Monday, December 28, 2009

We Interrupt This Blog....

to share a message from my blog friend Brandy. I guess it's not much of an interruption since I haven't posted for over a month :) I have experienced the power of prayer in my own life and am, of course, glad to pass on this prayer request. I hope you all had a very merry Christmas! Thank you for reading this.

My name is brandy. And I have a blog.

And a plea.

I use my blog to showcase the crazy I meet everyday, share the stories of the kids I teach and document my love for tequila, dairy products and the abdominal muscles of Ryan Reynolds. Rarely do I talk about personal issues on my blog- as personal as the dude that I adore (who I actually met through my blog- single ladies, let that be a very good reason to blog, the possibility of meeting someone as wonderful as my man), but I need your help. And it involves my dude.

He's a guy who made math comics for my class, so they would love learning about addition. He's the kinda guy who sends my friends gift cards when they are having hard times, who remembers every story I ever told him, who was the first person I celebrated with when I got a teaching job. He's the guy who sent flowers to me at school- dozens of my favourite pink roses just because he loves me. He's a guy who has spent a year patiently explaining (and re-explaining) everything there is to know about football during the important games when silence is preferred. He's made me word puzzles and comics and stayed up late playing Scrabble with me (even though I beat him almost every time). He's listened to me cry about school and family and jobs. He is everything I never knew I needed and everything I always knew I wanted.

The holidays have hit us hard. He's recently been told he may have something called multiple myeloma- an incurable cancer, that gives a person an average of five years of continued life. Though this news has came as a shock, he continues to be exactly who has always been- spending his time worrying about me, rather than worrying about himself. He's the most selfless individual I know- (he stayed late on Christmas Eve to work, so his co-workers could leave early) and a post like this would never be something that he would promote or encourage but when I'm overwhelmed and feeling helpless, the blogging community has always given me tremendous support and comfort, two things I desperately need at this time.

As I write this, the future is uncertain and we aren't sure what's happening. He'll need to see an oncologist soon, to verify what's going on in his body. My hope is that everyone who reads this think positive thoughts and if you are a person who prays, could you add him to your list? (You can refer to him as 'brandy's hot awesome dude'). If you don't pray, please keep him in your heart.This cancer is only a possibility and I believe that the prayers and positive thoughts of people can make sure it never becomes a reality.

I want to give a big thank you to the blog owner who scraped their original blog plans and graciously put this up. My goal is to get as many people as possible to see and read this post. If you are reading this and want to help, copy and paste my plea into your blog or send a link through twitter, so more people can keep him in their thoughts. I would be so very grateful (even more grateful than I am to my friend who first showed me the picture of Ryan Reynolds on the cover of Entertainment Weekly. If you haven't seen it, google it. You. Are. Welcome).

I realize this all sounds dramatic, a Lifetime movie in the making- but this is life. Right now. And I'm throwing away any hint of ego and am humbly asking for you to pray or think kind thoughts. If you are able to pass this on, thank you and if you know anything regarding MM- please email me (my email is on my blog). This isn't a call for sympathy or a plea for pity. It's just one girl hoping you can think positive thoughts for the person she adores. If my current heartache provides you with anything, let it be with the reminder that life is short, love is unbending and no one knows what could happen next. Maybe it is silly, but I really do believe that positive thoughts can make a huge difference. Thank you for reading this and if you haven't already? Please tell someone you love them today.

I did.

p.s. I'm grateful for the hope of the season of Christmas...a Savior born in a manger...the promise of eternal life...and the joy of knowing a Father who never lets me down.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

This & That....

It's almost the end of November, so I figured it might be time for my monthly blog post. I hope you're having a great fall and as excited as I am by the four day weekend, time with family, and yummy food. Here are some random thoughts:

Thanks to my boss I tried (for free) the new Starbucks creme brulee caramel latte. The whip cream and caramel brulee bits were delicious, but the actual latte wasn't very good.

I had brie with jam wrapped in phyllo last night. It was DELICIOUS.

We saw this ad the other day, and Clay thought it was awesome. Maybe you will too.


Here are some excerpts from a recent deposition of one of my clients:

Opposing counsel: "Do you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes?"

My client: "Well the doctor told me to quit eating those sweet Little Debbies." [Ah, gotcha, you totally answered that question]

My client: [From out of nowhere during a break] My lawyer here, she's a good looking woman. She's like a movie star or something, isn't she?

Opposing counsel: [Blank stare. Then states:] "Let's get that on the record."

My client constantly compliments me on what a fine lawyer I am, how I am good looking and shouldn't live alone because I need someone to keep me warm on cold nights, etc. He's evidently read that flattery (or his version of it) will get you better service. That is, until the other day when he asked me if the opposing counsel and/or insurance company had bribed me to do their dirty work. Sigh.

Recent Facebook status update from a girl I went to high school with:

"Life is good, God is great and men are sleezy. I am going to take a bubble bath and think about how truly blessed I am I don't have to come home to a man. I am free! Good God Almighty Free at last...."

p.s. I am thankful for a relaxed weekend with no working responsibilities, good books to read, time with my nieces, spending my first major holiday with Clay, and that my sister's third daughter should be here two months from now.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cupcakes, Bagels, Honey Pecan Chicken Salad, and Smarties

I often think of my life as being full of phases and not surprisingly they often involve food....the year I craved salmon Caesar salad and baked potatoes almost daily or the semesters I ate huge bags of Smarties or most recently my fondness for cupcakes. I've been hoping for a healthy eating phase to begin any day now, but it's definitely like swimming upstream. I'll make fruit smoothies for breakfast for a few days but then skip a day or two because a Power Bar or Panera cinnamon crunch bagel seems easier, quicker, or yummier. But good news!! Clay bought a fabulous grill (so easy that I could even use it), which has taken residence on my balcony. In five days we've grilled three times, which means that I'm eating chicken and other sources of nutrients instead of cupcakes, fluffernutters, and the like.

Other new developments include a fondness for the following: Miley Cyrus' "Party in the U.S.A." (although the video is disturbing), early bedtimes and sometimes as much as 9 hours of sleep each night, Clay's DVR which is conveniently set to record such masterpieces as "The Hills" and "Brothers & Sisters," and the Holy Bible iphone app that makes reading the Bible in bed even easier.

So what's new with you? Has anyone else started Christmas shopping yet? I bought my first gift today.

p.s. I'm grateful for chimichangas, calzones, burnt hot dogs, sesame sticks, Coca Cola, and the ease with which I'm able to acquire food. We're so blessed.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Out with the Old (Relationships), In with the New (Relationship)

In the last few months, I've learned some good lessons about building a solid foundation for a relationship. I tend toward the conservative in theory when it comes to these sorts of issues ("wide margins"), but in practice, I've let remnants of past relationships continue to linger.

For example, until recently I still had hundreds of photographs on my computer of ex-boyfriends. I never look at the photos; they serve no purpose whatsoever. Yet I've never taken the time to delete them. And really I'd never given any thought to doing so until I asked about a photo album in Clay's closet. He had to look to even know what was in it. It was photographs of his ex-fiancee and him from years ago, and I didn't like how it made me feel. And it made me think about how Clay would feel if he ran across the photographs, cards, letters, etc. that I've held onto for years from various ex-boyfriends. Granted most are in boxes at my dad's house ("storage"), but they aren't things I need to hold onto as I move forward.

Similarly until recently I've talked to Carter when he calls each month or so. While our conversations involve nothing inappropriate and I enjoy chatting with Carter, it doesn't feel wise to continue investing in a friendship with an ex-boyfriend. And it doesn't seem like the best way for me to care for Clay and our relationship.

It's cost me very little to make these changes/deletions; it's just taken a little effort and time, which is absolutely well worth it to help build a healthy relationship that leaves less room for insecurity and doubt.

p.s. I'm grateful for a weekend filled with time with my family and a growing friendship with my secretary.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What I'm Learning: Community

I've been cleaning up my Google documents and ran across something I wrote about two years ago and wanted to share part of it. It's a lesson that has been reinforced by my friendships in Chattanooga and as I've learned to give others the opportunity to serve me instead of always being too prideful to be anything other than self-reliant. Here's an excerpt of what I wrote during my time at Preston Taylor Ministries:

I am learning to depend on Christ in a way that I didn't think I needed to before--after all, it was easier in a middle class lifestyle with a safe home, generous pay check, and established routine to not depend on Him as much, feeling pretty self-sufficient. It's funny how a $400 a month paycheck, new environment and church home, and job in the 'hood made me remember very quickly who I need to depend on on a hourly basis.

Through this experience, I am learning how much I need others....their prayers, understanding, and love. I have been so humbled and blessed by an outpouring of encouragement, love, and support over the last few months; it feels very special to be a part of this community of believers.

I am learning what community really looks like as I watch two single moms combine forces and live together in order to just get by; or a single mom of three children take on two more upon their mother's death; or my new church family host nine homeless people every Wednesday night throughout the winter with people taking the time to really love and know the these individuals.

And I've realized how different this type of service in community is than just handing over a used coat or money--while handing over a coat is satisfying and helpful, it doesn't give us the opportunity to be transformed by Christ through those we are serving. In order to be transformed by Christ and in His image we desperately need community and relationships. Our creator made us for both.

In addition to increased prayer and reliance on Christ, I am seeing Him in the most unexpected places and people.

One example is Rick, one of the drug dealers who hangs out on our street. A few weeks ago a staff member's husband came to get something out of the building for her late at night. Rick confronted him, with a hand gun and all, wanting him to identify himself and explain why he was on Preston Taylor Ministries' property. Sure the husband was afraid and Rick's means might not be ideal, but Rick's immediate presence helped explain why our building has never been broken into, covered with graffiti, or otherwise messed with.

And if God can provide protection for His work and His kingdom through a gun toting drug dealer and redeem his actions, then surely He can use us for His kingdom too.

p.s. I'm grateful for friends like Chasie who encourage me to do wild and crazy things like try long layers instead of just getting my usual trim :) And so grateful for my friend Casey's wedding (and marriage) on Saturday.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Best Case Scenario

I'm not sure exactly why, but on Sunday it struck me that I never wonder if the best case scenario of a situation, specifically a romantic relational situation such as my relationship with Clay, will play out in the best possible way. Instead I wonder "what if he isn't who he says he is?" or "how could he possibly be this crazy about me if he really knew me?"

I never think "what if he's as fantastic as I think he is, and we're totally right for each other?"

It's as if I am mentally preparing for the worst case scenario, bracing myself, so that somehow it won't hurt if things don't work out. And in doing so, I'm denying myself the full joy of the present. It's a dumb, pessimistic way to live, and as I was doing my Bible study this weekend, I realized it was a failure to trust that the Lord will protect and comfort me and ultimately use all things for my good and His glory. My experience has shown me that God is always faithful, yet I try to preemptively protect myself. And in addition, to denying myself the fun, excitement, and hope that life offer, it makes it challenging for Clay to fully invest in our relationship. Sometimes he feels like I'm looking for a flaw and just waiting to be disappointed. And he's right.

Funny, I wrote a similar post about 18 months ago, and in reading that post and reflecting on how I felt then, I see that I'm making progress in this regard. And I'm reminded of how easy and mostly joy-filled this relationship with Clay is. It amazes me that I can spend so much time with him and not have my introverted, irritated ways come out at all. I feel so blessed. Yet another reason to be more hopeful, imagine the best case scenario, and be intentional about delighting in the Lord and trusting that He is in control and loves me more than I can fathom.

p.s. I'm grateful for my Bible study group.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Good Laugh


I don't usually turn to Amazon reviews for laughter, but hey, I'll take it where I can get it.

Reviews #1 & 3 are my favorite so far.

p.s. I'm grateful that I'm going to Destin this weekend with my friend Chasie. I'm ready for a vacation! Yeah for a four day weekend! What are you grateful for today?

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Quite the Summer

Life has felt overly busy and stressful of late, leaving me feeling distinctly non-blogorific. It's really been quite the summer--with some real bright spots amidst a lot of stressful not-fun stuff. My mom is sorting through my grandparents' estates, and I've been helping with that as much as I can. It's a TON of work; I wish there was some way to take that burden off of her, so she could just grieve.

I'm finally back to normal health-wise, which is such an answered prayer. I'm definitely much weaker fitness wise though, so for now, I'm mainly just walking a few days a week. Hoping to get back in the gym routine soon, although I do sort of like not being ravenous all the time, which is how I feel when I run a lot. Unfortunately I got the lab bill from my illness, and it's almost $800. Sigh.

I'm really swamped and feel so behind at work; yet again I'm struggling with work/life balance and setting boundaries.

The Lord is reminding me that I'll continually need to rely on Him--as I struggle with some of the same sins over and over. Sometimes I wish I could just strike a few off the list :)

On the bright side:

My sister planned a great 6th birthday party for my niece...complete with a huge water slide-slip and slide-end in a pool inflatable. So fun!

My (great) Aunt Rene turned 90! She's such a blessing to my family.

I'm still crazy about Clay and enjoying my time with him immensely.

I'm going to see Counting Crows in concert on Tuesday. Last week I saw William Fitzsimmons in concert, and Clay just bought us tickets for Ray LaMontagne.

Last weekend I saw two of my favorite people...Allison & Chasie came to visit.

So on a thoughtful note, what lessons (serious, funny, or otherwise) have you learned this summer? I've learned that even when things seem sucky, there's still such an incredible amount to praise God for that it's astounding. I've also (re)learned how yummy margaritas are. And I'm working on learning how to hope more fully.

p.s. I'm grateful for my blogger friends. I know this blog world seems crazy to a lot of people, but I'm glad for you all.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

"It's Just Like You'd Said It Would Be"

"Lord Jesus Christ, I admit that I am weaker and more sinful than I ever before believed, but, through you, I am more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope. I thank you for paying my debt, bearing my punishment and offering forgiveness. I turn from my sins and receive you as Savior. Amen."

This is my prayer today but lifted from Tim Keller.

p.s. I'm grateful for answered prayers. My mom called this morning, and my grandfather stopped breathing last night. He's non-responsive and on a respirator now, but they'll remove it soon; he's expected to die within minutes of doing so. My prayer through all of this with Papa has been for the Lord's mercy, and I feel like God has answered that prayer with this peaceful, calm death for Papa. Praise God; He is so faithful.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

"Now if she does it like this, will you do it like that?"

* "Shake It" by Metro Station has been on repeat for the last week. I can't help but dance.

* I think Clay and I have been on about 25 dates now, and it's been 90 days since our first date. He's crazy thoughtful and kind--flowers for no reason Monday night, a happy day card under my windshield wipers this morning (we're neighbors), and last week while he was in Vegas he asked me to look in the cabinet above his coffee maker--voila, a jar of peanut butter, a jar of marshmallow fluff, a 4th of July card, and Starbucks caramel macchiato truffles. He's been a real bright spot in what's been a less than ideal summer, and I'm really grateful for him.

* The lab results were negative for bacteria and parasites. I am, however, still getting sick several times most days. I thought I was on the mend after having two good days, but then my symptoms came back. I'm calling the doctor tomorrow to see what the next step is and am trying not to be too whiny about it since in the grand scheme this is so incredibly minor. It may sound dumb, but I'm so tired of not wanting to eat (b/c I know I'll get sick) and not being able to work out (b/c I think it's a bad idea given how often I get sick); those are typically two of my favorite things to do :)

* I booked a round trip ticket to Los Angeles today (for $200) to meet Ella who I've known through the blogosphere for 3 years now! Exciting! I'll head out her way in mid-September.

* I'm finally reading The Shack.

* My grandfather is still in cardiac-ICU and stable but obviously not doing well.

* My sister is pregnant with baby #3, and I'm so excited. So are my nieces. Can't wait to meet this baby; due date is in January though, so we've got a while.

p.s. I'm grateful for Panera cinnamon crunch bagels with honey walnut cream cheese and *peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwiches on white bread grilled in butter; somehow these two meals don't seem to make me sick and sound appetizing.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cupcakes, Parasites, and Sunshine

Warning: If you're squeamish or say "TMI" a lot, you may not want to read this post.

It's been a crazy month with lots of good and not so-good things. As you guys know, my grandmother unexpectedly died a month ago. A week later I left for Nicaragua for two weeks. While I was in Nicaragua, I was sick for three days with diarrhea, and my grandfather (the widow) was admitted to the hospital and ultimately placed in cardiac ICU. When I returned from Nicaragua I tried working for two days, accomplishing little with constant calls and updates about my grandfather (and I drafted a will and various documents for him), so I headed to Macon to spend two nights there and be with my mom and aunt and visit with Papa. It was wonderful to be with them, and although I'm not paid when I take time off from work, I am so grateful to have a job where I can take time off to take care of much more important things. As for Papa, long story short he ended up having open heart surgery (and surprisingly surviving it thus far) and is currently stable.

My birthday: When I left my loft at 7:30 I found flowers and a beautiful box of a dozen cupcakes from my favorite bakery--Gigi's which just happens to be two hours away in Nashville--outside my door. Delighted, I headed back inside to begin tasting the assortment and packing up a few for my office. That evening Clay gave me a card and gift card to a spa; needless to say he really helped start my day off right. That night some friends, Clay, and I had dinner, then joined another friend on my roof for a delicious dessert she'd made for me, complete with singing, candles, and a Spanish birthday card involving a hamster.

Unfortunately my birthday marked the day the Nica sickness returned in full force, and I've been pretty constantly sick since then. Last night was so miserable that I made a doctor's appointment and am now doing a three day stool study, which is every bit as fun as it sounds, to determine if I have a parasite or bacteria. Please pray that it's bacteria because a parasite will be much more difficult to treat and get rid of (plus it's super gross to think about).

p.s. I am thankful for my Dad who I didn't do a very good job of celebrating this year but love very much. I'm also grateful for sunshine and the above-ground pool on my roof. It's such a perfect way to spend an afternoon.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Birthday Girl

Hi everyone— I am Ally’s friend Allison, also known as A2, and I am hijacking Ally’s blog to wish her a HAPPY BIRTHDAY. I knew that all of Ally’s faithful readers would want to know that today is her birthday and have a chance to leave some fun birthday comments.

Ally is a dear friend of mine. I have known her for about a year and a half, and I am so thankful that God brought her into my life. I admire the way she lives out her faith every day with sincerity and enthusiasm. Ally has a love for life and people. She lives with an energy and spontaneity that draws people to her. As you all know, she is an excellent communicator. Her blog posts always bring a smile to my face.

Ally, thanks for being an amazing friend, blogger and person. I know that God has great things in store for you this year. I love you—thank you for being my friend!

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.


Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10

P.S. Ally usually ends with a “grateful P.S.” On that note, I am sure Ally is grateful for the fun birthday surprise left at her doorstep this morning. I will let her share more about that later…since I want to hear the story too!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Processing

I wish life had a pause button, so I could have ample time to reflect and process without missing anything new. I've yet to take the time to adequately formulate my thoughts on my time in Nicaragua. I know I'm glad I went, but I want to think through some things before I say much more than that. My grandfather (who was widowed a few weeks ago) has been in the hospital in Macon since last week and is in intensive care, and I returned to work today after being gone 15 days...and am contemplating heading south to see him. Life feels really busy...and full...and good. God is providing all around me, and I'm grateful that I see that.

On Friday each child received a Jolly Rancher, and the little girl in the photograph with me came running to find me--and handed her Jolly Rancher to me. That may not sound like a big deal, but in this community children never receive candy (or much of anything material). She was so glad to have something to share, and it made me wish that I had a heart of that sort of gratitude, rushing to share something I've received instead of holding it so closely--finding more joy in having something to give to others than in possessing something new.

This is the pastor of the local church and his wife Lorena; this is how they get to the closet town with a store. Their daughter often rides on the same bike with them.



p.s. I'm grateful for friends...friends who welcome me back so warmly, who want to hear about my experience, who take papers to the hospital for my grandfather when I can't, who ask me personal questions because they care and want to help my grow in my faith, who text me randomly, and who obviously love me.

Friday, June 05, 2009

One look at you and I can't disguise....

Child's Day was a lot of fun, and the children begged me to take their photographs. I was happy to oblige. They're beautiful, especially when dancing (and man, they can shake it) and hitting the pinata.

My teacher and I had my lesson in the afternoon and traveled by miserably hot public bus to Playa del Coco, which was so beautiful that I managed to get over the hour long ride. I must admit that I've wished I were home. I am pretty exhausted most of the time--probably from the constant heat and sweating. With that being said, I think coming a week early and learning about the culture, history, and language of Nicaragua was a good idea...for the most part, and now that I'm with my team I feel renewed. I'm sure my first shower with hot water in over a week helped...and bed with non-scratchy sheets and just being able to leave my valuables unlocked in my suitcase. I'm excited about meeting the folks in the village who we've been praying for and wanting to meet for months. Today we're visiting an orphanage, which is a first for me.

In case you're wondering, I'd recommend Nicaragua for an adventure but probably not for a vacation unless you want to shell out a good bit of money for American-priced hotels and transportation. Of course, if you're with other people, it's much easier to afford since you can split the costs, etc. It's definitely not for the faint of heart.

Happy domingo amigas!

Today's lyrics are courtesy of the Managua airport, which I sat in for about 6 hours yesterday waiting for various team member flights and readaing Blink.

p.s. I'm happy for huge waves, avocados almost as big as my head, chubby babies, and all the other beautiful things created by God.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

"It's been seven hours and fifteen days since you took your love away"

Yesterday I completed my very first Crossfit WOD (workout of the day) at the nearby gym Buena Vida Fitness Centre, which has no a/c and rendered me a completely sweaty, red-faced mess (Cici my face was redder than yours has ever been!). I bought a three day pass for $12, which is a bit expensive, but I really miss exercising and feel like running on the streets here would garner even more unwanted attention. Plus I've seen that crazy guy twice and don't want any more run-ins with him. Despite the heat, the gym seems great, and the owner walked me through the exercises, which was super helpful since I likely would have flaked out without the attention.

San Juan del Sur has ended up being a great little beach town to spend this week (sort of the third world version of Tarifa, Spain), and I´m grateful for the hours with my tutor and to do homework and relax by the pool.My tutor has continued to inform me of all sorts of things, covering sex, among other things, today. Tonight I ran into my Canadian friend at a restaurant on the beach, and we enjoyed some Nicaraguan dancing and music. Tomorrow morning I´m going with my teacher to the local public school for a fiesta....to celebrate Child´s Day (sort of like Mother´s Day I guess), then I´ll try to sit through three hours of tutoring; but the heat is so intense that you really need to be near a fan or a/c, which my school doesn´t have, or in the swimming pool. Maybe I can convince my teacher to join me at the pool. Hopefully this week will prepare me for next week (when we´ll be outside all day in a small village doing everything from construction to playing with children).

I´ve been thinking about my favorite things about Nica, and the colorfulness of the buildings--and even garbage bags--sticks out. I mean why have a brown garbage bag when it could be hot pink, right?

In other news, Clay and I have been g-chatting and emailing every day, and I miss him. Thankfully he won´t be gone the week after I return after all, but it looks like he´ll be in Asia for most of July. Oh well, absence seems to be making the heart grow fonder.

Remember today´s lyrics? Sinnead O´Connor brought to you courtesy of a pizza place here in San Juan del Sur.

p.s. I´m grateful for the delicious shrimp ceviche I had for dinner. It´s Pedro´s, the boy I sponsor through Compassion International, favorite meal, so I wanted to have it Central American style to get a better idea of what he loves so much.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

"Honey came in & she caught me red-handed"

Tutoring began yesterday, and it was a lot of information! I am enjoying learning about Nicaraguan government, history, and culture. I spent two hours doing homework yesterday...only to learn this morning that I'd done my homework for the entire week! Oh well...fortunately I brought a great workbook.

Entonces yesterday I made a brilliant discovery! There's a really nice, expensive hotel here called Piedras & Ojos that stands in sharp contrast to my hotel--Hotel Joxi,which costs $15 a night and includes a private bathroom, bed with scratchy sheets, insects, and fan and a/c. Unlike my modest lodgings, Piedras & Ojos has a pool or three. So I climbed up the hill yesterday to check it out. I felt obliged to buy a Coca Cola Light and spent two hours at the pool. I headed back today for my first good meal since arriving here (most of the restaurants here are catering to cheap tourists and serve nachos, pizza, etc.) and spent almost four hours beside the infinity pool. It's clean, safe, and I don't have to worry about waking up to find a man standing above me, trying to sell me stuff. So yeah for relaxation!

Today's lyrics are from Marie's Bar where I had the worst nachos of my life. Marie's Soda, however,makes their tortillas on the spot, thus serving some super yummy nachos. I've yet to find my beloved plantains but vow to do so before leaving San Juan del Sur.

p.s.I am so grateful to have three hours a day with a Nicaraguan tutor. I can (and have) asked her all sorts of random questions. I learned today,for example, that the president's wife does not shave under her arms and has quite a bit of hair there--and that the machistos really like it. Tomorrow she's taking me to the local school to check it out, and I'm taking them the supplies my mom bought for me to share. Fun!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

"Put your hand in my hand baby, don't ever look back"

Today's lyrics are brought to you compliments of a bus that is a slight step above a "chicken bus" in the Nicaragua transport system.

Nicaragua is bright, colorful, sticky, and relaxed. I´ve yet to bathe (correctly figuring there was no point) and am glad for all of the baby wipes my mom packed in my bag. I was so squished on the last bus I took that at one point that I thought I was going to get sick, then a guy groped my butt several times before I realized what he was doing. All of that being said, I am grateful I didn´t take the shuttle and soaked in all of the nuances of the culture here. I mean...who knows if the shuttle would have been playing Richard Marx, Roxette, Starship, and Lionel Richie? At some of the stops vendors would squish through those of us standing in the aisle, propping goods on their heads. If you order a drink, they pull out a plastic bag with ice in it and dump the bottled drink in the bag, tie the top of it, and insert a straw. I guess it´s a bit like the concept of a Capri Sun. They looked yummy, but I´d been warned about the water and feared the ice consumption.

I gave up that fear, however, to have a pina colada after I had a really scary experience near the beach in San Juan del Sur. I ventured out with my mom's very expensive, fabulous camera around my neck, which I will not do again, and as I neared the end of the main drag a white guy started screaming at me in English and Spanish. He called me a "puta" repeatedly, which is the Spanish word for "whore" and that was just the beginning of the nastiness. He told me how he'd rape me, etc. I ignored him completely, and he finally stopped walking.

Other than him and the groper on the bus, I've met some lovely people. I chatted with a sweet Nicaraguan lady on my first bus. At a middle of nowhere sort of bus stop, I met Alberto while I waited. He was a blessing because he fought off all the taxi drivers. Alberto is an aspiring English speaker, so we had about 20 minutes to practice our respective second languages with each other. On my last leg of the journey I invited a couple to join me in my cab. Turns out the girl was recently in a new friend's wedding! Yep, the husband sat next to me at game night on Friday, and 48 hours later I'm setting next to one of the bridesmaids from his wedding in a cab in Nicaragua. It's a small world.

p.s. I'm grateful that I had so many opportunities to use my Spanish today, had some beach time, and have had much desired reading time.

"It was all that I wanted, now I'm living without"

It is 5:20 a.m. and already daylight here in Managua. I arrived around 9 p.m. last night after uneventful travel, although I did feel really anxious on the way to the airport. I ended up bringing a bit of work with me and being reminded several times over the past few days of what I hate about litigation. So much of it is unpredictable, and of course, it and deadlines stop for no one. But my anxiety seemed more related to visiting somewhere new--alone. I guess some of what I have read about the frequency of thefts here and the importance of being hyper-vigilant combined with my lack of preparedness and really just the adventure of a trip like this when traveling and planning alone rendered me a bit nervous on the drive to the airport.

Thankfully I arranged a shuttle from my hostel before arriving in Nicaragua, so I was greeted by a young boy holding a sign with my name after grabbing my bags (note I had to check 2 bags simply to avoid exceeding the 50 pound weight limit...oh well at least now they are combined into one). The shuttle was $15 and well worth it, especially since it was dark when I arrived. My private single room (without a restroom unfortunately) at Managua Backpackers Inn is perfectly adequate (with free internet and a fan in my room that made it cool enough), and Michael here has been very helpful. He arranged a cab to pick me up in a few hours to travel to the microbus station where I will arrange transportation to San Juan del Sur. I am generally not a taxi taking sort of person, but everything I have read about Managua has convinced me not to walk or take the bus.

Recognize the lyric? It´s what the shuttle driver was listening to on our ride.

p.s. I am glad my anxiety was fleeting and that I have enough adventurous spirit to do things like this. I realized last night what a gift it is to experience so many new things in just a few hours.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Ducks Are Not in a Row

I leave for Nicaragua in about 36 hours and am pretty much unprepared, unpacked, and overwhelmed. I have a zillion things to do before I leave the office today and am operating on about four hours of sleep. Isn't it nice to know that, one way or another, things will work out? And that despite a long to-do list I will somehow make it to game night tonight because lets face it I'd rather give up sleep than game night with friends. Plus this is Clay's opportunity to see my obnoxious competitive game night side.

Speaking of which, I think last night was date #11. He cooked for the third time per my request, and it was great (and my very first time eating a fish taco). I'm still surprised by how much I like Clay and enjoy being with him. He's just really easy, fun company and being with him is exciting and comfortable at the same time. I don't think I've written much about him, so if you have any questions, feel free to ask. He's very bright & well read, a great conversationalist, disciplined and focused (including with his relatively new Christian faith and fitness), thoughtful (gave me a "happy day" gift--Lonely Planet's guide for Nicaragua), a fantastic communicator (I know how he feels and where he stands), is funny, and an easy date (he's come to two get-togethers with me and requires no attention--mingling with my friends with ease). He also has a mullet wig and great taste in music (and can sit and listen with me for hours instead of watching a movie).

We'll see if distance makes the heart grow fonder as I'll be in Nicaragua for two weeks, then he leaves a day after I get back for a week. Then we're both going to be out of town for a long weekend. So I guess we'll catch up with each other in July :)

I arrive in Nica on Saturday night, and on Sunday morning I'll travel to San Juan del Sur by bus (saving about $37 by not taking a shuttle) and start daily meeting with a Spanish tutor on Monday. Hoping that my Spanish comes back with a vengeance and that I learn new vocabulary rapidly, so that I won't need to use a translator the next week (during the mission trip in a small village with a group from my church).

p.s. I'm grateful for your encouraging words and prayers over the last week. My family is doing as well as can be expected, but now that the funeral and arrangements are behind us, I imagine my grandfather, mom, and aunts' grief will really kick in.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Bit Surreal

So which would you rather read first? Good news or bad news? If you want bad news first, read part 1 first. If you want good news first, read part 2 first.

Part 1

Bad news isn't what I'd call this, but I guess most people would. Long story short: My maternal grandmother unexpectedly and pretty suddenly died yesterday. She was at the public library when she fell to the ground and most likely had a heart attack; she died within the hour at the nearby hospital. Thankfully I was working at home yesterday, which made it easier to make/take multiple phone calls and to just cry and grieve. It feels surreal to know that she's gone and that when I get to Woodland tomorrow that she won't be there.

I think it's sort of cool that it happened at the library because (1) it spared my grandfather (who isn't in good health at all) from seeing it and (2) the library was one of her favorite places. When I stayed with her in the summer we'd always go together and stay up really late reading each night. She adored reading. I'm also glad it was quick and painless. But I easily find the most comfort in my knowledge that my Grandma has accepted Christ as her Savior and knew that she was saved by His grace alone and not by any of the good things she had done (not the least of which was teaching high school math in a very rough high school and serving as a faithful Sunday school teacher).

Part 2

I think I was just kidding...I'll write about dates/outings #s 5, 6, 7, 8, & 9 later. I'm worn out and headed over three hours south tomorrow for visitation and then Grandma's funeral on Sunday.

p.s. I'm grateful that Grandma died now and not while I'm in Nicaragua. I'm grateful that my mom is surrounded by people who love her. I'm grateful that I have a King who adores me, cares for me, and can comfort my Papa. I'm grateful that I called Grandma two weeks ago and talked longer than I really wanted to after a long day of work. I'm grateful that we'd had specific conversations about her faith. And I'm grateful she was my Grandma.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

And The Winner Is...

So my official time was 37:56, which I actually learned on Wednesday when Accidentally Me graciously admitted that she had not actually "guessed" as required.* Two other commenters also confessed using some internet resources, so they are also disqualifed.

Given those two exclusions, the winner is (drum roll please) Jennifer with a guess of 37:33. Nice work!! So what's it going to be? Shall I send sweets or music? If sweets....cookies, cupcakes (I'm thinking frosting would need to be in a separate container and not cream cheese...which leaves buttercream, peanut butter, chocolate, marshmallow, or a combination of any or all of these or anything you can dream up), buckeyes, Oreo bark, Oreo truffles, chess squares. The options are almost endless!

In other news, date # 4 with Clay was a good time. We grilled out, and if someone would cook dinner for me, I'd eat healthy every night! Tilapia, bell peppers, pineapple, corn, zucchini, and a yummy salad. So date # 5 is Saturday evening.

* While I did not specifically state in the game announcing post that internet sleuthing was not permitted, the word "guess" means to predict without sufficient information. I know you guys all know how to use the internet; I wanted to see how close you could guess by chance, calculation, etc. Next time I'll have you guess my time before I run the race :)

Random aside: Why does Krispy Kreme not glaze it's chocolate covered creme filled doughnuts?

Alright, time to meet with a client. Thank you guys for playing. It was run to read your guesses.

p.s. I'm grateful I was able to finally see my oldest niece (and step-niece) play softball last night. Yeah for living closer to family!

Monday, May 11, 2009

You Could Be the Lucky Winner


The Rescues' "Break Me Out" has been on repeat for the last two weeks or so, and the song pretty well got me through the road race I ran on Saturday morning. Why did I think running four miles on a hilly mountain at 8 a.m. would be fun? It was my first road race in about six years, and I never seemed to catch my breath and had a side stitch for the first time in ages. There was no mile marker for mile two, so I kept running, thinking I still wasn't half-way through which really psyched me out. Starting my Saturday with my friend CC was really fun though, and afterward I went to a yoga class (thanks to a free one week pass...paying $14/class wouldn't fit in my budget) for 75 minutes at a for-real yoga studio (as opposed to yoga at the gym where you can hear the blaring music and weirdos can watch you through the window). Very chill and calming. Tomorrow I'm trying hot yoga...100+ degrees. Should be interesting.

Saturday I baked for over three hours for our Mother's Day lunch and created something delicious....chocolate cupcake slathered with marshmallow cream and topped with peanut butter frosting. Crazy good combo.

Speaking of sheer yumminess, the other day I made caramel cheese cream frosting for the first time for a baby shower at my place, and it was so sweet it almost burned. I highly recommend the recipe.

Saturday night was the third date with my neighbor Clay. We went to a wonderful restaurant that was new to me and ate outside, sitting for several hours and just talking. Then we made the mistake of renting an inappropriate third date movie: The Reader. The first half was pretty much just a woman in her mid-30s (Kate Winslet) having sex with a 16 year old boy over and over. I could opine further, but I'll refrain. As soon as the sex stuff started, Clay asserted that "for the record" I'd chosen the movie. Sunday when I got back from church I found a book I wanted to borrow and note outside my door--fun surprise. Funny, we just now exchanged phone numbers. Date #4 is on Wednesday; we're grilling out.

Sunday my family had a great Mother's Day lunch at my sister's house, and she made super cute fruit kebobs. It was fun to be with my nieces, and I watched another mediocre movie with my mom (Nights in Rodanthe) that night.

So wanna play a game? Whoever comes the closest to guessing my time for the 4 mile road race gets a prize. And lets make the prize cupcakes/cookies/sweets of your choice or for more healthy people some great music. You have until Friday at 9 a.m. to guess.

p.s. I'm grateful that I'm working at home tomorrow and can chill/work on my sofa, at a coffee shop, or on my balcony.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Two Second Dates....

Last Thursday I had my second date with MJ. I had a good time and still think he's a great guy, but we see to lack chemistry. I just don't care if we go out again. He emailed me the next day, but I've yet to respond. Since there weren't any questions in the e-mail and I don't want to respond, I think it's okay not to respond. I figure unless he asks me out again, there's nothing to address, right?

Last week my neighbor (lets call him "Clay") wrote, saying that we should grab dinner soon. While I had fun on our first date, I was concerned about two red flags. But I like Clay and am attracted to him (attraction tends to be unfortunately elusive on my end for some weird reason I attribute to pheromones), so I decided a week night date would be ok (my dating logic, or lack thereof, knows no bounds). Plus I invited our neighbors to join us since it was Cinco de Mayo, which he was a good sport about. We ended up having an hour or more together before my friends/neighbors showed up, and I realized that I enjoy his company too much to not reconsider. He's fun, funny, and intelligent, and it seems that one of the red flags may have resolved itself and that (no surprise) I may have been a little quick to judge. So proceeding cautiously. He asked me out for this weekend, so we'll see.

Oh weird side note, in my post about my first date with neighbor Clay I referenced feeling like he'd slipped a Ruffie in my drink (because I was having so much trouble keeping my eyes open), and oddly he joked about having done so and that I'd handled it well. Odd coincidence.

In other news, the prom preparation and photography were a lot of fun. Here are some of the photographs.

p.s. I'm grateful for being healthy, strong, and able to take the stairs.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Vote for Pedro

The pastor of the church I worshiped at in Nashville recently went to India with Compassion International. During his trip he posted the following anonymous exchange on his blog, and it's been on my mind ever since:

“Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it.”

“Well, why don’t you ask Him?”

“Because I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.”

It's easy to ponder this sort of question and then shove it into the back of my mind, but one simple and easy way I'm trying to make a difference is through Compassion International. I've been skeptical of organizations that promise to use my money for children in other countries, wondering how much would be used for administrative costs and how much would actually benefit the alleged child. Last year, however, a blogger who I trust really looked into Compassion, how it works, etc. and whole-heartedly endorsed the organization. His investigation extinguished my objections, and I no longer had a reason (or excuse) not to sponsor a child. So I began sponsoring Pedro who lives in Peru. Pedro is 14 years old, likes soccer and ceviche, and his favorite subjects are art and social studies.

I am honored to correspond with Pedro and be a part of his life, and it's only $32 a month to help provide him with food, clean water, an education, health care--and perhaps most importantly--hope. Isn't it incredible that we're so wealthy that we can help provide so much for a child simply by eating out three fewer times this month?

Click here if you'd like to see some of the children waiting for sponsors.

p.s. I'm grateful for the Chattanooga Market. Sunday was Latin Day, and there were adorable children dancing, yummy burritos, and cheap fresh strawberries.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Puppies, Proms, Dates, & Rainbows

Prom:

Saturday my friend Chasie’s little sister and her friends are getting read for the prom at my place. Then I’ll go with little sister and her boyfriend to other friends’ homes for photographs. Since I’m playing “mom” I think this means I need to give the prom “sex talk,” right? Fun! I think it’s sweet that little sister wants to hang out with me.

Dating Update:

Two weeks ago I had a 10 1/2 hour (first) date with Match Guy # 5 ("James"). We met at a park in Nashville at 1:30 and with the exception of a walk to my car to retrieve cupcakes (chocolate cake with insanely delicious peanut butter frosting if you must know) we did not move until after dark. Remarkable, really since if nothing else I usually use the restroom every hour or two and am pretty fidgety. I was worried A2, who I was staying with, would think I'd been killed and chopped into pieces, so we finally got up so I could grab my phone and text her. Then we went to dinner and parted ways around midnight.

Needless to say, I really enjoyed talking with James and found him to be as well-read and interesting as expected. It took me several days to process all of our conversation. It only took me one day, however, to very much appreciate the CD he gave me. His profile stated that “It's not at all a stretch to say that I make one of the top 3 mix tapes in Nashville,” and I won’t disagree. I feel richer by knowing him.

This evening I have my first second date with a Match guy--MJ--the guy who brought cupcakes to our first meeting a month ago. We’ve talked once or twice since then and emailed a little so no incredible momentum, but we’ll see. He seems like a nice, active, enthusiastic guy, so if nothing else I’m sure I’ll enjoy our time together.

In other news, I may have a new case that I’m really excited about....lets just say I’ve been doing “research” on Myspace. I love employment law. Plus a co-worker just discovered a bakery a mile away from our office with delicious cupcakes (or at least the two I just ate were).

Happy Thursday!

p.s. I am thankful for strawberries and my mom growing them in her backyard. Yummy!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Things I Say I Hate But Must Not Really*

1. Annoying Facebook status updates....because if I really hated them, (1) I'd quit FB or (2) at least not blog/talk about them. Wait, that's not really true. The opposite of love isn't hate; it's indifference. So perhaps hate is the correct terminology. Hmm.

2. "I Didn't Know I was Pregnant" This show was seriously disturbing but I watched it for at least 30 minutes after I realized how appalling it was. (3) It was even more disturbing than my trips to Walmart.

(4) The Hills (although I haven't really watched in months)

(5) Fast food. I had my annual visit to Krystal a week ago, and I'm sure I'll have McDonald's fries at some point this year too. And I'll occasionally eat a salad from Zaxby's when my secretary offers to pick it up. And I had a dream cone from Chik-fil-a last week.

(6) Chain restaurants like Chilis and Applebees. Ok, Applebees is pretty nasty, but I like the blue drinks, queso, and fajitas at Chilis. But I still wouldn't choose to go there.

(7) The View. This show is so annoying. How do I know it's so annoying, you might ask. Well I know because I sometimes watch it...or at least the first 15 minutes of "hot topics" in which my blood pressure often rises to an unhealthy number. The hosts are simply asinine yet....I watch.

An aside: I'm proud to say I've not watched a Lifetime movie in at least two years (see my indifference). My Lifetime viewing is restricted to Golden Girls.

*Generally inspired by Brandy's post.

p.s. I'm grateful for a relatively new friend "CC" who is really competitive, great at word games, completed the BFF application to my satisfaction, and invited me to do a 4 mile race with her in two weeks.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Obviously Newsworthy....

So it looks like Time read my blog post and realized they had an important news story on their hands. Hence the article "How Not to Be Hated on Facebook: 10 More Rules."

Since the election I've watched less than 2 cumulative hours of news on television (thanks to "journalists" like Campbell Brown who make me want to buy a gun just so I can shoot my television; seriously she should just take a seat on The View because that's the quality of her "work."). Sometimes I read the CNN ticker on the television in front of the gym treadmill, and the most significant recent news stories are evidently (1) a faux pas occurred involving the Queen of England and the Obamas (that was a few weeks ago but it was clearly VERY important), (2) Oprah joined Twitter, and (3) someone used my beloved Craig's List to find murder victims. And now, of course, there's the emergency state of Facebook and annoying status updates. Am I missing anything?

Side note: there's only one thing I disagree with on Time's list:

"Cryptic status updates about your mental state — "Rachel is trying so hard," "Rachel wishes things were different," "Rachel is starting her life over" — don't make you sound intriguing, just lonely and pathetic."

Maybe this does sound pathetic, but I tend to think not. Pathetic is a strong word. Plus these updates are much better than the minute by minute details of someone's evening, right? And it's sort of fun to ponder what Rachel might mean....

HT: Pete

p.s. I'm grateful that a family member is taking my great Aunt Rene on a week long trip to the mountains. She's been looking forward to this for months, and it'll break up some of the loneliness.

p.p.s. Instead of taking another quiz, read these articles from Time. Hilarious. I especially like this random 25 things "When I was little, I pretended my bike was a horse named Satan."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Glorious Weather, Lemons, and Facebook Status Updates

Today is the sort of day that pretty much mandates rejoicing and reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:

"...if you ever took truly to heart the ultimate goodness and joy of things, even at their bleakest, the need to praise someone or something for it would be so great that you might even have to go out & speak of it to the birds of the air."
-Frederick Buechner

Today I avoided office drama/stress and slept until 9:00, did some planks and work, took a nap, worked some more, ran errands with windows down & music blaring, bought strawberries for $1.50, and have knocked out a solid third of my "accomplishment list." Any minute now, I am going to resume working....

Evidence that "trivial" is still on my mind: The residents of my hometown seem to have learned recently about Facebook, so I'm "hiding" people from my news feed more often than ever. The status updates and quizzes (because who doesn't want to know which Lord of the Rings character she is most like?) are killing me. I've learned that "Candy" gets her upper lip waxed, and in the most inappropriate waxing revelation yet, I learned that another acquaintance's husband gives her Brazilian waxes, saving their family $75/month. Way to go with the budget cuts dear Facebook friend, but that image almost made me throw up (since you guys don't know her I'm assuming you'll be ok). And then the ones that just generally annoy me include this one: "Buffy Beebop is coloring my hair, tanning, then to the shower, head to the dreaded Wal-Mart, going to dinner at my mother in-law's, and this evening heading to work!!!"

One of my favorite status updates of late: Brian "I was really wondering what are everyone's top 5 brands of pastrami. Oh, you've already taken a quiz letting me know? Thanks..."

Given my annoyance, you might think my Facebook status updates are clever and witty. Au contraire, they are not, but I do manage to avoid detailing every single thing I've done on a given day (that's what blogs are for, duh. See the third paragraph of this post.) or matters of really personal hygiene. I am so glad I have standards. Gah. Maybe I should tell my hometown about blogspot....

p.s. I'm grateful that I was able to attend church at Cross Point on Sunday. Pete reminded me that God is far less concerned about where I'm going than who I'm becoming. And he pointed out that we're often seeking God--not so that we can know Him--but because of what we think He will give us. I'm totally guilty and needed that gut check.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Trivial?

Two weeks ago I was looking at an ingredients list which noted that the product included "trivial amounts" of somesuperlongwordthatprobablymeanstheingredientissuperfakeandcausescancer. Since then I've been thinking about the word trivial and the lies we tell ourselves and each other because what fun would it be to just read the product label and not allow it to provoke deep thought? That would be way too easy, right?

Typically trivial is defined as "of very little importance or value; insignificant."

Over the years there are a lot of things I've trivialized in an attempt to make them less painful.

"It didn't really matter anyway." "I don't really care." "Oh, it's ok. Really, it's no big deal. I shouldn't have said anything."

I especially like to act like something doesn't matter from the get-go...that way, I figure, it won't hurt if it doesn't work out. It's like the Gin Blossoms said--if you don't expect too much, you might not be let down. That verse sort of became my modus operandi for years. I was so tired of feeling hurt and let down, so it seemed easier to not have expectations or hopes at all.

My freshman year of college my boyfriend and I were at different schools and two hours apart. I proposed an "open" relationship and wonder how much of that proposal was motivated by his previous unfaithfulness and my desire to protect myself; after all, if it's open, he's not doing anything wrong, right? And if I'm kissing other boys, how he treats me won't hurt so much.

So I'm trying to be intentional about being hopeful, admitting that things matter, and being cool with the fact that I'm going to be hurt by people--and then letting myself hurt. A friend pointed out to me that whenever I get close to something painful I quickly toss in a rejoinder or other qualifier to exit the moment. Sometimes I think I do that because my problems and hurts feel trivial in light of how wonderful my life is overall--as if a great life makes complaining or hurting unacceptable. Or maybe I'm trying to make something less painful by quickly jumping to the good.

And then sometimes I wonder if I qualify the hurtful matter (lets say feeling rejected or forgotten) with something positive (how someone else values me) because I fail to realize my value and still trying to prove that I am, in fact, important.

And, this, friends is why I'm not reading any more product labels.


In dating news, tomorrow I'm meeting Match Guy #5 who I've easily enjoyed corresponding with the most and also the one who reads my blog. We've agreed to meet up in the early afternoon, see what we think, and if we're both a "go," go out on a "proper" date that night. Something about this arrangement makes me think of a dating show. Maybe we should each bring a rose and let it sit in plain sight the entire time (like on the one-on-one dates on The Bachelor) to remind us of the upcoming decision.

p.s. I'm grateful that the cashier at Sonic gave me three lemon slices this morning to go with my Diet Coke.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Who Has the Most Wrong with Him?

I was so tired on my date on Friday night that I briefly wondered if my neighbor had slipped Ruffies into my drink. Then I reasoned that if he had I would probably have been taking my clothes off or something. Plus I was drinking water with dinner, and I think you're supposed to mix it with alcohol. I read way too much true crime in middle school.

It was fun to go on a proper date with a non-internet person. Conversation was easy, albeit riddled with red flags, and after dinner (checked another restaurant off my list) we went to the neighborhood bar for drinks. By that point I was almost deliriously tired but having enough fun to want to keep going, so I just had one martini and proceeded to engage my neighbor in my made-up game "who has the most wrong with him?" It's a stupid game but fun to see what people 'fess up to and how creative they become. My neighbor did surprisingly well and has written to say he's come up with a few more. There's a lot wrong with me, so we may need to go for round two.

The dating scale won't work for this date because I had a really good time but wouldn't go out with him again. With that being said, I'd definitely hang out with him again as friends...in a group or something since I sort of have a rule* against being friends with guys that I find subjectively attractive. Maybe a few of us could have a neighborly outing and include him.

p.s. I'm grateful for my upcoming three day weekend in Nashville and face time with two of my favorite people.

* I'm sort of fond of rules and find that wide margins work best for me in this arena.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

I Am Defiantly Splitting Infinitives

One of my bosses is an English/Blue Book sort of nerd, and I must admit that I am at times too. I've been reading some of his interrogatory responses in hopes of avoiding the recreation of the wheel so to speak and ran across several oddly written sentences. I realized he was trying to avoid splitting infinitives and wondered what you guys thought about that (or if you ever think about such trivial* things).

Here's two examples:

"Defendant Bank failed appropriately to monitor the development of the collateral."

"Defendant failed timely to notify this Plaintiff."

Awkward. I'm rewriting. This reminds me of the painful way people sometime rewrite questions so that they won't end with a preposition, e.g. "On what did you step?" This reminds me of a joke I heard 15 years ago:

A midwestern farmer is crossing Harvard square searching for the library. He approaches a stately looking gentleman, who happens to be a Harvard English professor, and he asks, "Excuse me sir. Can you tell me where the library is at?"**

The professor looks somewhat disdainfully and replies, "At Harvard," he sniffs "we do not end sentences with prepositions."

After a pause the farmer turns back to the professor and asks, "Well then, can you tell me where the library is at, asshole?"

p.s. I'm grateful that my mom and step-dad joined me for church and lunch today. And while no words or p.s. comment can express my gratitude for my Savior and Father's sacrifice, I am deeply grateful for the hope, love, and strength of my risen King.

* Just thought I'd let you know that this word has been on my mind a lot lately.
** I actually hate the way this question sounds. The use of "at" is redundant but pointing out that a question ends with a preposition is even more annoying.

Friday, April 10, 2009

And they burned all the books and the Chevrolets

Match Date #3 was a 7.9 which means I would go out with him again, but if he doesn't ask me out that's fine too. Will seems to meet the typical parameters of the guys I've dated in the past (not sure if that's good or bad) except he's a Democrat; with the exception of the last election we have the exact same voting/support record since 1988...and both were glad (at the tender age of ten) that Bush Sr. beat Dukasis. Although I'm definitely not angling for political debates, Will visibly holds some strong opinions and that's attractive.

Which sort of leads into what I feel like is missing in the three guys I've met--they've just not been particularly engaging, charismatic, and/or animated. There hasn't been that sort of initial connection that results in a three hour conversation, I guess. I just realized the other day that because I tend to get wound up about things, sometimes I think more staid individuals make me feel a bit like a clown. Sometimes they just don't know what to do with me (or perhaps are annoyed). It was sort of that way with Carter, which I didn't realize for several months. Last spring my boss asked if Carter appreciated how different I was from most girls and my quirkiness. I realized I didn't know, so I asked Carter and his response was that he wasn't sure yet and that it bothered him that he couldn't "read" me more easily.

Oh, I almost forgot. I have a real life date tonight. Or I'd rather call it a neighborly outing. My cute neighbor (who I've never seen in our actual building) asked me out for drinks weeks ago, and we're just now coordinating for tonight....dinner and a party at his friend's house, which feels a bit risky given the amount of time it could eat up... but I figure it'd be good to meet some different people in Chatty.

Check out what I've deemed my Easter tee shirt...who needs an Easter dress? (Just for you Ella:)

I just saw this lovely bumper sticker:




And now I'm off to a Good Friday service with friends. Hope your Friday is good too.

p.s. I'm thankful for Zyrtec D...it's helping a little.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Match Date #3

What: First date with another Match guy
Who: "Will"
When: Today after work
Where: Starbucks
Why: Well here's what I know about him....

Christian/Protestant (attends a non-denominational church)
30 years old, 6'3, "athletic and toned," blond/blue-eyed, lives in Atlanta but frequently travels in North Georgia (where I work)
Self-employed real estate attorney
Really into Crossfit, which should make Jennifer happy, and does triathlons, etc. Very active. Loves Dead Poets' Society.
He's in a Facebook group called "People who are from Tennessee and hate UT." That makes me smile. Orange is an awful color on almost everyone.
And the "Match O Meter" shows us matching up in every category except exercise (and that doesn't match b/c I checked the wrong box).

We've been e-mailing for two weeks and trying to get together for over a week now...finally our schedules have synced up. And you know, I'm not dreading this at all. Yeah positive attitude and totally "normal" seeming boy.

In other Match news, MJ, the Chicago guy who brought me a half dozen delicious cupcakes, has emailed and called. While I like him and enjoy talking to him, my gut is that we might be a good fit but not an awesome fit (but what do I know?). He's asked me twice when I was going to be in Atlanta again, and both times I've said that I didn't have any plans to be. I finally threw out that my hometown (where I occasionally stay during the work week) isn't that far from where he lives--about 40 minutes, so maybe we could work something out next time I'm there. He liked that idea and asked me to let him know the next time I'd be there, but honestly I think he should ask me out on a proper date and just come to Chatty. Plus it'll be at least another week and a half or more before I can be in Calhoun and available for dinner (b/c usually when I'm there I'm spending time with my family).

That's enough updating for now. There are three more guys, I think, but short of making a chart it's just too much for one post. And yes, it feels weird to be "talking" to so many different guys, but other than telling a few to take a rain check what do I do? Oh, I think one may be reading my blog (thanks Sitemeter); if so, hi there :) I found his blog, but then felt guilty about reading it so I stopped. I am impressed with my restraint.

p.s. I'm grateful for my evening home alone with no plans and only one phone call.

I Wish I Were the Verb to Trust and Never Let You Down

Last weekend I forced myself to have one of those uncomfortable conversations with a friend. I e-mailed him on Thursday about talking so that (1) I'd obligate myself to do what I needed to do and (2) to give him a heads up. I began by apologizing for not coming to him sooner with my concerns. I had been praying about talking to him since January but never felt a peace about talking to him (or not talking to him). Two weeks ago I was working on my Bible study when I realized this prayer request fell into the arena of "you don't need to pray about this because the Bible has already told you what God would have you do."* Even when I believe someone has wronged me, it's always my move to reconcile or repair our relationship. I'm not sure how that's escaped me for two months.

The conversation went well, and I said what I needed to say....and immediately felt a weight lifted. It helped that I went into the conversation with no expectations of my friend, realizing that I can only control what I do and say. And you know, these "awkward" conversations are becoming a little bit easier for me. And an upside of having them is that I spend a lot more time in the Word and in prayer in the days leading up to them out of my desire for the Lord's leading and wisdom.

One of the Match boys shared this last week, and I've made it my prayer several times since then. My favorite part is in italics.

"My Lord God,

I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone."

~Thomas Merton~

** It's sort of like praying about whether you should be unfaithful to your spouse, for example. The Bible has made the answer to this clear, so there's no need to go ask God about it. He's already spoken.

p.s. I'm grateful that large drinks are $1 before 10 a.m. at Sonic.

Friday, April 03, 2009

I want to be more concerned about what might be than about being right about what might not be

I've been thinking about what it means to love our neighbors (not the literal or typical definition but the one given by Jesus and in the OT--anyone I come into contact with who lacks resources, the poor, the immigrant, etc.). And as I thought through what I already do and what I could do to be more loving, my mind wondered down the path of trying to figure out what to do about this one person in my life who I've been trying to love well for the last 8 months despite how infuriating and exhausting he can be. Unlike many, he has access to resources and opportunities that he doesn't avail himself of, making poor choices and not using what he has wisely. Am I wasting time on him that could be better spent helping someone who wants to help himself more?

As I thought, I realized that I was sort of like the lawyer (imagine that) in Luke 10:25-37 in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. I'm more interested in defining and limiting the definition of "neighbor" than just loving and taking action. Over the years, I've seen this a lot in my middle class circles--both Christian and otherwise. We'll talk about helping a group/person and somehow get lost in reasons not to ("well they aren't really helping themselves" or "maybe this isn't the best way to do it" or "I probably shouldn't take anything else on right now"). No doubt, a lack of love is often easy to justify.

And it's easy for me to think I get it all so wrong (living in my loft, driving my SUV, typing on my laptop and listening to my ipod and basically living a life of incredible physical comfort and luxury) that I just give up and push all of the poverty and injustice of this world out of my mind. Or I conclude that I just need to move to a third world country (as if my neighbors here don't need love too). In reality I just need to do. I need to write a letter to Pedro in Peru instead of running that last mile. I need to love my infuriating friend well even if he is making destructive decisions. I need to write that check instead of constantly counting the cost (which I don't do so much when it's something I want). I need to have that uncomfortable conversation. I need to talk to the homeless person rather than look away. And I need to humbly rely on God because I know I may be getting it all wrong, but surely it pleases Him that I'm trying no matter how feeble my attempts are. Here are some of the questions I'm asking myself:

"Am I more aware of what I don't have (or want) or of what others need?"

"Am I offering things that don't cost me anything?"

Do I want to give myself away? Do I really believe that I have to lose my life to find it?

p.s. I'm grateful for this video. I didn't like it until 4:30 (thought it was sort of gay; I'm not the interpretative dance kind), but then it totally affected me. Now I'm a fan :)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Excited....about Two (or Three) Match Guys!

Just when we thought I was hard-hearted and completely indifferent to online dating (and destined to live alone in my bathrobe with 12 cats) I received two e-mails that actually made me happy, and for the first time I talked to a Match guy on the phone. I also canceled my Match membership. Match tried to entice me with another three months for the price of one, but I don't want to spend so much time on the computer, especially now that spring is here. Plus I'm emailing with more than five guys, which is plenty.

I spent most of last weekend in Atlanta and met up with the Match guy I briefly mentioned a few weeks ago. "MJ" is from Chicago, lives just north of Atlanta, has a super cool job (sports marketing), is 6'5, and seems committed to his faith. AND he arrived at Starbucks with a half dozen cupcakes from a bakery I'd mentioned to him over three weeks ago. That really set the right tone :) It was really thoughtful and just nice to see a guy making an effort like that. We talked for 2 and 1/2 hours; he asked about grabbing dinner, but I wanted to get back to Calhoun to see my nieces before their bedtime. He e-mailed me yesterday to say how much he enjoyed talking face to face and that he looked forward to doing it again. And I didn't even have to ask you guys if I should write him back either.

In other Match news, I e-mailed a guy about two weeks ago. I rarely initiate contact with boys, but this guy's profile was fabulous; he shared his Myers-Briggs type, mentioned C.S. Lewis, and made reference to working with the youth at his church. And it was all so cleverly written. He wrote me back last week (b/c he had not been a member when I wrote him), and I've been as smitten as one can be from an exchange of e-mails. I had forgotten how much I can love written correspondence (and spend hours on it), and the more this guy shares the more (1) I like him and (2) realize how he is totally not my usual type. For example, he seems very artsy and played with the symphony and sang at a jazz jam on Sunday. He's 5'9 and from New England. He's sensitive. Fingers crossed that if we ever meet, I am attracted to him. He lives in Nashville, and I'm going there in a few weeks....so we'll see.

There's another Match guy I'd like to meet, but this post is long enough.

p.s. I'm grateful that the winter funk seems to be all gone and that my heart is more thankful and joyous.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Match Date #1

This wasn't actually my very first Match date since I did a free trial (or three) over the last few years. I even developed a dating scale for ease of reference in January of 2007.

While I'm not sure where to rank this date on my handy scale, it was certainly not painful. We met at a Greek restaurant I had never tried. "Brent" was dressed well and looked like his photographs. Conversation was fairly easy--not terribly engaging or interesting--but not boring or awkward. He shared about his family, his church, and two of his past relationships. Our waiter was rushing us, so after we finished eating we walked to Starbucks next door and chatted for another hour or so.

I left the date not caring if I ever hear from Brent again. But since I didn't have a bad time (and since I'm a dork I really enjoyed our free will v. Calvinism discussion), and he's a perfectly nice guy...but then throw in the distance factor (he lives 1 and 1/2 hours away)...I wonder if I should give it another date. He wrote me that same night, thanking me for meeting him (as he knows my time is valuable:) and saying that he hopes he has the privilege of my company again sometime. There's some part of me that feels guilty about the idea of him driving 3 hours (round-trip) for another date, especially since I wouldn't want to plan some super long date but would just want to do dinner again. And honestly my interest level isn't to where I'd drive to see him. But maybe since I'm the girl I shouldn't worry about all of that. Thoughts?

p.s. I'm grateful that I finally had a reason to use the cupcake courier my mom gave me for Christmas. And check out the rainbow cupcakes (to match the birthday girl's multi-colored windsuit)....I split the batter into bowls, added food coloring, and then added a spoonful of each colored batter to each cupcake liner. I'm out of red food coloring, so I want to do it again when I can have pink/red/purple too.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dress to Impress

Last night we celebrated my friend's 27th birthday with a skating party at the local roller rink. We didn't realize it was "Hip Hop and Jam Night" and that we'd be listening to rap all night long; of course the 200 black children (and some of their mamas) didn't realize some old white folks would be dressing up and acting a fool. I was the first one of our group to enter the rink, and most of the seated crowd snickered and laughed as I walked in. A minute later I heard an audible gasp from the crowd and turned around to see everyone taking photographs of my guy friend dressed in tight red knit overalls and jacket a la the 70s. He nonchalantly strolled in, thought "what would Derek Zoolander do?," and proceeded to pop his collar. I'll bet his photographs was taken well over 100 times by the children there.

My costume was especially nice as the pieces of material blew gently in the breeze as I skated around the rink. A few children said "Go fairy, go fairy, go" and asked me why we were dressed up. I explained that it was my friend's birthday and asked them "don't you dress up for your friends' birthdays?"

Several children asked my friend Drew (see the photo to the left) why he was wearing goggles. His answer: "Guy, safety doesn't take a vacation." Oliver also spread the message of safety as he wore a helmet with his suede vest, plaid pants, and 80s Polo shirt. One child asked him how he got so big (he's 6'5 and of course even taller with skates). Oliver explained that it was because he ate vegetables. The child dubiously responded "Are you sure that's all?" After Oliver said yes, the kid asked him if he wanted to skate together. Adorable.

So I finally talked myself into going on a Match date. Tonight. I wrote a guy who lives in Knoxville (right under two hours away) back after procrastinating for several days and told him a few nights that I was free. He wrote back and suggested tonight. I am trying to have a good attitude about it. I'm still not sure what my mental block is about all of this. Maybe it's because I love being alone so much--and having lots of unplanned time--that I'm overly negative about planning something that might not be fun. Of course, I need to focus on the fact that it might be fun. Duh.

p.s. I'm grateful that I've correctly chosen 30 out of 40 games and am in second place with my "Unicorn" bracket. Although this basketball stuff has been stressful, it's definitely fun (now that I'm in second place).....

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Would I Recommend Match?

Bone posed this question earlier this week in a comment, so here goes it.

My friend wrote the following about his experience on Match: "I would compare it to searching for a slice of hot pizza in a pasture. There's always a chance you'll find one but you're more likely to run into a thousand cow pies first!" Based on my three weeks (and a ton of hours) on Match, I'd have to agree.

Match reports that my profile has been viewed 2,278 times, which is sort of creepy. I've have read and deleted over 100 e-mails without responding (but for at least half of those I read their profile). Received a lot of "winks." I'd guesstimate that I have responded to less than 25 men, including one very attractive guy in Atlanta who wrote me three times because he was dumbfounded that I didn't respond to his emails ("I am surprised you did not write me back. Not to be cocky at all, but I get so many nice compliments about my profile. I would of thought you would of found it very appealing."). I could tell my lack of reply was making his head hurt, so I finally wrote back and explained why I wasn't interested.

I think that if I were not looking for a Christian whose faith is similar to mine, my Match experience would be very different and more positive. I'm ruling out all other faiths or lack thereof from the get-go--plus I generally will not respond to a man who indicates in his "My Date" section that he does not care what faith a prospective date is. I realize that may seem narrow, but if a man is willing to marry someone who doesn't share his faith then we believe different things about marriage and scripture. A lot of my e-mails back and forth with guys has been fleshing out their faith because in the South most people consider themselves a Christian, and it can mean anything from "I was raised by Baptist parents but have never personally practiced any religion" to "I'm a good person" (not what I'm looking for, btw) to "holy roller."

Of course, faith and religion are better discussed in person, and e-mail only makes the exchange of belief more cumbersome. But most of the guys I'm corresponding with live in ATL, Nashville, or Knoxville, so it's not like we can just grab a cup of coffee and chat. So in short, if you're fairly open and not looking for someone as specific as I am (you know, a Christian faith like mine, 28-37, athletic/fit, playful, preferably really tall, educated, decent writer, funny, intelligent, and so forth) then I'd recommend Match. And really, what can it hurt? One month costs $22, and there's a few guys I'd consider meeting. One has asked to take me out, but I'm sort of dragging my feet. I think I just need to make myself do it. It's hard to get excited about someone on a computer screen, I guess.

In other news, I made cupcakes tonight for a friend's birthday. I used a Betty Crocker fudge chocolate box mix because I worked late, and I must say....from scratch is really better than this box mix. The peanut butter frosting was yummy (Cream 1 cup of creamy Jif with a stick of butter; slowly add 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar; at the end add about 3 tablespoons of milk or cream).

p.s. I am SO thankful for the sunshine today...and that I have a job where I can put on my running clothes at 3:45 and go for a 4 mile run. My boss didn't even blink when I came in covered in sweat; he just started telling me about some research he needs.