Thursday, January 31, 2008

Suit up and show up

While waiting for an oil change, I picked up Redbook Magazine and read a quote by Ashley Judd. "[Laughs] I keep going back to this God thing. I just suit up and show up and wait for this sweet thing called love to walk into the room. Invariably it does. And it keeps me strong."

The concept of "suit up and show up" sort of hung with me and keeps playing in my brain tonight.

Tomorrow I go to a conference in Jacksonville. I have to leave my house at 4:45 AM to catch the flight...sigh.)

Most of the conferences we do, I've done before. I know the rhythm. I can plan. But this one is a new one for me. In fact, the primary reason I chose it is because I wanted to tell the story of our work on a renovation project to people who would "get it" because they will be sitting in the worship center we are renovating.

As I'm packing tonight, I don't know exactly what to choose. I've made guesses, but won't know if I chose wisely until I actually get there.

In many ways, this is a "suit up and show up" adventure. It could be a huge success, or not...and I don't get to know that ahead of time...nor do I get to control all of the factors that affect the outcome.

It's a discipline for me to let go of that I can't control and focus on the "suit up and show up". After all, that is the important part. Because if I don't, there's no possibility for success at all.

Moving like a kid

The other day it hit me that there is something that I used to do all the time as a kid, that I never do as an adult. Remember when you used to take the hands of a friend, lean back and spin around really fast?

Remember bursting into a run simply because it was impossible not to do so? Or skipping because it was much more fun than walking?

Something is lost with that absense of movement. A joy in the movement of your own body that gets set aside for grown up shoes and a worry that you might look foolish.

The type of yoga that I'm doing each evening is called Vinyasa flow. It has surprised me how much it brings back that joy of moving just to move. (All foolishness is dismissed when you have a mat on the floor and a Shiva Ray DVD on?)

So, just for fun, I asked John to swing me around really fast. And it was totally, totally great. Even if I couldn't stand afterward.

So, in an effort to share the joy, I'm requesting a mission: as you go about your day today, ask someone to do that with you. Seriously. You'll remember what you've missed.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Bethany, the Wrestler?

Yes, I know. It came as a surprise to us too. The girl who diligently saves her allowance to get her nails done just started freestyle wrestling.

Her reasons were pragmatic. She didn't want to run track. (When I asked why, she said, "Because I'm slow.") Plus, the sport isn't very popular for girls so the odds for scholarships are good if you do well.

Of course, there has been a bit of teasing as we've picked out various WFF names for her and threatened to paint our faces school colors when we go to the matches, but after the initial, "huh?" we became supportive.

Last night was her first practice. She and Saron came in and were so exhausted they hardly said a word. Tonight, when I got home, Beth said, "I'm so sore, I can't even hug myself."

That's a workout.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Of Routines and Rhythms

Our sugar gliders love their routine. Every night at 8pm, we get them from their pouch, feed them treats, then they hang out on a blanket in John's office. Just before midnight, they get active because they know John is going to let the dogs outside and prepare their dinner. Curious and alert, they watch what's going on, then have dinner and play in their cage. At about 6am the next morning, they know that I will come get them for more playtime where they run around John's office pushing things off shelves and generally having a great time. When it is time for me to go work out, they jump back to me and let me carry them to their cage. They know playtime is over.

Our dogs like their routine too. They greet us when we come home, then expect to go outside. (In the mornings before I leave they dance over to the pantry door with tails wagging knowing I will give them a treat.)

When I worked for early childhood consultants, much of the training was in the importance of daily routine for children.

I guess if you think about it, it makes sense. All of nature runs on a schedule. Sun rises and sets. Tide goes in and out. Moon phases from full to new. Seasons change.

Yet everything inside me rebels at routine. It feels confining. Stifling. Maybe it has something to do with the word. Routine. Boring.

It interested me that Ron Martoia used a different phrase. He talks about personal rhythms.

Rhythm. That has a different feel entirely. More like a waltz than a schedule.

As I went through my Wahlstedt-inspired schedule audit, I realized I don't have a lot of control over my time. I have a day job. I have a husband. I have kids. But I do have control over my morning and evening routines.

Since December, my morning routine has included a workout, and since May, John and I close every evening with prayer. By setting an alarm on my phone for 9pm in the evening, I now have time for yoga and contemplative prayer.

An hour on Saturday morning carves out time for planning vegan meal options and going to any specialty stores for ingredients to try out in new recipes.

Minor edits to my schedule where all that is really lost is a bit of TV time is allowing me to do some things I really wanted to do this year.

Rhythm. It even sounds pretty.

The Spread of Ideas

The spread of ideas is often said to be viral. One person has a thought, shares it with another, and the concept disperses. Sometimes mutations occur as the idea is passed from person to person. The epidemic metaphor would seem to be an accurate one.

What is really fascinating though is when I come across common ideas in seemingly unrelated circles.

Philosophy, art, politics, fashion, music can follow the same trend. The waves get named. Like "impressionist era" or "grunge." Ideas begin in diverse places in completely different cultures and geographies all in the same time frame with no apparent way to track how they are connected.

But, how does that happen? Is it simply that the time is right? Is the dispersion actually person-to person with the carriers simply off the radar screen?

My theory is that there is something to inspiration that is beyond the physical. Beyond what can be passed from one person to another.

If imagination and a desire to create is part of our "imago dei", then isn't it possible to conceive that what it produces is beyond the limitations of person-to-person communication and geography?

I'm engaged by the part of it that can't be measured. The part that seems to be "magic." It reminds me that there is a dimension beyond the physical and something that connects us.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Another one of those overlapping thread things...

When ideas from different circles that don't touch each other connect, it really interests me.

I blogged yesterday about a quote from Anne Lamott's book, Bird by Bird--which interestingly enough is a book on writing.

David Wahlstedt connected me with a writer, Paul Baird (who like me has a day job), who sent me a link to asbojesus.wordpress.com where I came across this cartoon by Jon Birch who lives in England.



The idea expressed in the cartoon is reflective of Anne's quote and the line at the bottom of the cartoon is as integral to the piece as the cartoon itself. (If you explore the asbojesus site you'll find this part of Jon Birch's style.)

I love it when random things connect.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Imago Mei

Today, I ran across an insightful quote by Anne Lamott that she credits to her friend, Father Tom.

"You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do."

My initial reaction was a laugh, but then the quote sort of hung with me. Then it drilled down deep inside with razor sharp conviction.

Rhonda-of-the-Comic-Strip-Pantyhose once told me that the easiest way not to have to love someone was to demonize them. After all, we aren't commanded in Scripture to love demons. Just people.

Which if you think about it too long really, really sucks.

I have a long list of people I don't love. In fact, the only people I know that I actually love easily are those who are interesting, kind, funny and haven't hurt me.

Whiners, liars, cruel people...they are definitely on the "don't love" list. And don't even get me started on the drivers with snotty little bumper stickers that seem to be the Christian equivalent of flipping people off.

Should I keep going? Does anyone actually miss those who killed themselves blowing up the World Trade Center? What about skinheads?

Isn't the concept of actually being able to love all people everywhere really, truly way too much to ask?

Maybe that's why the whole "love your neighbor" verse actually says neighbor instead of whole wide world. I barely have the capacity to love the people who live next door to me, much less the people I'd rather not think about. That whole "God so loved the world" thing...that has to be God's job. Because quite frankly, I'm not up for it.

Thanks Anne.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Of Lamposts and Vacuum Cleaners

Of all the relationships in your life, the most difficult ones to recreate are those of your high school friends. If you were lucky, you had one or two close ones. I had about seventeen. They were the members of my church youth group. We did everything together. Parties, movies, sliding down the grassy hill at Foster Park on cardboard boxes...

No one shares those memories of coming of age except the friends from that time in your life. They remember first kisses, who dated who, and the most embarrassing moments which you shared with them in a moment of weakness.

Many times first kisses and embarrassing moments were one in the same.

In my case, my first kiss was Greg J. He was a big two years older than me…and HE COULD DRIVE!!!! Just for the record, he drove a yellow Volare--a vehicle that would make my kids howl with laughter if they saw it today, but back then…well back then, it was a little dated, too, but it was transportation that wasn't shared with a parent, so it possessed inherent coolness.

Greg kissed me after a date. Of course, I wasn't expecting it, so I did what any other completely inexperienced kisser would do…

I did nothing. I had no idea what to do.

He kissed me, and I had the response of a lamppost. Face glowing in the darkness, I walked back into the house and went straight to my room, shut the door, and picked up the phone. Laura C., my best friend, answered.

I relayed the whole kiss incident--utilizing the lamppost analogy. Laura said the only thing that could truly make me feel better. She told me the story of her first kiss.

Laura was in the car with her sister, her boyfriend, Craig, and his best friend, Darren. Craig leaned over to Laura so that there was no doubt what was coming, and Laura did the second thing that inexperienced kissers do…she puckered up and kissed. The result of her closed mouth approach to Craig's open mouthed one was a loud POP. Craig and Darren stumbled out of the car, hid behind a bush and began laughing uncontrollably. Sadly, Laura had to sit there and listen to the laughter. Oh yeah, it included the phrase, "she kisses like a vacuum cleaner."

Eventually, Laura and I shared our humiliating stories with our other friends. (Though we discovered that Laura's story had previously been publicized by Darren and Craig.) My kind and thoughtful friends did what any good friends would do after becoming the recipient of such delicate information. They made a six-foot lamppost and brought it to my sixteenth birthday party. A party Greg attended.

Oddly enough, the bonds lasted well into college--something a shared history will do for you, and Laura, Lynette-the-Cowgirl, Kristi Gee, Laura Phillips and I still get together every Memorial Day weekend.

And sometime during the night, as we are all falling asleep, inevitably one of us starts singing the National Anthem. Just like we did every year at youth camp.

To make fun of Kristi.

About her first kiss.

Which happened near the flagpole.

______________________________________________________

Sidebar: I actually wrote this several years ago for a magazine, but decided to post it since I've had so much fun with the comments on The Storytelling Epiphany. LC credits me with giving her a life outside of listening to the radio in her room during high school. Now I can credit her with my material. An even swap, LC...don't you think?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Big Night Out for the Gliders

Our sugar gliders--Kazoo and Kayla--had a big night out last night. I awoke to a disoriented "where is that music coming from" and followed it into the bathroom to find that Kazoo had accidentally tripped my Disney Princess toothbrush holder and started Cinderella singing.

He and Kayla apparently figured out how to unlatch one of the smaller doors on their cage, and boy did they have a great night on the town!

I might have mentioned that their favorite recreational activity is pushing things off shelves. Throughout my bathroom and closet, stuff was knocked over everywhere.

When I walked in the door, Kazoo was happy to see me. He jumped to me arms wide so that he glided, then sat on my shoulder making cute little happy noises. Kayla—who is bonded to Kazoo, but not to us, looked down with animated eyes from her perch high in my closet. She let me cup her in my hands and put her back in the cage. They were both SO hungry after their adventures.

Silly little Zoo’s. I now have to figure out another latching system. Because you know that once they’ve had this much fun, they will want to do it again!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Just a lazy night at home...

Lazy TV nights are appreciated because they are so rare.

After a crazy chaotic day, I got to come home, throw on some sweats, make sushi with John, then veg and watch TV. We saw one of those "Best In Show" type films by Eugene Levy (the one about the Oscars), a Law in Order and a CSI.

Not very interesting for a blog post. But very wonderful in real life.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Looking at Time in a Strategy Lens

Just as I was challenged to align my marketing budget in a way that broke traditional methods and invested strategically, David Wahlstedt was challenged this week to do the same with his schedule.

The concept of allocating time (arguably a more valuable resource than money) according to what you want to develop was introduced to me through the threads of a relayed conversation between Wahlstedt and Ron Martoia. It has given me something to grapple with. I dragged John to Starbucks after Bible study so we could talk about it.

There are things I want to integrate into my life this year. Specifically, I want to have a daily practice of centering prayer, a consistent workout and to migrate to a vegan lifestyle.

In my day job, I have similar challenges. I want to position our firm to connect deeply with a changing culture and to help our clients position themselves to do the same. I want to be proactive in connecting with people rather than simply reactive.

There are people I want to meet. Others I want to spend more time with. And opportunities I want to explore that won't simply happen in the normal course of the day-to-day without committing substantial time to them.

In any case, I think my schedule is due the same type of audit that my marketing budget was.

Now, if I can just find the time to do that.

Dinner at the Wahlstedts

David and Chris Wahlstedt invited us for dinner last night. In the car on the way over, John and I were discussing that we are often invited for cookouts or barbeques, but rarely for "dinner."

I have to say, being invited to dinner by friends who enjoy wine and gourmet cooking is AMAZING!

David prepared five courses last night. A cheese and fruit course with a wonderful pinot noir grigio, a soup course (zinfandel), a pasta course (more zinfandel), a main dish (cabernet) then dessert (ice wine).

I've decided the one key between gourmet cooking and normal everyday cooking has to be the sauces. Other than brown gravy from a packet when John and I were first married, I'm not sure I've ever made a sauce. You know, the kind where you carmelize something, add a few more ingredients, then use a wisk?

The combination of the delicious food and conversation with friends (Mike and Lisa came too) in a lovely setting (their dining room is a hidden world to itself) was a wonderful break. A luxury of slow paced enjoyment in our normally fast-paced world.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Random Acts of Marketing

About five years ago, Russ Lewis asked me where most of AD's business came from. It's a statistic I carry around with me in my head because it is an easy one. Eighty percent of our work is on referral. We get the call because someone with a connection to our potential client recommended us. (By the way, this is a pretty common metric for design professionals.)

Russ then asked a very strategic question. Did our marketing dollars match that percentage? At that point, the answer was "no." Print advertising, trade shows, responding to public RFP's...eighty percent of our budget went to chasing the twenty percent.

Russ' question created a major mental shift for me--and subsequently shifted the way I allocated my marketing budget. I could chase leads or I could take the more relational approach of developing pipelines and placing my people in places and situations where those types of relational connections could happen.

In his book, Love is the Killer App, Tim Sanders talks about the most important business strategy being in what you give away. Sanders gave words to the simple principles that defined the people I most admired in my industry. Sanders focused on sharing knowledge, sharing your network, and in sharing compassion. In my marketing report the year I read the book, I centered the report around those three tenets. It wasn't hard to find copious examples in all three. It is part of AD's DNA--though we never set out to design it that way.

The interesting thing is that this type of marketing approach is most effectively practiced with the 80%. It also takes a complete shift in how you spend your time. I can spend my time combing through reports with potential leads (that we have a low chance of getting because of the lack of relationship) or I can invest in the people in my network in helping them be successful.

The challenge is in making the connections. For me, this has to be an authentic thing. You can't force relationships. All you can do is explore possibilities and see if they develop. Something that now 80% of our budget goes to support.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Lunch with Lynette the Cowgirl

John, Bethany and I went to Fort Worth today to see my mom who had surgery yesterday. Afterwards, we picked up Lynette-the-Cowgirl for lunch since she was in town visiting her mom after a medical drama in their family earlier in the week. Of course for me, the choice of restaurants was easy.

It just so happens that the best vegan restaurant (possibly only vegan restaurant) in the Metroplex is in Fort Worth. The Spiral Diner has the most amazing food. Located on Magnolia in the hosptial district the menu is varied and delicious. Usually, when I go to a restaurant, I'm limited to finding the one thing on the menu I can eat (and typically, I have to ask for edits). But at the Spiral Diner, I have CHOICES!!!!

As you might imagine, Spiral Diner is rarely the rest of my family's first choice. Sadly, today, the service was super slow--giving them less incentive to want to go the next time we are in town. We were there for a little over an hour before we got our food.

With all of the waiting, there was a lot of time for conversation--which was great for me because it has been awhile since I've seen Lynette in person. John wasn't left out. The political statements on the walls of the Spiral Diner, sparked conversations about ranching. I often forget what a rural upbringing John had, but all the anti-ranching sentiments sent both of them into discussions of days spent bailing hay, then branding and castrating and....well, it wasn't long before the eeeew-factor was pretty high.

Fortunately, the food finally came, and I was saved!

Not only that, but I'm inspired. During the travel time, I planned our meals for the week. Most of them vegan. But don't feel sorry for Beth and John. You can bet that John will be grilling supplemental steaks to go with the tofu.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Riding in Cars with Teenagers

So much of John's and my role in Bethany's life these days is as chauffer.

The bad part of that is that it is rarely convenient and not always wholeheartedly appreciated. The great part is that it is time with Bethany, which keeps getting rarer as she gets older.

I especially like it when we are hauling her with her friends because it is a little window into her world. Plus, there is nothing sillier than a backseat full of teenage girls.

In fact, one of my favorite "backseat" moments was with Bethany and my nieces. We were stopped at a stoplight and I noticed a jogger paused at the corner. He was probably in his mid-30's, fairly well built and as he jogged in place wearing only a pair of very small parachute shorts, you could tell he was a man who was thinking "Hey, I look pretty good."

But that is only because he could not hear the running commentary of the teenage girls in the backseat of my car.

"Oh my gosh! His pale skin is blinding me."

"Put some clothes on!"

"Eeeew. Look at those little shorts."

"I don't think he's wearing any underwear."

"Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeew."

"What if he has a thong?"

"Oh gross!"

"A man-thong."

"They make man-thongs?"

A this point, the light turned green. We drove away, and the man jogged confidently on.

Note to the Naked-jogging-man (as the girls now refer to you): if you are reading this, jog on and keep your chin high. (But you might consider putting on a tank top and losing the man thong.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Church 2.0

My article on Church 2.0 just came out in the Jan/Feb issue of Church Production Magazine.

The premise is that the interactivity of the Web is impacting culture and is going to have an impact on the worship experience. This one was a lot of fun to research.

If the topic interests you, you can check it out online.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Organizing the sock drawer

Limiting possessions to the amount of storage space available takes a major mindshift. For example, do I really need to keep that pair of black socks that are shorter than I like them? After all, I'm always annoyed when I accidentally grab that pair then spend the day pulling them up. Are the police really going to arrest me for admitting I hate them and getting rid of them even though they are practically new? And is it truly a lack of character if I give up hope on ever finding the mates to the strays and put them in the trash bin?

And if I give up on the accessories that I rarely wear and put them in a bag for Goodwill (even though they are in great shape and are perfectly okay, because I got them on sale and the color wasn't as great as I thought it would be and I know I will feel wasteful when I ditch these only to replace them with something else on another sale aisle that I will eventually dislike equally as much) is my mom really going to yell at me?

And those new pajamas that I just got for Christmas, but the flowers make me feel like I'm wearing my grandmother's couch and I know they were expensive because they came from Neiman Marcus but still the whole couch thing....

There's a lot of guilt in dealing with stuff. As if we are making some big cosmic mistake in letting it go. The reality is that I live a few blocks away from Walmart where I can get virtually anything I need for less than $20 (so if I make that mistake, I can remedy it if necessary).

The better part of letting go is that someone can be using what is sitting unused in my drawers right now. In fact, there might even be someone somewhere out there in the world pretty excited about getting the Neiman's pajamas.

(Though I'm not sure you can count on that.)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Cooking 101

Okay, so almost all of my friends know that I don't really like to cook. In fact, there are only 5 dishes that I can make really well and if you've ever been to my house for dinner, you have had one of them. For the record, white bean chili (thanks Marilu), chicken piccata (thanks Karen Shull), linguine & Caesar salad (thanks Rachel Ray), and vegetable curry (thanks Syeda!)

Yes, I know that is only four dishes, but now that I think about it fondue doesn't really count because all I do is chop stuff and pour some oil in a hot pot then everyone else cooks it at the table.

Anyway, the fact is that though I don't like cooking, I do really like cookbooks. Especially vegan cookbooks. (The funny thing is that when I was at my mom's house for Christmas she expressed the exact same sentiment minus the vegan part which actually explains a lot. This is genetic.)

John's dad and Maidie sent me money for Christmas which I spent entirely on vegan cookbooks. With hope in my little heart, I found a recipe for black bean, corn and chipotle soup. Being a Texas girl, this sounded fabulous.

However, the potatoes in the soup have taken hours instead of the 20 minutes they were supposed to (and yes, I chopped them thin, thank-you-very-much) and the chipotle peppers have made the soup too hot to be edible. (Yes, that was my fault because two lil old chiles just didn't look like enough).

Sigh. Why is this whole cooking thing such a challenge for me?

The worst part is that all the meals I shopped for this week are out of this cookbook. And I'm pretty sure the vegan pot pie I'd planned for Wednesday has potatoes in it. I'd better start cooking them now.

Seriously.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Beyond the sitcom timeslot...

I grew up with a bit of a "Leave It To Beaver" Christianity. Every sermon, every testimonial, every Sunday school lesson taught of life's problems as solvable in the time slot of a sitcom. The driving philosophy was "just call on Jesus and He'll come and make everything better."

The challenge was that my life experience didn't play that out.

Nancy-the-Insightful told me something this week about snakes. She said that before snakes shed their skin, their eyesight begins to get cloudy. This bothers them, so they start to push their head against a rock to rub the "cloudy" out of their eyes. This gets the process started and eventually, the snake works itself out of its dead skin. The new skin is beautiful, but tender and it takes awhile for the new skin to feel as comfortable as the old one did. The thing is that this isn't a one time process. Eventually, the snake has to go through it again. In fact, it keeps happening throughout its whole life.

It occurs to me that Christianity isn't what you take on, but what you are willing to lose. I think it is significant that when Christ sent the disciples out He instructed them "take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff" or that He told the rich young ruler to give up his wealth and follow Him. But what if the principle is deeper than just stuff. What if it has more to do with our coping mechanisms, our affections, or our need to have our little worlds be just so? What if the point of losing those things isn't about how faithful we can be or how "good" but about letting go of "dead skin." Things we don't need because God has more amazing plans for us.

In fact, since the cliche "you can't take it with you" is true, maybe the point of it all is to refine us down to the one thing we actually are taking with us...Us. Our character. Who we are without embellishment.

The thing is that this type of work on your soul doesn't happen in the space of a 30-minute timeslot. It takes a long time. My issue is that just the time I start to feel comfortable, my eyes get cloudy and I rarely figure out what is happening until I find myself up against a rock and feeling that new skin sensation that makes me long for the old one.

Though Nancy started this train of thought with her snake story, this morning during worship, Karen Vincent clarified it with a song from the David Crowder Band. The verses are profound and beautiful--which is what captured me.(You can Google them. Look for the title "Oh the Glory of it All.") The part that stuck with me relevant to this post was the last bit...

Everything will change
Things will never be the same
We will never be the same
We will never be the same


Same is comfortable. Same is safe. But staying the same isn't what Christianity is about. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that losing dead skin is most of what Christianity is about. And that is slow, uncomfortable and messy.

Sorry, Beav.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Random Saturday

In the early morning--while John was sleeping--I went to help a friend of mine who lost her mom. Kathy-of-the-mom-bows and I worked alonside Mimmie and her son at sorting things to get the house ready to sell. Mimmie has been working on this since October and now is down to the end of things. It is a difficult and emotional process to work through the memories of a lifetime reflected in clothing and objects. Especially when the person was as vibrant and engaging as Mimmie's mom.

One of the startling things Mimmie ran across in her mom's closet was a box with the remains of her grandmother. This is the fourth friend I know who has cremated remains that they aren't sure what to do with in their closet. I've decided if loved ones want to be cremated, then they need to give instructions on what to do with the ashes. I don't want indecision on my part of the "right thing" and a powerful dose of not wanted to deal with it keeping them in my closet for years.

Note to Chase and Bethany: Dig a hole. Put the ashes in. Plant a tree. Seriously.

I met John back at the house at noon (after I found homes for all of Mimmie's mom's plants) and we dragged Bethany and her friend off to lunch and Walmart, where I happened across one of those huge dresser-type jewelry boxes in the clearance aisle at a killer price. (John had to load it and take it back to the house, then come back for the girls and I and the rest of the groceries because the trunk of the car was loaded with computer stuff and we all wouldn't fit.)

The afternoon was spent cleaning and doing laundry. (I even got in a bit of a nap.) Then we had an early dinner with Samantha (John's mom) and Roy at Uncle Julios, home of the best fajitas in Dallas (veg for me) and all of our family celebrations. When we came back to the house we introduced Sam and Roy to Wii Bowling. John, teased his mom by making her character really short. Of course, there was a lot of laughing and cheers. John won the game, but Roy was a close second.

They left pretty early, since they had a long drive back to Keene, and I decided I wanted dessert, so we called up Troy and Rhonda (BIL/SIL) at the last minute and met them at a restaurant called Celebrations on Lovers Lane that has the most amazing homemade pies and deserts. (Really, truly and deeply AMAZING. And the coffee was fabulous too. Mmmm...)

I love hanging out with Troy and Rhonda. The relationships crafted through years of shared experience and genuine love are at their best when the moments are casual. At one point, John and Troy were discussing the viability of shooting all of the waste of defunct computer monitors (a giant landfill issue) into the sun via rail gun. Which morphed into a discussion on whether or not nuclear waste could be viably disposed of in the same way. Which morphed into Marvin the Martian impressions--at which John is really, really good. Which morphed into speculation of whether or not there are volcanoes on the sun. At which point I started laughing because they'd both totally lost the plot.

The day ended as John and I try to end every day these days. We prayed together. Both of our prayers were filled with just "Thank you, God." Uneventful Saturdays full of family and friends are gifts. I'm glad I got to blog this one so it doesn't just slip by forgotten.

Friday, January 11, 2008

When people aren't what they seem...

I've often laughed that I'm a princess with a day job. But, it isn't always easy to keep that part of me alive that still believes in glass slippers and shooting stars.

In fact, over the past few days it has been particularly difficult.

On my way home tonight, I was thinking how stupid it was to believe in all of that stuff anyway. After all, what other 40 year old still thinks about the silly things she dreamed of as a little girl as if they might be just a little bit real?

I walked in the door to an empty house. There was a note from John that he was at the gym. And on my dresser, this.

When I pushed the button, Cinderella began to sing, then paused and said, "What a beautiful princess you are!"

Sometimes timing is everything. And men who look like computer consultants are really princes in disguise.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Marketing Diva takes a break...

The world of my day job moves pretty fast.

PR, web design, planning for trade shows, writing proposals, decisions that need to be made--and everything comes to a screeching halt when a client calls so I can give that person my full attention.

The fight is that when things are moving fast, it is easy to move from acting to reacting.

Sometimes I have to take time to create some breathing space. Frequently I'll tell Nancy and Erin that I'm headed to the "big blue office"...my euphemism for taking some time outside.

It isn't beautiful. Gray brick. Gray door. No landscaping. But there is sunlight, fresh air, and the occasional caterpillar, which apparently are the magic ingredients neccessary for sanity in the workplace.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Surviving a Consumer Culture

In the US we live in a consumer culture. If one brand doesn't work, you can always choose another. If a restaurant gives slow service, you can take your business to the the next one down the street. And while this competition creates a great deal of quality goods and services, it also creates a culture of unreal expectations.

Several years ago, I attended a trade show in New Orleans. I was absolutely captivated by the city. The music. The smell of the spicy food. The architecture. The chicory coffee. Beignets. (Mmmmm....) It was unlike any place I'd ever been.

While walking down Bourbon Street one evening, I passed a storefront with girls dancing in the window. They weren't wearing very much and I remember thinking how very young they all were. I continued walking with the group and we landed at a club where the jazz was incredible. As I watched the women serving drinks, it occurred to me that these were the same women I saw in the window, only older. Their faces were lined from working in smoke-filled rooms and they wore a ton of makeup and push-up bras trying hard to package themselves as if they were still 18.

They were products. Not people.

I'm currently reading Dr. Mary Pipher's book, Reviving Ophelia. "The book takes on the difficult subject of understanding two sides of adolescent girls: first, the side that is their true identity, that wonder and amazement at life that so many younger girls embody. And second, the hardened, nervous, insecure side that is consumed with pleasing others and conforming utterly..."

Though Pipher's book deals with young women, I don't think the pressure to trade the true self for a consumer-friendly model is gender specific. All of us fight with the pressure to be something other than who we really are. Our media rich culture blasts thousands of messages at us everyday that lie to us about what is possible.

Commercials show unreasonably thin people eating fast food. Women who are 50 look 30. People sleep around without getting their hearts broken (or pregnant, or STD's). High-powered executives never do anything boring (and have time for exotic vacations, sitting about drinking cognac and having the romances of their lives). Law enforcement officials always look fabulous and crimes rarely go unsolved. Ditto for doctors, substitute "illness" and "undiagnosed."

We are told in a thousand different ways to be better, smarter, prettier, thinner, to own more (but spend less), and of course, while we are doing all of this to be environmentally conscious.

Is it any wonder that most of us carry this sense of not being quite enough?

Maybe the most important survival skill in the consumer culture is the ability to see through the hype and packaging. And then to have the courage not to trade our bright, deep and beautiful Imago Dei, for something easier to mass merchandize.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Migraines

I experienced my first migraine the first day of seventh grade. It was seventh period of a very, very long day at a new school. I was taking wood shop--not my choice--and the shop teacher was going over the safety guidelines of the equipment. When he got to the jigsaw, he held up his hand.

He was missing a finger.

That was it. My peripheral vision went wiggly. I could barely see at all. I lost the feeling in the right side of my body. (Scary.) And 20 minutes later, I felt like steel spikes were going through my head.

What I didn't realize at the time was that this would be the first of many migraines.

My mom took me to a neurologist, who had me keep a headache diary. As it turns out there was a correlation....student council elections (migraine), final exams (migraine), first appt with a gynecologist (male)....well, you can see there was a pattern. The thing is, even with the calendar showing a pattern, the headaches always came as a surprise.

Over the years I've tried multiple drugs...Midrin, Imitrex...but found they left me as unable to function as the migraine.

One migraine proved to be significant. It occurred when I was planning an event for the educational consultants I worked for. About an hour before, I passed my friend, Elsa-the-Poet's classroom, and she spoke with me as she normally did, in Spanish.

To clarify, I speak Spanish. However, on this day I couldn't understand a word she said. I asked her to repeat, and again, her words had no meaning.

It wasn't long after that the usual symptoms of wiggly vision and numbness set in, but that day I realized there was a cognitive precursor to the headaches. And I began to recognize it.

These days, I still suffer from migraines. The thing is, now that I've learned to recognize that "something that happens in my brain" before the headache happens, I have time to identify what is stressing me and completely unplug or deal with it and can stop the migraine before the "steel post through the skull" sensation occurs. (Once the pain starts, it is too late and you are down.)

Bach's Rescue Remedy and inhaling rosemary essential oil are great tools during that small window of opportunity when the first signs hit. As is stepping away from my computer (if that is a factor) and making sure I'm not sitting in a place where light is causing an uncomfortable contrast ratio.

The thing is that I wonder if all migraines are detectable. Surely my experience isn't that different from everyone else's. After all, a schoolteacher invented Airborne as a preemptive strike for catching viruses, what if I could come up with something for headaches?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Calling the Lurkers to Come out and Play

Okay, so Google Analytics tells me that there are tons of people who read, but never comment. By definition, a lurker.

So here is your chance to be heard.

The question: What is your favorite TV show of all time?

For me, it has to be Firefly. It only ran for one season, but the characters were amazing, and the show had that brilliant Joss Whedon touch. If you don't know who Joss Whedon is, he comes from a long line of writers for television. His grandfather, John Whedon, wrote for The Donna Reed Show, The Andy Griffith Show and the Dick Van Dyke Show. His father, Tom, wrote for The Dick Cavett Show, Alice and Benson.

Joss got his start as a "script doctor" for movies before being able to get his storyline sold for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Hollywood took the movie far from his original vision, and he got another chance to tell the story when the WB allowed him 13 episodes in the 90's where he had creative control. The show was such an unexpected hit that Buffy then ran for a full seven seasons and resulted in a spin-off Angel.

A Joss Whedon trademark is that he plans storylines far in advance for all his television series, allowing for remarkable long-term continuity. Joss also has a habit of killing off favorite characters to keep audiences suprised. Something I've seen happen in all of his series--which given the amount of danger he puts them in keeps it all more real.

Okay, so enough of my babbling of the greatness of Joss Whedon. This post is about lurkers. C'mon, respond. You know you want to!!!!!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

An unexpected memory...

I received a call from Lynette the Cowgirl the other day. It seems that her son and father were in the attic of her parents' house installing insulation and found a box of memorabilia with her name on it. There among bits of paper, a t-shirt, photos, faded flowers, etc. was an autograph book that I had given her when she went into the hospital when we were really young. Sixth grade? Seventh?

This exchange was completely forgotten by both of us until this relic from our past was uncovered. Mom had bought me a similar one (which was the reason I asked my Mom to get one for Lynette.) When I saw the photo Lynette e-mailed, I remembered that I was bummed that all Mom could find was a gold one. (Mine was lavender which I thought was a better color.)

In another total piece of randomness, I even remember where Mom bought the thing. A store called, All Occasions--which I used to love when I was a girl. It was a bit of a stationary store and a bit of a party supply store. I remember buying sealing wax there for one of my friends--which we thought was the coolest. It made the notes we passed back and forth to each other a little more secret because they were sealed with a "C" stamped into a bit of red wax. This was made even cooler because we shared the initial. (A random piece of trivia is that I finally bought some for myself two years ago, when I ran across the stuff at a festival in Grapevine that we attended with Jeff and Jill Otero.)

If you were from the south side of Fort Worth circa 1979, All Occasions was located on Trail Lake in a shopping center across from the Baskin Robbins and Colonial Cafeteria (where my parents used to love to eat after church.) None of those businesses are there anymore--though the buildings still stand occupied by other endeavors.

Just like with the sealing wax, the illusion of secrecy was important for all young girl's communication, so we folded the interior pages of the autograph book all criss-crossed after each person signed so that what they wrote was hidden. Most people wrote goofy yearbook type sayings in it. My entry is on the first page of this one where I wrote she was "tops." (Tops? I couldn't come up with anything better than tops?)

The best part was the last page, where Kevin J. apologized for not calling. (Ah, the complexities of relationships in middle school.) Kevin wrote "so when you are reading this 20 some odd years from now...."

Little did he know it would take 30.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Watching Softball in the Cold

The Knights are playing Winter League softball this year. The game was made more comfortable by Shane-the -Microsoft -Cowboy's thoughtfulness in bringing a spare stadium seat and a propane heater. (Without them, Michele and I would have frozen solid.)

This was the first game without Gary, the-coach-who-up-and-left-us-all -to-move -to-Virginia -without-cause-reason-or-warning. So, there was something missing. But we all went to Red Robin afterward for the after game recap (and food and drink). Between John, Shane, Michelle, Steve and Jeff, I laughed a lot. There is something magical about that camaraderie. That sense that you belong. With the Knights, that gets offered up in spades.

On a side note, I wore the hat my dad bought me for Christmas. He said he was in the store and thought it looked like me. Not only was it warm, but it was the ultimate resolution to a rather bad hair day.

Of course, that didn't stop Brian Elwell from teasing me that I looked like Hannah Montana. He was even clever enough to play one of her songs as I walked by his office in the morning. Which brings me to ask, why does Brian have a Hannah Montana song, anyway?

Blogging 101

I ran across this video as I run across most things on the Web...through a bit of serendipity. This one came courtesy of a woman named Wezie who works with my sister, Karen. (She links to this blog on her site listed as "Karen's Sister" which totally and completely cracks me up.) She referenced another blogger named Rachel Boyd who lives in New Zealand--which is where I found the video.

The video is one of the best blogging 101 explanations I've seen. Plus the art of it is cool. And best of all, it is pretty short.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A Book Report

I just finished Anthony De Mello's book, Awareness. A guru friend of mine recommended it after hearing that I was challenged by Father Thomas Keating's Open Mind, Open Heart.

In reading DeMello's book, I grappled with why I wasn't connecting with it as well as Keating's book.

Open Mind, Open Heart is on contemplative prayer. Keating talks about the discipline of spending time in silence before God. It is a "be still and know" pursuit. De Mello writes more about enlightenment. It struck me that a core difference was that DeMello is pursuing a state of being, but Keating is pursuing Someone.

So, why does that even matter to me? (So much so that I bugged John for days needing a sounding board, trying to figure out the reasons I loved one book, but not the other.)

I think as people, we are geared to connect with other people. It's possibly the reason Jessica Simpson gets more press than the AIDS epidemic. There is something connecting about personalities. Something about "knowing and being known." A reason we connect with characters in a movie, book, television series... A reason churches are often accused of being personality-driven as congregations connect with a pastor. A reason we fall in love.

In Keating's writing, there was more of a sense of "him" in the book. DeMello was conspicuously absent in the writing and given that a lot of the book was about the letting go of the "me", maybe that was the point. In fact, he talks about attachments and affections as being driven by our conditioning. And maybe some of that is true.

But, it wasn't very satisfying. It didn't move me like Keating's writing about letting go of yourself in pursuit of God.

DeMello also wrote about the uselessness of labels. Again, true. I've seen labels applied to people who didn't deserve them. Some that they believed, even though they were completely false. But in Scripture, names seem to be really important. Adam is tasked with naming animals. God changes names of people when he does great work in their lives. The Hebrew names of God reveal His character. God "calls" things that are not as though they were. In fact, it occurs to me that it is possible that the concept of self-esteem is a myth, but the concept of identity is not. There is something terribly important in it. Something I don't fully understand.

The cool thing about the book was that it prompted me to think about things like attachment, labels, identity and pursuit.

And now that I'm done with that, I'm reaching for my People magazine. I think Jessica Simpson is on the cover. Again.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The New Years Eve Party

Our annual New Years Eve party is one of my favorite nights of the year. We get to surround ourselves with some of our favorite people with no other goal than to have fun together and ring in the New Year.

The event started in a bit of desperation. Our kids were young and neither Rhonda nor I could find (translation: afford) sitters so we figured if we hosted, we could have our kids there with us. Now our kids are grown and off to their own parties, but the tradition lives on.

We always have tons of food and drink and games. The annual standby is a game called "Four on a Couch" which is my favorite because everyone gets to participate--even if you don't know a soul. The game is this...(rules are convoluted, so bear with)...the game begins with two men and two women sitting alternately on the couch. The couch is surrounded by chairs with men and women sitting alternately and an empty chair in the mix.

Each person's name is written on a piece of paper and handed out. Whatever name you are handed is your name for the game, but that's your secret. The person to the right of the empty chair calls a name....any name...and whoever is holding that name has to move to the empty spot leaving their place vacant. Then the person to the right calls another name and play continues.

The point of the game is for the women to get all the spots on the couch filled with women and the men are trying to get four men on the couch. It's a bit like the plastic toys with the numbers where you slide them about to get them in order. The thing is that you can call a guy's name and that name may belong to a girl so you've accidentally put a woman on the couch. This goes on for a bit until you start to figure out who is who.

The running commentary, difficulty remembering names, imitations of people who have someones name--I particularly liked Michelle mimicking John's "hair flip"--are what make the game fun. Last night, it was a total rout as the women won three in a row. (Even though John threw the last game because it was running long.)

The other big thing was the Wii Bowling Tournament. Chase was gracious enough to leave it here for our party. (He and Nichole even stayed long enough to play Four on a Couch with us.) Nancy-the-Insightful totally trounced us all with the high score (and this was her first time to play).

Toward the end of the night, Denise asked me what my theme of the year was, and I'm embarrassed to say I had nothing. Each year I craft a theme for the year. (Usually silly.) One year it was "All about Me" year. (The next year was "All about my BIL Troy.") Another year it was "Sparkle on." One year was "Simplify." I asked for suggestions last night. Jill came up with "Team Fabulous." And someone else decided it should be "It's a Wii World" which someone quickly modified to "Wiiiiiiiiiiiiii." Maybe I'm just tired from staying up too late, or maybe it is because of the book I'm reading on awareness, but I think this year's theme may be, "Just Be." Totally uninspiring, I know. (Wouldn't it be more fun if I had a theme that involved painting the world bright pink?) What if 2008 becomes about not moving so fast...about enjoying the journey and giving myself permission sometimes just to be?

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