Thursday, December 30, 2010

Places to Go and People to See (or.... My Resolutions)


Last year, I posted my New Year's resolutions for 2010, and I think that posting them and keeping a list of them hanging in my cubicle really helped me do pretty well in accomplishing them.
I've been working on them for 2011, and I think I've got a good start.
Numero Uno on my list is a leftover from 2010 (yes, I have quite a few of those...):
Finish. The. Book. As in THE book. My book. oh broken son. It's a good book, really. And one day, maybe someone other than me will read it.
That's under my "Mental" heading, and it's the only one listed there.
Any suggestions?
Maybe I'll set a goal about reading books or something.
Under the "Physical" heading, I have some repeats that will be on my lists annually until I'm physically unable to do them anymore:
Continue to improve in tennis
and Travel somewhere awesome.
(that last one is my faaaaaavorite resolution every year! Plus, it can be combined with other resolutions, like...)
My next one under the Physical heading is:
See Federer Play!
Yes, I've had this on my list for a long time. Every year, I wait with bated breath, hoping that Federer will say, "I'll be back again next year!" at the end of his speeches. Please do not retire, Roger Federer, until I get to see you play in person. So I printed out his 2011 Schedule, and I'm trying to decide where to go. Some are ....easier (but expensive) choices like Miami or Cincinnati, and some are awesome but expensive choices, like Roland Garros in Paris or MADRID OR ROME OR GERMANY.... Ahhhh, choices.
Next heading: Spiritual
My two resolutions here are:
Read the Bible in one year (my church is doing this, so I've got a schedule and about 300 people supporting me), and
Go on a Missions Trip. yikes. but yes.
My last heading is Social, and the two resolutions under it are repeats from last year
Do something out of my comfort zone (like, go on a missions trip, perhaps?) and
Make new friends ( ♫ ♪ but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold ♪ ♫).
So I've got my work cut out for me, but there are definitely some things that I can do that would check off several resolutions in one fell swoop. But really, this is the year to see Federer. I'm feeling that.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Luke 2:1-20

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.
This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.
And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.
Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.
While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.
And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.
And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.
But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest,
    And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."
When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, "Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us."
So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.
When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.
And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.
But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.
The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

'Tis the Season...


Is there anything worse?
Is there anything worse than Ralphie standing in line forever, just to see Santa and tell him (because Santa will understand!) that he wants an
Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle for Christmas, but when Ralphie finally gets up there to Santa, he can't get the words out -- because it's Santa! --
and then, just as he's about to go down the slide, he remembers his wish and he opens his mouth, and after having everyone in the world tell him that he can't get his beloved BB gun because he'll shoot his eye out, he tells Santa
   exactly
            what
                    he
                         wants

and what does Santa say?
"You'll shoot your eye out, kid!" with a boot! to the face! that sends Ralphie spiraling down the slide.
So what could be worse?
Maybe, if you're six, and you've never heard of A Christmas Story, let alone watched it, and you inexplicably put BB Gun on your Christmas list, and your aunt finds it (your super cool, super with-it aunt who spoils you rotten and only demands hugs in return), and she laughs and shows the list to your mother, and the two of them hunt you down and find you just to laugh some more and say together, "You'll shoot your eye out, kid!" (which, again, means nothing to you because you have never seen the movie).

That might be worse.

Merry Christmas, nephew. You're not getting a BB gun. You'll shoot your eye out, Kid.

Monday, December 20, 2010

When does the self confidence come into the picture?


"It comes with age!"
No, self confidence does not come with age. Self-consciousness shifts to different areas of your life as you grow.
When I was younger I was very self conscious about my appearance and my weight. I basically wanted to fit in and be liked. Although those things are still on my mind, it does not consume me like it once did. As I get older, my lack of self confidence shifts to abilities, talents and knowledge. I want to have self confidence in the things that I choose to do. And this is the only way....
Psalm 118:6-8
6 The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?
7
Yes, the Lord is for me; he will help me. I will look in triumph at those who hate me.
8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Beautiful Things - A Beautiful Song

Sometimes I'm late to the party, and sometimes, I'm right on time (thanks to others who are totally with it). So here's a song by Gungor, whom I'd never heard of before today, but I will be purchasing their music immediately. Check it out: Beautiful Things:




Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not "mine," but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.
Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God's grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.
Galations 2:17-21

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Best (and the worst) Christmas Songs

Now that it's almost Christmas, the radios are aliiiiive with carols.
Here are ones to watch for and either turn up or tune out!
My favorite carol:
O Holy Night - Luckily, there are so many great versions of this song. I love a powerful version and Celine Dion and Mariah Carey have great versions. There's an a capella version by Martina McBride and an instrumental version by some musicians from New Orleans.
Updating an oldie but goodie: Check out Seabird's new arrangement of Silent Night. Love it!
House of Heroes has a few awesome songs:
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
and a new take on Ms. Carey's
All I Want for Christmas Is You
(does anyone else remember back when her Christmas album first came out back in '94 and she did a whole special on MTV with Carson Daly?)
Another awesome new version of one of my holiday favorites: Sent by Ravens' Happy Christmas (War is Over).
I have always enjoyed this song, and the new version really does it justice.
Song I miss the most:
Dominic the Italian Christmas Donkey
Back in NJ, the radio station z100 (which was like, the coolest station back in seventh grade) used to play this all the time. Haven't heard it since I moved south.
There are some other songs that are favorites: I've always loved the Bing Crosby and David Bowie duet of Peace on Earth & The Little Drummer Boy, and of course, anything holiday by Dean Martin and Nat King Cole.

Here are the worst holiday songs. The WORST. Do not listen to them. Don't!
That Christmas Shoes song where (spoiler!) the mother is dead. It's like a Nicholas Sparks novel. At first when you're listening, you're like, "This is mediocre," and then WHAM! the mother is dead. or dying. or something.
I'm not linking to that song. That's how angry it makes me.
Mary Did You Know? This is the most somber and depressing thing ever. (I really dislike songs that celebrate the joy of our salvation in a terribly mournful way). And also: what's the point? Here's a trick: start at the lowest register possible with your voice and slowly and painfully sing each word a note higher than the last "Mary, Did You Know...". You just sang the first 4 words of that song.
And the answer is: Yes, she knew. Remember? The angel appeared, told her she was preggers and told her what to name the baby. She knew.
I'm of the opinion that anything sung by the Chipmunks is pretty awful, but this is probably the worst: All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth.
This might be a bit of a person choice, because long ago I did, in fact, have a gap where my front two teeth should have been one Christmas, and my family just had a ball saying/singing this to me.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Year End Wrap-Up

Way back when, I posted some of my New Year's resolutions for 2010, and about mid-year, I gave a brief update. Well, here's the final tally:
•Continue running with LJ - oh, no ... that did NOT happen. But that was a conscious descision on my part.
•Run another half marathon -- again, didn't happen due to the realization that running a half marathon makes me a tired and sore girl.  Half marathon?! I couldn't have made the goal a 5K? I did that!
•Travel somewhere awesome -- yes! I went to New Orleans for my birthday. This is one of the ones where I realized I completed the goal after I had done it. But traveling somewhere awesome is kind of always in the back of my mind, so it's a good goal to put down every year.
•Continue working on tennis - oh and how. That's a yes.
•Double money earned on freelance projects -- I ended up doing this right in the beginning of year, luckily. And, by the way, doubling the money wasn't too hard, since I had earned probably $30 on freelance stuff back in '09.
•Take a writing class or attend a conference -- this was the biggie, and the one I focused on the most. Success! And it was lots of fun.
•Finish "the book". You know, "THE" book. The one that I've been working on forever -- this wasn't the year. In fact, I didn't write much in THE book at all. But I did write a bunch of fun short stories, and rediscovered my love of writing. I think I needed a break from THE book, and this was a great year to take a break. In a way, I don't feel unaccomplished on this one, even though the goal wasn't achieved. I'm thinking 2011 will be THE year to finish THE book.
•Read the Bible - check! Not as much as I should have, but a check. And this will be a recurring goal.
•Read Fearless with my girlfriends - yes. At least... we read as much of it as we could take. It just wasn't for us. But if you want a recommendation for an amazing book to study with friends: Plan B by Pete Wilson. Do it.
•Book Club - Nope. Total slacker on this one.
•Poker Night - well, you say no enough times and you just stop getting invited. So slacker on this one, too.
•Something out of my comfort zone -- hmmm... I'll have to think about this one, but I don't really think it happened. I am very much a "stay in the comfort zone" type of girl. I might try again for 2011.
•Make new friends/build relationships with old -- yeah, this happened, but it's always good to keep doing this. (Is it weird this is a goal? I feel like this is kind of a weird goal to have...)
Overall, I'm pretty happy with how I did on my resolutions. I think it definitely helped that I wrote them down and kept them in front of me all year long. On to an even better and brighter 2011!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Saving Up Memories

I'm not a pack-rat -- in fact, I tend to throw a lot of stuff out prematurely just because I don't want anything cluttering up my life. But there are some things I've kept through the years -- cards, letters, pictures... I went through this stuff over the past two nights and read through it all, my mind just flooding with memories.
I have tons of old pictures - some really funny pictures from college and the couple of years afterward with my New Jersey girls (these were the days before digital cameras, so I have some really weird pictures that just make me laugh and laugh when I look at them), pictures of the family from when I was little, a lot of pictures of my old dog, Tootsie, and an entire album filled with pictures of me during my awkward adolescent stage (they are awesomely bad and I am happy to share them with anyone -- they are a cautionary tale).
Trish and I went through a letter-writing stage in college and the two or three years afterward, and I kept many of those letters. They are mostly funny, but there's one that is just words of encouragement that was sent to me in the the few weeks before I left for my big Australian adventure.
I have treasures: a card from my uncle to me, written the year he died, and sweet cards from my mother over the years. My mom is really wonderful in this way - she sends me cards with really encouraging or loving messages that make me feel great. I have a card that she gave to me right before I left for Australia that I kept with me the entire time I traveled.
My biggest treasure, though, is a tiny note card from a close family friend, written just a couple of years before she died. I'll call her Mrs. B. so that those of you who know me, know who I'm talking about. She was my mother's friend from the neighborhood, she had a son who was born a month before me and we were each others first friends. I always felt at home in their house and I can still remember the smell of their kitchen (Mrs. B. was always baking pies -- that's one memory I have of her -- always baking). When I was in college, I found out that she was diagnosed with ALS, and my mom and I would visit her whenever I was home on break. We'd sit with her and chat and laugh or talk about her treatment and pray and cry. As the illness progressed, I'd chat while my mom cleaned her house, or painted her nails, or wrote down the details Mrs. B. wanted at her memorial service.
The card is a thank you note from one of my visits with her. In it, she included Jeremiah 29:11-13:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
And then, she wrote about how she knew me before I was born, and how she knows that God has good plans for me. Needless to say, I cry every time I read the note -- because I miss her, and I wish we'd had more time. It's funny, the card moves directly from the verse into her writing, "I knew you before you were born..." and I always read that as part of the verse (every time!), and then I realize it's her saying it to me ... and that's usually when the crying begins. Anyway, she was an amazing woman and I think about her and her family all the time and that card is the thing I hold most dear in my box of memories.

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.  -Philippians 3:20-21

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sometimes I feel....

Sometimes I feel like I am just going through the motions of life.
Doing what everybody expects.
Participating in what I have committed my time to.
Many times I don't even feel like I am in my own body.
Time to re-evaluate?
I think so.


"But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you."
Psalm 39:7

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Late to the Party

I am awesome at discovering things like 5 years after everyone else. And then telling everyone all about the awesome thing I just discovered, and the entire world is like, "Yeah, yeah... that was good. Five years ago. We're on to the new big thing now."
It's kind of my calling in life: reminding people of that awesome thing they loved a few years ago. Lately I got really super duper into Entourage, which is a dumb but fun TV show. And I got my brother into it, and we're leaving like the worst jokes on each other's facebook pages that would totally have been funny to culturally literate people way back when they were watching these episodes in 2006.
I'm at it again, and since I not only discover things late, but I go crazy over them and let them consume my life, I will share with you my latest and greatest discovery: Reach Records. I have to say Reach Records instead of a particular artist that's on the label, because I really like them all. Now... I am not your typical rap listener, and I wouldn't even say I'm normally into rap (except... I'm crazy about spoken word, of course, and that's a lot like rapping). But I am into good music and amazing lyrics. These lyrics are amazing.
I would say to check out Trip Lee and Lecrae and just let each song take you to the next and find your favorites.
Here's one of MY new favorites:
Background by Lecrae, featuring C-Lite:



Philippians 4:4-5
Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you're on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!

Monday, November 22, 2010

I did it, and it's over

My season as captain is over. Over! Can you believe it? I can't!
I wrote to my sister today: No more racquets, no more balls! No more questionable out calls!
This is what I learned from my tenure as captain of the 3.0 women's tennis team:
•Stress causes me to lose my mind. Literally. I could not remember a thing for the two and a half months that I was dealing with tennis. I didn't remember normal things, like putting on make-up before coming to work. I forgot plans with friends. I lost entire conversations, so that when people referenced them later I had no idea what they were talking about.
•I am a pretty organized person ... to the point of micro-managing. I probably would have guessed I was a micro-manager before this season, just because I don't trust many other people to do things correctly (because... they don't). So, yes, my poor team got about 2-3 emails from me a week.
•I have little patience for certain things. Like... don't reply to my email and ask a question that was addressed in the email. Hence, my micro-management. 2-3 emails per week, all saying the same thing. Read 'em.
•I don't ever, ever, ever want to be captain again.
So, a big thanks to all family, friends and strangers who had to speak to me over the past two and a half months. You were dealing with the Hulk, even if you didn't realize it. And while tennis made me pretty crazy ...
.... not, like, this crazy....
....but still pretty crazy, it's over now, and hopefully my memory will return, my micro-managing tendencies will subside, and my email inbox count will go down.
Woohoo! Great season and great team, but happy to be done!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Time for a Change

A few weekends ago, I went to New Jersey for some much-needed time with friends. It was amazing!
They are so much fun, and they really bent over backwards to accommodate my every whim. We went into NYC, but stayed out of Times Square, which was a specific request of mine. We had a fancy lunch in the city and walked around and looked at funky consignment shops in Greenwich Village, before taking the train home. We visited our old stomping grounds at Rutgers, and I was able to buy a million scarlet and black RU shirts/sweatshirts/license plate holders to last me until the next time I visit. We ate at Friendly's and a diner. We got our nails done and made-our-own sundaes. And best of all, I got to laugh and hang out with them, hug and hold their babies, and revel in the time with some of my oldest friends. It was a great time.
But...
I realized on my drive home from the airport
       that I was happy to come home
                                            anxious to leave NJ
                                                                 but most astonishingly.....
                                                                                                     I was
                                                                                                            in a terrible mood.

How dare I, right? I mean, they took time off of work, they drove me everywhere I wished. They treated me like a queen (and they would think nothing of it, I promise you! This is how they are for their friends!). But really, my bad attitude had nothing to do with my awesome friends, or the things we did while we were all together, because, like I said: It was amazing.


Last year, when I visited for a wedding, these were their stats:
Friend 1: Getting married, apartment, great job as lawyer, no kids
Friend 2: Newly Married, brand new house they are working on, finished grad. school/looking for job, no kids
Friend 3: Married for a couple of years, house for a couple of years, great job as accountant, no kids.

Here are the stats this year:
Friend 1: Newly married, new apartment, same great job as lawyer, no kids
Friend 2: Married for a couple of years, new house is finished, great new job as a communications director, brand new baby
Friend 3: Married for a couple of years, house with newly remodeled kitchen, same great job as accountant, brand new baby

These were my stats a year ago:
Single, same lovely house, same ... job, no kids

My stats this year:
Single, same lovely house, same ... job, no kids.

Look, it's not just that I wish I was married (I do), or that I wish I had a brand new baby (I do), or that I wish I had a more awesome job (I do). It's all of that, together. 
So I'm working on things, because nothing will get better just by me sitting and wishing it. I'm pretty optimistic about things, and I'm hoping that when I visit again in a year, I'll have more new things to share with them.
(well, yeesh! I was optimistic, before I wrote out this post and saw it all in print!)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Heaven is for Real: Book Review

I review for BookSneeze
I received a complimentary copy of Heaven is for Real from Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an unbiased review.
I am never the person that stays up all night reading a book, so when I read the glowing praise in the front of Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent, I didn't think anything of turning to the first chapter at 11 pm. I couldn't put the book down.
The nonfiction story begins when Colton Burpo, the author's son, had to have emergency surgery while still a toddler. After making it through some harrowing and prayer-filled nights, the family returned to normal. That is, until a few months later, when during a drive past the hospital where Colton had his surgery, he describes it as the place "where the angels sang to me."
Todd and his wife follow this enigmatic thread until it is revealed that Colton has other-worldly memories from when he was under an anesthetic during his surgery. In fact, his parents continue to question him over time and hear his descriptions of heaven -- seeing Jesus, meeting his great-grandfather, what the angels look like, and even describing events that are out of sync with the time-line of our universe.
I was fascinated by Colton's descriptions of Jesus and God, and even more intrigued by a few of the memories that stood out to him and that he repeated to his parents to stress the importance of their themes. I've thought a lot about some of the things Colton describes, some of the images have really stayed with me since I read the book. Whether or not Colton saw the real heaven, the book is gripping and you won't be able to put it down.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, November 12, 2010

Slackers

Yeah, we know. We've been slackers. We're aware, okay? It's been kind of a busy week... or two. But I have a new book review that's ready to go, as soon as I get the stuff I need from the review program, so you have that to look forward to (Mom and Dad, since you're probably the only people who read this). And clearly, that's Jennie in that picture since that girl has brown hair. 
And for your enjoyment, I have some Friday fun:

What, pray-tell, is this?
I thought it was a mitten or something when I came across it, but in my defense (yeesh! I hate that phrase!),  I think the image was smaller.
ANSWER: It's a rocking chair. Like, for a real adult-sized human. As in, a person actually sits and rocks on that thing.

NEXT!
What in the world is this?
Again, when I saw it, I kept thinking, "Flip that thing over and it's a lop-sided basket that someone's child brought home from arts & crafts at their sleepaway camp." Wrongo, again!
ANSWER: It's a footstool.

Did you get both right? Did you get either right? Well, if you did, you win the joy of applying for a job with Ikea! Go for it, because you and that company are like-minded.

But seriously - stop back next week, when Jennie and I will post again. Sometime. Someday.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Driving Lessons from a Yankee

It's not that I think drivers in the south are bad, per se. They're just not good.
I learned how to drive from an angry gym teacher and an aged rock & roller. The class and the actual time spent driving were odd, to say the least, but both men gave me really good tips about driving, and helped form me into a decent driver.
Here are some safety tips and - y'know - advice based on actual driving laws from a Jersey girl.
Tips!
1. Oh, you southerners are so polite! I love it ... most of the time. But not when it comes to breaking the law while driving, just to be nice.  
DON'T stop in the middle of the street to wave someone out who was waiting at a stop sign.
DON'T let about 50 cars on 1 side go when you're at a 4-way stop.
Basically, DO follow the laws of the road, even if you think you're being impolite.
True story: if you are waiting to turn onto a road or cross the road, and some "polite" person who is ON said road stops in the middle of the road and waves you to come out, don't do it. It's a trick. You WILL get hit by another car that has not read that person's mind and is actually following the rules of the road. Even better? If you're in a state that gives fault in accidents: you're at fault (of course you are! You should know better!).
2. 4-way stops are hard! False.
Come to a complete stop. If there's no one else at the 4-way stop, you're golden. Go.
If there's only someone directly across from you, and they are also going straight (or they or you are making a right), you're golden. Go.
If there is someone on either side of you, the person who got to the stop sign first gets to go.
Here's an efficiency tip: you don't ALL have to take turns. Just each side of the "cross". If the person to your left was the first person at the 4-way stop, they get to go AND (if they're going straight or turning right), the person directly across from them can go at the same time (if they're going straight or turning right). Same with YOU: when you go, the person directly across from you can go at the same time (if you both are going straight or turning right).
For people making a left turn at a 4-way stop, please come back another time for the advanced lesson.
3. When it rains, it pours, and drivers in South Carolina suddenly have a death wish. A raindrop will not kill you, and it will not harm your car. No need to slam on the brakes at the first drop of rain! If the rain impairs your ability to see the road, turn ON your headlights and turn ON your windshield wipers. Slow down to a manageable speed. But DON'T slam on your brakes when you're in the fast lane (see #5) on I-85.
4. So a raindrop won't kill you, but you know what will? Black ice. Icy or snowy roads are dangerous, so this IS the time to slow down. In New Jersey, our parents take us out to an empty parking lot when it snows so we learn to maneuver a car in the bad conditions. It's good practice, because everything is different on ice. Braking, turning, accelerating (but why? why would you accelerate?) -- everything is different. Try it out in an empty parking lot -- seriously.
5. The fast lane -- that exists in the south, right? I mean... you know there's such a thing? Because I really can't tell if you do. Here's what it means:
On a highway, once you merge (see #6), you're usually in the right-most lane, unless you really did some crazy merging there. This is the exit/entrance lane. This is typically the slowest lane because people are just gaining speed when they enter, or slowing down as they exit. The middle lane is for normal driving. The left lane - "the fast lane" - is for passing. You pass on the left. Always. It's actually a law, friends. As in, you can get a ticket for passing on the right.
5. Merging -- this is where southerners refuse to be polite, to my astonishment. When YOU are entering the highway and trying to merge, YOU have the right of way. Surprised? You shouldn't be. It's because when you're entering, you need to build up the speed, so that you're not a safety hazard to the other cars on the highway.
Here's the catch:
When YOU are driving on the highway, and you're in the right-most lane (the exit/entrance lane), YOU DO NOT have the right of way. This means you must let the mergers in. Again, it's actually a law. A few ways to do this: switch lanes safely - using your blinker and checking your blind spot, so that you are not even in the exit/entrance lane; slow down (without slamming on the brakes!) to allow the merger in front of you; speed up (safely, and in plenty of time) to pass the merger before he/she makes it onto the main part of the highway so that he/she merges behind you.
6. You can't be a real Jersey driver unless you release some aggression while driving. We've got what a friend has dubbed the "Jersey arm" which is when you wave a clenched fist in the general direction of the offending automobile. Then there's my brother's favorite, shouting at the top of your lungs with the windows closed, so that the person may or may not hear you, but they can see your angry face. Or take a lesson from my father and call someone a dope: "Oh! Nice directional, ya dope!" Really, it's all about style. Find what works best for you.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

James 1:27

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."
James 1:27

Widows and orphans.
It seems like everywhere I turn I hear those words. We are to care for the widows and orphans. There is an abundance, at church, of foster children. Most of them have unfit parents, but looking at how hard their life is going to be in the future breaks my heart. Many of them are so young and the full extent of their situation isn't known to them. I have a passion for children, but especially for these children. The children that need so much love and attention.
One thing I know, currently, is that in the future I want to foster/adopt. It will be interesting to see how THAT plays out ;)
I recently heard an interview with Kay Warren, Rick Warren's wife. She was talking about the moment she felt God calling her into a ministry that would nurture and support the widows and orphans around the world. AND She did something. She started an organization within Saddleback Church to support orphans.
So my challenge to you is to do something.
What are you passionate about? What bothers you?
Do something about it.

Check out all of the things Kay is involved in here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

When I Get to Heaven....

Angel swingingFirst of all, what a weird picture, right? I mean, when I saw it, I just had to use it because when in the world would you ever think to yourself, "Man, I just wish I had a blurry picture of an angel with humongous wings swinging!"
Anyway, I think about heaven a bunch, and not necessarily in a completely theologically accurate way. Loggins has told me that she thinks she'll be Latina when she gets to heaven, which is a possibility. I'll attend the gospel church service and maybe join the awesome choir since I plan on having a voice like Mandisa.
I will have a lot of stuff to do and a lot of people to talk to when I get to heaven, because basically anytime I've ever read anything in the Bible and been like, "Why did Peter do that?" or "What do you think Jesus wrote on the ground?" my mom's answer was always, "You can ask him when you get to heaven."
But here's the deal:
I think some of those guys will be totally approachable... like the disciples. But... can you imagine trying to talk to David? I mean, he's possibly my favorite guy in the entire Bible, and I actively try to tell people that they're having David moments no-matter-what-they're-going-through. But... I cannot fathom walking up to him and being like, "Hey Dave! So listen... ten years in that cave, right? Pretty tough!"
I mean, the Bible constantly reminds us what ruffians the disciples were, so I imagine James and John to be like actual sons of thunder - you know - like Pigpen and the Tasmanian Devil all wrapped up into one blur of mischief. Nathanael, a man after my own heart, put his foot in his mouth as soon as he even heard of Jesus, so he's probably my go-to-guy when I get to heaven. And Paul had a lot of experience of talking to people who get it wrong all the time, so I think I'll be cool with him. I mean... I think he'll be patient, you know?
But Stephen? oh my gosh.... Ezekial??
Esther might be cool with me... but Job??!!

It's a little intimidating.

Who would be your first person to stop and talk to in heaven, if it worked that way?
(and... it most likely doesn't.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Your Love is a Metaphor

  
Well, just take a minute and enjoy the beauty displayed above and below before I embark on this post.
.....
.....
okay, ready?
So, I have a friend whose love language is coupons. Definitely. And after thinking about it, I've decided that my love language is metaphors. I can't speak without them. I probably sound like a crazy person half the time, but they're the best desciptors (not a word, but it should be)!
I think that's why I love music and lyrics so much. House of Heroes lyrics are ridiculous and intelligent. I'm talking get-out-the-dictionary-and-look-stuff-up smarts. Oh, Sent by Ravens' lyrics speak to my heart. Muse is in another universe (meant in the best way possible).
And then there's Switchfoot. 
You know how you hear a song, and you're like, "Wait... how does that person know what I'm going through? Have they been reading my diary?"
I listened to a lot of Switchfoot when I did my big Australia ... trip? adventure? life? several years ago. I accidentally messed up while loading songs on my mp3 player, so the only songs I had were Switchfoot's The Beautiful Letdown and the 40 Acres album by Caedmon's Call. Four months of travel and homesickness ... yeah - they got a lot of play (and some tears, and some dark poetry as I am wont to do).
Jennie and I get on a Switchfoot craze every few... weeks. It happens pretty often. I've only been to one Switchfoot concert, but it quickly cemented my love of the band and the Foreman brothers. 
There's the awesome live performance (see them cover Beastie Boys' Sabotage here), there's the dimples (see above and below, please) and then there are the lyrics. What's not to love?
After reading basically everything I can get my hands on regarding the meaning behind the songs on their most recent release, Hello Hurricane, I'm convinced Jon Foreman is 1) a musical genius, and 2) a musical genius.
I love every song on the latest release at different times for different reasons, but for right now, my favorites are Your Love is a Song, and Free. Check 'em out. And read about the meaning of the songs. You'll be blown away.
 
  
So the metaphors for God's love in Your Love is a Song are: symphony, melody, song, remedy, strong ... I can't remember if there are others. What would you write?
 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Catalyst 2010

I recently attended Catalyst 2010: the tension is good. There were several amazing speakers with pearls of wisdom for the 13,000 eager leaders. Several of the speakers stood out to me and some just went WAY over my head. The intellectual presenters were tough to connect with but I was still able to learn from a few of them.
Daniel Pink, author of Drive, challenged each leader to define themselves in a single sentence. What a challenge! I have been thinking about my sentence, what sentence sums up ME.
How do you sum up your whole self in ONE sentence?
I had a jumping off point, something I have been feeling for the past few years as I have rebuilt from the inside out.
Beautifully Broken.
I knew I wanted to incorporate the idea of brokenness in my sentence.
After much thought, I have come up with:
I am rescued and redeemed from my brokenness by the blood of Jesus.

What is your sentence?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Like Cannons in the Night

I have had a week. And it's still happening.
So here's what I do when I get completely downtrodden because I am feeling pretty crapped on this week.
I listen to a song that will lift my spirits and remind me of my identity -- that I was created for a purpose other than my pointless job. There are things in this universe and actions that will have lasting, eternal effects and the things I stress me out, or frustrate me don't fall into that category.
And since I've felt ... hmmmm... not sure what, but I've felt something this week, here are the lyrics and video to the song that is lifting me up right now:



Lyrics:
It's falling from the clouds
A strange and lovely sound
I hear it in the thunder and rain
It's ringing in the skies
Like cannons in the night
The music of the universe plays

Singin' You are holy, great and mighty
The moon and the stars declare who You are
I'm so unworthy, but still You love me
Forever my heart will sing of how great You are

Beautiful and free
Song of Galaxies
Reaching far beyond the Milky Way
Lets join in with the sound
C'mon let's sing it loud
As the music of the universe plays

All glory, honor, power is Yours, amen!
All glory, honor, power is Yours, amen!
All glory, honor, power is Yours forever, amen!


Lightning is an atmospheric discharge of electricity accompanied by thunder, which typically occurs during thunderstorms. There are approximately 16 million lightning storms in the world every year. 

Right at the crest, where Mount Olives begins its descent, the whole crowd of disciples burst into enthusiastic praise over all the mighty works they had witnessed:

   Blessed is he who comes,
      the king in God's name!
   All's well in heaven!
      Glory in the high places!

Some Pharisees from the crowd told him, "Teacher, get your disciples under control!"
But he said, "If they kept quiet, the stones would do it for them, shouting praise." 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Stars in Our Eyes

I wrote this to Jennie today:
ok. I don't know if I think Roger Federer is stinking hot because I think he's stinking HOT or because he's an awesome tennis player and has a lovely accent and charming personality. Either way: Greek God.
...because yet another beautiful picture came up in my facebook feed. I was watching the US Open a few weeks ago, and the network showed some slow-motion special camera shot thingy to show how Federer never takes his eyes off the ball as he hits it, and basically it ended up looking like a still picture of Federer slowly moving across the screen, his head and eyes never moving. One of the commentators echoed the bursting of my heart by shouting out, "He's a Greek God!"
But the question of beauty (or attraction) coming with fame is not necessarily an original concern. An episode of The Office tackled this same issue with Hilary Swank: beautiful? or beautiful because she's famous?
Let's take a look:
Sept. 15, 2010 - Toronto, ON, Canada - Hilary Swank at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival premiere of 'Conviction. © Red Carpet Pictures 
Yeah, I'm gonna go with just plain beautiful.

See Federer in all his glory for yourself:
Roger Federer of Switzerland hits a forehand in his 5-7, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5 defeat to Novak Djokovic of Serbia in the Mens Semifinal at the U.S. Open Tennis Championships in Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York City on September 11, 2010. UPI/John Angelillo Photo via Newscom
And that's while he's hitting a tennis ball in an actual match!

Here's what I tend to look like while I'm mid-hit:
Rafael Nadal of Spain returns a shot against Dmitry Tursunov of Russia during the Japan Open tennis championships in Tokyo October 8, 2010. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao (JAPAN - Tags: SPORT TENNIS) 
(Rafa is amazing, and also a favorite player of mine, but he's no Roger Federer. I definitely, however, have a little bit of Ricky Ricardo syndrome when I listen to Rafa's interviews.)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cheaters Never Prosper... And Also Don't Get Invited to Play

Boy (4-6) wearing policeman's hat, arms folded, portrait
When I was younger, I heard my sister refer to me as "the police". This was in reference to playing games. My family loves playing games. Anything that is loud and fun and involves yelling is a perfect game for my family. They really like cards, too, but I'm not so crazy about cards because I don't have a strategy-making mind for that.
But I am severely and stringently opposed to any kind of cheating or "bending of the rules." It's really difficult for me to play with new people, or to play a game that a lot of people don't know, because sometimes the host of the game will be very laid-back and think, "Well, we'll just teach a few of the rules and see how it goes..." or, "Let's just let that rule slide for now because it's too complicated."
That's not how I play.
I like knowing the rules, playing by the rules, and most of all, I like enforcing the rules. Hence, my sister calling me "the police" when we were playing a game. It might have been Taboo, a game that has a rich history amongst my family and friends of causing fights and creating friendships.
So, if you ever play a game with me (and if you know me, you will probably play a game with me, since I love to play games), just, uh, ... keep this in mind. Play by the rules... and no one gets hurt.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Happy Banned Books Week!


We are nearing the end of Banned Books Week - September 25 to October 2, 2010! To celebrate, I checked out a few lists of banned/challenged books through the years. First is a list of the top banned/challenged books of this decade. And next, a list of banned/challenged classics.


So, I'm not going to go all crazy and "freedom of expression" on everyone in this post, even though I think banning books is ... dumb. But I will say this: I was really surprised by a lot of the books on those lists. I know that books can be banned or challenged for so many different reasons, and it could even come down to one word in the book, but Charlotte's Web? Bridge to Terabithia? Winnie-the-Pooh??
I'm happy to say that my parents never restricted my reading. I read everything I ever wanted to. I read young adult books that had no literary standing at all, but were just about gossip and sex and nothing. I read classics that changed my life. And guess what: the classics are the ones on the lists, but not the dumb young adult stuff that probably flew so below the radar that no one ever took notice of it.
The books on the banned/challenged lists were definitely the most influential books I've read (Rebecca, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Chocolate War, The Kite Runner, The Catcher in the Rye (one of the funniest and best books I've ever read -- over and over) A Prayer for Owen Meany) and I'd go so far as saying they are some of the most influential books of all time. They're not lying when they say that at least 46 of the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century have been the target of ban attempts.
I feel like that was a list of my favorite books instead of books I've loved that have been challenged.

Take a look at the reasons for the ban/challenge and guess the book. Seriously, try it:

1. Challenged in the Vernon Verona Sherill, NY School District (1980) as a "filthy, trashy novel."


To Kill a Mockingbird! You know, that ol' trashy novel about a girl, her brother and her hero father fighting an ethical fight in a time and place of racial inequality.

2. Removed from the school libraries in Morris, Manitoba (1982) along with two other books because they violate the committee's guidelines covering "excess vulgar language, sexual scenes, things concerning moral issues, excessive violence, and anything dealing with the occult."


Catcher in the Rye! Hmmmmm... perhaps I read a different book. Occult? Holden Caulfield would have had something sarcastic to say about that.

3. Challenged at the Owen, NC High School (1981) because the book is "demoralizing inasmuch as it implies that man is little more than an animal"

Lord of the Flies! Uh, yes, the "implication" that the challenger understood was ... kind of the point.


4. Well, this one kind of gives it away, but:
Challenged as a summer youth program reading assignment in Chattanooga, TN (1989) because "Steinbeck is known to have had an anti business attitude:" In addition, "he was very questionable as to his patriotism"


Of Mice and Men! Let me add that a chapter of the KKK of my very own town challenged this book back in '77, and that's about all the endorsement I need to read a book. Thanks for the recommendation!
Latest update was 2007: Retained in the Olathe, KS Ninth grade curriculum (2007) despite a parent calling the novel a “worthless, profanity-riddled book” which is “derogatory towards African Americans, women, and the developmentally disabled.”  This really makes me wonder if the people complaining finished the books. Or... you know... if you don't get it, then read the Cliff's Notes. It might explain to you the history of our country, how people behaved, and literary methods of making a point about the need for change.

5. Burned in Alamagordo, NM (2001) outside Christ Community Church along with other Tolkien novels as satanic.

Lord of the Rings! You know, the satanic version.

Quiz is over. How did you do? Now, go read a book!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Hike, A Pretty Place and Some Hookers

Man hiking
I am celebrating a four-day weekend from work with fun activities with friends and family. First on the agenda was a hike up to Pretty Place at Camp Greenville with Loggins.
Loggins and I love a good hike (as does Jennie!). We go out to Paris Mountain a few times a year, at least. And we were looking forward to a great day trip.
After enjoying the beautiful views at Pretty Place, we traveled south a bit to Caesars Head for a hike, and visited the Ranger's Desk/Information Center to find the best hike for us.
What follows is a transcript (as best as I can remember):
Me: We were looking for a trail map?
Ranger: We have this trail map for $2.50.
Me: Okay, well, we'll just look at it then.
My mind: Yeah, lady, I'm not playing $2.50 for a map I'm going to use for an hour.
Ranger: How far and how difficult of a trail are you looking for?
Me: Not far and not difficult. 
(I think I am hilarious, as you can see.)
Ranger: There is an overlook at the top of the parking lot.
(She thinks she is hilarious, too, apparently.)
Loggins: Farther than an overlook.
Ranger: Okay, we have a trail here that is a half mile, and that's as short as you're going to get. If you want shorter or less difficult, you really shouldn't be at Caesars Head.
Loggins: Mm-hmm. (pointing at another trail that had some awful name, like Despondent Trail or Woebegone Way or something). Look at that name.
Ranger: YOU DON'T WANT TO DO THAT ONE.
Loggins: I, uh, was just... looking at the name. It's funny.
Me: So, on this short trail, is there anything interesting we can look out for?
Ranger: Okay, you know what? It's just a walk in the woods. You need to get in your car and drive to another park.
My mind: Rude. We have clearly stumbled into the middle of someone's bad day. Clearly.
Me: Huh?
Ranger: Four miles up the road is DuPont State Forest. You get in your car and make a left out of the parking lot. You'll see a sign, and you want to pull into the second parking lot, which is called Hooker Lot.
Loggins: mmmmmmm..... (starting to laugh).
Ranger: From Hooker Lot, you'll make your way to Hooker Trail.
Loggins: (openly laughing).
Me: (refusing to laugh or make eye contact with Loggins)
Ranger: You'll see two waterfalls on that trail: Hooker Falls.
Me: Uh-huh. Yeah, bye.
So I promised Loggins I would not talk about how we went to the scenic overlook and were exhausted by the time we strolled along the wooden walkway to the overlook. And how we decided to take the easy trail at Caesars Head and had to turn around because I thought I was going to have a heart attack. So, yeah, maybe the Ranger was right, but she was still kind of rude.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Weirdos I Meet

Man Extending His Hand

Spend some time with me. It'll be an experience you never forget. I meet weirdos all the time. I am like a magnet -- they love me.
Most of my friends will tell you that at some point when we hung out together, we were approached by a weirdo, or something really strange happened.
And you know what? Weirdos like to confide in me, too. It usually happens within seconds of them approaching me.
There was the time I was on a date at a live event at Radio City Music Hall, and the woman sitting next to us started telling us about her favorite WWE Wrestler and proceeded to eat our popcorn.
There was the time Loggins and I were in Barnes and Noble and a woman came over to us, giving us advice on a trip that we weren't taking, and when we asked her if she was going somewhere, she said, "No," and looked at us like we were crazy.
And, of course, anytime I go to Smiley's with Jennie something weird happens. One night, a gross man at the bar purposely backed up into Jennie so that he rubbed his behind all up against her.
I take full responsibility for this stuff, because: I am the weirdo magnet.
All of this is an intro to this weird email I got today.
Subject: Greeting my dear.
Greeting my dear,
Complements of the season to you. I wish to express my sincere gratitude to you. My name is Miss Grace and my contact address is XXXXXX
I am a young beautiful girl with full of love and caring also romantic. well I come in contact with your profile today and I loved it, I think we can click together as one body and soul.
Please I will appreciate if you can use my mail address to contact me directly to my mailbox and at the same time I will show you my picture and you also know more about me. Moreover, I want you to know that distance ,race or religion is never a barrier in the course of love.
Thanks for your love, understanding and co-operation. Please I hope favorably to get your reply, contact me with this email address above. I wish you a blissful and a happy moment over there.
Yours sincerely,
Grace..

Uhhhh... [sic] a million times over.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The true story of how Anderson Cooper hit on me (sort of...)

In Christy's previous blog, you heard mention of an Anderson Cooper encounter at our local hang out, Smiley's.
I will now share the true story of how I was hit on by Anderson Cooper.
Christy and I were minding our own business, listening to great blues music at Smiley's, our favorite hippie bar, when I look to my right and see Anderson Cooper.
Ok, not really Anderson Cooper, but in all seriousness he looked VERY similar to the handsome CNN reporter. As many of my close friends know, I have a deep love/infatuation for Anderson Cooper. After seeing this man, I emphatically tell Christy we are, in fact, sitting next to THE Anderson Cooper. She laughed, looked and agreed that he did look very similar to him. Over the course of the night caught his eye and smiled (several times I am sure). I didn't realize what I had done until he was ACTIVELY trying to listen and comment on the conversation that Christy and I were having. He even leaned over and high fived me at one point. I can't even remember what it was for, but I just knew that he was going to ask for my number by the end of the night. The sad thing is....I probably would have given it to him. I know, I know-- INAPPROPRIATE. I have a thing for older men, what can I say.
Luckily, I started chatting with a much younger handsome man. After the whirlwind conversation with someone more age-appropriate, I realized I had dashed the hopes of one, ANDERSON COOPER. He was gone. So with that I say “Catch you on the flipside, Anderson.“

DISCLAIMER: I am fully aware that Anderson Cooper is in fact gay, but look at those dreamy blue eyes. I will choose to stay in denial about it :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Smile! It's Smiley's!

Red wine is being poured in
Okay, this is the best. Apparently, I drafted this post last year, and never posted it. So here you go:

Most of the time, Jennie and I spend our 'hang-out night' by sipping wine and watching some preteen romantic comedy on tv. And it's wonderful, seriously. But sometimes, we venture out into the world and head to our favorite hippie bar, Smiley's. A couple of Fridays ago, this is exactly what we did.
Smiley's is one of those places where you just never know what's going to happen or who is going to be there. You could run into an old friend or be surrounded by strangers. You could be the youngest person in the place, or the oldest. It just depends on the night.
The Friday that Jennie and I went, we were definitely in the middle of the age range, which is sometimes a good thing. There was a birthday party in the bar, making things a bit more crowded than usual, but the live music was blaring and the crowd was having a great time.
Before the night ended, Jennie got hit on by Anderson Cooper (well... an older man who closely resembled Anderson Cooper), and a young man who had "red flag" written all over his face. The Anderson Cooper thing is a story in itself, I promise you. I, on the other hand, got hit on by someone's Uncle Paul, who got angry when I wouldn't dance with him and even angrier when I wouldn't hold his hand.
On the way to our cars, I told Jennie my secret.
Me: I have a secret.
Jennie: What?
Me: I really like that Lady Gaga song that goes 'RAH RAH MAMA GAGA ROMA ...."

****
The end. Meanwhile it's no longer a secret that I love that song, and that I love Lady Gaga, but I was definitely in denial for awhile.
Also, "someone's Uncle Paul", who hit on me (angrily, and pulled my hair because I wouldn't dance with him. You guys, the strangest things happen to me. Really), looked EXACTLY like the actor Bruno Kirby from When Harry Met Sally. EXACTLY like him.