Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A place in my story.

Do you all remember back in January when I was waxing philosophic about resolving to be resolute as my New Year's resolution? Well, at that time I neglected to share with you three readers another resolution that I had made. I know, I know...what is a virtual relationship here in the blogosphere without full disclosure of every detail of my life, right? My apologies. I left out my resolution to join a small group at church intentionally because at the time, the meeting to join said small group hadn't happened yet and I was doubtful as to whether or not I would actually follow through and go. Why? Because I know myself and know that I tend to get painfully shy in new situations that involves me knowing nary a soul, therefore it's easier to just avoid all new situations, that's why. Instead of announcing my intentions here, I asked a small group of trusted friends to keep me accountable. I love those people.

So. All of that to say this: I've recently joined a community group through church. As a means of getting to know each other, we each spend about 15-20 minutes telling our story. There's no right or wrong way to tell one's story, but I went with the book's suggestion when putting my story together. I do love a good set of clear instructions which probably explains why I would be tickled pink if God spoke directly to us in a loud audible voice from Heaven. I suspect he would sound like Morgan Freeman if he did communicate that way. Or I guess it would be that Morgan Freeman sounds like him...oh never mind. I digress. The recommended format is that we shape our story around 3 key people, 3 key events, and 3 key places. For the sake of your sanity, I'm only going to feature one place in this post.

The place I'm writing about today is Muir Woods. I've talked about it before, but in case you need a refresher, it's a national park just north of San Francisco. It happens to be one of my favorite places in the world. I've been fortunate to visit there twice.

Once in 2006...

Once in 2009...

I wish the picture of me in 2009 was a full body shot because one could see that I'm wearing the same shoes that I was wearing when I was there in 2006. Obviously my ability to select shoes that can withstand the test of time is much better than my ability to select travel companions that can withstand the test of time. Oh, my hilarity cracks me up.

The first time I traveled to Muir Woods, I loved it because it was a place that I had never visited. There's just something exhilarating about exploring unknown territory. The entire day was just one of those fun and carefree days. Good conversation, good times, good memories. I found myself wondering at the end of the day if things could possibly be any better than they were at that one particular moment in time.

The second time I traveled to Muir Woods, I was in the early stages of love. If you've been fortunate enough to be in that fun and giddy stage of life, you know that the sky is always bluer, the birds' songs are always more melodious, and apples are a little crispier and sweeter. [And the phrases used to create imagery are a little lamer.] Needless to say, that visit to Muir Woods was almost more than I could handle because I was in a place that I loved with a person that I loved. I knew life could not be any better than it was at that particular moment in time.
I believe that God creates places in this world like Muir Woods for multiple reasons. His creation is beautiful, and he wants us (who are part of his whole creation) to enjoy it to the fullest while we are here. For me, Muir Woods is a sanctuary of sorts. We all have places like this. If you don't, please put it on your list to find one. The trees are so incredibly tall that it's almost as if while you're in the woods, they are serving as a shield from everything else happening in the world. There's a stream that runs through the woods, and while it's one of the most peaceful, quiet, and calm places I've ever visited, the water adds just enough background noise to remind visitors that they are standing in place that's full of life. But I also believe that God takes great delight in wowing and wooing us. Muir Woods is merely a taste of what else he has done and is going to do. It's almost as if he's saying to us "If you think that's something, just wait until you see what's coming. Just wait."

Until July 2006, I had no idea that Muir Woods even existed. Had someone told me when I was there the first time that in three years I would be back there and then described what my life was going to look like at that particular place in time, I would have never believed that someone. The reason why is because I was at a good place in my life in all areas so the thought that it could be better would have been unfathomable. But...sure enough, when I was there three years later, I was in an even better place in my life. I'm sure one of the reasons why I love Muir Woods as much as I do is because not only is it a great place to visit, when I was there both times, I was at a great place in my life.
I don't write this to paint life as just one big never ending series of puppy dog, rainbow, and yellow baby chick moments. I write this because through Muir Woods I have learned and am beginning to understand more clearly that the God who put little old me here in this world is the same God who put those big old trees here. And while some of those trees are so big that it hurts your neck to look all the way to the top of them, God is bigger than those trees. And just when we think we've discovered and experienced all the greatness that this world has to offer, God brings us to a new place (both geographically and in life). It's a place we could not have gotten to without all of those other places in our past. At the end of the day, our current place is merely a link to our future.
I'm quite thankful that there's beautiful scenery and good company along the way. More than that though, I am thankful that as the scenery and company changes, the One who created it never will.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Soundtrack: Soundtrack's Back Edition.

The only thing that I am consistent with these days is my inconsistency in everything. Even my feelings on some of the following songs are somewhat inconsistent. Bless my heart.

She is Love by Parachute. I heard this song on some tv show the other day (shocker!) and loved it. But now that I have given it another listen, I can't really remember why I loved it so much because now I'm not even sure that I like it. But don't let that stop you from loving it.

Stones Over Rushing Water by NeedToBreathe. Oh my goodness, I love this song. Always. But for the life of me I cannot figure out why NeedToBreathe [why do bands/groups do weird spacing things with their names?] is touring with Taylor Swift.

50 Ways to Leave your Lover by Paul Simon. My last soundtrack edition's reference to Paul Simon put me on a bit of a Paul Simon kick. Interestingly enough, in all of the 50 ways, I've never once heard Paul advise Peter to become a cheater.

The Old Apartment by Barenaked Ladies. Ok, so when did the BNL revival begin? Or am I the only one who has heard this song no less than a trillion times in the last 3 weeks on the radio and on Pandora. I had to feature this one especially after last week's episode of Community when Jeff Winger got into an argument with the rest of the gang over the lameness of BNL. Wait, wasn't that on Community? Or was it How I Met Your Mother? Y'all. I'm a prime candidate for the next episode of Intervention. My invention? Something to reduce the amount of tv shows in my DVR line-up.

Notion by Kings of Leon. Don't knock Kings of Leon. Even if you get the notion to do so.

Stay or Leave by Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds. I hope these two never have to sing this song about their own relationship because I just love it when they make music together.

Love and Memories by O.A.R. I'm telling you people, the O.A.R. station on Pandora is spinning some good stuff these days. Who knew a bunch of guys from THE Ohio State University would ever be so good at what they do? Silly me, it's THE Ohio State University...of course they were always going to be revolutionary.

Neon by John Mayer. Was it just me or did Johnny boy look a little rougher than usual at The Grammy's? I've never understood the intrigue with him as a person, but I heard his version of this song that he played at Eddie's Attic the other day on the radio and I became slightly intrigued with him. Or perhaps just the song on the radio. When listening to his music on the radio one doesn't have to actually watch him sing. Which makes his music better. Yes, as a matter of fact, I am a licensed critic.

Grenade by Bruno Mars. "Tell the devil I said hey when you get back to where you're from." That line makes me giggle. Typically I change the station faster than one can say "lame song" when I hear this on the radio. I happened to hear this part when I was scanning the other day, and now I'm trying to incorporate it into my conversations at least once a day. Thus far I've been unsuccessful because I typically don't find myself in situations when I'm conversing with spawns of Satan. Well, not anymore, anyway.

And lastly,
my favorite Grammy performance from Sunday night: Mumford & Sons + The Avett Brothers + Bob Dylan all introduced by David Letterman = my serious consideration to just become a groupie now that I've got an advanced degree.

That's all for this week. Maybe next week [or whenever I return] I'll compile a little theme-based soundtrack for the masses. Cover songs? Duets? Suggestions?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

That time I yelled at God. And he whispered back.

Earlier this evening, I had a strongly worded conversation with God. Allow me to set the stage...

I got back to Athens around 9:15, unloaded my car, and fished my keys out of my purse that Mary Poppins would have totally carried had she carried a red bag. Typically when I put the key into the deadbolt and turn it, the deadbolt clicks over and I proceed to open the door, and well if you know how to read, then you should know the next step so I won't insult your intelligence by explaining it. No such luck tonight. The lock will not budge. So instead of heading inside where dinner, exercise, and The Grammy's awaited, I loaded Cash back up into the car and headed to my least favorite place in this entire town: Wal-Mart. Darn you Target for closing at 9:00 on Sunday. Of course like always, adding new frustration to my already currently increased frustration level only made this new situation seem a little more overwhelming. On the short commute to retail hell, I might have asked God a few questions. I might have asked them with a raised tone of voice. I might have even been yelling a little bit. Or a lot.

Questions might have included: What do you want from me? Isn't enough, enough? Can't something just be simple for once? How much longer are you going to keep this up? What have I done to deserve this? What have I not done to deserve this?

Once inside Wal-Mart, the search for first, WD-40 and second, a Wal-Mart associate when I couldn't find WD-40 ensued. I was not very successful. So what did I do? Called my mom, of course. I might have gotten a little bit snippy and impatient with her when she couldn't tell me immediately where to find WD-40 at the Wal-Mart two hours away from her house. I finally found the WD-40, swung through sporting goods to buy Cash some tennis balls because he might have been on his best behavior ever in that short drive over in which I was interrogating God. I got back home, brought out the WD-40, sprayed the lock, inserted key, and turned. ...Obviously I didn't yell loudly or clearly enough.

Or maybe, just maybe, I was too busy yelling that I wasn't taking time to listen. Earlier today I went to church. It was a great message centered around this passage of scripture found in 2 Chronicles. Allow me to share: "if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14.

Does a humble person yell? Is there a thesaurus in the universe that includes "demand" as a synonym for either pray or seek? Did I get locked out of my house at 9:00 on a Sunday night as punishment because I'm a wicked person? All of these questions share the same answer: No.

Will God forgive me of my ugly sinful yelling tirade? Yep, when I ask humbly.

Did God provide a solution to my problem? Obviously, because as much as I love my smartphone, I certainly don't have the patience to type this much on a touch screen keypad.

Was it the solution that I would have imagined or preferred even? Nope.

And why not? Because I couldn't do it myself. I had to depend on others to help me. I had to be an inconvenience. I had to ask for help. I had to wait longer than I preferred.

Do I enjoy asking for help? Not one little bit.

Does God know this? Yes.

Does he also know what I need even better than I do? Yes.

I think the picture of this broken key and the whole 2 hour ordeal of getting inside my house is a great illustration of life in general: We're all broken. [Even when there are no obvious cracks on the surface.] None of us are beyond repair. [Even when it looks like or feels like we are.] We can't fix ourselves by ourselves. [Even when we try with all of our might.]

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Life Lately.

Hello, my three readers. It's been awhile since I've blogged. My absence is not due to lack of excitement [I just love the subjectivity involved in the definition of this word.], but more so out of lack of time, energy, and words. At least once a day I think to myself "I should blog about that" but then it seems that I never get around to it. All of this writing in my head is very similar to the process that I used throughout my entire stint in graduate school. For example, I literally sat down on a Saturday night to begin the process of typing my entire applied project and I finished it around midnight on Sunday night. Typically this kind of stuff should be completed over the course of a semester. My independent study last spring? I did it all in one weekend. My portfolio that was a summation of my entire 3.5 year program? Oh, I spent about 4 days on that one. What can I say other than I'm gifted? [And extremely humble.] All of this to say that maybe one day I'll just sit down and crank out like 30 posts all at once. Please, don't hold your breath.

Today though I bring you just a brief update of life in my little world so call the kids, grab the popcorn, pop the top of a Coke Zero, sit back, and enjoy.
Let's talk household expenses first. [Sweet mercy, I'm an old and boring lady, but I like to think that excitement over these things is a sign of maturity.] Y'all, last year my electricity bill for mid-December to mid-January was over. the. top. expensive. I live in a one bedroom shoebox. I was away from that one bedroom shoebox almost half of the month, yet my bill averaged $4.81 per day. I called the company to find out if maybe they accidentally sent me the bill for the people who live in the 2 story, 3 bedroom home complete with hot tub and sauna in the neighborhood across the street. No such luck. I got the statement a couple of weeks ago for the same billing period this year. Cut! In! Half! The average was $2.40 per day. Yes, the reduction is totally worth a frostbitten nose and blue fingers and toes. To celebrate, I became a Vegan.

Well, only for like an hour for a couple of weekends. Ladies and gentlemen (uh, dudes out there...why are you reading this instead of checking scores or something on, I present to you vegan Grasshopper cake from The Grit. This is the stuff that elastic waistband pants and dreams are made of. The Grit is probably my favorite eating establishment in all of Athens. If loving a restaurant with an all vegetarian menu is wrong, then I don't want to be right. Seriously, come to Athens. I'll take you to The Grit for lunch and then you can enjoy some of my extra hearty crockpot chili for dinner.

It's good for me to be a vegetarian in moderation. I know a crockpot is a thing and I shouldn't place a high level of value in things, but here's the truth: I like this thing better than some people. There are some people in the world who complicate one's life. Crockpots? They simplify one's life. Need I say more? And by people, I certainly am not referring to these two...
This shot is of Mu and baby Lola at our annual Ladies' Tea Party that our family does each January. I look forward to this event each year because not only is the company fantastic, it's the one time a year that I eat chicken salad and drink hot tea in addition to lamenting over the fact that the circumference of my head is so stinking big that there's only one hat in the entire tea room that fits me. If I were Jackie Kennedy, I would have had to have all of my pillbox hats specially tailored.

After our tea party that day, I arrived home to find this waiting for me in my mailbox...

It's official. I really did graduate! Even though I walked across the stage back in December, I've spent the weeks that followed with my fingers and toes crossed and my breath held in the event that something went awry and I didn't actually graduate. It wouldn't have been all that surprising considering my habits as a student that I mentioned at the beginning of this post. I only wish that the above picture came with audio because if you think I looked good, you should have heard how good I sounded that week. Well, good for an 87 year-old man who has been smoking since the age of 14 currently suffering from a case of pneumonia. I hate getting sick. Good thing that I don't very often.

In other news, I've decided that my new favorite Dorito is the taco flavored kind, my new favorite television shows are The Closer (because I've got mad detective skills like Brenda Lee Johnson) and Blue Bloods (because my childhood crushes are revisited: Donnie Wahlberg AND Tom Selleck in the same family!) and my favorite Pandora station is O.A.R. (it's not as lame as it sounds, trust me). And when I'm not at home eating taco flavored Doritos and watching cop dramas [Who am I? It's like I don't even know myself anymore.], I can be spotted out and about in the town that I am slowly growing to love with fun friends. evidenced in the photo at the top of this post. Uploading and arranging pictures in Blogger is as much of an exercise in patience for me as standing in line at the local Wal-Mart is. Do you guys like my haircut in the picture? What? You can't tell that I had it cut because it's still so long that it falls behind my shoulders? Oh, well, yes...that's true. I however feel like I'm suffering from phantom limb because I had about 3.5 inches cut off on Friday. I decided that a haircut was easier than going through the process of legally changing my name to Rapunzel.

So, all of that ramble to say in short that Life [Lately] Is Good.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Obvious Winner.

Oh how I love this commercial the most.