Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I Should Be Committed

I feel a little crazy a lot of the time. But I felt a lot crazy on Friday afternoon. I was given the afternoon off after a particularly long, busy week at work. Plans were made to take advantage of this rare, free Friday afternoon.  Keith and I were going to kick off his birthday weekend by celebrating with lunch at Ninfa's followed by a trip to the Cameron Park Zoo, something we love but rarely get to do, since they close at five. Our day was all planned and I couldn't have been more excited about it.

Until I had a complete meltdown. Sitting at the table over a half-finished, shared skillet of fajitas. Completely out of the blue with no warning. One minute we're having a gay old time. The next I'm gesticulating passionately and Keith is taking away my cutlery, just in case I get as stabby as I'm starting to sound. It all ended in sobbing tears. Big tears. Lots of tears. Not sweet, glistening tears caressing my cheeks but full on ugly-crying. And once I got started, I just couldn't stop. I couldn't have told you why I was crying, what was upsetting me- not even if you gave me three years, one thousand pens, and a resurrected Freud to help me do it. I was just tired. Exhausted. Overwhelmed.

And I sat there in the car, once Keith finally maneuvered me out to the parking lot, with oceans of tears flowing relentlessly, with my sweet husband holding my hand (and doing his best not to freak out over the fact that his wife was thoroughly and inexplicably falling apart) and all I could think was, I'm cracked! I'm crazy! I don't even know what's wrong with me! And I may never stop crying! I should be committed!

And maybe, just maybe, that's part of the problem. And part of the solution. Not that I'm truly insane, not that I belong in a rubber room (I think. I hope. Right?!?). But that I have been committed to working extremely hard, committed to my job, in perhaps an unhealthy and unbalanced way. And that maybe I should be committed to some other things.

I should be committed to getting home by 5:30 every day. And I should be committed to taking a lunch break (something I didn't do for the entire month of July, and most of August). After all, that's what I get paid for. I receive a salary based on working forty hours a week. If I keep putting in more than that on such a consistent basis, I'm only cheating myself.

I should be committed to doing more things I love, the things that refresh me and bring me life. Things like reading and writing and spending more quality time with my husband. Like being outside more and learning new things. Like working with children and volunteering my time to causes that I'm passionate about.

I should be committed to taking better care of myself. Eating well and getting more fresh air and exercise. Going to sleep at a decent hour and getting good rest. Not relying on caffeine so much to keep me running.

I should be committed to making my home beautiful, and keeping it that way. I always wish I had more time to spend around the house. Time to organize and rearrange, time to decorate and prettify. Even just time to tidy and dust a bit more often (like, you know, ever).

I'm going to start being more committed to these things. And I don't think that necessarily has to mean being less committed to my job. Just more balanced. Maybe, hopefully, a little more easy. I don't want to have any more lunch-time meltdowns. And if I don't find more time to do more of these things, to be more committed to more that is important to me, to spread myself a little more evenly over my life, then I really might end up needing that rubber room. I want to avoid that. So. I should be committed. And I'm going to need all the help I can get.

Monday, August 30, 2010


If you had to be stranded on a desert island with only one person for the rest of your life, and that person couldn't be your husband, who would you choose? If you could choose anyone. Any famous stud, any secret crush, any long-lost love.  Who would you choose?

Someone asked me this question recently and I had a very strong, immediate response to it. As I've pondered it further over time, the force of my initial conviction has only grown. The shocking answer is that if I had to be stranded, for the rest of the my life, with someone other than Keith, the person I would choose is...nobody.

And I mean that so sincerely. I've already chosen my anyone. Keith is it for me. My best friend, my love, my confidante, my partner, my greatest challenge, my biggest fan. I waited a long time to get married.  I waited because I knew what I wanted, what I was looking for, and I knew that I'd rather be alone than not have it. It took a long time to find him. It was worth it. I chose so well.

And I honestly don't believe, practically, in the whole idea of soul-mates. It's never made sense to me, logically, that there is only one person in this entire wide world who is absolutely meant for each of us, only one person we were destined to share our lives with. I'm sure there are other choices I could have made and been fine, been happy even. It's not so much that I was looking for The One.

But at the same time I believe, firmly and constantly, with everything in me, that Keith is the only man in this world who could make me as incredibly happy as he does. That he's the only one I want to love and be loved by, that he's the one who can see me just as clearly, and graciously, as he does. I believe he is the one for me, and the one for always. And if I can't have him, I don't want anybody else. And so I keep choosing him, daily.

And if you think about it, marriage is already a whole lot like being stranded on a desert island.  Not so much the isolation part, but definitely the being stuck with each other. Because both of us believe our marriage is forever, there's no jumping ship, no getting out or getting away. We are in it together, we are in it no matter what. We choose each other, over and over again.

Plus, there's this weird way in which marriage creates a separate little world for the two people in it. We come in contact with lots of people every day, we share life with many that we care about, but no one else can experience or even understand the unique little world that we live in. It is like our own desert island in a really beautiful way. A place for just us two, a world that belongs entirely and only to us- and that becomes what we make it and reflects all the hard work we put into it. And there's no one else I would deign to share it with.

So happy birthday, my love. Thank you for being such a good and strong and kind and wonderful man, the man I chose so well. The only man I could ever stand to be stranded on a desert island with. And thank you for choosing me.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Words Are Like Magic

Words can have a strange power. I want to fill my life with wonderful words. I want to fill my mouth, my pen, my fingers, my heart with words that give life. Words that captivate and soothe, words that move and inspire.

I want to string words together like long ropes of pearls and festoon them on and around everything I see.

I want to polish sentences like diamonds, until they sparkle with the fire of the cleanest, purest truth.

I want to weave syllables into rich tapestries, I want to paint with diction, to carve paragraphs out of mountainsides.

I want to whisper to a weeping child that all manner of things shall be well. I want them to believe it.

I want my words to build up, to lift, to encourage and bring forth. I want my words to celebrate, to sympathize, to intrigue and delight.

I want to fill my life with words. Wonderful, magical, life-giving words. And then I want to share them with everyone.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Some Words I Love (In No Particular Order)

Grace. Gypsy. Firefly. Winsome. Soul. Abyss. Meander. Dusk. Twilight. Mystical. Soar. Shatter. Careen. Romp. Persnickety. Duality. Oxymoron. Convergence. Passion. Slake. Felicitous. Tantalizing. Shard. Sliver. Bright. Hilarity. Mythic. Adventure. Dappled. Gasping. Embrace. Simple. Reckless. Dizzying. Beginning. Red. Onomatopoeia. Paradox. Mourn. Drowsy. Center. Askew. Akimbo. Assassin. Dart. Wound. Capture. Hillock. Glen. Expansive. Treasure. Befriend. Kindrerd. Sacred. Lone. Wild. Abundance. Hearth. Release. Fantastical. Healing. Wholeness. Truth.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Don't Use InvitationBox.com (A Cautionary Tale)

I think really good customer service is one of the most important things a company can offer these days.  First, because most people expect to be treated well and taken care of, and no business can afford to fall short of that.  And second, because going above and beyond in the service department is one of the quickest and easiest ways to secure customer loyalty and to ensure that your customers will say great things about you to other potential customers.

Which brings me to third, in a culture of constant and instant internet access, Facebook, Twitter, iPhones and Blackberries, word of mouth is king.  Word of mouth can make or break you.  And there's no better way to guarantee really bad word of mouth than by failing to meet your customer's expectations.  We are all more likely to read the bad reviews than the really glowing ones when we're choosing between products on Amazon.  And for every one person that we tell about a good customer service experience, we're more likely to tell seven people about a bad one.

Let me tell you about a really bad one.  I'm doing the invitations for a good friend's bridal brunch.  The party is being hosted by a large group of ladies from The Valley, most of them my mom's age.  All of them LOVE to throw parties, and do so quite frequently.  Up till now, Invitation Box has been their stationer of choice.

Now, I do a lot of graphic design work for my job.  I design postcards and brochures and newsletters and even the product catalog.  I do Christmas cards and birth announcements and invitations for lots of showers and parties, and I really enjoy it.  I even designed all the of the invitations, save-the-dates, response cards, programs, etc... for my own wedding.  So these invitations are something I could easily have done myself.  But we were on a time-crunch and I've been super busy with other things, plus mom and her friends had such good things to say about Invitation Box.  I thought it would be easier than doing them myself.  I knew I would spend a little more money, but I thought I'd at least save myself a little time.

I didn't save time.  After scouring through tons and tons of different invitation designs (some impressive, some not), I finally found one I liked, then spent an hour or two trying to write my invitation and line up the typesetting. I haven't used other online invitation services, so I can't compare this experience to similar companies, but I can say that the interface didn't seem easy to me at all. It was very limited as far as font styles and sizes, I kept losing things when I made changes, at several points I had to start all over again, there was not way to ensure that text was centered, all in all I found it very cumbersome.

But that's not the worst part.  The worst part was the cost, and all the additional costs I was going to have to incur in order to get the invitations in time.  Lots of rush processing charges and expensive shipping fees.  I quickly placed the order, once I finally had the invitation looking somewhat decent, and then immediately had buyer's remorse.  To spend over $300 on invitations, not including postage, in this economy just felt unconscionable to me.  So I called Invitation Box first thing the next morning to cancel the order, and after grilling me for a few minutes about why I was cancelling they finally agreed - for a $25 cancellation fee.  Considering I would still be saving close to $150 by doing them myself, I agreed and hung up the phone.

Five seconds later I received an email from Invitation Box, informing me that a credit had been applied to my credit card account, minus the $25 cancellation fee and a non-refundable $40 rush-processing charge.  A $40 non-refundable rush-processing charge for an order that hadn't even been rush-processed yet.  A charge that I hadn't been informed of when I agreed to pay the cancellation fee.  Thinking that couldn't possibly be the end of it, I put Sherri Cherry on the case.  If anyone could get my money back for me, she could!  But alas, even Sherri Cherry's persuasive charms were no match for the poor customer service of Invitation Box.  Mom reminded the representative that she herself, plus a lot of her friends do plenty of business with Invitation Box.  The rep didn't care.  She didn't even offer to reinstate the order and waive the charges.  Mom told her that none of us would be using Invitation Box again because the situation was so ridiculous.  Rep still didn't care.  She literally said that she didn't care about losing our business!  I ended up starting over from scratch and doing the invitations myself for only a fraction of Invitation Box's $300 cost.

So I lost out on $65, and Invitation Box is losing out on who knows how many customers and potential customers.  I really wish a could be writing a glowing review about them and their exemplary customer service right now, but I can't.  Instead, I just hope this can be a learning experience.  For anyone looking to have invitations done, save your money and find someone local who can help you out with them.  Call me.  Or use one of they myriad other on-line invitation services.  Just don't use Invitation Box.  And for anyone running a business, please take good care of your customers.  Go out of your way to do what's fair and what's right, don't let them walk away unhappy, and for goodness sake, don't tell anyone, ever, that you just flat don't care about losing their business!

Oh, and here are the invitations I ended up with, in case anyone's interested.  I'm pretty pleased with how it all turned out in the end.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

That Which Can't Be Shaken

At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens. ” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
~Hebrews 12:26-29

This was one of the lectionary passages we studied last Sunday. It just keeps echoing through my head this week. I am, sometimes, very shakable. There is so much in me and around me that is shakable, so much that could change at any minute, so much that is infinitely distracting but ultimately meaningless, that sometimes I just shake for no reason. But He is fixed, immovable, everlasting, and He is fixing me so that I can stand firm, or at least firmer. What a comfort to remember that even when I am shaking, it's just another of the many ways God gets rid of what doesn't work and what doesn't matter, leaving only that which can't be shaken to remain.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


So, I understand that this is Young Adult Literature, and I understand that it's based on a vote of young adults who, let's face it, probably just haven't had enough time to develop, you know, actual taste.  But when I saw this list compiled by Persnickety Snark of the Top 100 Young Adult Novels and noticed that three of the four stinking Twilight novels made it, but not a single mention of Anne of Green Gables appears anywhere.....it just makes me stabby, you know?  Like, keep the sharp objects far away from me or someone's getting hurt, because that's just wrong!!

On a happier note, it's nice to see so many Harry Potter books on the list.  And I'm glad To Kill a Mockingbird still pulls pretty high rankings.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Woman of Words

Keith and I were chatting before church started on Sunday, covering some of the finer points of rhetorical disputes in the New Testament and the supposed rivalry between Paul and Apollos, as discussed in a recent book review he worked on, which I edited.  The specifics aren't really relevant to this story today, although if you're interested in rhetorical disputes or New Testament Studies book reviews (shameless plug disclaimer), Keith has a pretty great new blog going on the topic.

What is relevant to the story today, is the epithet attributed to Apollos is Acts, chapter 18.  Keith mentioned that according to the Greek, Apollos is known as an ""Aner Logios" or "Man of Words" (capitalization mine), someone skilled with words and oratory and classical rhetoric.  Someone with a fluency for crafting arguments and expressing beliefs or viewpoints.  And, of course, my ears perked up, because, that's so cool!  And, of course, I want to be a Woman of Words!

So I asked Keith what the Greek would be for a Woman of Words.  And you know what?  Gune Logios just doesn't sound as cool.  Neither does Gyne Logios, which is another way to spell it, or even the gender-neutral Anthropos Logios, meaning a Person of Words.  Guess I'll just have to settle for plain old English Woman of Words.  Or I guess you can address me as Goddess of Words if you insist.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Complementary Counterparts

A funny thing- Keith and I were talking about underlying perspectives and attitudes this weekend.  Basically, people who seem more pessimistic, people who seem more optimistic, and how that seems to effect daily interactions, successes, failures, etc..  And then we talked about ourselves, and agreed that we're both pretty much realists, we're pretty pragmatic, we're kind of even-keeled.

And I lay there thinking, yes, we're both pretty even-keeled, but I think I'm a little more optimistic than you are.  At which point Keith turned to me and said something along the lines of, "Yeah, we're pretty even-keeled, but I think I'm a little more optimistic than you are."   As it turns out, each of us thinks we're ever so slightly more optimistic than the other.  Which makes sense if you think about it.

We have some differences is temperament and disposition, but we're very much alike when it comes to goals, values, interests.  But I'm a little more idealistic than Keith, and a little more dramatic.  Sometimes I get overly excited, or overly upset about something.  And when I have a little dramatic meltdown, I'm sure what that looks like to Keith is me being ever so slightly less optimistic when he has to lift me up.  And Keith is a little more grounded, and a little more of a worry-wart than I am.  So when he's chewing endlessly on a problem that I think is eventually going to work itself out anyway, what that looks like to me is him being ever so slightly less optimistic when I have to lift him up.

And so that's the way it goes.  The way it all works out in practice, is that we're both really good at lifting the other up anytime it's needed.  And we both benefit from it.  They say opposites attract, but Keith and I are more like complementary counterparts.  And we are both fairly pragmatic, and realistic.  So we walk along the same line, and we counterbalance.  How lucky am I, are we, to have each other to lean on?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Wholeness Part 2

Before I continue with the line of thought I brought up yesterday, it might be helpful if I go back and explain a little more about this idea of "wholeness" and how it's become such a big thing for me. I guess I can trace its origin back to Keith and some questions he brought up back when we were dating. He was the first one to point out our reliance on these divisions we set up between body, soul, spirit, heart, mind, etc... He was the first one to question where they come from, what evidence we have for being so insistent on them. My first question, once I got my mind wrapped around the concept was, what's a better way? What does the alternative look like?

We started sorting through this idea of division, of what parts make up a person, a life, and found surprising things. Like the fact that the Hebrews, the Israelites of the Bible didn't even have words for some of the concepts, for things like body, soul, spirit as completely separated and unconnected entities. That they didn't view our body as nothing more than an external, disposable shell. We discovered that the Greeks, especially Plato, are largely responsible for introducing this concept into society, and that by the time the New Testament was written, the society of both the Greeks and the Jews was overwhelmingly infected with it. So it makes sense that the New Testament writers would utilize these terms when writing about our relations to ourselves, to others and to God. But maybe they weren't meant in the same way that society took them. And they almost certainly weren't meant in the way we take them now.

To make a long and possibly uninteresting process a little shorter, here's what I feel I can conclude based on this journey. We are a whole, a unity, one entire, complex being that can't be split and shattered into completely separable parts. There are no parts of us that can be discarded, no pieces that are any more, or any less, important than any others. No parts that are greater, or even equal to, the whole. And it can be damaging to the whole when we start trying to carve away any of it's parts. The whole suffers when we try to subjugate some parts to others, when we insist that the soul is more important than the body, or that we can only think and reason with our minds, or that our hearts are entirely pure, or entirely corrupted. We lose something, we diminish, when we start to fragment ourselves, when we lose sight of our wholeness, when we are willing to settle for being anything less than full and complete.

That's not to say that we should eradicate the terminology. I'm not going to quit referring to gut-feelings, or saying that someone has the sweetest heart I've ever known, or that my soul sings with joy about something. I just think it's really important that we recognize that kind of language for what it is: metaphor. It's a way of speaking about different things we feel, different ways we experience the world, and it's a useful way of speaking. But it doesn't describe, much less prescribe, a concrete reality.

And with that, there is no spiritual reality that is bigger or more important than our physical reality. It's all one complete reality, made up of things seen and things unseen. Our pastor said something about it in church this morning. We were studying Luke, chapter 13, where Jesus heals a woman on the Sabbath. His action struck against three of the society's prescribed divisions. The physical vs. spiritual (physical healing on the Sabbath wasn't okay because that was only a "spiritual" day), men vs. women (women weren't to be associated with in public below of their low stature), haves vs. have-nots (a person of privilege wouldn't stoop to socialize with someone who was crippled and diseased). These lines that we draw. These boundaries and divisions we insist on.

Yet Jesus breaks these boundaries in the story, just as he broke such boundaries his entire ministry. He rejected the human divisions, the walls we set up between ourselves and others, the walls we set up to keep parts of ourselves sequestered or contained. He rejected them, he broke them down, in favor of healing and unity for all of us and with all of us. So that we could be complete. So that we could be whole. And I know I speak for both Keith and myself when I say, this is the most important thing we want to do with our lives: to make whole people. And to make people whole.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


"Art is the language of the brain’s right hemisphere; science is the language of the left. And the tug-of-war between the two gives us a funny, dual consciousness; the heart whispers one thing while the mind declares another."

Found this in a newletter I read every week. I think it is, perhaps, as good an explanation as I've run across for why we insist on dividing ourselves into heart and mind, body and soul and spirit; for the reason we feel we need those labels and definitions. To be able to talk about different aspects of ourselves, different parts and pieces of ourselves, even as we are one whole.

This division, this constant carving of ourselves into opposing dualities, is something I've been thinking about, something Keith and I have been talking about, a lot lately. Maybe something to ponder more on here at this ole blog. For now, let's consider this: who says I have a separate heart and mind? A separate body and spirit? Who says the places within me are doomed to be constantly diametrically opposed?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Vacation Vignettes

The Scene:  We had just arrived, hot and cranky, at our hotel, only to find out that we were going to be charged $10 per day just to park there.  Then, there were no luggage carts available to help wheel in our mountains of stuff.  When we went to the front desk to check in....
Receptionist:  Okay, I have you for two nights, one king bed.  You booked and paid for your room already through Priceline, so of course that's non-refundable.  I'll just need to see the credit card you used to book the room.
Keith fumbles through his wallet, finally pulls out a card and hands it to the lady, then turns to me in a complete panic and grabs my arm.
Keith: I lost my credit card.
Me (looking confusedly from Keith's stricken face to the card he just handed over):  What?
Keith (panic escalating): I LOST my CREDIT CARD.
Me (slightly dazed):  What do you mean you lost your credit card?
Keith (now losing patience): I mean I LOST my CREDIT CARD!!!!
At this point the lady hands him back his card, which I look at pointedly, only to realize that's not the card he's talking about.  He's missing our other credit card.  The one we use all the time.  The one he'd used a few miles back to fill up the car with gas.
Keith (showing me his empty wallet):  I LOST it!  I don't know where it is?
Me:  Maybe you put it in the wrong slot?  
Keith (hastily pulling every single thing out of his wallet and flipping it all in front of my face, item by item):  No!  I LOST IT!!
Me:  What about your pockets?  Did you check your pockets?
Keith (rolling his eyes):  It's not in my pockets.
Me: Did you check?
Keith (exasperated):  YES!!!
Me (starting to get a little irritated myself):  Well, you were distracted at the gas station, let's go check in the car.
Keith (moments later, as we are tearing through the car, looking in every conceivable nook or cranny):  It's not here!  I can't believe I LOST IT!!!!!  
Me:  Are you sure you looked in your pockets?
Keith (snarling):  YES!!!
Me (continuing to search):  Well, I don't know where else it could be.  Should we call Chase and have it cancelled?
Keith (quietly):  oh, wait...it's here in my pocket...
Me (relieved and slightly amused):  Next time you tell me you looked in your pockets, I'm going to make you turn them inside out for me!
The Scene:  It's our last day of vacation.  As we check out of our hotel, I pull out my iPad to get directions to the River Walk where we're planning to eat lunch.
Me:  Huh, I just punched River Walk San Antonio Texas into the iPad and instead it brought up all the closest Starbuck's locations.
Keith:  Funny.  I hadn't even thought about getting coffee yet.
Me:  That's sad.  My iPad knows me better than my husband.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

El Taqueria Vallarta

On our way into San Antonio last week, I used Urban Spoon to look for a good place to eat dinner. Keith and I ere in the mood for Mexican food, and we wanted to find something fairly close to our hotel. Plugged those details into Urban Spoon and in seconds we had a list of restaurants that met our specifications.

Only one of them had a 90% recommendation rating, however: El Taqueria Vallarta. "Don't be fooled by it's exterior," the reviews said. "This place is well worth a try." So we tried it. Our directions rooks us to a crowded neighborhood, slightly off the beaten path. We found our destination crammed in between a tiny coin-operated carwash and a long defunct bowling alley. The building was an old school Whataburger, the kind with a steep-sloped roof that made a giant W, and covered parking spaces lined up in front.

Of course, we were the only gringoes inside. The service was quick, friendly and courteous. The food was hot, authentic and delicious- BorderMex, like the kind I grew up on. And the Pacifico was served ice cold with big lime wedges and frosty mugs. There was an atmosphere of familiarity between the obviously regular patrons and the staff. You got the feeling that families hung out here a lot and knew each other well.

All in all, I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a true hole-in-the-wall Mexican food experience. I know we'll be going back, first chance we get.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I'm Having Camp Dreams Again

It happens every year, as August comes and goes, and I find myself sitting at a desk all day and fighting the hot, hot, humid brutal summer every time I step outside, and my dreams start filling up with long, sweet days back at Camp Mystic in the Texas hill country.  Eventually, my dreams start to get so full of camp, that they spill over, and even in waking moments I can almost feel like I'm back there.

I can smell the cool, green smell of the Guadalupe river, stretching to fill it's banks with a rolling respite from the heat.  I can smell the crisp, green smell of just-mowed grass on the golf course and feel it under my bare feet, soft and prickly at the same time.  I can smell the rough, brown smell of bark from towering cypress trees and the warm, brown smell of rich earth right before it rains.  I can smell the bright, red and yellow smells of campfires and kerosene and cheering girls on tribe hill.

I can feel the lift in my spirits, the swell of pride in my chest when the Tonkawas win a game.  I feel my lungs bursting from running my heart out in the field-day relay race and my throat aching from cheering and screaming so hard.  I can feel the crack of my ankle rolling under me in a severe sprain, something that somehow managed to happen to me at least once every year. I can feel sweet-salty tears spreading over my face, saying sad good-byes to the girls- and the place- I would spend a whole year missing.

I can hear the din of voices shouting across a crowded lunch hall, gleeful and ringing. I can hear the murmur of whispers during "rest hour" as girls turned pages and passed notes and hoped not to get caught.  I can hear the bray of horses in the early morning mist on the way down to advanced western riding.  I can hear silvery-golden voices, joined and lifted in song.  So many songs, I can hear them all.  Hymns and folk-songs and silly songs and campfire songs.  Rounds and solos and choruses, all of them chiming and blending and harmonizing.  And I can hear the laughter.  Gales and peals and chortles, snorts and bursts and great, big, belly laughs.

And I can see it all.  So many smiling faces, so many dear hearts.  Friends and foes and partners and mentors.  Idols and little sisters and students and kindred spirits.  Wood and grass and river and stable.  Hay and field and cabin and rock.  Stream and fern and tree and star.  Green and red and blue and rich, rich brown.  I can see it and hear it and feel it all.  Almost like I'm there.  Almost, but not quite.

I miss it so much these days.  I guess you could say, this time of year, I just get a little camp-sick.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Unwanted Souvenirs

Sometimes you go on vacation and come back with souvenirs.  Special things that remind you of the lovely time you had whenever you look at them.  I didn't stop and buy anything special at any little curio shops this weekend, but I did manage to come back with few unwanted souvenirs- painful or embarrassing little reminders that there are some lessons I still haven't learned.

Unwanted Souvenir #1: The Sunburn from Hell
I have the worst sunburn I have ever had in my entire life.  On my shins.  Strange?  Yes.  I didn't bother to put a lot of (read: any) sunscreen on my shins, because shins don't customarily burn to a crisp.  I'm regretting my carelessness now.  Seriously, if I didn't know any better, I would swear someone managed to dip the bottom half of my legs into hell while I wasn't looking and the fiery remnants are still clinging to them.  Yesterday I couldn't do a whole lot more than just hobble around, wincing and whining.  Every once in a while, when I try to stand upright, it feels as if there's suddenly too much blood and muscle between my knees and my ankles, and not enough skin to hold it all.  I get this incredibly painful, tight, pinching feeling and then my calves involuntarily just stop working.  The moral of the story?  Apply sunscreen.  Liberally and fervently.  On every part of your body that the sun might, possibly, conceivably reach.


Unwanted Souvenir #2:  Leftovers in Unlikely Places
We ate lunch, an incredibly yummy lunch, at Boudro's on the riverwalk.  It's become one of our favorite places to eat in San Antonio, not least because of the Louisiana Bread Pudding, which is to die for.  It is ridiculously rich, deliciously dense, and it comes drenched in this whiskey butter sauce that brings the whole thing to a level of perfection rarely reached by either man or food.  It was scrumptious, and we gobbled it right up.  So imagine my surprise when on the drive, halfway between San Antonio and Waco, I brushed my fingers through my hair and found the biggest glob of whiskey butter sauce fully dried and caked into it. The lesson here?  When hair reaches below shoulder level, always pull it back before consuming sticky-sweet, delectable desserts.

Unwanted Souvenir #3: Day-After Drag
I had a lovely, wonderful time this weekend.  I came back yesterday, loose and relaxed and refreshed, ready to tackle the challenges of a brand new week at work.  But today, I'm experiencing lag and drag beyond the typical Monday blues.  Maybe it's the obscene quantities of delicious food and drinks slowing me down.  Or maybe it's just harder to face reality after ignoring it so completely for the last couple of days.  Whatever the explanation, I find myself drifting toward fantasy-land, staring wistfully out of the window, reminiscing about our weekend and planning the next great adventure.  I'm a little tired, a little sore, and more than a little disgruntled at having to be at work today.  Final take-home from today's ruminations?  All good things must come to an end.

But we can always look forward to the next one...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

One Day, Unplugged

We travelled South under the whitewashed glare of a mid-August, Texas sun. The kind of sun that bleaches the surrounding landscape till it's as tired and faded as an old photograph. Something inside me felt the same way, desaturated, pale and worn out. We panted our way through a sweltering stop at the filling station and squinted behind our sunglasses as the miles hummed by.

And even though we sang along with old favorite songs, there remained a tightness inside of me, an anxiety born of too many long days full of too many cares and responsibilities. We arrived at our hotel sweat-slicked and cranky, not at all enthused about the surprise $10 per day parking charges, or the lack of luggage carts to help manhandle our belongings up to our ninth floor room. All in all, not the most promising start to a weekend getaway.

Things started looking up at dinner, however, where we enjoyed delicious, authentic Mexican food, the kind I grew up on, at a scandalously low price. Ten o' clock found us tousled and tired, fruitlessly channel surfing (a great reminder that we aren't missing anything since we cancelled cable), but in considerably higher spirits and looking forward to the promise of tomorrow, and the comforts of one full day unplugged.

A quick breakfast and an hour's drive brought us to our destination, the glistening green banks of the Guadalupe River. One early bird coupon (we had to be on the water before ten) and $35 bought us two tubes, plus a cooler that we filled with snacks and cold drinks. Then we bounced along in a dusty van that finally brought us right to the water's edge. The first shock of plunging waist deep into icy water turned out to be exactly what I needed. After that there was no more room in my head for any cares or worries. Just the bright green of the river, the clear blue of the sky, the luxury of this one, full, slow day.

One day with no cell phones buzzing, no emails chirping, no deadlines and no distractions. No iPads. Even (gasp) no blogging. We were surrounded by happy families, and crazy college kids and barking dogs. By rocky hills and lush, fragile ferns and towering cypress trees. And somehow, we were also in a world all our own, insulated in our own little bubble of fun and laughter.

Six hours later we hauled ourselves out of the river for the last time (we'd already managed to make the full circuit twice). We were shriveled and pruny, sunburned, water-logged, and ever so slightly buzzed. We were also loose-limbed and easy, giddy from the sheer relaxation, the pure and delicious freedom from it all. Such a needed treat, such a perfect day. One day, unplugged. We should really do it more often.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Get Gone

It feels like a day for a getaway.
The time seems right for a little road-trip weekend.
Just you and me and the open road.
We can go anywhere,
Let's just get gone...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Doesn't it Just Figure?

The very first car I owned was kind of a piece of junk. I didn't know it at the time, I was so darn proud of it. But it was about 12 years old, tiny and slow, a miniature pick-up truck that my brother called the clown car. The needle on the gas tank indicator would suddenly drop from half full to below empty and the next thing you knew you were stranded on the side of the road. The windshield wipers came on every time you signaled for a left turn. The radio stations all scrambled if you opened the passenger side door too fast, and sometimes the door handles would just fall off. But I loved it. It was a car, it was my own, it was freedom.

For the next seven years I leased Jeep Grand Cherokees, first a red one, then later, white. And I loved those cars even more. Sleek, roomy and brand new, those Jeeps took me on college road trips and meandering jaunts down old dirt roads. Gas was cheap and Daddy footed the bill, anyway. I would drive circuits around Waco on pretty days just for the hell of it. Radio cranked, windows down, it was my favorite way to relax, clear my head.

But I have never loved any car more than I love Reepicheep, the dark gray Jeep Libery that I bought the summer after I graduated from Baylor. I picked Reep out, negotiated for him myself and made every single one of the payments out of my own paycheck. He's small and fast and tough and Reep has never let me down. Last week, I made the final payment on Reep and just three days ago the title papers came in the mail, right before we left for Dallas, in Reepicheep, to come to this company meeting. As of three days ago, Reep is mine all mine, owned outright, bound for even more adventures.

And as of half an hour ago he is on a tow truck, bound for the Dallas Jeep dealership. Reep wouldn't start this morning when it was time to head back to Waco, and jumper cables did absolutely no good. We think he might need a new starter. I just paid him off last week.

Doesn't it just figure?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fish Can't Fly and Hawks Can't Swim

I'm in Arlington for work this week. Every year in August we hold a three day meeting to help prepare our sales reps for the coming year. We cover product knowledge, operational updates and all the marketing tools and programs we've provided to equip them to do their jobs. This year, we added an extra component. Some back to basics sales training.

Our group is an interesting mix. We have some seasoned pros who are so natural at their sales techniques they don't even have to think about it. And we have some fresh guys who are still a little wet behind the ears. I have no doubt that a little extra training and some basic reminders are a benefit for everyone. But here's my question: are there some things that just can't be taught?

I would be a terrible salesperson. No getting around it. I could learn all the tips, all the tricks, all the techniques, and it would still never become natural for me. Sure, I could muddle through it. I might even make a sale or two. But I could never soar. And if I depended on it for my bread and butter? Let's just say I'd be in big trouble. I'm more of a fish.

The guys on our sales team this year, they're naturals. Some of them have it down a little better, some are a little more polished, but all of them can take wing and really fly. These guys are a more like eagles, and I'm a little in awe of them today.

Of course, most of them probably could't coordinate a meeting or put together an entire product catalog. So I guess they're probably glad my job is not up to them. And I'm so glad their job is not up to me.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

On the Netflix Queue

I'm finally getting around to watching Veronica Mars. I've always heard great things about it, and I'm really enjoying it. It's basically Nancy Drew meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so I guess it makes sense that I would be a fan. I just love shows with strong, sassy, smart, young heroines.

And just to show how incredibly varied my taste really is, I'm also making my way througuh the fifth season of the West Wing. I love it for its smart, snappy dialogue and its warm, beautifully written characters (though I must say the writing hits a bit of a slump midway through the fourth season that it's yet to recover from).

Yes, my interests are teasingly diverse.

Monday, August 9, 2010

I'm an INFP

I'm completely fascinated with Myers Briggs personality typing.  I'm an INFP:  Quiet, reflective, idealistic, loyal to their values and to people who are important to them. Want an external life that is congruent with their values. Curious, quick to see possibilities, can be catalysts for implementing ideas. Seek to understand people and to help them fulfill their potential. Adaptable, flexible, and accepting unless a value is threatened.

Interested in serving humanity. Well-developed value system, which they strive to live in accordance with. Extremely loyal. Adaptable and laid-back unless a strongly-held value is threatened. Usually talented writers. Mentally quick, and able to see possibilities. Interested in understanding and helping people. 

In case you couldn't tell.... 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Prayer of Gratitude

Lord, may my soul bless you. With my entire being, from the deepest part of me, and all that is within me, may I bless your holy name. I am grateful.

We will bless you, Lord, and we will not forget all that you have given for us. You forgive all our sin, and you heal our wounded places. You redeem us from darkness and cover us with steadfast love and mercy. You satisfy us with good things, and renew us again and again. For your provision and love, we are grateful.

Lord, you work righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. You have made yourself known to us. You are merciful and gracious, slow to become angry and abounding in love. You love us so much. As much as the distance between the heavens above and the earth below, so great is your love for those who fear you. You remove our sin. As far away as the east is from the west, that is how far you have removed our sin. For your forgiveness and love, we are grateful.

You love us like a Father, showing compassion, and tenderness, because you know that we are fragile and fleeting. We are like dust. Our time is very short, like a flower that blooms one day and then is forgotten forever. But your steadfast love is from everlasting to everlasting. It goes on forever and ever. Your righteousness is on our children, and on their children, as we keep your covenant and remember to do what you have commanded us. Your throne is established in the heavens, your kingdom rules over all. For your mercy and love, we are grateful.

All your angels bless you, Lord, the mighty ones who do your word, obeying the voice of your word! All your hosts bless you, Lord, your ministers who do your will! All your works bless you, Lord, in all places of your rule! May my soul bless you, Lord. My entire being, from the deepest part of me, and all that is within me, I bless your holy name. And I am grateful.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Meet Ransom

We sometimes call him Fatty or Biggy-Sizer.  I'm sure you can't imagine why, since he's actually trying to hide his fat-rolls in this picture.  He weighs nearly 20 pounds, and of course, out of all our kitties, he's the only one that likes to be on laps.  Insists on it, in fact.  We think he's one of the best and sweetest kitties in the whole, wide world. 

Friday, August 6, 2010

Cleaning Blues

It is the end of one really crazy, incredibly taxing, ridiculously busy and challenging week. It's been one of those weeks where I look back and really, I can hardly believe everything that I got done. I have been so productive, in the midst of incredible time-pressure, and I am so proud of the way I buckled down and just did it all. I came home at 6:00 with this lovely, weighty feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment.

And then the cleaning started. Keith and I spent a little time straightening the house, getting the guest room ready and so forth for my mom and dad (who are staying with us tomorrow night). And again, I worked hard, and again, I buckled down and got it all done. But for some reason, I never feel the same feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment after doing housework. Instead I feel shame...and guilt.

Even at my best I am not the most accomplished housekeeper. And the busier I get with work, the worse I get at home. Luckily I have the studly Dr. Handyman for a house-husband and he keeps things from getting out of hand. But our house is never as clean as I'd like it, as clean as it should be. And I can turn it off, shut it down, ignore the nagging feeling of it most of the time. But once I actually get down to the business of cleaning my denial is futile, it's staring me right in the face, and all I can hear is that voice in my head screeching, "Just what would your mother think?"

So housekeeping is rarely pleasurable for me and I guess that may be part of the reason I tend to avoid it. Even now, I'm sitting in our living room, which looks great, and instead of feeling proud about it, all I can feel is embarrassed. My proposed solution? I need to quit doing any housework altogether and hire a maid who will work for free. It will be much better for my general health and well being.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Next It Will Snow...In Texas...In August

I am posting this from my brand new iPad!!! Those who know me well will be just as shocked as I am that this technophobe got the newest, coolest gadget BEFORE her technophile geek husband. What can I say? It was a gift. And one that I am LOVING, by the way!!! More on that later, but for now, just thought I'd say...can you believe how cool I am?

Hot Jambalaya

I don't have pictures of it, because we ate it up to fast, but we made the best jambalaya last night.  Like, insanely good, I wouldn't mind paying $15 for this at a restaurant, I can't believe this is good for me, jambalaya.  The only thing missing was a big hunk of soft French bread.  But we couldn't have that because it would defeat the whole healthy part of the equation.  So I thought I'd take a quick minute to post the recipe here and say . . you have to try this! 

Jambalaya Recipe:


  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1.5 lbs chicken breast, lightly salted and peppered and cut into bite sized pieces (I also think sausage, shrimp, craw-fish or even a combination would be really good)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bunches scallions, chopped (use white and green parts)
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup whole grain quick cook brown rice (Uncle Ben's Fast & Natural is a great one)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add chicken, garlic, scallions and bell pepper and cook for about five minutes, till the chicken starts to brown and smells start to waft through the house.  Stir in the Cajun seasoning and rice.  Depending on how much you like heat, you could also add a few shakes of cayenne.  Add the chicken broth and tomatoes with juice, stir and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  You may want to cook an additional 5 minutes or so uncovered if there's too much liquid, and depending on the consistency you like.  Serve piping hot and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

One More Year

It seems all but decided.  The fates have spoken and allotted us one more year in Waco, Texas.  No job offers have come in, and no potential jobs loom on the horizon for Keith.  No bags have been packed.  The house is not on the market.  The house is not even ready to go on the market.  We officially committed today to one more year of being *bad* Sunday School teachers.  Keith has two classes to teach at Baylor in the Fall and one in the Spring.  He's actually moving into his on-campus office today (and he gets a faculty parking sticker this year!!!).  I'm planning full steam ahead for another year at my job.  I guess we are locked and loaded.

Am I disappointed?  Probably a whole lot less than you would think.  I totally looked forward to the possibility of our new adventure, of starting new things in a new place with new people.  But with one more year in Waco, that's one more year that I get to keep looking forward to those new possibilities.  It's one more year that anything can happen.  Is it a little neurotic that I like my burgeoning possibilities a little more distant and far off and a little less, you know, actual?  Sure.  Is it strange that I like the idea of possibility more than I like physically rolling up my sleeves and taking that leap?  Perhaps.  But that's the way of it.  

And with one more year in Waco, that's one more year that I get to keep having this adventure.  One more year that I get to keep deepening and strengthening relationships with people I love.  One more year to keep exploring the places that have become home to me.  Work is going well right now, even though it's busy and challenging and well, let's face it, sometimes really hard.  We really enjoy Waco.  And we love our church and our friends and this odd little corner that we've carved our niche in.

Does it feel like we're a little bit stalled?  Yeah, sometimes.  A little bit.  There are certain things (babies, grad school, home improvements) that we feel we can't really plan for right now, not knowing how long we'll be here, or where we'll end up next and when.  But that's okay, too.  It's sometimes a little adventure of it's own, this suspended feeling, if we can learn to love it.  And mostly, well, I just really love my life exactly the way it is.  So there's that.  And there's one more year of it to look forward to.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I Write Like

Fun new toy....this website lets you plug in a sample of your writing, then compares it to famous writers and spits out the one that's most like you.  You know I am so obsessed with this concept!

So far I've plugged in this and got....J.D. Salinger!  Then I plugged in this and got....Gertrude Stein?!?!  I also plugged in this and got....J.K. Rowling (that's better!).  Then this and got....James Joyce.  And then I stopped, because that's my favorite piece of writing right now, and really, once you get James Joyce, well, you should quit while you're ahead.

Except then, I didn't really quit, because like I said before, obsessed!  So then I tried this which got me Ernest Hemingway, and then this which got Mary Shelley.  Apparently it works by comparing the words you use most often to the words they used most often.  So it's really not a comparison of style so much as content.  Out of curiosity, I plugged in a little bit of Endymion and apparently John Keats writes like William Shakespeare.  Hilarious!  And it seems that Emily Dickinson, rather than writing like herself, actually writes like Charles Dickens.

Then I couldn't resist plugging in ALL of the afore-linked posts from my blog in one big mish-mash (chronologically, of course, because I'm anal like that) and I got Chuck Palahniuk, who I've never heard of before, but apparently he wrote Fight Club.  So, cool, I guess.  And now I really am done.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Not Such A Bad Day

I'm in Ft. Worth today, blogging on my iPhone. I arrived at 8:30ish this morning for a seminar on "Managing Multiple Projects, Processes and Deadlines" and don't think the irony is lost on me- that my day here is actually keeping me away from all those projects and deadlines I'm supposed to be managing. Needless to say, I did not arrive with the highest of expectations.

And yet- it hasn't really been all that bad. Most of the workshop so far has been reinforcement. Things I already know and practice, but it's good to be reminded. A few things have been new and helpful. And I really love downtown Ft. Worth.

I just finished lunch at the Cowtown Diner a block away from the conference center. 

I sat at the deli counter right in front of the pick-up window where all the action is. I watched Karen, the manager, be absolutely fantastic with everyone from cooks to servers to customers. 

And I had a delicious Angus cheeseburger and sweet potatoe fries.  No before picture this time....but really the proof of goodness is all about the after picture.  All gone!

It's been kind of nice, being out of my element for a few hours. Walking down a new street in the blazing August (can it really be August?) sunshine. On tonight's agenda: spend time with good friends I haven't seen in too long.

Also, it's my Daddy's birthday today, and I keep thinking of him and the example he's set for me. Work hard. Love the Lord and put him first. Be kind to everyone, always. Keep reaching just a little further than you think you can. Want more. But be content with what you have. Balance strength with humility, calm, and as much patience as you can muster. Quite an amazing man, my Daddy.

And not such a bad day at all.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Shamelessness and Asking

I have a problem with prayer.  And maybe it's not prayer so much.  Maybe it's a certain kind of prayer.  Or maybe it's a problem with a lot more than just prayer, but it seems to really manifest itself that way.  What it really boils down to is this....I have a problem asking for things. 

Not all the time, and not all things.  I have no problem, for example, asking Keith to please go get me a bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos at the corner store.  I have no problem asking a waitress for my third refill of coffee.  I have no problem asking a good friend for the tiniest favor.

But I have a real problem with asking for bigger stuff.  For help.  For aid.  And especially, in my prayers, I have a hard time asking God for certain things.  I'm okay asking God to be near, to transform me, to open my eyes.  I love asking for wisdom, for peace, for fortitude.  But I have more trouble with specifics.  And the bigger the specific, the more trouble I have. 

I don't feel right asking God to intervene.  I'm uncomfortable asking Him to change things.  Bring victory for my uncle in this case against him.  That's a hard one.  Help my husband find the job he's searching so hard for.  Also tricky.  Bring me a little more money at work.  Stop my brother from making a bad decision.  I don't know....I just....can't.

I like to think that it's good.  That I'm not clambering for God to just hand me things.  That I'm accepting God's will.  That I'm being patient.  That I'm waiting on Him, as I should.  Because God is sovereign, He knows and wants what's best.  He's in control.  So if He wanted something to be different, then, well, it would be.  And since it isn't, He must not. 

But then, I also think, maybe that's not right.  Where's the line between acceptance and complacence?  And can I really be relying on the Lord if I'm also afraid of pestering him?  Is it trust my trust in God's will or is it really fear, a feeling of unworthiness, maybe even lack of faith that holds me back?

Last Sunday, our passage was from Luke, chapter 12.  "Ask and it shall be given to you.  Seek and you will find.  Knock and the door will be opened to you."  A familiar verse, and one that I've loved a long time.  But the part that comes right before, was something I've never noticed before.  Jesus tells of a man who goes to his friend in the middle of the night asking for food to entertain unexpected guests.  And Jesus says that man will get what he wants, not because he is asking a friend who wants to help him, but instead because of the very boldness, or impudence of his request.  My biblical scholar of a husband says the word could even be translated as shameless.  He will be answered because of his shamelessness.

So Jesus basically says that a request, bold to the point of shamelessness, will be granted, by very virtue of its impudence.  And then he follows by urging us to ask, and seek, and knock.  It puts things in a different perspective for me.  I've never before noticed the very activeness of those words. He doesn't say sit quietly and eventually someone will give you what you want.  He doesn't say wait around and what you're looking for will find you.  He doesn't say hang out near the door long enough and eventually it will open.  No.




There's a new momentum in those words for me.  It's not a quiet tap at the door, smiling patiently until someone invites you in.  It's leaning on the doorbell at 4 am and believing that someone will take care of me.  It's desperately seeking.  It's asking urgently.  It's throwing ourselves on Mercy and Love.  And I don't know exactly how I feel about that.  Even now, something in me revolts against the idea of shamelessly bringing my requests before the Lord.  So it's going to be tough.  I feel wrong asking.  With boldness.  With no shame.  But at least I'm thinking about asking.