Friday, January 29, 2010

Real rest

Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. "The Father has given me all these things to do and say...No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I'm not keeping it to myself; I'm ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen.

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

Matthew 11:27-30 (The Message translation)

Thursday, January 28, 2010


It’s a word. An adjective. Did you know that? My friends in Cali use it frequently, and on a recent visit I asked them to please clarify its meaning! Janky? Never heard of it. Well, they promptly informed me that duh, it means like...ghetto. I would have put money on it not being in the dictionary. But turns out it is! It means “messed up, bad, inferior.” Once I found that out, I decided janky most definitely needed to become part of my regular vocabulary! I just needed to find some good uses for it.

So, the other night after class, I’m headed home, driving along 694, chatting with my mom on the cell, when all of a sudden my rear end starts making this horrid noise...the car’s rear end.

Me: Mom, can you hear that?!

Mom: Yes. what is it?!


Mom: Where are you?

Me: On the freeway.

Mom: Get off the freeway.

Me: Yes. I know. I will, I have to wait for exit!

I get off at next exit, and pull into the first parking lot, which happens to be an apartment complex.

Mom: Is it safe there?

Me: I DON’T KNOW! You just told me to get off the freeway and now you’re questioning my location. You want me on the road or in the parking lot?! Make up your mind!

So, anyways. I’m in heels and a skirt (of course). It’s 10:30pm (of course). It’s zero degrees out. Windchill well below zero (of course). I get out, walk around to the back of my car...and there...just casually chillin’ on the ground, as if that’s it exactly where it’s supposed to be, is half my car’s rear end. Ok. I exaggerate. It was the muffler and some other stuff. I don’t know. Whatever it was was dragging on the ground. I had to call dad (of course). (I mean, did you read my last post?!)

As I sat in my car waiting for my knight in shining armor (or at least his warmest Columbia jacket), the only word that came to mind was JANKY. JA-NKY!

Perfect usage!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I'm full

It’s just disappearing. The oil in my car.
Poof. Gone.

I’d feel better if there was a big puddle of oil on my garage floor, or if it was somehow seeping through the floorboards. At least I could pinpoint where it was going! But the oil goes in, and then a few days later, it’s gone.

I’m supposed to keep checking the oil levels, because I should not drive around without oil. But, I’m having a hard time doing that. It just doesn’t register. I don’t think about it. Or if I do, I think of a million reasons why I’m not going to check it right at that moment. The first reason is that nine times out of ten, I can’t even get my hood open. The second reason is that it’s 10 degrees below zero outside. The third reason is that I’m wearing a skirt and heels. The fourth reason is that I have the little genie-in-a-bottle light on my dashboard--that’s its job to tell me I need more oil!

So dad, always my knight in shining armor, checks my oil every time he sees me now (sometimes even when he doesn't see me). And I swear he just keeps an extra quart of oil always on hand so he can fill up my tank each time. And every time he does, I drive away feeling safe, or at least safer, because my tank is filled with oil.

But I realized that we live in a tiring state of refilling. We refill gas tanks, pantries, water bottles, savings accounts, prescriptions. We refill and refill and refill some more. It’s just neverending. I don’t want to think about that for too long. It's seriously tiring to think about!

So, this morning as I read a bit of Colossians, I got hung up on the word “fullness.” We are told that we “have been given fullness in Christ” (Col. 2:10). What a concept. To not have to refill? I actually can’t quite grasp it--to think that I have everything I need for life in Christ...

And then this got me thinking about the people in Haiti. I’m continually amazed. All of these people on the news: they have nothing (earthly, that is), and yet they reference faith or God as sustenance. Over and over again you hear that that is what’s getting them through. And I guess that’s fullness. When there’s nothing around you to refill’re still full in Christ.

And yes...I know. I need a new car.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Animals and taxes

Who loves Fridays? I do, I do. Especially because I can wear jeans and tennies to work. This morning, I helped stuff letters (tax info/receipts) into envelopes for an office mailing (a fabulously brainless task for a few minutes on a Friday!).

I learned that animals pay taxes, too.

Names on mailing list:
Babie Moose
(someone should have told mom and dad this one when I was born!)

Rusty Lyon

Address on mailing list:
Walking Horse Dr. (as opposed to running horse? or perhaps galloping?)

*If you should happen to know Babie or Rusty, I know that they are not, in fact, animals.
**To devoted readers who'd prefer I post every day...this is what you're gonna get sometimes! Rusty lions and baby meese.
***Happy Friday!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

No sidebar life

In editing a few features for work recently, I’ve gone back to the different writers with the same comments/edits/suggestions.

Here’s what happens. They have an intriguing lead and as they conclude their lead, they tell the reader what he or she will learn if they continue. “Read on to hear how So and So is doing This.” “Learn how Such and Such is making a difference.” So, the reader excitedly continues on only to discover that what they were promised at the beginning didn’t happen. They didn’t hear about X, Y or Z. They didn’t hear from So and So, or if they did, it wasn’t what they were supposed to hear about.

Interestingly though, the necessary information hasn’t completely eluded the writers. It's not like they didn't get that info. It’s all there. They've just chosen to put it into sidebars. In editorial speak, these are chunks of text that are extra, frivolous. The feature can stand alone, so these sidebars are not necessary but they definitely spice it up. They're usually in little boxes on their own.

So, I’ve found myself pushing back, telling these particular writers that the info they’ve placed in sidebars is NOT supplementary. At least not if they want an engaging, interesting piece! Not if they want to follow through on what they promised the reader in the beginning. I’m encouraging them to go back and weave the interesting stuff throughout, which, I’ll be honest, is sometimes the hardest thing to do. You have to somehow mesh the factual—who, what, when, where why—with the emotional, personal, intriguing. It’s easier to separate.

If being a Christian were a feature article, how often do we say at the beginning that we’re Christian (I mean we do go to church on Sundays!), but then in our daily lives, line by line, we don’t live up to the claim that we’re Christ-followers? We decide to put things that should be woven throughout our days into sidebars. Spending time with the Lord--praying maybe--is just done at church. Being patient or honest is not necessary. It's nice sometimes, but c'mon, it's survival of the fittest in this culture!

As Christians, what do we claim, but then throw into a sidebar? How can we better weave joy and kindess into our life feature? How does God fit into our daily decisions? I think this would make for much more interesting reading! This reading, however, is not going to be sugar-coated. My previous editor used to challenge me by asking where "the messy factor" was. Meaning, it can't all be sweet and nice and positive. A good story is going to show the cons as well. It's going to raise the questions. So, as Christians, praying, or being honest or patient or showing self-control...or whatever may be in your sidebar is not going to make your life feature all smiley and nice. It's going to get messy. But at least you've followed through on what you claimed.

A friend was just telling me about how she visited her mom over the weekend. Her mom is in a nursing home and has been battling Alzheimers for years now. My friend visits her faithfully each week, even though she leaves crying each time because her own mom doesn't know who she is. The only glimpse of recognition comes when my friend hums or sings familiar hymns to her mom. So, my friend goes every week and sings hymns, hard though it may be. I walked away from the conversation teary-eyed and thought to myself...that is love and faithfulness not thrown in a sidebar.

Pink princess party

My best friends are Flounder and Sebastien. I comb my hair with a dinglehopper, and my boyfriend is Eric. I am Ariel. As in THE little mermaid.

What could have most certainly been an episode of "The Office," my office yesterday hosted its monthly birthday celebration for those with January birthdays (me included). The hosts (each with little girls of their own) opted for a Disney princess theme. Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Jasmine, Ariel, and Belle puked pink all over the conference room (and you know how much I love pink). Tablecloths, tiaras (we had to wear), magic wands (we had to hold), paper plates, napkins, even a plastic purple princess oven--out of which was coming mini pink cheesecakes. Kudos to the hosts for the theme and originality. Good thing three women have birthdays in January.

Anyways, after we all got to take a "princess quiz"--answering questions like, which princess's parents are both still living, what were the names of Cinderella's fairy godmothers--one of the hosts told us that if we were curious, there was a Disney quiz you can take to find out which princess you are.

I found it, took it, and discovered that I am Ariel. Fitting, as I'm pretty sure I know all the words to "Under the Sea" and "Kiss the Girl," and The Little Mermaid was the only princess movie my brother would watch with me.

The quiz results said that I am:

Adventurous, romantic, and just a bit headstrong. Curiosity often lands me in some sticky predicaments. I set out to discover my own way of doing things and feel the need to spread my fins. Even though this independence is great, there are still times when I would rather enjoy childlike comforts rather than exert my assertiveness. I'm true to myself and determined to follow my heart. Wherever that may lead me.

In part, I think I'm Ariel because I said I like reggae music and I'm not such a fan of ballroom dancing. But whatever. I am independent and a bit headstrong. What are you?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

29, a moose no more

My mom is tough. Nine months pregnant, she went to work on January 13, 1981, even though she had stomach cramps. She says she didn’t think much of them. (um, hello?) The cramps started getting more consistent throughout the day. She went home, and had spaghetti with dad for dinner before finally deciding that maybe they should go to the hospital at 8:50pm. They got behind a very slow driver on the way. I, on the other hand, was not slow. I had things to do! I arrived less than two hours later at 10:49pm. So nervous, dad put his hospital robe on backwards.

My parents lovingly referred to their daughter, their first offspring, as the moose of the nursery. At 8 pounds, 1 ounce, I was supposedly one full pound bigger than all the other babies in the nursery at that time. So, when friends and family visited, they just said look for the moose. The biggest baby. Nice.

They brought me home four days later, on a warm, 32-degree Minnesota winter day—clear, blue sky. My aunt and uncle came over to visit me, and dad left me to go buy a new stereo with the baby money. Classic.

I didn’t let mom and dad sleep through the night though until February 7. And I waited to smile until February 8—perhaps because I had just gotten a full night’s rest! Or because I was baptized that day. I was awake, but quiet during the service, which could be because my godfather’s knuckle was in or near my mouth the whole time. He was nervous I’d freak out (that wouldn't happen until a little later in life).

29 years later, my parents no longer call me moose. I can still keep them up at night for various reasons. Mom is still tough, and I still have so many things to do.

Thanks, mom and dad.

Source: hj’s baby book

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Identity issues

It’s back to class. Let the winter session begin. I got my syllabus yesterday and discovered I had reading and writing due today (nothing like a little lead time). Anyways, the chapter I read was about our identity. Here’s really quick summary: Ask any anthropologist and they will tell you that everyone is constantly seeking an identity of some sort. We all want to know who we are and what we’re doing here. Also, ask any anthropologist and they will tell you that no one is ever satisfied. No matter what a person acquires—be it candy, job, spouse, success—that person always wants something more or different. We just do! We want something that ultimately this world in its finiteness just cannot afford. Enter God, say many anthropologists. He (God, not anthropologist) guarantees 100% satisfaction.

I was thinking that it’s an appropriate time to be reading about this because everyone is talking about their New Year’s resolutions. People want to save money. People want to spend money. People want to lose weight, spend more time at home, get organized. Whatever. We want things. And when we have those things, we’ll want more things. Are these the things by which we define ourselves? Are these our identity? And what happens when we can’t reach these goals or acquire these things?

Anyways, at the church I’ve been attending (yes, the one that sings The Black Eyed Peas), the pastor is slowly teaching through Colossians. We’re not very far. This past week we spent a lot of time on Colossians 1:24-25. This morning I decided to read Colossians 1 in The Message translation just to get a slightly different spin on that chunk of Scripture. The words were rather fitting and timely in light of my homework. Thought I’d share.

"We look at this Son and see God's original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.

He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he's there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross."

Colossians 1:15-20

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Target in MN winter

Wear your big, ugly boots so that you won’t slip and fall on your arse carrying groceries out to the car. And it’s OK if one of your pant legs is half in and half out of your boot. Really. We all know the reason why: you’re also wearing gi-normous mittens that make you look like a penguin. These mittens make it extremely difficult to not only find your keys in your purse, but to also fix your pant legs. However, the penguin mittens are warm and will save your fingers. And I assure you…it doesn’t matter that your boots are brown and your mittens are black. This is about survival.

Then, wear your hat. Style schmyle. Color schmolor. Hair schmair. As you pick out your “fresh” produce, your fellow shopper will smile and nod at you even if you have the worst hat hair ever. And why? Because they have hat hair too. But you also both still have ears. Definitely worth smiling about.

Be sure to have a Kleenex in your coat pocket. I realize you won’t be able to get to it until you take your penguin mittens off, but it’s essential. You won’t realize that your nose is running into your mouth until you’ve been inside for a good 30 seconds and stuff starts to thaw. Then you’ll need your Kleenex.

Don’t walk to the door. Run (another reason you wore your good-snow-traction boots).

Coat. Just wear the biggest, heaviest one you got, and I prefer one with pockets to at least hold your penguin mittens, if not your hat, scarf, and Kleenex. If your pockets are not big enough for all these forms of protection, you’ll need a large enough purse or murse (man purse) to stuff them in. Some people think the small top front compartment of a grocery cart will do just fine holding your stuff. Not so. First, H1N1. Germs, people. And you cannot get to the Purell with your penguin mittens on. Second, there are big holes and slots in that cart. Inevitably your scarf will drag on the ground, and your hat will fall, probably into a sludge puddle made by someone else’s big boots while they compared the prices of salad dressings. On my last trip to Target, I saw a pair of nice black, leather gloves sitting on top the canned mushrooms. Owner nowhere in sight. That’s what happens when you don’t wear a big enough coat or bring a big enough purse to stash them in.

Only buy items that you can carry out to the car in one or two bags. You do NOT want to push a cart to your car, unless you enjoy trying to maneuver four wheels through a foot of nasty, gray sludge—which can no longer be called snow because it is gray and half salt—while wearing a scarf, a hat, boots, and penguin mittens and not breathing. Obviously you won’t be breathing because the whipping, frigid wind takes your breath away.

Plan ahead. If Target is not your last stop before going home, do NOT, I repeat do NOT buy bananas. They will turn black in sub-freezing temps in no time. Also, you’ll probably want to steer clear of milk. Feel free to stock up on frozen veggies and popsicles though. If you are going home, buy anything you want, but again, only enough to fill two bags!

Once your home and groceries are safely on the kitchen floor awaiting unpacking, you’ve taken off your hat, scarf, penguin mittens, and boots (which required you to sit down and grunt), do a little jig because you don’t have to go through the hassle of grocery shopping again for at least a few days! And the jig will get your blood—which froze again on the way home—flowing again.

It’s important to note that the above Target routine is much more enjoyable and slightly easier with a buddy (it means four bags instead of two). It’s also probably more important to note that the above routine is--I can only guess--impossible with kiddos. So either don’t have ’em or don’t feed ’em.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Cater to ME, part II

A fellow gym member responded on a bright sticky note:
"I happen to like the music, and I’m 46 years old. That’s between 30 and 70."

And the gym responded by saying due to the myriad music preferences (they didn't use the word "myriad," but they should have), they would keep their current station on. If other music is desired, one must bring his or her own.

No. Really?

*If lost, read yesterday's Cater to ME.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Cater to ME

There’s a bulletin board up at my gym, and as a gym member you can tack up a comment or question--good or bad. A mystery gym employee then will respond with an answer, also tacking it up on the board. Some of the banter is quite humorous. Yesterday morning as I filled my water bottle at the water fountain, I saw a new comment, still answer-less.

Comment: “Most of us who use this gym are between the ages of 30 and 70. Please cater to our music preferences!”

Huh? What exactly would those preferences be? I mean, that’s 40 years! I don’t understand. That’s the difference between Elvis Presley and Bon Jovi. Marvin Gaye and N Sync. Etta James and Britney Spears. The Righteous Brothers losing that lovin’ feeling and Eminem wanting the real slim shady to please stand up. You’re not really givin’ Anytime Fitness much to work with here, fellow gym member!

And, for the record, I do not fall between 30 and 70, but rather 0 and 30, and they are not catering to my preferences either. Hence ipod. So if they're not catering to 30+, and they're also not catering to those under 30...

I can’t wait to read the answer to this comment!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Really? That rock?!

I was once on a hike with two friends. We were slowly making our way up a creek by stepping on rocks. My one friend would go before us testing our next rock. He’d make sure it was stable and not too slippery before we followed him. If he wasn’t satisfied with one rock, he’d test another one, even if it meant going to the left or right, rather than forward. Sometimes even backwards. If the most stable rock was a rather long distance from our current position, he’d twist around, throw his longer arms out and offer us his hand to help us to it. (this is a very good guy, by the way) In this fashion, we hiked.

In the book of Isaiah, we are told that God gives Cyrus (Persian king) some big tasks—like taming the nations and terrifying other kings. Cyrus eventually conquered Bablyon and issued the decree that allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem with God’s help.

God took Cyrus by the hand and said:
"I will go before you
and will level the mountains ...
so that you may know that I am the LORD,
the God of Israel, who summons you by name"

(Isaiah 45:2-3)

I don’t always follow God’s lead. I stand on my rock and try to go it alone. I decide where to take my next step and often slip or fall. But sometimes, I take God’s hand and let Him lead me to the next rock that He has tested for me. I don’t often step confidently. I question. I doubt. I am shaking in my boots (or tennies). I fear that the rock before me is slippery or unstable. I wonder why the rock is to the left or the right, when I think it should be in front of me. I don’t think the rock looks big enough to stand on. In fact, it looks like a pretty lame rock to me. And sometimes I’ll stand stubbornly for quite some time contemplating whether or not I’m going to step onto God’s rock or not. I mean, it’s sketchy!

But once on that rock, I am always amazed. Sometimes it takes me a little while to catch my breath, to stop shaking, to chill. But inevitably I am amazed at how stable and sturdy it is. I can’t believe He has provided and blessed in a very specific way. And I'm in awe at how wonderfully it puts me in a better position to then take the next step He has mapped out for me!

He goes before us and levels mountains. He offers us his hand. If we take it, we discover sturdiness and come to know that He is, in fact, Lord. And He is a very good God.

Monday, January 04, 2010

You oughtta know

It’s two thousand ten, people. Not twenty ten! At least in my book. In a recent discussion about this very thing, someone said "double ought nine" referencing our previous year. "Double Ought?" I asked. "What do you mean ought?" I had never heard this before. Or, I probably have, but was too busy at the time thinking about some other word to stop and ponder what ought was.

I immediately asked this person to please tell me where ought comes from. Like, is it the German word for zero? It kind of sounds like it should be. Or Swahili for the letter 'O'? Not answering me, this person instead used it appropriately in another phrase. "Yes, I know," I snottily said. "I get its usage. I need to know its etymology though! You ought to know if you’re using it!" (Alanis says so too: "you... you... you... oughtta know!")

Here’s what I got.
Ought is another way of spelling aught, which is related to the word naught, which means "nothing." Coming from Old English, naught is a mix of 'na' meaning "no" and 'wiht' meaning "thing." No thing.

How about two ought one ought?

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Wordless directions

Yesterday I found myself on the floor with two screwdrivers, a hammer, 25 different-shaped pieces of wood, 67 special screws, nails, or dealios, and measuring tape. I had just returned from IKEA and had a two-drawer cabinet to put together. And to give you an idea about how humorous this scene is…my drill is currently sitting on top of its case because I can’t figure out how to get the bit out of it. I don’t have a knack for non-sewing tools. Thankfully I do have a dad. And a cool one at that.

And yesterday I had IKEA’s directions. Which, if you’re familiar with them, they contain no words. None. In fact, there isn’t even a little disclaimer about being careful and not putting the plastic bag tightly around your face because it could, perhaps, maybe, cause suffocation. How interesting, I thought. I’m going to put this whole thing together without having read one single word. I will have just followed 13 pages of pictures with a little help from the smiley, simplistic IKEA direction man (who I'm guessing can't talk).

As I carefully laid everything out, I decided I was really going to like this. The directions didn’t tell me to use the hex screw, the truss, the slotted something or other, the capped thing-a-majig. They just showed me. I’d pick up a screw, inspect its shape and size, then hold it up next to the little IKEA man on the page pointing at the right screw. Looks the same to me! Perfect.

This got me thinking about other things in life that we could (or couldn’t) do without words. Imagine a recipe with no words. Just pictures. How the heck would you differentiate the spices I wonder? I think this would make trading recipes with my Cali friend much more difficult. Or how about following a sewing pattern?

And what about relationships? So often, you don’t have the correct words picked out for that person or time, or if you have them picked out, they’re not quite in the right order. They don't quite relay exactly what you mean to say. They can't quiet reach the level of ...whatever're trying to express. Relationships and situations often have a way of rendering you speechless, I think. So, how about we just don’t use words? How could you tell someone you love him or her without saying it? How could you thank someone without writing a thank you note? What if you wanted to say I’m sorry without saying it? It’s kind of fun (and a bit challenging for a writer) to think about.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: "What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say."

Well, for the record, I successfully put together my little cabinet without any words (probably because it didn't require the use of my drill). And I’d really like to put some other stuff together without words too.

Friday, January 01, 2010

May the door be your window

*I’ve received complaints: I haven’t posted in a while. Let me say sorry and thanks! Sorry I’ve been slacking and thanks for reading. I’m humbled.

I strongly dislike the month of January, which is a shame as it’s my birthday month. But really, who does like January? It’s such a killjoy after the holidays. Especially here in the Twin Cities where we will freeze our buns off for the entire month. And you think I’m exaggerating. It’s currently 4 degrees, and windchills are expected to dip to 30 below tonight (below ZERO that is, for my cali and tennessee friends).

While on the treadmill yesterday, I was participating in the audience quiz that was on some talk show on the TV above me. The question was where January comes from. The word. The meaning. I didn’t know. Turns out it’s from Roman mythology, specifically Janus, the god of gates, doors, beginnings and endings. And I guess he’s two-faced. He’s usually depicted with two faces in opposite directions.

You know the phrase about God closing a door, but opening a window? Well, when I’ve been told this before, I've immediately gotten this Alice and Wonderland image in my head…I’m this blonde girl in some long, unending hallway with lots of doors. And the supposed window is always off to the side somewhere. Away. I don’t know where exactly, but in my head, it’s not in that hallway. And I’ve always thought this is kind of a funny saying because I don’t really think you need that window if you’re on the right side of the door. If the door slams in front of you, well, yes, I guess you’d need that window because you’re on the wrong side. You’re stuck in the past. But if the door slams behind you, you don’t need the window. You’ve followed God enough that…even if the door hits you on the rear end, you’re already into something new. A new part of life. A new era. Right? Make sense? The door is the window!

Anyways, when I looked up Janus to find out a little more about him and why my birthday month is named after him, and I discovered he’s the god of doors, I got the Alice and Wonderland image again in my head. And I decided that as 2010 kicks off, I want to be facing forward, I want God closing the door behind me. I want to be beginning, not ending.

And I pray God closes the door behind many dear ones in my life this year, leaving on the other side tears, cancer, job loss, heartache, fear.

Cheers to 2010 and being on the right side of closed doors!