Friday, July 31, 2009

How about a suscription to "Modern Marriage"?

Recently, I’ve found myself thumbing through bridal magazines.

I’ve checked out the dessert options; want something other than cake? why not cookies and milk in bottles that have customized stickers “From the Smith/Johnson Dairy Farm.” I’ve seen many wedding dresses—trendy, country, girly, beachy. I’ve contemplated menus—if you’re going casual, semi-formal, formal, casual but want food to look like formal, formal but want food to look like casual, Italian, seafood, etc. etc. And then of course there’s the party favors, the decorations, the bridesmaid dresses, the tuxes, the blah. Blah. BLAH.

Don’t worry. I didn’t meet someone, fall in love and become engaged and not tell you. I have a dear friend who’s getting married in February, so my girlfriends and I have had fun picking out what we like or don’t like and then telling our friend—the bride—what we would really like her to do. Unfortunately we will not be dancing down the aisle to Chris Brown. Sad. We will, however, each be wearing different gorgeous navy blue, floor-length dresses that we got to pick out!

Anyways though, as I waited in line at Wal-Mart the other night, I found myself staring at two bridal magazines, one of which I had already scoured with my friends. Oh yeah, that’s the one with the couple who had the most hideous orange and pink decorations. Awful. Who was their coordinator, anyways?

Interestingly though, not one of the magazines I’ve looked through recently has had substantial help or advice on real stuff. And granted that’s not what they’re for. They’re supposed to be about the wedding DAY. The aesthetics, appearances, prettiness. But what about the marriage? Shouldn’t there be just as many magazines at Barnes & Noble about how to have a healthy, happy marriage on days when you’re not in a dress and he’s not in a tux? Or how about for the bridal party, how to support and encourage a marriage through tough times...illness, money problems, infertility, depression? Not just how to pin the bride's train.

Well, ‘tis the seasons of weddings...for family members, friends, and coworkers, and I’m excited to celebrate the weddings, but I’m praying for the marriages!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


"It’s YUKI!
STOP THE CAR! Turn around! Get the camera!"

A couple weekends ago, I found myself yelling these things from the backseat of my friend’s truck. Four girlfriends and me were driving through Cable, Wisc., on the way back to our condo where we were staying for the weekend. Where we had hoped to relax in swimsuits, bask in the sun, and sip cool drinks. Instead in sweatshirts and jeans, we drove 20 miles in the rain and 50-degree weather to the “largest” town to shop and catch a movie. Gotta love northern Wisconsin in the summer.

But as I was gazing out the window, content listening to my good friends chat and watching greenness speed by, I saw it. YUKI! Whiteness! The albino deer! The one Cable, Wisc., is known for. The one written up about in the town’s Chamber of Commerce “Things to do in Cable” booklet—last year’s edition—on our condo’s coffee table.

My friend did, in fact, turn around and park on the shoulder. We proceeded to take lots of photographs of Yuki. I mean, we had just read that Yuki’s been in hiding of late. Not seen too often. Locals were starting to wonder...Yuki still alive? And there we were, out-of-towners getting to see the thing. HA! But quite frankly, if I looked like that, I’d be in hiding too. It was disgusting—a cross between a very large white rat and another very large white rat with pink eyes and pink ears. Sick. But take another photo anyways because it’s Yuki—which means “snow” in Japanese. It also rhymes with puke-y.

So, there we were. Five girls. Laughing. Pointing. Snapping photos (speaking of, can one of you send me a pic? I’ll post it for others to partake of). Delighting in something out-of-the-ordinary. Something not seen everyday. It didn't last long. Yuki soon ran back into the woods, but seeing him, her, it, whatever, came to be one of the highlights of the trip. The tale and laughter live on.

I think there are Yukis each day, even amidst our monotonous routines and busy-ness. You just gotta be willing to stop and look. Or stop and listen. It’s worth a laugh or a smile.

Seen a Yuki today?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Huff and puff

Yesterday while running I came up behind a guy briskly walking. He was dressed appropriately for exercising...tennies, athletic shorts, t-shirt. And then suddenly, I saw his right hand go up, and two seconds later a cloud of smoke ascend above his head. He was smoking! He was walking and smoking. As I passed, I turned toward him and smiled, really just wanting to see if, in fact, he was walking and smoking. Yup. He was.

For the next mile or so I found myself contemplating this. It would have been different had be been in street clothes, walking and smoking, on his way to a store or a restaurant or a bar. But he was dressed to exercise, and he was on a somewhat secluded part of a path filled with people who use the path to exercise—rollerblade, walk, run, bike. And he was smoking.

I mean, maybe he wasn’t really exercising per se, but just trying to release some stress. Maybe he had spent the whole day at the hospital with a sick family member and just really needed a smoke to take the edge off.

Maybe he was an alcoholic trying to kick his drinking habit, and needed a cigarette to get him through the hour.

But all the potential scenarios I came up with in my head didn’t require the walking part. I mean, you can take the edge off with a cigarette while sitting on your bum on the porch. No need to walk. It definitely seemed like a diet-coke-at-McDonald’s situation (order two Big Macs, a large fry and THEN a diet coke).

So, then I tried to think about the places in my life where I do the same thing. I somehow managed to justify and explain every situation where I may do something along these lines (obviously). That is, until I got to my faith.

Living out a faith that is not diet-coke-at-McDonald’s is not natural; it’s a constant challenge. So often we walk—oh we’re walking...we’re going to church, we’re praying, we’re doing all the things we think Christians should be doing. But then we’re also smoking (Not meant literally. See post on cigars!). Attitudes and actions—or sometimes lack thereof—completely negate the walking. We huff and puff in our worry or our selfishness or anger or fear or whatever it is you smoke. And then we wonder why we walk alone. Why some aren’t always up for the hike...

Because it’ll be a hike no matter what. It’s just a bit easier without the cigarette.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Boxed in

I quickly parked and ran into McDonald’s, thankful that the Redbox line was only one person. I needed to return a movie, which takes all of two seconds, and I hate when three families, each with three kids are in line in front of me because, of course, each kid gets to sift through all the movies and select the one he or she wants. This takes 10 minutes each. That means 40 minutes later, I’m finally returning my movie.

The guy in front of me had two movies. He inserted his first one...waited, waited, waited. "Your DVD has been successfully returned." And then he inserted—or tried to—his second one. The thing wouldn’t go in. After multiple tries and a few sighs and whispered "what?"s from him, the screen said, "Sorry. This Redbox full. Please return your DVD at another Redbox location." I think the guy was actually relieved to see this because that way he knew I was no longer thinking the problem was a Redbox user error. That maybe his wrist wasn't positioned correctly as he tried to slide the movie in or something...

But anyways, the guy turned around and looked at me with his shoulders up and a sheepish grin. "Sorry," he said. Really? A Redbox can be full? And really? Right now? I was in a hurry! He said he guessed he’d just head over to Cub and return his other one there. My mental GPS went into action trying to figure out what my best options were. I wish I had thought to give him my movie and say "here, you return this! It’s your fault that Redbox is full! You just HAD to return Transformers!"

As I walked out, I found myself trying to envision what the inside of a Redbox looks like. Are the DVDs stacked horizontally? Vertically? And how exactly are they organized? Alpha order? Release date? How many boxes could a Redbox hold if a Redbox could hold boxes? I researched. I didn’t get all my answers, but here’s what I did discover...

A Redbox can hold 700 DVDs.

On average, one Redbox kiosk is opening each hour throughout the country.

Last month, more than 4 million people swiped their credit card through a Redbox. I was one of them.

Netflix may be in trouble.

You can purchase used movies at a Redbox for $7.

When your Redbox is full (holding 700 movies because the weather's nice and no one's inside watching a movie, especially on a week night), you can head to one of the 12,899 others.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Yesterday, today, and forever

I have a kacki-colored, Mr. Rogers-like sweater. I got it early in college, which means, mmm, I don’t know. It’s probably 10 years old. I was shopping with my boyfriend at the time at Dayton’s. We were in the men’s section, and this sweater—size x-small—was on sale, and it called out to me. It zips all the way up. Has two great pockets. Part wool. Super warm. Simple. I wore it all the time in college and right after. You only need to look at a few photos from that era to see I’m not lying.

But then I moved to Cali. It came with me, but it hung out in my closet the entire time. I think it was partly the weather, but also I came to a point where I wondered if it actually was really ugly. Did I look homeless in it? I mean, I’d had it for so long. Maybe my love for it had made me blind, and I shouldn’t be wearing it anymore! I had some doubts.

It moved back to Minnesota with me, and I’ve recently rekindled my love for this sweater. I had it on last week and my friend from Cali—who hadn’t seen it before—told me she really liked my sweater. I smiled. Why, thank you. I told her of my strained sweater relationship, and how we’re suddenly going strong again.

This morning I read Hebrews 13:8, and I was convicted.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Do I really believe this? If I’m completely honest, I don’t think I do most of the time. The Jesus who performs miracles! Who brings sight to the blind! Who tells stories to children! Who heals lepers! Who calms storms! Who loves us! Right now? That’s crazy talk!

I mean, I say I do, but I think, almost unknowingly, I put Christ on a timeline. He was that then. Now He’s this today. Sure, He did all those things back in the day, but really, on a day-to-day basis, right now, He’s more removed. He’s further away. Sure...still there, still listening, but not quite what He was. And what convicted me most about this was realizing that in doing this, in thinking these things, I decide who God is, which is absurd! I’m deciding He can and can’t do certain things or that He does or does not have certain power. THAT is crazy talk, and I have a tendency to do this when I don’t feel or see God moving in my life as much I’d like. Doesn’t mean He’s not working, I’m just not capable of seeing it at times.

We are told who God is though! It’s not for me or you to decide. And what He is today is exactly what He was 2,000 years ago. Neither His love nor His power has in any way lessened or decreased or become more removed. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And I really liked how when I looked this verse up in a number of different translations, they all used the same. He is the same in NIV, ASV, and NAS. He is the same.

It's a bit like my sweater. Despite going through the wash many times, it doesn't really look all that different from when I first bought it. It still has it goin’ on—in a vintage, thrift-shop sort of way—despite my occasional fashion doubts.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Flat-tired Scorpio

So. Yesterday. I go to mom and dad’s. I get my brother’s bike down (hanging high in the garage). I’m sure this was a sight in and of itself because no one was around to help me. I filled the tires with dad’s air pump, got the thing in the car and drove home. I’ve been wanting to get the bike and ride for quite some time, but it’s just always seemed like such an effort, and I’ve been short on time. But not yesterday. The lazy, 80-degree, sunny Saturday provided a perfect opportunity.

I take off from home on the bike. And it's true, I never forgets how to ride a bike. I haven't been on two wheels in forever, but I can do it just fine! My legs know what to do. Things are going swimmingly, and I’m thinking, wow, I can see how Lance Armstrong really likes this, and how one of my dear friends has gotten hooked on this and rides a bajillion miles everywhere. I start making a mental list of all the things I should really go out and buy because, by golly, in my quest to become more “green” and granola, riding my bike everywhere is tops on the list. I need a bike lock, my own air pump, probably some nifty sandals of some sort. Hm. Where could I get those? REI maybe summer clearance? Sports Authority? I should watch in tomorrow’s paper, I think. I mean, I’m going to become a veritable cyclist! It’s going to be great.

All this before I had even left my neighborhood.

I’m about 10 minutes in when I realize that this bike is actually not the smoothest thing ever. In fact, it’s actually kind of a rough ride, even on smooth terrain. And I see that my back tire is probably 75 percent flat. No way. No way am I aborting my maiden biking voyage already. I mean, I've already got a good hour and a half into making this bike ride possible, not to mention a bruise on my thigh from getting the thing down from the garage. These tires are thick. This shouldn’t really be a problem, and I don’t weigh a ton. They look like all-terrain tires. Nevertheless, I stop, hop off and squeeze the back tire, acting like I know what I’m checking for. Well, maybe I should abort. I don’t know. I just filled these things, so why is it almost flat already? I wish my cycling friend was around, so I could ask his advice. What should i do? But I decided I’d go a bit further and see what happens.

I hop back on and keep going. I cross 81 and leave suburb land. Or at least, that’s what it feels like because suddenly I’m in the midst of horses and cornfields, and I hop on a path that could take me miles and miles and miles depending on which way I go. I’m cruising along pretending like my tire is not flat, and suddenly I get passed by a very large man on a bike with the skinniest tires I’ve ever seen. How strange. I’m skinny and on a bike with massively wide tires. He's the opposite. How does that work?! Why is he passing me? Another biker cruises by me going the other direction. He’s wearing a fancy schmancy helmet. Hm. Is that a must? Is that a rule? Should I be wearing a helmet? Should that be on my biking list of things to get? I wonder where he got his. He was also wearing a biking jersey, like one that Lance Armstrong is probably wearing right now during the Tour de France. Why is he wearing that while he rides around the outskirts of Maple Grove I wonder? To look cool? Or maybe that’s just what all really-cool bikers wear. Well, that is something I won’t be getting. Ever. I continue on my merry way and realize that maybe if I stand and pedal, there’s less weight on the back flat tire. That’s probably a good thing. So I decide to stand a bit more every now and then.

"On your left," I hear from behind me. Somebody's passing me.
"Left," another someone passes me. They're all on skinny-tire bikes going very fast. And they're all male, and not all fat. Maybe i should bike more often, I think! Why haven't i done this sooner?!
"To your left."

About 45 minutes in, I realize I have no idea where I’m going. I’m in a massive park reserve and I’ve just been going, going, whichever direction I’ve felt like going, lost in my biking thoughts. So, at the next path intersection, I stop. Hop off. Once again, feel my back tire—yup, still flat—I get a swig of water (because of course I have a water bottle attached to my bike!). I begin to study the provided map on the side of the path. Um. I am nowhere near where I thought I was. And as I stand there trying to figure out which direction the you-are-here arrow is really pointing, other bikers are speedily zooming by, knowing exactly where they’re going. I think to myself…I should pretend like I’m not really studying the map quizzically. Merely just stopping for some water, except maybe legitimate bikers don’t actually stop for water. They can drink and drive. Sigh. I’m just not a cool biker yet, but it’ll come. I hop back on my bike and continue on, knowing that I need to take a left at the next fork in the path in order to get home some time that day.

I’m tired now though. I’ve got the gears set so that I’m actually working most of the time. My legs are getting a work out, and I don’t think the flat tire is making it any easier! I'm sweating and decide I can cut my planned 6-mile run to 3 miles for that afternoon. As I hit a flat stretch of path, I look down and begin studying my bike. Hm. What kind of bike is this exactly, I wonder? It's hunter green. A little dusty. Has a nice little attached pouch for my phone and keys. I wonder about the difference between the seven gears on the right handlebar versus the three on the left. It says “Scorpio” in black and silver letters on one of the bars. I realize that it’s probably like the “Faded Glory” clothing brand from Wal-Mart, or “Sonoma” from Kohl’s. The off brand. A wave of self-consciousness rolled in. What are the other bikers thinking of me? Look at the girl, not wearing a helmet, riding a flat-tired Scorpio! And she has no idea where she’s going?! Plus, everybody else was wearing sunglasses. I didn’t wear my sunglasses. Next time.

Well, I made it home, flat tire and all. And quite honestly, it was tons of fun, and I’m looking forward to more biking. I was reminded of how great it is to do something new and different, something you're a little unsure of. Something in which you need to learn a few things. Get a few pointers.

And I did, in fact, pick up a bike lock (because someone definitely would want to steal my Scorpio!). So, wave if you see me on the road. I'm on the flat-tired Scorpio.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Lettuce? no thanks

Not cool.
In late spring I planted lettuce in a small windowbox. Within days, little, delicate green sprouts emerged from the soil. A few more days went by, the growth continued, and I woke to find my porch strewn with dirt. Someone—or something—had decided to dig around in my lettuce windowbox, but not actually do anything to the lettuce plants. Just dig in the dirt and throw it all over the place. The lettuce was still OK. Another week went by and the plants continued to grow, truly beginning to look like lettuce. Visions of wonderful salads danced in my head.

Not for long though. I woke up one morning and once again, something had decided to dig around in my lettuce box. This time digging up the lettuce plants. Whatever it was didn’t eat or even nibble the plants. Instead the plants were in their entirety—roots and all—lying lamely on the cement amidst dirt.

One morning, sitting at my kitchen table drinking coffee, I saw the culprit. A squirrel. “Why, you little...” I jumped up and ran out the front door, yelling at the thing like it was a two-year-old. “What do you think you’re doing? No! Keep your hands off!” I did feel a little better knowing what was eating my future salads. A squirrel. Not a rabbit and not my neighbor.

So, I planted some more lettuce seeds and moved the windowbox. Put it up on the deck. Up on a chair...It hasn’t worked. I got home last night and my second batch of lettuce was all over my patio. Roots, lettuce leaves and all. Dirt everywhere. So, the worst part is that the thing isn’t even enjoying my lettuce. I mean, at least eat it if you’re going to ruin it! Need some salad dressing?!

I was recently talking to a married friend and relating a “funny” dating story. Don’t you love how all sucky dating stories somehow turn “funny.” Some take a little longer to turn funny, but... She was saying that she didn’t envy me—dating does not sound fun. And no, it’s really not, at least in my opinion. I’d like to find someone without the hassle of going through other someones. But I chuckled to myself as I swept up my lettuce and dirt last night. It’s like dating! You start seeing someone. As the squirrel, you dig around, getting to know the person, asking them questions, finding things out. You go out again, dig a little deeper. But then something happens, externally or internally, big or small, and it can’t go any further. So the squirrel’s just gotta pull the whole thing out, sometimes roots and all. One person leaves the other person lying lamely on the cement with bits and pieces of conversations and dates and songs strewn about. One person just decides that they want a different kind of lettuce.

And I know the squirrel isn’t out to get me personally, but it doesn’t matter. I’m still mad at the thing! No salads for me! An eensy-teensy bit of me takes it personally, especially because it’s not even enjoying the actual lettuce! In dating, sometimes I’m the squirrel, sometimes I’m the lettuce. And I don’t want to be the squirrel or the damn lettuce!

Good thing though. The squirrel hasn’t touched my zucchini or green peppers or basil. There’s hope, my single friends! I will have wonderful grilled zucchini, nummy green peppers in my salad (made with store-bought lettuce), and some amazing homemade pesto.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The ole' Mann

I went to the movies last night with my brother at a theaternearyou. When I was little I used to think that was one word—theaternearyou. That’s where you went to a movie. Anyways, we got to park super close, easily smuggled in our own drinks, and didn’t have to wait in any line for tickets because there wasn’t any line. We paid $3each. $3! Not $10. Then we walked into an empty theater and got to choose any seat we wanted. No one else came; it was a like a special showing just for us. We got to put our feet on the chair in front of us, and I was able to throw my purse and sweater on the chair next to me. We could have talked super loudly, burped, laughed obnoxiously. We didn’t, but we could have. My brother opened his can of pop without fear that someone would see or hear. I almost turned my phone back on thinking no one’s going to care if it goes off. And just before our movie started, a 16-year-old boy came out and directed his brief pre-flick welcome to just the two of us. Rather than walking all the way to the front of the theater, he stood in the center aisle at the end of our row. While trying very hard not to make eye contact with us, he thanked us for visiting Mann Theater, said he hoped we enjoy our experience and if we have any problems or concerns to visit the front counter for help.

It was like the whole place was operating just for me and my bro to have a great movie-going experience at a theater near us. Sounds great huh? Want to go to this theater?

Here’s the catch. It’s the old-man theater. AKA the ole Mann Theater of Maple Grove—the underdog—playing movies that are no longer playing at fancy schmancy theaternearyous. It used to be the hip, happenin’ place until the big, fancy schmancy AMC came to town. The one where you have to park super far away, wait in long lines, pay $10, be annoyed by tons of loud junior highers, follow lots of rules so as not to bother those around you. And there’s no personal greeting from an awkward theater employee.

I’m kind of a sucker for underdogs though. And so is God. With Him, you can bring your own pop, put your feet up on the seat and leave your phone on. And He really is operating just for you, just for me. He’s hardly the flashy AMC. I mean, He was human, born in a manger, rode a donkey. He was understated, subtle. Pretty sure His sandals were from Wal-Mart, not REI.

Anyways, sometimes when I’m tired or feeling lackluster at work or in friendships...when I’m feeling a wee underdoggish, I’m super thankful God’s the ole Mann. Not the AMC. Taking me as I am. Loving me where I'm at.

PS. We saw State of Play, which only increased my desire to know why some women think Russell Crowe is attractive.