drive space."

Although the last week or so has been very hectic at work because of the angel tree program I've organized and am now scheduling over 180 deliveries for (I can't wait for this to be over!), in general I've enjoyed so much more downtime. My days begin with a much slower pace, and my mind drifts to all sorts of things; and I actually have the time and desire to follow thoughts through instead of shelving them for "one day." It's such a luxury and a gift and a reminder that living an examined and intentional life has rewards that far surpass the effort to do so.

And as I question and consider, I'm reminded of this passage from Walden:

"...I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one. It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten track for ourselves....how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity! I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could best see the moonlight amid the mountains. I do not wish to go below now."

I like the image of standing past the mast, soaking in the moonlight and enjoying the view and pursuing God's best rather than the path of least resistance and ease.

p.s. I'm thankful for the super warm sherpa lined hoodie I bought from J. Crew with the money my dad gave me (early) for Christmas.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

I Was Tagged (Over Two Weeks Ago)

I'm a little slow, but I'm finally responding to the tagging by Jennifer who I think is one of my newer readers.

So I'm supposed to tag seven more people and post the rules....but I think I'll just tag Ella and Billy. So now I'm to list seven weird and/or random things about myself. I'm sure you all feel like you know enough about me, but here I go anyway. I was tagged after all.

1. I used to love and listen to Alanis Morissette so much that my friends refused to ride in my car unless I promised to not play her CD. My affinity for her music began the moment I heard "You Oughta Know" as it reflected my feelings perfectly since I'd just found out my high school boyfriend had cheated on my over spring break. I proceeded to see her in concert three times and listen to her songs on repeat for years.

2. I had my first bowl of chili this week. Chili has just never appealed to me, but this week my roommate's adoptive mom brought us a huge container of white chili and upon trying it, I've discovered I love it. I also discovered that homemade banana pudding with homemade cream and some crunchy chocolate stuff is unbelievable and can be consumed in mass quantities in one sitting.

3. I'm so nice that I tweezed my ex-boyfriend's Sampras's eyebrows for the two years following our break-up.

4. Carter and I have not kissed yet, and this is the first time I've ever been on four dates with someone and not done so. The weird thing is--I like it. I'm so less distracted and so much more in tune with who he is than wondering when we'll make out next:)

5. I build muscle quickly and have to watch my workouts and make sure I don't run too much, etc. or my legs will get so big that my jeans don't fit in the thighs. It's really not a cute look.

6. I love writing Christmas cards. It's such a wonderful time to reflect on my friendships and share my feelings of gratitude with them. Plus it's a good excuse to break out the magic markers.

7. Speaking of magic markers, I took notes with them in high school and college. My college algebra professor told another professor (who happened to be my great-uncle thus my knowing about his comment) that "the girl with the highest grade in my class takes all of her notes in markers; it's the oddest thing." I kept the markers in a Hello Kitty box and just found that the bright colors made school, especially classes like math, more entertaining for me.

p.s. I'm thankful for a quiet night at home with my Christmas tree, pumpkin pie Yankee candle, caramel truffle coffee, West Wing DVD, pjs, Christmas colored M&Ms, and cards. This is the life.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thanksgiving by Numbers

0 hikes Last Wednesday was a glorious day....until we were 20 minutes away from Cloudland Canyon, and it began raining. I can't complain as we desperately need the rain, and we had a great time anyway.

1 Inappropriate Comment: My grandmother asked my cousin if she is "expecting," and she's not.

2 People Making Out at the Thanksgiving Table: So my cousin "Emily" got married this summer to a guy she wasn't even dating last Christmas, and since I've never had a conversation with him I was looking forward to getting to know him at our Thanksgiving lunch. But then they arrived over an hour late and proceeded to kiss almost the entire time they were at my uncle's house. It was disgusting, and I have no idea how anyone can feel comfortable kissing while sitting next to their 88 year old great aunt and across from their brother and cousin. Bizarre. I just looked at my lap the entire time. Sigh. Too bad my dad (that's him in the photo with me) didn't see it as he would have totally called them out on it.

3 Turkeys


4 Dates
(with the guy from the Police concert who (with Ella's help) I have named "Carter" for blog purposes as it's sufficiently waspy like his real name)

5 Pieces of Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie (courtesy of my sister and Cracker Barrel)

9 Letters in My New Favorite Song
: Yes, it is an absolutely ridiculous song, but I love it and it makes me smile constantly. It's "Glamorous" which thanks to google I now know is one of Fergie's songs. I can thank my nieces for sharing it with me.

100s of Christmas lights
are decorating the toolshed--and greeted me when I arrived Monday morning. My roomie and my "adoptive moms" decorated the exterior and interior of our home, left a gift basket of Christmas candy with 3 Christmas DVDs (I will finally see Miracle on 34th Street), and really made my day with their sweetness.

1,040 miles driven

In short, I enjoyed my 9 days in Georgia, but now I'm exhausted and trying to recover from the whirlwind. Hope you guys enjoyed your Thanksgiving and long weekend too.

p.s. I'm thankful for how excited some of the children were yesterday to see me--especially my reading students who couldn't wait to dive back into The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Blog-a-versary?

My very first blog post was written on November 22, 2005, and it was about the virtues of Inside Out Reeses. Imagine that.

I originally created a Blogger profile so I could comment on my then-boyfriend's sister's blog that chronicled her year in France. A few months into blogging Jeff emailed me and asked me to share the story of how I became a Christian, which I did in this post. We had stumbled across each other's blog through Kimberly's blog. And that was my very first friendship with a strange blogger that I did not actually know. He's ended up being a friend and someone I turn to for Godly advice on a regular basis.

Now I've come to know several of you on a gmail chat and e-mail basis, and several others of you from months of reading about your lives. And while a virtual community is obviously not the same as people who know me in a more full and complete way (you guys probably miss out on a lot of my flaws, for example), the blog world is a special place that often feels supportive and encouraging. I appreciate you guys, especially when you challenge me to look at things in a different way (yes, even you Aaron:), try something new, or otherwise help make my world bigger.

p.s. I'm grateful for massages...even when they hurt.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Safety & Second Dates

After my niece's preschool Thanksgiving party, I indulged her for a bit on the playground until I received a phone call from my (great) Aunt Rene's cell. Since Aunt Rene doesn't even know how to operate the phone (i.e. flip the top to answer:) I knew it wasn't going to be good. A strange voice informed me that my "mother-in-law" had been in a car accident and was o.k. but shaken up pretty bad and able to talk. I asked the location and thanked her, immediately gathering Lauren up and calling my dad. I needed to pick my other niece up about that same time, so thankfully my dad drove to the rescue and took Aunt Rene to the hospital for x-rays. She's 88 years old and still getting around rather well, and I feel incredibly glad that this wreck didn't change that. She only needs a cast on her knee, and she'll feel sore, bruised, and battered for a bit but should heal. I am also thankful for my dad; he took care of her all afternoon (since I had my nieces) at the hospital and took her home this evening. This is the second time this year I've called him with an emergency, and he's responded with calm and ease each time.

p.s. I am also thankful for second dates--just the very fact that I want to go on one with this guy. And to answer Aaron's question of when is the next date--I think we're hiking on Wednesday. Oh--funny I actually blogged about this guy last January after I sat next to him at a benefit concert, noting that he was someone, or at least the kind of person, I'd like to date.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Little Girls

I'm grateful for the little girls who fill my heart with joy and ask the cutest prayers ever...."I am glad we have people to spend the night with us. I am glad for this day. I thank you for being here in your real home for this week [meaning me, not God]. I like Hannah Montana. Thank you for this day and that is all. Amen."

p.s. I am thankful that God gave me the words I needed tonight when I spoke at a dinner for over 100 people, especially since I just found out yesterday that I was speaking.

Every Claim You Stake, I'll be Watching You

So I'm grateful for the first really positive date experience I've had in ages--good Mexican and margaritas followed by The Police in concert. There was no chatting about couples counseling with his last girlfriend, how he needs a woman who "can take care of him, if I know what he means," attempts to get me drunk, or other inappropriate behavior that would make me wish I had stayed at home and watched Grey's Anatomy online in my pajamas. Instead there was talk about music, traveling, faith, books, evolution, and other things that genuinely capture my interest; in short, our conversation is as easy in person as it's been on the phone. And he was a complete gentleman, and I enjoyed meeting some of his friends and catching up with one of our mutual friends too. So as Aaron would say +1 for a good date with someone well-read, bright, and fun. And AM, you'll be disappointed to learn (although surely not surprised) that no making out occurred. The raciest things got was when The Police played my favorite--"Don't Stand to Close to Me."

p.s. I'm grateful to be sleeping in a queen size bed tonight! I will not miss my twin bed in the toolshed this week.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Going Home

For the first time since I moved to Nashville, I'm going home! It's only been 2 1/2 months or so, but before I moved here I usually managed to make it to Calhoun once a month to visit with my family. So needless to say I've been excited all week to be heading home tomorrow and can't wait to soak up some time with my nieces. On Monday I'll go to Lauren's preschool Thanksgiving party, and I'll get to keep them both on Wednesday since they'll be out from school. So off to bed since I'm leaving here in the morning at 7 a.m.! Lucky me, I'll get to stop in Chattanooga and have breakfast with friends; then catch most of the Georgia game before going on my first date since January. I'm actually a bit nervous. But that's nothing two martinis can't fix. Just kidding, two martinis and I probably couldn't stand.

p.s. I'm thankful for the free symphony tickets my roommate and I used tonight.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Consequences

Today I met a woman who isn't much older than me yet is responsible for five children--one of whom she must have given birth to around the time she was 14 years old. Another one of the children has cerebral palsy, and I believe one of the children is her sister's child. She's a single mom, doesn't receive child support, and none of the fathers are involved.

Granted this woman has made some bad choices and probably continues to make some poor choices but hearing about her life reminded me that I am so blessed that I'm not "suffering" the consequences of choices I made when I was really young. When I think about all of the stupid things I've done I am reminded of how different my life could be had the consequences of my actions been more severe. So I am grateful that we don't always reap what we sow or get what we deserve or have to pay the price for our bad decisions.

p.s. I'm grateful for how small the world is. Tonight at the gym I ran into a girl I went to law school with who is living here now, and we're going to get together soon. She has tons of very interesting sounding friends here too, so maybe I'll meet some other cool people through her. I'd seen her boyfriend at the gym a few times (he was also in the class above me) and wondered if he was who I thought he might be, and seeing her confirmed his identity and prompted me to speak. Fun! Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Reporting at Noon

I am grateful that I do not report to work tomorrow until 12:00. AWESOME! It's especially nice since I just got off the phone and hadn't realized that the conversation had lasted 2 hours and 45 minutes, making it 12:30 a.m. I guess one of the downfalls of your cell being your only clock and really good, interesting conversation.

p.s. I am grateful for Nutty Butty bars; they are delicious. I'm also glad that as of Saturday I will have met one of my "year end resolutions." Speaking of resolutions, I met all of my New Year's resolutions by this summer (change job situation, volunteer more, travel more, spend more time with my great aunt and nieces). I'm starting to really like this entire idea of resolutions. Any one else want to make some "Year End Resolutions?"

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sort of Grateful For....

these internet tests, quizzes, memes, etc. Here's the results from the latest:

cash advance

Feel free to share your blog's readability or the link to any other "test" I should take.

And here's a meme too (I got it from E's blog):

Four jobs I have held:

Nanny
Piggly Wiggly Cashier
Bank teller
Interpreter/HR assistant

Four movies I can watch over and over:

I can't really watch these over and over, but they're the movies I've watched the highest number of times.

How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days; Pretty Woman; Legally Blond; and Dirty Dancing

Four places I have lived:

Nashville; Carrollton, Georgia; Buckhead (Atlanta); Athens, Georgia

Four television shows I enjoy:

West Wing (I just finished Season Four)
Grey's Anatomy (although my interest is waning)
The Hills (I know it's stupid)
Brothers & Sisters

Four places I have been on holiday:

Cabo
Greece
Canary Islands
Grand Cayman

Four of my favorite dishes:

Filet Au Poivre with mashed potatoes
Peanut Butter Pie (with chocolate on it too)
White Chocolate Bread Pudding
Well seasoned salmon

Four websites I visit daily:

Gmail
www.challies.com
Sitemeter
Facebook (almost daily)

Four places I would rather be right now:

At the gym
At home, watching West Wing in my pajamas
Curled up in a chair at a coffeehouse, reading a book
With my nieces

p.s. I'm thankful for sunshine. It can instantly change my mood, help me get out of bed, encourage me to be outside, and a day with it is always better than a day without it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Gratitude Day # 10: Aquaphor

When I was in seventh grade I was a bit on the OCDish side with several things...like cleaning, organizing, and putting Chapstick and Vaseline on my lips. Unfortunately the last habit resulted in my lips becoming quite a mess--swollen, peeling, red, nasty, and painful. So I had to visit our family physician, and he informed me that Chapstick and Vaseline had diminished my lips' natural production of moisture. I had to quit cold turkey, and it was gross and painful. I was, however, permitted to use Aquaphor twice a day or so. I've been hooked ever since. My parents should have bought stock in it back then because I've shared it with everyone I know, and everyone loves it.

p.s. I'm grateful for the pretty red cups at Starbucks this season as well as the cinnamon dolce latte, which may take the caramel macchiato's place in my heart (especially if the guy continues to make it wrong). And I'm thankful for the Starbuck gift card my sister gave me for my birthday that I'm still using.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday Afternoon Naps

I love naps, and Sunday afternoons seem to be the perfect time to indulge in them. I had to get up early this morning to make muffins for my Sunday School class's potluck brunch, so I was especially tired today. I tried to avoiding napping by going for a hike....but the "hike" ended up being a flat loop around a pretty lake in the middle of a wooded area. So I thought I would run for a bit but then learned that if you run or jog on this trail, you'll be fined $196.50. So I was still sleepy after my walk and enjoyed a nice nap. Brunch + pretty walk + nap = a pretty good Sunday

p.s. I'm grateful for UGA's win over Auburn (45-20). Go Dawgs!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Diet Coke Lime

Sometimes I still can't believe that I switched to Diet Coke (thanks to six weeks in Costa Rica where Coca Cola and Diet Coke both taste watery, so I figured I'd just drink the one with no calories), but I have and generally only really enjoy it from a "fountain" and/or with grenadine. But two months ago I was offered Diet Coke Lime at a dinner party, and voila Diet Coke in a can is now almost craving worthy. Even if you don't like lime (I don't), you might like it.

p.s. I'm grateful for my blog friend Ella who sent me a link to the shoes I bought today--non-teacher shoes that are as comfortable as tennis shoes or Merrells but much more cute.

Friday, November 09, 2007

More Happy Than Sad

I'm thankful that I have so many more happy days than sad days as today has just been much less than stellar. I think a lot of feelings converged at one time, and it all sort of hit me this evening. I've had a lot of sort of mandatory social engagements this week, and while I don't mind them, none of them are really "feeding" me--to use one of the terms that is tossed around in my vocational discernment meetings. And I am longing for an evening of engaging conversation that leaves me exhilarated and inspired. Or a dinner party with close friends that has me looking at the clock and being shocked that four hours have passed when it felt like minutes. Or a lunch with someone that I really connect with and who "gets" me. Reading e.b.'s post today reminded me of what all I'm missing right now, but I'm reminding myself that I still have many more great days than days like today.

p.s. I'm grateful for the little boys who begged me to play my newly created outdoor version of dodge ball again with them today; their excitement was contagious, and it's always neat to feel valued even if it's just because I'll repeatedly throw a ball at a group of second graders.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Friday I'm in Love

Despite enjoying my job and it not really feeling like work, I'm still always grateful for Fridays. I don't anxiously await them in the same way that I used to do so, but I still enjoy them and recognize them as the beginning of my favorite part of the week--the weekend. Hope you all have a good one!

p.s. I'm grateful for text messaging....although there's a lot I don't like about it, I love how something that takes so little time and effort can randomly make me smile, laugh, or just feel good.

A Warm, Cozy Bed

The Room in the Inn Program began this week and will last through March, and my church is hosting a group of nine or ten people who are homeless every Wednesday night. So tonight one church member picked up the group; two other people made sack lunches; another two set out ten mattresses and made them up with sheets and blankets; another shopped for breakfast foods and toiletries; and two more are staying with them tonight; and another will drive them back to the "campus" in the morning. And I had the pleasure of cooking for everyone, trying out my cooking skills and my teeny tiny kitchen, which resulted in it taking three times the normal amount of time to make two 13x9 pans of baked ziti. Fortunately the ziti turned out well, and we were all stuffed. It was amazing how fast four loaves of buttered garlic bread disappeared. The brownies and candy were gone quickly too, and the gratitude was overflowing and touching as was the excitement over the packets of tea, hot chocolate, and cider.

I had the opportunity to talk with the women at my table, and it was interesting to learn a little about them. One woman came in with some cute hot pink rolling luggage and was very well spoken and wants to attend law school, but after being in an abusive relationship, she seems to have fallen on hard times. Another woman often sleeps in a barn and lamented about the dangers of being a homeless woman. Another was hoping to catch Jamie Foxx on the CMAs. So in some ways it was unlike any other conversation I'd have over dinner, but then in some ways it was just like any other get-to-know you situation.

So I'm glad that I've met some new people, had an opportunity to serve others, that these women and hundreds of other homeless people have a warm and safe bed tonight, and that I'm curling up in a warm and cozy bed shortly too.

p.s. I'm thankful that I get to try a new coffeehouse in the morning....the Frothy Monkey.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Woods

And by "the woods," I mean any place that you can visit and not see anything made by man (ok--besides the road perhaps). The first place that comes to my mind is my grandfather and his siblings' land in a tiny town (if it even qualifies as a town) in Georgia. Every time I visit I wonder why I don't do so more often, and I briefly ponder moving there for a season of life to escape the hassles that seems to be part and parcel of modern day living. And more than a few times during my introspective phases I've thought about going totally Thoreau with a shack in "the bottoms" (that's what we call the land near the creek, "Gin Hole," and arrowhead field) so that I could hear "the poem of creation uninterrupted." I wonder how long that would last.

On my most recent trip, I was able to look out and see God's creation unencumbered by our contraptions and creations, and it felt so awe-inspiring and soothing at the same time. I felt so tiny; it all just seemed so vast-so very much bigger than my bubble and me. So I'm grateful for the majestic beauty that covers our earth and the blessings I've had to witness so much of it.

p.s. I'm thankful that it's not "long distance" to call people anymore, enabling me to pretty much call anyone at any time without worrying about how many cents per minute it will cost. And in that same vein, I'm glad my mom is paying my cell phone bill this year (and it's less than $20/month on this family plan!) as my birthday gift--now that's a gift that keeps on giving.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Practicing Dodge Ball

I almost forgot to post today. I'll be surprised if I don't miss a day.

Anyway I'm thankful that I can practice dodge ball (at least throwing and catching) at work thanks to Sampson, a third grader with a good arm. It's just amazing to me that this "counts" as working, and I am constantly gratified by the fact that I'm not sitting at a desk wondering when it'll be 5:45 and time to start packing up. Or better yet still sitting at my desk at 7:30 hoping that a case will settle so I can go home. Or pondering what ball is going to drop since entirely too much has been piled on my plate.

p.s. I'm thankful for caramel truffle flavored coffee.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Thirty Days of Thanks (minus three)--Also Known as 27 Days of Thanks

I read about the Thirty Days of Thanks bandwagon on Tortious's blog, and of course, it didn't take any arm twisting for me to jump on. Now if I can just remember to post every day; I've already missed the first few days of November.

I am thankful for the Whole Foods that opened last week; it's less than two miles from my house and across the street from my gym. My roommate and I had lunch there today, and it had the feel of a mall on the day after Thanksgiving. Despite the crowd (and high prices), I enjoyed the wide variety of things on my plate....seasoned chicken, banana chips, strawberries, spinach, edamame, vegan chocolate mousse, strawberry yogurt, chocolate chips, dried cranberries, and tons of other things. Afterwards I tempted myself with things I can't afford at Anthropologie, which is a short stroll from the grocery store. Then I met my (former) guest blogger friend Brian for some dodge ball "practice." Really it's just me trying to build up some arm strength.

p.s. I'm also thankful that all of my friends who took the bar this last July passed (Carson, Ivy, and Billy).

Monday, October 29, 2007

"Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

Last night the roomie and I had people over for dinner and to watch Casablanca (courtesy of the awesome Nashville Public Library). It was my first viewing of the classic, and I really enjoyed it. Casablanca is one of the few classics I've seen, and it has inspired me to watch more. In the last few years very few movies have captured my attention, but besides almost falling asleep in the beginning (I'm sure the two pillow and blanket I curled up with in the floor didn't help) this one entertained me for its duration.

So what should I watch next? Any suggestions? Other than Gone With The Wind, I'm not sure I've seen any of the old movies that people rave about.

My weekend was otherwise full of cotton candy (Friday and Saturday while working), candy (at the Chili Cook-Off at church since I don't eat chili), family style dining at Maggiano's compliments of Sam and his family (it felt like an early Thanksgiving dinner), a hair cut and partial, the purchase of teacher shoes that I feel torn about keeping (but cute shoes aren't very practical for this job), and work.

Speaking of work, Saturday was a celebration of the playground and other improvements a local church has made to the place I work over the last five weeks. It's been inspiring to see these church members come after work and on Saturdays to lay sod, paint walls, construct a playground, and do so many other tasks to make our facility look beautiful. You can read more about it here. The church celebrates its five year anniversary this year and instead of doing a purely internal celebration, it decided to focus its efforts and celebration on making PTM a better place for the children we serve. Saturday was the culmination of all of the hard work, and people from the Preston Taylor community and this church joined together to celebrate. It's really cool to see how so many different people have worked together to transform a dangerous night club into a facility used for a thriving afterschool program.

p.s. I'm thankful for Kroger brand apple cider, which supplies 100% of my vitamin C needs.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Irresistible Revolution

About a week after I moved to Nashville a woman at my church brought me a book she thought I'd like (based on our one hour conversation earlier in the week). I'm just now nearing the end of the book, and she's sort of right. I like it, but I also don't. The book, which is The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne, makes me very uncomfortable. Uncomfortable in the same vein as a liberal arts education or sermon can make you uneasy with the way you're living your life. And the blurb on the back of the book promises no less, stating "This book will comfort the disturbed, disturb the comfortable, and invite believers to change the world with Christ's radical love."

I realize a lot of you may not believe in Christ or have much thought about Him at all--but long before I did, I believed that I had an obligation to other humans as I'm sure many of you feel. And this book challenges me to think through that obligation (albeit in the context of my faith), forcing me to think about whether adopting a child at Christmas, serving as a Big Sister in Big Brothers Big Sisters, and a few little things like that is simply missing the mark (even if those acts did allow me to "check off" community service on my list of things I want to do/should do).

After reading this book, I'm inclined to think that I've been missing at least half the point if not the point completely. Of course, after I watch Silence of the Lambs, I want to join the FBI. Anyway, I've thought of giving and serving in the context of what "they" need from me, realizing that there is great joy in giving and that I'd learn a little along the way (like awareness and understanding). And perhaps I'm doing just enough to satisfy my feeling that I have some obligation to others.

Claiborne writes:

"Tithes, tax-exempt donations, and short-term mission trips, while they accomplish some good, can also function as outlets that allow us to appease our consciences and still remain a safe distance from the poor."

Later he writes that "Both go away satisfied (the rich feel good, the poor get clothed and fed), but no one leaves transformed. No new radical community is formed."

And I think community is what I've been missing out on in my desire to fit my obligation to others into an appointment after work one evening per week--confining them to a neat little compartment of my life so as to not disturb the rest of it. Claiborne lives in community with a diverse group of people in Philadelphia who "wrestle to free ourselves from macrocharity and distant acts of charity that serve to legitimize apathetic lifestyles of good intentions but rob us of the gift of community." And it reminds me a little of my great-aunt. While she never lived in the ghetto, she often got collect calls from prisoners who she'd met in her prison ministry work. I remember thinking that those calls must be incredibly annoying and wondering why she gave them her number--and accepted their calls. But perhaps she was experiencing community, recognizing that the prisoners had something to offer her as well and that God could use them to transform her. She realized that community cannot be created in two isolated hours a week.

So where does all of this thinking leave me? I'm not sure. Part of me just wants to shove the book and the way it makes me feel to a far away place lest it make my life any more uncomfortable. But another part of me can't seem to stop thinking about how Christ lived His life and how very different our world would be if we lived in community with one another (and not just the people just like us who are pretty easy to love) rather than escaping to our homes with our cell phones, televisions, and computers and our neat little lives. And then I think, "nah, I'll just take a McDreamy and white picket fence please." And then I remember that every single time I've trusted the Lord and sought His plan, things have turned out so much better than my (uncreative) mind ever imagined. Alright, off to bed...if this post makes little sense, I apologize:)

p.s. I'm thankful for being challenged and the luxury of considering questions like these.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

What I Love This Week:

Rich Mullins: If I hadn't gone to a benefit concert the other night, I still wouldn't know who he is. And in case you don't--he's a great singer/song-writer. I've recently indulged my (dangerous) penchant for running at night several times, and I find his music to be perfect for these runs. Out of (obviously limited) respect for my safety, I only use one ear bud thingy. Gosh, I hate crime.

Dodge Ball: My first game in about 14 years took place two weeks ago, and it was one of the most fun things I've done this year. Team Cookie Monster won 15 out of 17 games. Last week was a little less fun because of some sleeveless shirt wearing, sweaty boys who threw the ball so hard that I hurt for minutes after being hit. Maybe they won't come back.

The West Wing: I just found out that there are at least seven seasons! Yeah!! I've only seen two seasons and have a crush on Rob Lowe (and I now have a real-life crush too, but he's not a candidate for anything more...which makes him the perfect crush, I suppose:). Similarly I've just discovered the wonder of The Office and have many episodes to watch over the next year.

My mom
: Not only did she come visit last week, but she's sent me some amazing care packages already (including some good sheets and a super soft blanket for my little twin size bed)--and I've only been here for six weeks or so. Here's a photo of us from her visit. Can you see the resemblance? Yeah, me neither.

This Thought: "The more we get what we now call 'ourselves' out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. The more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own hereditary and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires. In fact what I so proudly call 'Myself' becomes merely the meeting place for trains of events which I never started and which I cannot stop." --C.S.Lewis And it's funny because a decade ago this thought wouldn't have resonated remotely with me, but now it rings absolutely true.

Bread & Co.
: Thankfully there's one about two miles from my house, and I'm completely smitten with the honey and pecan chicken salad on cranberry pecan bread. It's just ridiculous. I never thought I'd forget Berts so very quickly:)

The Elliptical
: Why didn't I ever give you a try at my last gym? You're great and so much easier than running. And according to the little computer thing, I burn as many or more calories when using you.

Jeans, flip flops, and a start time of 10:30
: Yep, that's my job. I spent last Monday on a golf course, working! Love it.

Google Maps
: It's made moving to a new place so much easier than it once was. Oh, Google Documents is great too--especially if I could figure out how to print the documents without the information on the top/bottom of the page (date, google doc, etc.).

Blueberry Candle: Yummy. Plus the tool shed sort of stinks...like a dead animal, so it's very necessary.

Pancake Pantry
: My family and I managed a visit with no waiting in line!

Being "Miss Allison" Again
: It's been years since I've been called that--I like it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Grace

Grace has been on my mind this morning. I enjoyed a leisurely morning and did something that has become rare (now that I only have a few static-y channels and all) and turned on the television. The women on The View were discussing the President of France separating from his wife, noting how that would be such a big deal in American politics. They went on to discuss adultery, honesty, integrity, and the like, and they (Elizabeth seems to like to lead these conversations) proceeded to do what most of us seem to like to do. And that is—talk about “certain kinds of people” as if we’re all divided by our levels of integrity. And bottom line, they’re implying that some of us are simply better than others because of the choices we’ve made. And some days I like to do that too.

Naturally I understand this temptation since I so often succumb, building myself up by contrasting my choices with someone else’s—because let’s face it--we can always find someone who has done something worse than we have, therefore we feel a little less guilty, bad, and/or sinful because (at least) we’re doing better than someone. Of course, we can also find someone who seems to be doing much better than we are too.

And sometimes we get a reminder that takes us down a notch--like the time I wanted to condemn an ex-boyfriend for hooking up with a married woman during one of our break-ups yet I ended up doing something I never thought I would (because, I suppose, I thought I was “above” that).

My favorite pastor Tim Keller reminds us that by living this way we’re constantly putting ourselves on trial. We’re judging ourselves by others’ standards as well as our own standards, trying to rid ourselves of low self-esteem by replacing it with high self-esteem and pride. On a good day, we feel puffed up and happy, and on a bad day, perhaps we find ourselves unworthy with a deflated ego. And our identity is that tenuous--based on the day, year, or season of life and the choices we’ve most recently made. Keller says we are all just building up our resumes (through volunteering, our jobs, our looks, etc.) in search of the verdict….that we’re of consequence, that we’re important, that we’re people of worth. But thankfully we can say what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:

“I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.”

So as I’m sitting here and working, I hear these words from a Snow Patrol song on my computer: “I need your grace to remind me to find my own.” It took the experience of knowing God’s grace for me to even begin thinking about my own. And it’s a process for sure; the more I realize how inherently sinful I am, the more I appreciate and understand the enormousness of the Lord’s grace. And the more I understand it, the more I can remove myself from the courtroom of judgment, condemnation, and comparison and contrast. And I realize that Jesus has already taken the judgment that I deserve, that I am separate from my sin, and that court is adjourned.

p.s. I’m grateful for the Lord’s grace and the grace that others extend to me; I surely do not deserve it...which I guess is exactly what grace is--giving people what they do not deserve.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Update

I have been in Nashville for five weeks now, and I have received a warm welcome from the congregation at Second Presbyterian Church. I have also started my work at Preston Taylor Ministries, which serves around 70 children who live in public housing. I am serving as a reading teacher for junior high students, and it has already been an eye-opening experience to see children who are as big as me struggle to pronounce words that many third graders can say with ease. Of course, these students are not too excited about having reading class after school, particularly since it is such a challenging subject for them, and they have not been afraid to let me know it. It is a fun challenge to create lessons that engage them, and it is forcing me to see progress in a different way than I have typically defined it. Sometimes progress is just not having a fight during class that day--or it may be an unruly student offering to help me hand out papers--or an apathetic student being excited about the content of what we are reading that day or actually wanting to help with the pronunciation of a word instead of just giving up. I am quickly realizing that progress does not have to be measured in leaps and bounds.

In addition to teaching, I am helping oversee a Lunchmate Mentoring Program. We have about 50 matches so far, and I introduce the mentors to students and check in with them regularly. I have also started work on our Angel Tree Program, which through local church families and other individuals we ensure that the children we
serve receive Christmas gifts.

I think that I am most excited, however, about the fact that I am working in an environment that is Christ centered and whose primary purpose is to glorify Him and share His grace and love with others. It is truly a blessing to be here, and I sincerely appreciate the luxury of taking this year to serve others and make my world a little bigger. I appreciate all of your support and encouragement.

On a side note, we recently had our Young Adult Volunteer Orientation at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, and it was beautiful, especially the views that I enjoyed on an afternoon hike with a volunteer in New Orleans. I managed to share enough with him that he no longer thinks some of my "completely indefensible" opinions are so indefensible:)

And on an unrelated note, I'm playing "kill ball" (a.k.a. dodge ball) as we called it at Calhoun Elementary School tonight for the first time since fifth grade. I'm hoping the participants tonight won't be out for blood.

p.s. I'm grateful that my mom, sister, and nieces are coming to visit tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Weekend Recap: Volunteering is Fun

I had no idea how much fun volunteering at 6:30 in the morning can be. After always being the runner in 5k and 10ks (although admittedly not in the last few years), this last Saturday I was on the other side of the race so to speak. I was the 2 mile split timer for the Christie Cookie Fun Run, and I loved it. I enjoyed observing different strides; the second fastest runner had no grace but seemed to be hurdling forward on strength alone; the fastest female was among the ten fastest men but unlike them her face was red and she was covered in sweat despite how cool it was. It was interesting to see people's responses to their split times too. One runner seemed entirely frustrated by a split time of less than 14 minutes while another runner was elated by running 2 miles in 20 minutes. And that's part of what is so great about running; you compete with yourself.

The only downside to this cookie fun run is that I didn't get a cookie!! By the time the slowest "runner" (she was walking) came by and I ran back to the start line, there were none left. Oh well, the enormous bowls of hot chocolate with pieces of delicious pound cake, fruit, and whatnot that I had the night before more than made up for missing out on a cookie. And that was another volunteering event. My roommate's workplace--Conexion Americas--had its big fund-raising gala the night before at Cheekwood, so I helped out there for two hours in exchange for free admission (and free foods and drinks). I definitely got my money's worth and watched some amazing dancing. Some of the people dancing clearly have fewer joints than I do.

Saturday night I enjoyed the cheapest sushi ever at Ken's Sushi (and then this week I got a 50% off coupon in the mail!), and then we opted to have dessert at a nicer restaurant. Except the nicer restaurant (Tayst) treated us horribly. It took the waiter a very long time to even acknowledge our presence much less take our drink orders or share the dessert menu with us; the snub seemed quite deliberate, and we were debating getting up to leave when the waiter finally spoke to us. When he finally told us what comprised the night's menu, he could not describe the chocolate torte upon being asked, saying that it was shaped like a piece of pie and that he'd never had it. I finally started asking specific questions....like is it dark chocolate? Are there almonds in it (my roommate is allergic to them)? Are there any sauces that come with it (she's allergic to some fruit too)? Anyway, we should have be clued in when we saw the help wanted sign in front of the restaurant:) Suffice to say that the entire thing became a self-fulfilling prophecy type deal for the waiter. Sure I still left at least 15%, but normally I would have left much more for such an inexpensive ticket. Oh well, it was a relatively cheap way to discover that I didn't want to spend any money at this restaurant. I wonder if it's just really bad form to come in to a restaurant to only order dessert? There were several empty tables, and it was around 9:00, which is a later dining time around here. Any thoughts from former waiters?

And tonight I tried another restaurant--Coco Cafe--with a girl who did this program last year. It's cute, a bit hippy like, has great outdoor seating, and has an extensive and cheap menu. And it's exactly the sort of place that we didn't really have in Macon (except perhaps for Ingleside Pizza). Needless to say, I'm thrilled by all of the restaurant selections, and my roommate seems simply amazed by how excited I get about food and planning restaurant outings. Of course, I'm pretty blown away by her love of interpretative dance:)

She and I are headed to Ghost Ranch, New Mexico this Sunday for our orientation to the Young Adult Volunteer Program. While I'm not quite excited about performing skits (would it be totally wrong to take a flask? Just kidding, of course.), I am pretty pumped about visiting a new state, especially such a pretty one, and meeting the other volunteers from other sites.

p.s. I'm grateful to have a job that gives me enough free time that I feel excited about volunteering.

Friday, September 14, 2007

So Many Choices, So Little Time

This summer I switched cellphone providers and spent two hours at the AT&T store. Yes, that is how long it took to go through all of the phones and their options (since my perfectly good Nokia phone was not "compatible" with AT&T because it was a "T-mobile phone"), the various features I could add to my plan, and whatnot. And when I left I wondered for two days if I'd made the wrong choice by selecting the dark gray phone over the black one.

Two months before that my mother offered to buy me a new digital camera for my trip, and I experienced a similar feeling. Despite researching various cameras on the internet and discussing them with the salesperson, I didn't feel settled about the camera I chose. "What if I hate not having a viewfinder?" "What if I really do need the extra optical zoom?" "What if this wasn't the best price?" And so on.

Unfortunately I'm already a bit on the indecisive side, but all of these options make me doubt myself even after I've made a decision. I think this mentality is sometimes seen in dating and planning...you know--holding out for the "better deal." Online dating seems to further enforce this practice, and I've heard the influx of a new set of young women (who have just finished college, for example) in a large church's singles group does as well.

And while I'm not a fan of settling, I'm not an advocate for this endless search for the "best" of everything. If for no other reason, it makes us waste time and fail to find contentment in what we do choose. Anyway, here is a much better post that made me start thinking about this and helped me realize this is part of the reason I'm so indecisive; I am given so many choices that I cannot help but be afraid I didn't make the best one. Check out the comments too; some are really on target.

Edit (thanks Scotty for catching my mistake:) p.s. I am grateful for pieces of pound cake dipped in melted chocolate, good guacamole, and my new friend Chasie who was more than happy to indulge in the previous items with me all evening long.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Am I Alone or Does Someone Else...

duck their head down on occasion when driving through a parking deck? As I left the gym this morning, I realized that I was bending my head down as if that would somehow prevent the top of my car from scraping the ceiling of the parking deck level I was leaving. Sure I logically know that my car isn't so high off the ground that it'll happen, but I still duck down a bit.

p.s. I'm grateful to be able to afford a gym membership--especially on mornings when it is raining.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Opa!!

Happy Sunday!

So I've now been in Nashville for eight days and am starting to feel settled. I arrived at the "tool shed," which is somewhat appropriately named since it looks like a tool shed and is painted green, last Saturday before lunch. As you can imagine, a lot has happened in the last eight days, so in respect for brevity I'm going to "bullet."

* I met Susan the site coordinator, who is sort of like my liaison with the church and my job but really much more than that--I've seen her seven out of the last eight days. She's incredibly organized and thoughtful and picks up on "hints" really well. For example, I mentioned that I did not have any coffee filters nor did I know how to make coffee. So Susan shows up the next morning with filters and a lesson. I've been mentioning my fondness for jacuzzis, but no luck yet.

* I met my roommate Leslie. She's 23, from Charlotte, majored in biology at Chapel Hill, and spent the last year in this same program--except she spent 11 months in Guatemala. It sounds like it was an intense experience and that she formed some really strong friendships with her host family. Despite the fact that we're very different, we are getting along well. We both cut up a lot, like to eat, and enjoy exercise, so that's a good start:) Oh, she's never heard of Family Ties or Different Strokes, but I'm trying to get over that. She's on the far left in the photo above.

* I've been slightly "orientated" to this church (I actually live on the church property) and its staff, which has been a bit of culture shock. This is easily the most liberal church I'm aware of (after all I've lived in Georgia my entire life), much less a part of, so I've been "processing" a lot. I'm looking forward to understanding more about why some people believe what they believe, etc. In addition, this is the most socially aware and engaged church I've ever attended. I LOVE how this church is sharing Christ's love with the world with programs like A Room in the Inn (providing a meal and place to sleep for homeless people in the winter), Habitat for Humanity work days, an upcoming mission trip to help Katrina victims, annual trips to Guatemala, letter writing campaigns for Darfur, etc. Plus a lot of the members are personally volunteering through mentoring programs, Meals on Wheels, etc.

* I joined a gym. And it has 18,000 members, a parking deck, and is sponsoring a COOKIE fun run this next Saturday. Yes, you read correctly. It's like my two passions are merging together to raise money for a good cause. Since I'm watching the spending, I'll be getting cookies and a free tee shirt by volunteering (calling out split times) instead of actually running the race. Sweet deal except for that entire 7:00 a.m. report time.

* I got a library card, which is only notable because the libraries here are awesome. You can check out your own books; they have everything under the sun; and you can return your books/DVDs (checking out The West Wing soon, assuming I become motivated enough to hook up the DVD player) at any branch.

* Completed a scavenger hunt with my lovely roomie. See how thoughtful I look in the Civil Rights Room of the downtown branch of the public library? We added a stop at the Pied Piper Creamery, which serves delicious homemade ice cream including fun flavors like "White Trash" and "Are you there God? It's me Margarita." Plus they give lots of free samples and big scoops.


* Met my boss, who seems great and very enthusiastic, and toured my new place of work. I asked where my secretary would sit, but at this time office space seems to be limited:) Anyway, I start work tomorrow and am to report at 8:45.

* Went to the Greek Festival with the former NEPs (the people who did this program last year) and saw some cool dancing and ate a yummy dessert.

* Watched UGA lose and ate sushi with a high school friend who lives here.

* Was commissioned today at church and enjoyed a reception afterwards. I've met a lot of nice people and am doing my best to remember names.

* Attended FIVE church services in seven days.

* Had my first guest blogger.

Bottom Line: I've received a super warm welcome, am adjusting well despite a little reluctance to return to working tomorrow, and think this is going to be an awesome year.

p.s. I'm grateful for all of the free food we received this week. We had lots of lunches, dinners, and cookouts--and food was given to us (i.e. a huge bag of cheese cubes from the reception today:)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Hello from Nashville! Or for those of you reading from these here parts: Howdy y’all! I’m still getting used to living in the South. I’m still oddly struck when I hear someone’s deep southern accent at the grocery or a restaurant.

By now, most of you are probably reading this thinking, “Wait, you’re from Georgia. What the crap are you talking about?” Ally does not yet have an internet connection at her “house” (ha), so as her new best friend in Nashville, I have been given the distinct privilege to author her latest blog entry. Ally informed me last night that my own blog is not a real blog since it is done through MySpace and not on a blog-only website. I feel the words “spoken” in a blog are more important than the homepage, but that’s my humble opinion.

Anyhoo, I am Brian Moles. Like Ally, I have recently moved to Nashville. I should note that I have chosen to call Ally “Ally” instead of Allison, which she has also given us as an option. Not two hours after she had just commented negatively on someone not giving a straight forward answer to a question, when we asked her what we should call her, she told us either one was fine, so I picked Ally.

But back to my story. I moved to Nashville almost four weeks ago to try something new. Before relocating, I had lived in Terre Haute, Indiana for my entire life. I graduated from Indiana State University, which is in Terre Haute, electing to live at home with my parents during school to cut down on school costs. I might have lost several opportunities to broaden my social skills and make new friends, but unlike most college graduates, I was basically debt free on graduation day. After graduation, I continued to work at the job I had held in my last year and a half of school. I stayed there for another 18 months after graduation and around June of this year, decided I was moving to Nashville to get away from home.

Why Nashville? Last September, my brother Jeff moved here to begin his year-long experience as a Young Adult Volunteer for the Presbyterian Church, the same position Ally is just beginning. Over the last year, I visited Jeff and his roommates several times. Most big cities can overwhelm you very easily, but every time I came to Nashville, it did not have that effect. This spring, Jeff decided to stay in Nashville and continue his work at the Campus For Human Development, a day shelter for Nashville’s homeless population. Jeff and I have an apartment together and are getting settled. Aside from the country music, I have yet to have any major complaints about this town.

My days in Nashville have been fairly uneventful so far. Not having a job and trying to save money, I spend most of my days sitting on the couch watching television without cable and playing online. You can’t imagine how exciting getting a wall post on Facebook is until you’re unemployed. I watch The View and Martha Stewart in the mornings, then turn off the TV until the evening. My afternoons are filled with Mario Kart 64, browsing MySpace and Facebook, and searching for jobs online. If any of you reading this have any connections in Nashville, please let me know. I’m getting tired of people asking me how The View was.

I first met Ally and her new roommate Leslie, Sunday morning after church. We were having them over for dinner that evening, along with Susan, their site coordinator for the YAV year, and Chasie and Tara, two of Jeff’s YAV roommates last year who have also stayed in Nashville to continue working. Even though we had to clean our apartment from top to bottom knowing that five women were coming over for dinner, I wasn’t going to complain because of the fact five women were coming over for dinner.

Dinner was very good and we all enjoyed a fruit pizza that yours truly prepared for dessert. Before and after we ate, we had time to sit around and discuss each others experiences and all that blah blah blah. Ally, being old, has traveled the world and gone to law school, while I, being young, have only an undergraduate degree and speak only English, so I had little to share. But I still had fun.

Last night, we all enjoyed a get together with the other young adults that attend Second Presbyterian here in Nashville. This was the site of probably one of the most awkward moments for me in a long time. Since Sunday, Jeff and I have been saying that Ally and Chasie have very similar personalities and appearances. Last evening, we were discussing how they look alike and instead of just sitting back and letting Jeff and me analyze her appearance, she decides to interject with “And we both have huge boobs.”

As a male, there was nothing I could say at this point that would be appropriate in any way. Thankfully, the focus was then put on Jeff, who backed my thinking up with a “no comment” and a blank stare straight toward the wall.

But it didn’t end there. Instead of just laughing it off, the three or four girls sitting there decided to carry on a full conversation about their breasts and such. After several minutes of banter that I tried to block out as much as possible for my own personal protection, the next comment I hear is “Are they tender?” I couldn’t hold it in any longer and just cracked up. If this is what the next year is going to bring hanging out with Ally, it should be a freakin’ fun year.

I have to admit, this is not the style of my blog at all. My main motivation for writing this entry is knowing how many people will read it. My blog gets maybe 20-30 views per entry, while Ally’s super-amazing-spectacular-fun-filled-adventure blog gets that many comments, let alone views. My own blog is still better than her’s though, you should check it out.

If I don’t find a job for the next month, you can thank Ally. Instead of writing a few cover letters with my afternoon, I have been writing this. My lunch is even sitting in front of me half-eaten because I have become so focuses on blog that is not even my own.

I have no idea what I have just written, but I hope you liked it. I need a job really bad, because this is how bored I am. Ha.

(Conversation in the car last night):

Ally: So Jeff, do you affiliate yourself with a political party?
Jeff: Uhhh…

Brian: He’s a Democrat.

Jeff: Well, I’d say probably the Democrats.

Ally: What about you, Brian?
Brian: I don’t really associate with one of another anymore, I vote for whoever I like best.

Leslie: So what did you used to be?
Brian: A Republican.

Ally: So why not anymore? Did you become a Christian?

That cracked me up. Nice work.

We’re all friends now,

Brian

p.s. Ally-disclaimer: (1) The Christian comment was a joke. (2) My boobs are not, I'm afraid, remotely huge.

p.p.s. I'm grateful for a guest blogger who makes me laugh.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Even Better than a Martini

Today has been a very busy last (full) day in Calhoun--lunch with my oldest niece, a visit to my great aunt, dinner with my family, laundry, packing, play date with my best friend's children and my nieces, visit with my mom, tire rotation, and of course filling up my car with the ever-expensive gas in preparation for the three hour drive to Nashville.

I always pay at the pump when I purchase gas, but today I had a good bit of cash and decided to pay inside. So I went into the smoky gas station, and the lady informed me that pump number 5 had already been paid for. She explained that a man paid for two pumps, and then she went with me outside to make sure. Hey, I wasn't complaining; I was just confused.

A guy who looked to be in his mid-twenties leaned out of his truck and hollered "Yeah I got yours too sweetie." He then asked if I was from around here, and I was proud to report (and avoid any further questions) that I was moving to Nashville tomorrow. He continued to chat while I observed the bottle of beer he was drinking as he cranked his truck up. He gave me his car, and voila I left with a tank full of free gas (and his card in case I need some remodeling done). And that my friends is better than the free martini at a bar.

The free tank of gas was followed by a yummy meal courtesy of my father--complete with a half rack of ribs, sweet potato, and fried cheesecake. And on top of that Billy Bob and my sister gave me a sweet card and very generous donation to help with expenses this year. After dinner my nieces "helped" me pack, and my mother gave me a huge basket full of all of my favorite food stuffs--like brown sugar and maple syrup oatmeal, Luna bars, and peppermint flavored Extra gum. Needless to say, I feel very blessed and encouraged by my family, and I am incredibly grateful to have been able to spend the last two months with them. I am so glad I quit my job a few months before this time in Nashville begins and that I used so much of it to just be here with my family. It's a true gift, and I think I'll always cherish the memories of this summer even though none (outside of my trip) are elaborate. Walks with my sister, library trips with my nieces, Sunday school with my dad, Monday mornings with my great aunt, grilling out with Billy Bob, and meals with my mom and step-dad are just things I've not been able to do very often over the last ten years. Now if Calhoun could just get sushi, a bookstore, some good looking and smart single men over the age of 19, and better restaurants....:)

p.s. I'm grateful for the love and support of my family.

Monday, August 27, 2007

"Have It Your Way"

"Crispy bacon, sizzling sausage, melting American cheese, and fluffy eggs piled high on a split-top bun. The Enormous Omelet Sandwich. One more reason to get up in the morning." Disgusting. This may be worse than the grits, sausage, and the other fattening stuff Krystal manages to fit into the large styrofoam cup a former colleague devoured each morning.

About a year ago my friend Ivy wrote a blog post about how fast food isn't the problem causing obesity in children; he contends the problem is that children are not getting outside and playing enough. As an example, Ivy cites himself, noting that he ate McDonalds growing up and was always active; so he didn't get fat until he went to college, started drinking beer, and became less active.

I must admit that I also grew up eating a lot of fast food and did not struggle with my weight as a child. I remember ordering a sausage biscuit and strawberry milkshake at Burger King quite a few mornings; doughnuts and the like were not uncommon either. And like Ivy, I was very active and enjoyed playing outside. But weight aside, what was that kind of food doing to my arteries? And what kind of taste was I cultivating?

A little over a year ago I was hanging out at Donatello's parent's home, and his sister came in the room with a quesadilla filled with mushrooms and salmon. I was amazed and envious for two reasons. First, I was surprised that she cooked a quesadilla when there were delicious brownies (encrusted with Oreos too!) and cookies sitting out in the kitchen; I would have just fixed a plate of those for my meal. And secondly, I was shocked that she craved something so healthy. I crave sweets, pizza, Mexican food, and the like. I so wish that I craved healthy food like Donatello and his siblings do (and am proud to report that I now crave frozen blueberries with Cool Whip). And I am working on cultivating such a taste--if I stick with it for a while, I'll start craving spinach salad with apples and candied pecans. But for the most part, eating vegetables and fruits feel like a huge chore to me and has to be a very conscious effort. It's almost like I am fighting 18 plus years of a habit that is pretty thoroughly ingrained. Fortunately I've long since broken the fast food habit, and despite my affinity for salty fries and chocolate milkshakes, I rarely indulge if for no other reason than my feeling that McDonald's represents so much of what I do not like about America. Despite pretty well forsaking fast food, I still make pretty unsound dietary choices--often letting consecutive days pass without consumption of a fruit or vegetable.

So perhaps during this time of transition (I move on Saturday), I should add one more transition and make a conscious effort to eat at least one vegetable or fruit a day. Yes, I realize that is much less than the recommended amount, but for me that would be an improvement. It'll help to be living in the land of salad, sushi and edadame, and the like again--Calhoun doesn't exactly have those types of restaurants. Sure there's a Longhorn now, but that is about the only place you'll find romaine lettuce in your caesar salad.

Anyway--back to childhood obesity--one thing I've learned this summer as I've attempted to (slowly) lose the weight I managed to find in Europe is that you can exercise a ton, but until you change your diet (significantly), you're not going to lose the weight (at least at my age:). Sure that may seem like a no-brainer to some of you, but it was news to me. And when a kindergartner is given the choice of pizza every single day, I doubt they're going to make good choices on a regular basis (and my mom reports that they now pour ranch dressing all over it too). Nachos are another typical entree. So if these children are as immature and irresponsible as I sometimes am with my diet, they'll choose the nachos and ice cream.

My med school buddies report that they are seeing more and more overweight children, and it took one of them a few weeks to realize that when the children reported that they played football and other sports, they meant on video games. I vote for boycotting McDonalds and tossing the Gameboys, so that children can return to building forts, making mud slides, and starting impromptu games of softball in the front yard. And eating food that is just as simple as fast food but more healthy, i.e. a peanut butter sandwich with sliced apples. Sure fast food isn't exactly the devil, but since most Americans eat it more days than not, it's certainly not making the citizens of our nation a better and healthier group (or helping decrease these darn health insurance premiums).

p.s I'm grateful for flip flops...better than barefoot since it doesn't hurt and your feet stay clean, but airy and light so you still get the basic freedom of being without shoes.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Want. Want, Want

Today I drove to Macon to meet a friend's one week old baby girl. She's adorable, and they're both doing well. While I was driving down I began thinking about all of the things we teach children--both intentionally and unintentionally. Unfortunately our intent often doesn't make a difference in how the lesson is perceived and retained as I am sometimes reminded when I see my nieces mimicking something they've observed me saying or doing. And it's one of the reasons I hate those stupid Bratz dolls (for those of you who are unfamiliar--imagine Barbie becomes a hooker and gets a teenager's attitude) and Junie B. Jones books (in which the main character seems to be completely incapable of correctly conjugating a verb). And this fact is a reason I think who spends time with children is so important. I've heard people say that "anyone can change a diaper"--hinting at what they really want to say: why would an educated, intelligent parent want to stay at home with his or her child? But in light of all that children learn from those they spend time with that statement seems awful short-sighted and ignorant. There's just so many "teachable moments" that obviously who does the teaching is important.

Of course, our society doesn't really lend itself to parents taking time off to stay at home. Sure, it's quite possible for some couples, but with a large number of single parents it's not feasible for many. And a lot of us don't want to give up the SUV, restaurant meals, vacations, and what not. It's amazing what all we think we "need." And somehow it's never quite enough.

As amazing as my recent trip was, I cannot wait to take another one and am filled with major wanderlust. And as many clothes as I have, I somehow still find myself browsing online. Want, want, want. It sort of reminds me of my oldest niece who has so many toys that an entire room is devoted to them--not to mention the toys outside, Gameboy, and whatnot. Yet she constantly whines that she's bored.

How can those of us with so much still want more? How can I complain when my problems are all related to wants and not needs? Sometimes I think that we feel justified in wanting or complaining because we have less than someone else (like Bill Gates...or our neighbor) despite the fact that most of us, as Americans (as well as my one Canadian reader), have so very much. Just by virtue of the fact that I have a laptop and internet access, you know I'm not struggling for the essentials of food, water, and shelter. So I wonder what exactly we're teaching children by our endless accumulation of stuff despite our possession of so much.

Hmmm...maybe I shouldn't take long drives because it leads to this sort of neverending type of question.

p.s. I'm thankful for the perfect health of little Sophia.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Roomies

Beginning on September 1st, I will once again have a roommate, but I know almost nothing about her (except that she's fluent in Spanish and a Christian). I've been fortunate to live alone the last four years and have loved every minute of it. As an introvert, I need lots of alone time to recharge and like the ocassional weekend with virtually no human interaction. Thankfully I learned that I needed that sort of space when I was 18 after taking the Myers-Brigg test. At the time I had three roommates, and it was exhausting for me (especially the uber-religious, judgmental, mean one). But because I'm so outgoing it never ocurred to me that I might be an introvert; shows how little I knew.

My last roommate lasted for two years, and she was really something. I'll sum it up by saying that she was almost expelled from law school during our 3L year and basically had her face "redid" our 2L summer. She also stole a Nordstroms wool coat from me that I still miss about seven times a year. Anyway, I'm sure you all have your roommate horror stories too, but today I want to focus on good roommate stories and hopes for this future roommate.

For example, I hope she's not a vegetarian. I'd like to be able to eat meals together sometimes, and I rarely find a meal complete without meat. It'd be great if she was an excellent cook and into healthy foods, so she could teach me some new things.

I also hope she's 25 or older. Since she's not in college and has done missions for one year, I assume she's at least 23.

I'd love it if she was an introvert too. My last roomie knocked on my door all the time and wanted to hang out in my room. Annoying. It's hard to tell someone to leave your room....every other hour.

I hope she's outgoing and not at our house all the time. I like roomies that are ocassionally not there, so I can have the entire place to myself.

I hope she's got Brad Pitt look-alike, single, Christian guy friends in Nashville who are 30 years old or older.

I hope she makes my world bigger and challenges my views.

It would be great if she was athletic and fit and pushed me to try new sports/exercises.

Of course, I'll know soon enough, but it's fun to wonder about it. Even my last roommate (the crazy one) had some really positive traits. She was incredibly generous (although that was sort of offset by her stealing some of my things and borrowing brand new clothing without asking--she'd cut the tags off herself!) and often brought me double doozies from the mall. Another roommate had gained some weight, so she let me wear all of her clothes for six months while she worked on losing it. I thought that was really sweet. So if you were chosing a roommate, what would you hope for (assume your roommate must be of the same gender:)?

p.s. I'm grateful for swimming pools. As hot as it's been, they are the only reason I'm ever outside.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Nashville Epiphany Project

This post is a little over due--as Ella manages to kindly remind me in her emails:) And from talking with friends, I realize that I've only sort of informed some people of what exactly it is that I'll be doing this next year. So here it goes:

On September 1st I am moving to Nashville, Tennessee to begin an eleven month position with the Nashville Epiphany Project, which is part of the Young Adult Volunteer Program of the Presbyterian Church (USA). It's sort of like AmeriCorps meets Christianity.

Funny--when I was part of AmeriCorps back in 1998 I worked with a guy named Thomas who was what Billy would call an "uber-Christian," and I thought his beliefs and practices were very odd. I used to ask him questions as if he were from another planet or something. I never would have imagined that about ten years later that I would not only share his views but believe that sharing my faith with others is one of the most important things I can do.

And my position with NEP will give me the opportunity to do so as well as grow in my faith and serve others. My primary responsibility will be my Monday through Friday job with Preston Taylor Ministries (PTM). PTM was formed to confront many of the issues that arise in public housing, such as drug use, illiteracy, and gang involvement. Specifically I will be working in an after-school and summer program for junior high aged children who live in public housing. I will also be coordinating a lunch-mate mentoring program for children at local schools and a job shadowing program. I'll also work with high schools students, preparing them to serve as mentors to younger children. In addition to those responsibilities, I'll be working at the church some, although the specifics will not be worked out until I've gotten settled in.

The other NEP volunteer (she's been in Guatemala this last year!) and I will live in a small house (nicknamed "the tool shed" because of its size and appearance) on the church's property. Today I learned that there are only two volunteers this year, so it looks like I will NOT be sharing a bedroom or bathroom. I must admit that this information makes me incredibly happy since I'm an introvert and need a lot of alone time to recharge.

Part of my responsibility is also raising support--both spiritual and financial. I'm asking for prayers for wisdom, patience, and understanding as I work with junior high students for the first time. This will be 100% different from the individuals I've served the last three years as an attorney, and I suspect middle school aged children will present challenges that I've not faced while working with younger children. Should be interesting--and rewarding. I love the idea of helping to enable children with the gifts of education and faith--especially children who have not been given so many of the blessings that I enjoyed at their age.

The approximate cost of my year of service is $18,000; that amount includes housing, utilities, health insurance, a monthly stipend, etc. The general presbytery covers some of this expense as does Second Presbyterian and the agencies we serve. I am asked to raise $4,000 of this amount, and I must admit that this task is one of the more daunting parts of this process for me. I guess asking people for money, even when it is for a wonderful cause, makes me uncomfortable. Thankfully I have a lot of friends who have done this before and encourage and support me in this regard. If any of you would like to donate any money, I would certainly appreciate it. Unfortunately there isn't a quick high-tech way (i.e. credit card or Paypal), but you can send a check made payable to Second Presbyterian Church attn: NEP. Please write my name on the memo line and mail it to the following address: Second Presbyterian attn: NEP, 3511 Belmont Drive, Nashville, Tennessee 37215.

And of course, I'll be keeping you guys posted as things progress. Only one month until I get started!

p.s. I'm grateful the accountability, love, and support my best friend Nicole gives me.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Eight Things

Ryane tagged me on July 2, and I'm finally sitting down to write eight things about myself. I think I've written something along this line before, so I've been pondering what quirky things I should share. Since the stipend provided by my mission position, which begins on September 1, is only $400, I've decided to share eight ways I'm (already) cheap and/or like to save money. I encourage you to share any tips you might have since I'm going to have to get pretty creative to live on $400. Thank goodness this position also includes utilities and housing as well as health insurance. So the $400 "just" needs to cover food, gas, prescriptions, oil changes/tire rotations, etc. I figure it'll be easier and harder than I expect--all in one.

I get some of my thriftiness from my father--who has had the same mattress for at least three decades now, "saves" ice I've poured out in the sink, and refuses to order a cheeseburger because the half slice of cheese is too expensive at 25 cents (and you can get a whole slice at home for less than a dime). He also says that when you eat at Cracker Barrel "you're just paying for the name." Mind you that what I order there costs less than $5.

So here are my eight:

(1) I buy generic whenever practical. If you live where there are Kroger, you can try the Kroger brand risk free. For example, I tried the Kroger version of wheat things. Well they were gross, so I returned them; Kroger gave me both a refund and the national brand (normal Wheat Thins) for free. Score for me. Kroger brand white chocolate bark is great; Kroger brand cheese is just as good; generic sugar, flour, etc. always works fine for me too, and it's often saves me forty cents or more per item.

(2) Cosmetics: I no longer buy them at department stores and instead research them on this website. I discovered Paula Begoun when I wrote a research paper on the cosmetics industry in college. I personally think it's embarrassing how we (some women) let ourselves be tricked by these companies who promise the moon and never deliver. Imagine if women invested the money they spend on $45 bottles of foundation, $25 mascara, etc. Anyway, years ago a dermatologist told me that L'Oreal and Lancome (which I once wore) were made in the same factory but just poured into different bottles. That prompted me to look into this area more, and some research made it clear that I was just letting myself be swindled by some of these higher-end companies.

(3) Shampoo: See much of what I wrote above. I now use shampoo that costs less than $2 a bottle, and the end result is MUCH better than when I used Redken, Nexus, etc.

(4) Lotion: I am now hooked on lotion from Wal-mart. It's body butter and smells like ginger and is cheaper than even the Jergens stuff I used to use.

(5) The Library: I rarely buy books and either borrow them or check them out from the library. I've even been so cheap as to read an entire book at Barnes and Noble. That's awful, but I've only done it like once or twice. In case you've not visited the library in years, they now have DVDs and books on CDs, which is much better than giving stupid Blockbuster $5 for a video.

(6) Not going shopping/to the mall: This seems like a no-brainer, but it really isn't because a lot of us go shopping just to shop and then find things we want/need. Now that I rarely go to the mall and places like Target, I buy a lot less.

(7) Children's Vitamins: Not only do chewable children's vitamins have a nice taste, but a careful analysis of their labels sometimes reveal that they have the exact same vitamins and minerals as the more expensive adult vitamins. I like Active Kids, which is a generic sort of brand at Wal-mart.

(8) I pretty much put all of my purchases on my Air Tran Visa or Delta Skymiles card and pay them off each month. My most recent trip to Europe was with a free round-trip ticket, and I only had to pay one way for my NYC trip. I even made the "down payment" on my car with my credit card and will be paying for my Lasik enhancement-type surgery this Wednesday with a credit card (please say a prayer for me Wednesday morning!). Another good deal is a Banana Republic Luxe card as you earn $25 gift cards with your purchases at BR, Old Navy, and Gap. Plus I get free shipping.

p.s. I am thankful for the new Buckhead Church building. I attended the 11:00 service there this morning and did not have to arrive 35 minutes early to claim a seat.

Friday, July 13, 2007

It's That Time of Year


It's the time for lots of weddings and babies. Exciting!! I headed to Macon a little over a week ago for Allison's wedding; we've been in the same Bible study for two years now. It was great to catch up with lots of my friends. I feel very understood by my friends in Macon, and they are all very supportive of what I'll be doing this next year. It sort of stands in sharp contrast to my brother-in-law Billy Bob's comments a few weeks ago. Over dinner he told me several times that my choice for the next year is "stupid." From what I understand, he thinks it is dumb that I would forego making money for an entire year since I have so much education, etc. I've tried to explain that my college and law degree should not hold me back from making decisions I would otherwise but should only open doors. Oh well, thankfully not every one has to agree and understand, and regardless I feel a complete peace about my decisions.


During my visit I stayed with my friends K & M who are expecting their first baby next month. Their daughter's birth will be a good reason for me to head back to Macon one more time before I move to Nashville. It's interesting to watch them learn all of the baby stuff; there really is a lot to do and learn in anticipation.

I still remember my first (and last) visit to Babies'R'Us over seven years ago. My sister was expecting her first child, so I printed out the registry and set out to buy a few things. I quickly realized that I did not know what anything on the darn registry was and thus did not know where it was located. I should have grabbed an employee; but I can be a bit stubborn like that, so I set out to figure it all out on my own. I think I ended up purchasing something clearly labeled with "Baby Einstein" and left with a headache and desire to never return. Looking back I guess it was mainly all of the breast pump related registry items that threw me for a loop. Oddly I had that similar overwhelmed and lost feeling two weeks ago at Macy's when I was shopping off my cousin's registry. This time I asked for help right away, and no headache ensued. Much easier. Isn't it amazing how much we do without before marriage--or rather weddings? I'd never heard of a mandolin slicer until I bought my cousin one. And as a single person, I can't imagine buying china (I can't imagine registering for it either). Oh well, surely zapping things to add to a registry is more fun that shopping from one. Sort of reminds me of laser tag.

I hope everyone has a lovely weekend!!

p.s. I'm grateful for my niece Lauren; she turns 4 years old this weekend.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Loved Despite Wickedness

Once or twice during my travels with my friend Sam his perspective on certain topics made me so angry that I changed the subject and wondered why we were friends when we’re so obviously different (or so I’d like to think). I do not remember this, but Sam has reminded me that during our first semester of college I once exclaimed that he was a “narrow-minded a—hole.” And on our trip, I had similar sentiments during our discussions. The difference is that now I give more thought to why he is so judgmental and hung up on his narrow view of morality. And I pray for patience and understanding and kindness in responding to him because sometimes I just want to give him an earful of unproductive judgment in return to his statements. Ironic, I know.

On several occasions Sam shared some of his “high standards” for a prospective date, mentioning that he’d never date someone who has: ever gotten a DUI (even if it was 10 or 15 years ago), cheated on a significant other (even if it was in high school), as well as a litany of other offenses he has rendered unpardonable. Since Sam and I share the same basic faith, I think I was angrier than I would be otherwise; extend a little grace please!

And before I go on, I must admit that there was a time when (middle school) my perspective was much like Sam’s. I saw things in black and white and swore I’d never do a list of things and honestly believed I was “better” than those types of choices. Several experiences have helped me realize that things are not so simple as us moral arbitrators would like to make them. So by the time I was 16 or so, I realized that life was grayer, but I must admit that I still thought I was the sort of person who would not do certain things, i.e. cheating on a significant other, etc.

Fast forward twelve years and now I’m at a point where I realize that I am exactly the type of person who could cheat on someone or do any of the other things I thought I was incapable of doing. No, I have not actually cheated on anyone, but in college I drove drunk several times. I have lied and been selfish. So I have done things that I never thought I would, and I am glad I have because it’s knocked me down a few notches. It’s also reminded me that I must be vigilant in avoiding further transgressions. For example, someone like Sam who thinks he is incapable of infidelity will likely not be as careful in his actions as someone who realizes he’s quite susceptible to adultery.

Despite my knowledge that I’m capable of anything and completely fallen, I still constantly find myself sitting in judgment of others. “How can a parent think it’s OK to give their child fast food five times a week? If I had children, I’d never do that." And similar dialogue flow through my mind on a daily basis, reminding me that as much as I’d like to think I’m "above" the type of judgment I heard Sam spewing on our trip, I’m not.

So I’m that much more grateful that my salvation is not earned by my actions because I fall short every hour of the day. I am so glad Christ fulfilled the law for me. Tim Keller sums up my feelings more succinctly than I obviously can, saying that “I’m more wicked than I ever believed, and I’m more loved and accepted than I ever have imagined.”

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Life Looks So Different

It's been interesting to see how differently my daily activities are now that I am back in the United States and not working. Most days begin with a walk, and more days than not include time with my nieces. This morning began with time at the track with my best friend, her children, and my nieces followed by a visit to the playground. It's so hot I had to drag my nieces out of bed at 8:00 to avoid the suffocating heat.

It would seem logical that I would watch more television now that I have more free time, but I actually watch much less. In fact, other than the ocassional late night Sex & the City, I've watched almost no television at all and have skipped CNN almost every morning. I'm sure there is more to it than this, but I wonder if part of the reason I watch less is because when I was working I had too little energy to do the things I do now instead of watching television. My evenings are usually spent walking with my sister, mother, and/or nieces, and then once it's dark I read or work on my long to-do list (my move left much organization to be desired, and I want to get rid of more stuff).

Speaking of reading, it feels soooo wonderful to want to read again. I read books during law school and even during the not-so-fun Bar Exam summer of study I managed to read a book or two a week from the library. Yet shortly after I started practicing law, and my eyes began burning daily from staring at a computer while I read case after case; I lost almost all desire to read, particularly anything more than a magazine or infrequent chick-lit type book. Since reading has been a favorite activity of mine since I figured out that I could hide in my closet and read after bedtime, I missed it a lot. My current read has me all wound up about our FDA and how politized it is--which lead to numerous women's painful deaths from Fen-phen. Anyway, I digress.

I have also been blessed with leisurely time with my family, which I have not really had in years. In the last decade most visits have been a quick weekend deal or holiday, but now I'm doing things like spending a morning with my mother at Barnes & Noble. Or having my nieces over to spend the night and hang out the next day. It's delightful.

I eat more now....It's probably mainly a result of being around so much food that I'm not accustomed to having around (believe it or not, I don't keep sweets and whatnot in my apartment). My mother and sister keep all sorts of goodies around their houses with my mother's all out on a counter, which makes it very hard for me not to have a cookie, Little Debbie type cake, s'more, or other sweet. It's also funny how many invites I've gotten to eat things like Captain D's, Krystals, and whatnot. At least I can turn that down:)

I am also doing my best to adjust to not living alone, not completely having my own space (I am living in a large room at my dad's which is sort of like a studio apartment), and not having my own controlled environment. I am still not very good at sitting still and sort of have to mentally talk myself into sitting down and reading; I find that I jump from activity to activity most days. But I went to the pool the other day with a book and a few magazines and just laid there for an hour, so I'm definitely making progress.

Another upside of this free time is getting to do nice things for people. I finally got to help my best friend out the other day with her young boys; I've hated not being here during the last few years to baby-sit and give her a break from her role as a stay-at-home mom. And my nieces and I went shopping last night for goodies to make packages for a family friend in Iraq along with three guys in his troop; they chose that activity over watching the DVD I rented (and yes that made me so proud:). It's great to see how excited they are about helping others. We've made some beautiful art work for the soldiers too.

And now that I do not work I have no excuse to not go to Sunday school, so I'm attending my dad's class; I'm the youngest by at least two decades.

Oh, I'm also meeting with a trainer now! My mother won 12 visits, and she gave them to me. Maybe this will help me lose my "Europe weight." How come it is so much easier to gain weight than to lose it?!

Happy weekend everybody!!

p.s. I am thankful for the visit from my friend Sarah this week.