Saturday, December 31, 2005

Jesus and Me

I would like to recommend this post by Adam Felber, a radio personality that I have always liked and just recently learned had a blog of his own. It has 112 replies and I haven't read those yet, but the post was a real thought-jerker.

Everyone's relationship with Jesus should be important to Christians. Even those that don't claim he is their lord and savior. It's called "being an ambassador for Christ," to use the language of the born-again. If the behavior of Christians is causing non-
Christians to be disgusted with the guy that seems to have led them into that behavior, they should rethink their motivations. Because, chances are, disgusting behavior was not commanded by the God of Love. Chances are, disgusting behavior was a result of human interpretation of the Bible. Guess what, guys, because of the Fall, human interpretation has the chance of being flawed. THINK IT THROUGH AGAIN.

Oh, those pesky consequences inherited from Adam and Eve.

As I have been thinking about Adam's post, I have thought about my own relationship with Jesus. The main thing that strikes me (maybe because I am actually doing a little pondering of the New Year) is just how much I have talked about my relationship this past year. I have talked more about Jesus this past year than I ever have in my life, both on this blog and in actual conversations with people. I have talked about Jesus and what he has taught me, I have talked about Jesus and how much I respect him, to the point that I try to do what he tells me, I talk about God as I view him through the lens of my Christian upbringing and the lens of truths that my heart tells me. I talk about Jesus more than I did when my faith was vehement as a teenager. At least, I talk about him more with strangers and people that do not know Jesus.

I have never been comfortable with the human interpretation that we should convert the masses. God gave us free will and I believe that manipulating others into conversion, especially in their times of emtional weakness, is actually taking away their free will, which is contermanding God's desire. I do believe in education and most people learn by watching others demonstrate knowledge. Think about it: we don't learn to tie our shoes because someone explained to us in words that first you make a loop with the string in your right hand, then you wrap the other string around the base of the loop and pull that second string through to make a second loop. We watched others demonstrate. Ocassionally, someone else would wrap their arms around us from behind and guide our hands through the process. The same is true about spiritual education. I can't tell someone else how to find happiness by loving Jesus. All I can do is relate my own experiences honestly, without any attempt to force an outcome (telling the stories with the intent to convert would sully the truth of the story and it would not resonate). Since they are offered up without any strings attached (usually, I've written for my own sense of reflection or for pure entertainment value), I hope that God can use my stories and people's reactions to them as they are needed. They'll be little bits of stone contributing to the concrete of someone else's foundation. An aggregate faith. Attempts to manipulate conversion are attempts to build someone else's foundation for them out of big blocks of ourselves. Fast and dramatic. Big blocks of ourselves are like blocks of sandstone of even the foam that setbuilders build facades fro movies and plays with(remember the Fall). Since God wasn't really offered control of the building, it is flawed and will ultimately crumble under pressure.

Wow, that's a lot of metaphors.

Still, although thus endeth the lesson, I am a filled witha sense of contentment that I have been given the opportunity and felt a fluency in talking about my relationship with Jesus. He is a good friend and someone I admire and it's a little like introducing good friends of mine that have never met each other. I know that there is a chance that they won't get along or that they just don't see anything special in each other. But, they'll each have met the other so that when I talk about them in the future, they'll have better sense of what I'm talking about and the complexity of the relationship. This will make my relationship with both individuals more intimate and that's absolutely necessary for my happiness, if nothing else.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Take a Ride on the Reading

Today, in the flurry of getting back into my commuting routine, I totally forgot a book to read on the train. On the way in, it was fairly painful because I was tired, a little grumpy and so was everyone else so there wasn't anything interesting to look at. On the way, home, however, I was interested to see what other people were reading. (Paige says that people reading on public transportation is one of two characteristics that are indentifying foibles of the city. The other is people bringing their lunches to work.) I could only see 4 titles. The young Hispanic girl sitting next to me plunked her backpack onto her lap and hauled out a giant hardcover of Book 4 of the Wheel of Time series, a high fantasy 12-book series that I've read twice. Across the aisle was a West coast-looking lady reading Memoirs of a Geisha. At the other end of the train, standing by the door, a regular-looking woman was reading Dan Brown's Deception Point (a book that was so bad that I didn't get past page 50 - too many beautiful bilingual squash playing people outfoxing exotic attackers seemingly effortlessly). I had to read the title backwards in the window and I'm very proud of my keen observational skills on that one. Finally, this cutie blue-eyed guy, totally one of my types, was reading the 3rd Harry Potter. As I looked at him, the ring that I noticed in my peripheral vision and simply registered as a wedding ring turned out to be on his right hand. As I looked closer, I realized that some sort of design was incised in the gold band. A sweet smile of amusement slowly spread on my face as I realized it was a reproduction of the "One Ring to Rule Them All," from the Lord of the Rings movies.

Ooowee! I hope he's on the train again tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

GRE's are G-R-E-AT!

Soon, I will hit play on the DVD remote and sink into the world of Star Wars: Episode III. It's a little weird to admit that this will be the first time that I've seen it since I saw it in the theater when it came out.

The question is, though, why would I spend two and half hours doing nothing but watching a movie when there is so much else in my life to do? I need to finish my application to grad school, research other grad schools because I'm nervous now that maybe I don't want to be limited to just one school, exercise after a cheesy, creamy Christmas, make presents for my extended family who are coming to visit at the end of this week, unpack from several days spent at my parents' house and just general life stuff like cleaning up around here. So, the question remains, why waste the time on a movie?

Because I did a great job on the GRE! [picture me smiling, squealing and shaking my little fists in pent-up excitement] Since you take the test on computer, they tell you your score before you go and I did way better than I worried I would. Yay! I've been so nervous that a year spent on the island with all that smoke hanging in omnipresent clouds around me actually might have made me dumber. (Who knows which of the scare tactics used on me in school were actually right?) This was made worse when I took a second sample test and fell 13 percentage points on the verbal section. If I had lost my edge, where would my identity be?

I know that humility is a virtue and that there is definitely something to be said for not crowing about one's successes because others might feel bad, but really folks, bein' smart is all I got. Most of you socialize better than I do, are prettier than I am, are more athletically powerful and coordinated than I am, cook better than I do, keep cleaner domiciles than I do, are just generally nicer than I am, and probably have a few less nueroses than I do. But, today I proved to myself that I might just be a little bit smarter than some of you. :-) At least, I may be a little bit more versatile in manipulating and understanding English than you. Or, I guess maybe I just know some obscure vocabulary. And, now that I think about it, most of my friends tend to be pretty verbal too.

OKAY! So maybe it's not that big of a deal after all. I'm still watching the movie!

As a final note, last night when I was worrying about the test, my friend Elena told me facetiously, "Don't worry, you love taking tests like this." The truth of this statement hit me so hard that I totally missed the sarcasm and said, "You're right, I do love taking tests like this!" I can remember being so happy in the third grade because the Iowa Test of Basic Skills was so much fun. I mean, here was something I was good at! I could even read my book during the time that was left after I finished each section! They wouldn't let me do that in spelling tests.

Elena just looked at me and said, "I was kidding. You're weird."

Monday, December 26, 2005

White Christmas

Jeff and I went to the Sing-A-Long White Christmas at the Music Box Theater on Friday night. It was an interesting evening of Christmas carols and people who knew the movie WAY too well. They hissed Rosemary Clooney when she fulfilled the necesary role in Comedies of Manners of the romantic partner who misunderstands a situation, gets mad and huffs off without bothering to get an explanation because the courtship process is still young. It's not Rosemary's fault! Someone has to do it or the ultimate make-up kiss isn't nearly as good!

Anyway, the evening was made perfect when I was talking to the 22-year-old usher with chunky little glasses and dirty hair that had so carefully been arranged to look like he'd just run his fingers through it that morning: obviously he considered himself an artist. So, I was talking to him about what to do with my extra tickets and my evening was made complete when he said, "I don't see why anyone would want the tickets. If I had the choice, I'd be in Gilles Wife; it's actually a good movie."

Ah, the cynicism of youth. How I miss those days. Missing all that fun because it felt so good to judge. Ummm.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Geek Christmas

Well, Christmas morning has come and gone and I've only been hit with one Nerf dart. However, I have held my arm over my eyes to guard them from harm on several occasions.

What I can't help but notice is the prominent trend in the gifts that my family have given me.

My family think I'm a nerd!

I mean, really! When have I ever given them the impression that I would like things like the first three Star Wars movies and Revenge of the Sith on DVD? I mean just because I told Daniel to tell David that I wanted it, why would they think that?! And my very own copy of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, a book that I had to explain to Daniel's girlfriend was the new fantasy book that was so good, nerds started conversations with other nerds by saying, "Hey, have you read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell yet?" Never a question of whether or not they will read it, just have-you-read-it-yet? What would make my mom think that of all the things I wrote on my list, I would actually want that? The Dark Vader/Obi Wan Kenobi M&M's, the special iBook carry-bag, the Ewok movies: Caravan of Courage and The Battle for Endor? Only total geeks get presents like that for Christmas!


Saturday, December 24, 2005

Silent Night

During the Christmas Eve service, when the lights were turned off for the candlelight part of the service, a small child asked, "Is it time for night-night?"

The sweet consequences of going to the 5:00 children's service.

Later in the evening, Daniel chose the lobster that snapped its tail and frightened him a little as the first one for the pot. He is currently reliving the battle with my mom and his girlfriend as they steam (the lobsters, not the women). Picture Daniel, all CSI Horatio-like, stating dramatically, "When you fight a foe like that, you can't easily forget him."

He has a talent for dialogue, that boy does.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Happier Update

I want to give you a quick update before the social world of Christmas takes over. I realize that the last couple posts have shown that I have been a little depressed. Let me assure you that it not a persistent state. I have lots of good moments. My Christmas Tree looks great. When I planned something wrong at work and people started calling to complain to my boss, I braced hard and scrambled to cover my ass only to find that my co-workers and boss didn't blame me. Everyone admitted that it was a mistake based on ignorance of something no one could have expected me to know unless someone had told me. The recoil of tension letting go was similar to when the person on the other end lets go of the rope alluvasudden. Life in the warehouse is usually fun. The other morning, one of the guys that moves stuff around the warehouse shouted, "Woohoo! As-tro-turf! Yeah!" We also received rolls of vinyl flooring that day that created an obstacle course that I had to climb over to get to my office. All sorts of warehouse fun. I made cookies for the office party tomorrow that aren't my best, but I know why they're not my best and I'll do better next time. I made the best ornament at the ornament exchange party and got a cool-beaner starfish painted as a beach Santa. Things are pretty good.


Saturday, December 17, 2005


I totally just got sap in my eye.

The Godfather Goes to Africa

I am avoiding practicing for my GREs. Although I've recently decided that what I want most in the world is to go back into teaching (this job is just fine; I just can't see myself getting passionate for it and I find myself writing lesson plans in my head while I commute), so although I've decided that I want to go back to teaching, I've also decided that I have to get my masters degree first because I absolutely don't want to be going to school while I'm teaching. So, if these are the big decisions that I'm making and the GRE is the hinge on which this future swings, I just can't make myself do it. I can't make myself study for it. I can't make myself write practiced, timed essays. Tomorrow, I'll write my entrance essay and personal statement. So, today I was supposed to write my practice exam. That's what I'm supposed to be doing.

So, here's a list of what I have been doing:

-Calling a friend
-Listening to a new James Brown CD that Emily's husband Joe loaned to me
-Surfing the internet
-Watching Sex and the City
-Fussing with my iTunes

Brilliant. I get this far in life with the renowned character and moral integrity that I and my father have worked so hard to develop and I'm stuck here, not even wasting my time doing things that would be productive, like cleaning my room.

Now Daniel has come home without his girlfriend and so I'm distracted by talking with him.

I think maybe I'll finally decorate the Christmas tree to the hopped up sounds of James Brown in Kinshasha, Zaire.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Friction and Irritation

I'm so tired of being cold. It is ever-present. Although my office has a space heater, half the day is spent out in the warehouse that has its dock door open to the Chicago winter for much of the day. So, despite the silk long underwear and wool socks, I'm cold all day, ride the El home to an apartment with giant heat-sucking windows and never really get warm until I have been in bed under the down comfroter for at least 10 minutes. By then, I'm usually asleep.

This cold makes me tense. It is an assault on my physical centeredness. I can't be at peace when my body is shivering. Plus, my mind can't be at peace when it realizes that I'm a lot warmer than lots and lots of people who have a lot more than cold to worry about because they're much further down on Maslow's Pyramid of Needs. But if I'm going to help those people, don't I have to accept my relative position and make the best of what I have? Because right now, it's hard for me to be nice to them. Part of my job has been to decide which community organizations get Christmas toys and which ones don't and the ones who don't haven't necessarily been all that nice to me about it. And it helps to know that if I hadn't taken on this task, no one would have gotten toys. And it helps to remember that I shouldn't expect them to be nice because when you don't have anything, you clutch at any possibilities. And it helps to know that I've allowed myself to be a punching bag in the past (without lasting harm) to hurting urban parents who really didn't know what else to do with their kids but blame their teachers.

But I've only been in town for a little over a month and I'm cold and I'm not happy. So, tonight is a weepy night. I can't really catch my breath. But, aside from the tears and sense of being a little lost, I'm not unhappy, either. In fact, I can be pushed up and over to happy quite quickly (especially if I'm warm) and easily: those gears are well-oiled. But my default state of mind/body/emotion is neutral and even a little irritated. Which is, I guess, pretty appropriate. Life on the island proceeded without much friction. My sense weren't assaulted to the same degree as they are here. There wasn't traffic or unmitigated cold or walking through slush or garbage or talking public transportation out my window or hordes of ugly buildings and railings. Ocean, mountains, trees. There weren't so many people. I guess that the number I actually interact with is not much larger, but the peripheral people push in on all sides. On Sunday, I bumped a Hispanic teenaged boy in the crosswalk with my car because I was zoned out while driving and he was in the blind spot created by dried, dirty slush at the edges of my windshield where the wipers don't go. I'm horrified with myself over that. Today, I asked a woman if I could sit down next to her on the El and I didn't realize until she moved her shopping bag only a little that she had the sheen of grime on her clothing that only the homeless acquire and as I sat I recognized the odor as well. This is not an experience that I would have to process on the island. I've thought about this woman all day now: remembering the defensive hesitation in her face when I spoke to her, debating what the kindest thing to do for her would have been (what if my speaking to her as if she were a normal person was the nicest thing anyone has done for her all day? and it was a mistake!), the fact that the only tell-tale sign she was homeless was the dirt and smell, other than that, she was young and pulled-together.

There is more friction and pressure on my existence here. I got soft on the island. So, I'm having trouble finding the peace and centered feeligns that I knew there. I don't want to build callouses. I want happiness to well up rather than to be something that I must achieve.

I know that this most likely a normal stage of transition for me. Culture shock hits me hard when I travel; why should moving from one culture to another be any different? I'm not going to do this, but I bet if you looked at entries from one to two months into living on the island (October and November 2004), my emotions look pretty similar. Like knowing that they're mean to me because they have less to fall back on when encountering disappointment makes me feel better at least logically, knwoing that this is my pattern makes the emotions a little less consuming because I know there is a way out and the sign over that tunnel is labeled, "Time."

That doesn't make me any warmer, though.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Angry molasses

Life doesn't feel crazt but I'm kept from blogging because life feels a little like it's moving through molasses.

I've never had a schedule like this before. It's a regular 40 hour a week that requires me to wake up at 6:00 in the morning, just like my previous adult life in the suburbs. However, unlike that life, I get home around 5:00 or so. This means that I have a HUGE amount of time in the evening. (Just how different this schedule is from my island life is too obvious to go into.) I'm work tired so need some time zoning out before I catch my second wind, usually eat some dinner while I do that and then . . . well . . . I should be blogging or going to dinner with friends or quilting or making Christmas presents or emailing friends or . . . something. But the molasses feeling remains. I do get a little studying for the GRE done but it's the little crap, like reviewing supplementary and complementary angles. I don't get down and practice the writing sections like I should. I want to submit a "MacGyver" entry for ReadyMade magazine but I keep just plain forgetting because the pictures I need are at my parents' house. Sometimes I go work out but all of the ladies that work there but one piss me off on a consistent basis by correcting me on stupid stuff that doesn't really need to be corrected. That wouldn't be so bad but not one of them has bothered to even learn my name. They just see me as a lump of jiggly meat that only needs to be checked in on every once in awhile, like after we take our blood pressure when they shout, "How are you ladies doing? Everyone in their heartrate zone?" and then wait expectantly as if we should respond individually to their general cattle call. And it's freaking cold. About 20 degrees all the time. What happened to the 30's and 40's? It's like Chicago just skipped from the 50's straight to ten degrees below freezing and stayed there like a bad date who slips by your guard and weasels his way into your apartment and then just sits there trying to get you to make conversation or a move but you're too polite to just kick him out when he doesn't get the hints.

So, I guess I'm a little irritable. I can't believe that I wish I had more to do so I would get more done.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

And with you, Lord, I will seek other seas.

When I returned home from church last Sunday, Daniel and Paige asked, almost in chorus, "How was church today?" I got to reply:

"Entirely in Spanish."

pause for laughter

Yes, entirely in Spanish. Let me explain. When I move to a new area, I try to go to all the neighborhood protestant churches to see where I feel most at home. God has spoken to me in some pretty undeniable ways using this method. So, last weekend, I was finally ready to begin the search.

I cased the neighborhood on Saturday since it was nice and found a Methodist church within eyesight of my apartment and a Missionary Baptist church across the street from the Methodist church. Now, I was only just ready to start exploring, so I chose the familiar mainline protestant service over the probably entirely African-American, possibly long, possibly with lots of jumping around service across the street. Still, though, there was this nagging thought that I could be making the wrong decision because ususally, if I have to chose between two cultures, I will always choose African American over Latino culture. Like preferring pasta and red sauce over sushi, you know? Nothing against the sushi but garlic and butter just have a better chance of resonating. And there was a fairly good chance that there was some Latino culture over at the Methodists house since it's almost an entirely Hispanic neighborhood. But, I threw my lot in with the Methodists because I figured the WASPiness of the denomination would balance any neighborhood influence enough to create a comfort zone for me.

If ever there was a time for the phrase, "Boy, was I wrong," it is now.

I approached the church at exctly 10:30. I don't like to go to new services early because then I have to engage in conversation with strangers. I like to have a sense for the environment before I actually talk to anyone. Also, there's usually a flurry of people approaching, trying not to be late, and that gives me a good sense of which door to use. I should have known something was up when I had to choose the orange door at random. But, my heart was quieted a little when the first person I saw was a large black lady. Too soo, too soon, my heart.

She was the only one for the rest of the morning. So, I sat down towards the back and realized that although the architecture was familiar, with the upside down ark for a ceiling, everyone was greeting me with a "Buenos Dias." And greet me they did. I think every single one of those 40 people said hello to me as they filed in after I arrived. Apparently, after I responded to their Spanish greetings with my very gringo, "Good Morning," the white woman about my age came over to talk to me and introduced herself as the seminary student doing her internship and we chatted for a minute. While we were talking one of the women settling herself into the pew behind the seminary student dropped a large percussion instrument out of her bag and onto the floor, making a loud thump, rattle noise. The feeling that this was not going to be a comfortable protestant service grew. My kind of protestants don't bring their own percussion instruments to church with them. My kind of protestants have to be embarassed into participating at all in the service beyond roles strictly outlined in their morning bulletin. God's frozen people, you know? There was a giant man named Dick Sleckman in the church I grew up in. He had hands like small hams and was the first person that I wanted to greet after Sunday services because he seemed so genuinely excited to see me, and everyone else. He got up in the pulpit one Sunday to give a "Minute for Mission," and tried to get the congregation to cheer, college-style, "Yay God! Yay Jesus! Whooooaaaaa Holy Spirit!" When they got to the third guy in the trinity, he wanted everyone to make a spinning upward motion with their pointer fingers. To Dick's credit, he did get the congregation to join him; to illustrate my point, it took at least four tries.

So, after my heart sunk a little at the sight of maracas and, additionally, claves, the seminary student asked if I spoke Spanish. It was kind of her to ask since it must have been obvious that I didn't. I laughed and said that this would probably interesting since I didn't. She said she would get me a translation and walked away. I expected her to come back with a little pamphlet that translated the order of the service and talked with several other people who stopped at my pew, some who spoke in English with me and others who simply smiled so warmly and greeted me in Spanish. A woman who carried the air of a matriarch brought me some literature about the church with a visitor's questionaire, which was actually in English. She also asked if I needed a translator. Since she used the word "translator" instead of "translation," I got a little confused because the image that word conjured was different from what I assumed the seminary student was still rummaging around in a file drawer for. But, in a minute or so, the matriarch came back with a 12-year-old boy in tow who handed me a set of ear bud headphones and a little radio. Apparently, it was going to be like Church UN and I was going to get simultaneous translation! Soon after this, the service began.

For all my trepidations, the service was actually fairly straightforward. Most of the hymns were projected onto a screen and I hummed along. I did know the English words to one of the songs thanks to being in church choir when the multicultural Presbyterian hymnal was published (it has the words to Amazing Grace in Navajo, no joke) and sang right along. I also had fun trying to figure out what the words on the overhead projector meant. I am fairly certain that "He tomado el sacrificio" means that Jesus cut up tomatoes, which gives the Veggie Tales series a strange new twist.

Most of the service was directed by a matronly woman: everything but the sermon, the intercessory prayer and the communion. At one point, she said that since the sermon would take hours and hours, we would stand for the responsive psalm. Since it was early in the service and I was still concentrating mostly on the translation and not on the rest of the congrgation, I couldn't tell if she was joking or not. Luckily, she was. During the prayers of the people, she stressed heavily that today we were only going to spend time on thanksgivings and that prayer concerns were going to be taken care of later in the service. Again, every church I've ever been to has trouble getting people to give their concerns and thanksgivings out loud. Only illnesses, tragedy, births and visitors are worth opening oneself up as vulnerable for. Not this crowd: fender benders, mom's birthday, the recent children's retreat, and the homeless were worth speaking passionately about. When limited to thanksgivings, 12 people spoke with a microphone in their hands for at least 5 minutes each. The young girl in the balcony who was translating for me would start with a blow-by-blow translation and then sort-of give up and start giving me the gist of things. I think that the quick translation also caused her to choose some non-standard alternatives for some phrases. I definitely heard her say that we would "digest the word of God" and ask, "How many candles did you turn on today?" But the stories that these people told in their thanksgiving fascinated me. I was reminded that my interaction with most Hispanic people is limited because they are having to translate complex thoughts into limited vocabularies and, I guess, sometimes it means I only hear the ideas that seem to be most necessary. But since they did not have to edit according to the worthiness of the effort, I was allowed to be much more intimate with these people than if they came to my church and had to tell the same stories in English. My favorite was a middle-aged woman who spoke of spending her Thanksgiving holiday with her in-laws who are "Arabian people." She talked about being with them all day and only knowing one word of their language, "Yes." So, when they spoke with her, she simply agreed all day with whatever they said, "yes, yes." Finally, she started pretending that every one of them was telling her how pretty she looked. "Yes, yes." My laughter was delayed by the translation but was genuine.

As we got toward the end of the service and began communion, I found that the liturgy is the liturgy across the board. "It is right to give God thanks and praise" is the same in English or Spanish so I could participate fully in this sacrament. Having to think about the words because I was generating them caused me to look at communion freshly. I can't say that I had any great epiphanies, but as I knelt at the communion rail after eating my bread (dipped), I cried as I prayed. I felt that my communication with God was almost raw. Maybe because it was one of the only parts of the service that was in my language. It was powerful. In the end, I can only say, "y proclamente Senor."

Friday, November 25, 2005

Who Will Be My Friend?

When I was small, I had a book called Who Will Be My Friend?. It was, predictably, a story of a kid going to kindergarten who was scared about his first day and his mother described for him all of the wonderful things that he would do there. I can still picture the play dough cookie that he made with a bite out of it that looked like a crescent moon. I assume that at some point the mother assured the boy that there would be plenty of kids that would be his friend and, in the end, he found at least one.

This book has been a bit of a touchstone in my life. I've always felt so much better when I've known what to expect ahead of time. When I was in the third grade, I remember freaking out about going to camp, crying in the dark of my room before I went to bed. My mom came in, held me while sitting in my chair with the lights still off and described some of the things I would do. I also wanted to know who would be my friend then. Oddly, camp that year is one of the few experiences of my childhood where I ended up in a "popular" group, simply because of the way our cabin assignments worked out.

My first semester at college was extremely tough because it seemed like everyone made their best-friend-forever in the first weekend and since I don't make friends very quickly (I'm pretty bossy and sarcastic and it takes people awhile to decide if they like me, plus I'm a little judgmental and have to wait until time overcomes my first impressions of people, which are not
usually generous, much to my shame), I missed that opportunity to pair up. By then, there was no room in all those couples for a third. Meals were especially hard because for some reason I had a huge block about walking into the dining hall by myself and either sitting down at someone else's table or sitting by myself. I guess I thought that if I gave the impression that I had no friends, it would be like a self-fulfilling prophecy and no one would want to be friends with the girl who had no friends. So, if I couldn't find someone to walk with me to meals, like my roommate, any of the girls on the floor, or a classmate from a class right before lunch, I stayed in and ate macaroni and cheese that I made in my hot pot. Puh-theh-tick. I met Susan when she confronted me in the bathroom, both of us wearing our robes and she with a towel on her head, demanding to know if I had done Dramatic Duet Acting in high school and when I confirmed her suspicions, going on to tell me that she competed against me and how much she loved my Holocaust survivor character and how it made her cry. (I was later to learn that a lot of things made Susan cry in a very charming way, but this did not lessen my feeling of being appreciated.) So, when I met Susan, who actually lived in the room next to mine, in the second semester, things got easier. I had my best-friend-forever. But Susan lives in Geneseo , so I don't have her to hang around with all that often.

This idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy actually had quite a history in my life before I went to college. The lunchroom fear, in particular, was always there on the first day of school. However, I don't think I was alone because I remember lots of people asking excitedly which lunch everyone else had. However, before college, this fear was a one-day only affair, since adolescent socialization requires that after the first day of school, certain groups of friends can be found in the same place at the same time every day. I had routine to fall back on. But the idea that if I arrived by myself somewhere I would be giving off a message that I must not be worth befriending since no one had bothered to do it yet reaered it ugly head in other parts of my life. I remember freaking out in the fifth grade because I didn't have anyone to go to the Fun Fair with. My mother argued with me in bewilderment because she couldn't see where this frenzy of worry was coming from. I'd been dropped off at Fun Fairs before. In reality, I guess that I had started hearing that kids were going together, maybe even in pre-date kind of setups and maybe someone asked me who I was going with. But I could never express these kinds of social pressures to my mom. I just felt them. So, finally, we called my friend Alina, which was a little odd, because I think we were in a stage in our long friendship where we weren't talking. But I had someone with whom to appear at the Fun Fair and I would not be alone.

When my friend Tiffanie had a coming-out party when she was 16, again I could not simply be dropped off at the hall by one of my parents. Tiffanie was the only person to have a coming-out party so I had no idea what to expect. This time, there was no rocking me in the dark and explaining what to expect. My mother didn't know either. So, if I was going to walk into this blind, I wanted to be in the company of others, so I could observe their behavior and mimic it. Since I didn't have a best-friend-forever that was going to this party, I had to repeat the earlier Fun Fair Fiasco and call around to various acquaintances to see if I could get a ride. I procured one with a guy named Steve, who was a senior and in the choir I was in. He was also giving a ride to at least two other people. The combination of these variables - acquaintance, older boy, other people - meant that it was almost inevitable that he would be late, but at 15 years old, I didn't know that. So now you must picture the pathetic sight of a young, awkward girl with long, straight, dark hair, dressed in a white lace formal dress, her first formal dress. She is sitting on an old church pew, looking out the window for any sign on a beat up old station wagon to pull into the driveway. Every once in awhile she gets up to make sure the front light is on and to catch a surreptitious look at the clock. Her mom kind of hovers without hovering because every time she asks if I'm all right or if I'd like it if she just took me, I bite her head off and although she probably knows that it's not her, it's my state of mind, she thinks that she's just making it worse but she doesn't know what else to do. It was pretty awful, on the adolescent scale. Finally, Steve shows up and we go to the party and everything is fine. I don't let on to the people in the car that I was upset or even waiting very long because that would imply that I was reliant upon them and if you show neediness, that's another huge sign that you're not really worth befriending. Scoff at the silliness, but how many times have you complained to a good friend about another friend or acquaintance who was just too demanding, clingy or persistent?

I am happy to report that one of the huge benefits that I gained from my time on the island was a complete sense of self-assurance and confidence. In a conversation with Faith once, I described this sensation of finally sitting down into the chair that was myself. She asked me how old I was and when I told her I was 27, she sat back in her chair, looked across the table at me and smiled. She explained that astrology has a phenomena called Saturn Returns. It happens every 28 years or so and it is marked by sense of self-knowing and new decision-making that sets us back on the right path. Now, I certainly didn't get here all at once. I felt a similar sense of comfort with myself when Dennis loved me and I had him for a partner. Then, I didn't need to prove or pretend that I was friend-worthy; having Dennis caused me to know I was and so I could go into new situations by myself because even if I self-destructed in that situation and nobody liked me, I was coming home to Dennis. Why I didn't feel that same kind of assurance coming home to family, I don't know. I certainly knew that they loved me no matter what, but I guess I took them for granted. Because their love was unconditional, it didn't really count in terms of making me feel like a worthwhile person. I was always the best singer in the choir to my father, despite the fact that he couldn't actually hear me over everyone else and even if he could, he's pretty much tone-deaf. His approval was no gauge for how well I actually did. But once Dennis left, I was back to, well, not square one, but at least square ten. Being on the island gave me the time to heal and to open me up for Saturn's Return. Jeff's love and the easy friendship of so many people there helped tremendously. But because we parted on good terms, I was able to take that assurance with me when I left instead of having to let Dennis take it with him. I also experienced a huge upwelling of God's presence, which reminded me that He also loved me no matter what.

So, in starting out this new adventure, I am confident that I will be able to walk into new situations and make friends. If there is a concert I want to go to or a restaurant I want to try, I will go try it, even if there is no one to go with me. The problem is that there is nothing I want to do. So, I've been worrying a little bit about how I am going to make friends, which is why I started writing this post in the first place. I won't make friends other than my brother and my roommate if I don't stop watching The West Wing and leave the apartment. But I have no desire to go.

Some of this reluctance is adjusting to the amount of energy that my job needs. Some of it is that I'm applying to grad school and need to start studying for the GREs. But the fact remains that I'm a little worried that I am coming back to my old fears of Who Will Be My Friend.

I started thinking about this because as I have begun looking for a church, one has been recommended to me that is just down the street. It's new and aimed at people my age. I met the pastor while I was at the conference last weekend and it was recommended by someone I work with. A family friend who is my age goes there. I would probably make a lot of friends. But, I realize that I'm reluctant to go. One reason for this is that my whole family has attended a service at this church and no one was impressed. They found it simple and with the goofy "contemporary Christian" worship rituals. I like traditional services. I like old hymns. I like semons that take scripture, study its historical context and apply that lesson to our modern lives. I also like elders. This church has no elders. But, mostly, I'm a little hesitant because right now, if I started attending this church, it would be my only outlet for finding friends. And, frankly, I'm not sure that I want to be friends with other Christians.

I know, I know, that sounds awful. But I've gotten used to being the only Christian in my group of friends. I like having conversations with them about their concepts of the church and Christianity and knowing that they will actually listen and be interested in what I believe because they respect me, my experience and my intelligence and know that because of that intelligence I'm probably not just parroting lifestyle beliefs dictated from a pulpit. When I talk about my faith with other Christians, my unorthodox beliefs label me in their minds and I almost always feel a palpable shift in the relationship as I become, in their minds, one of the lost sheep as opposed to being part of the fold. Although most of them will continue to be nice to me because Jesus says we should be nice to everyone, my experience is that I'm not really enjoyed. And, if I'm not really enjoyed by someone, I don't tend to be able to really enjoy him or her and real friendship can't be created.

As I write this, I realize that I made these decisions about other Christians years ago and in closing myself off, I am allowing myself to be prejudiced. I have created my own personal stereotype and being my own kind of bigoted. If everything else in my perspective has changed over the years, why wouldn't I test the waters on this one and see if the water hasn't, in fact, warmed up a little? Ugh. Self-reflection sucks sometimes.

I guess I'll go to this church. Maybe not this Sunday, though. I have a lunch date with a friend this Sunday and this service doesn't start until 11:00. Since I started thinking about how I would make friends, I've talked with my little brother about it a little. He was very nice and assured me that I would, in fact, make friends. He would tell me if I wouldn't, so it's actually comforting to hear him say that. I mentioned that at some point here, I would probably start reading the Chicago Reader so that events actually had a chance to spark my interest. He also recommended finding a coffeehouse that I liked to spend a couple hours at when I have days off. He said if I created a routine of being at the same place, people would actually start to talk to me. He also, reluctantly, said that he would probably start bringing me around his friends a little more, too. That's pretty nice of him.

I want to conclude this post by saying that my mother always did the right thing when I was freaking out about friends. She let me see that she was bewildered. She liked me so much and she just didn't understand why the other kids didn't see what she saw. She never left me completely to my own devices. She backed off enough that I was allowed to experince these crazy emotions by myself, but she was always close enough that I didn't feel like I had to cross a great divide to go to her for comfort. She let me yell at her and held me when I was done. I guess that I don't and never did completely take hers or my father's unconditional love for granted. The fact that I'm here, engaged in this act of self-reflection, rather than being trapped in an unbalanced morass of uncontrollable emotional reactions is proof that the emotional foundation that they built for me is about as stable as any mortal can build for another. Only God can build a stronger one and we messed that up in Eden so I'll have to wait for the afterlife to experience that. So, even though it's not Mother's Day, thanks Mom.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Truth & Beauty: Belief

Truth & Beauty: Belief

I found this post on a blog that I have been reading lately. I have not given in to the current trend (a good one, though) of Christians and even secular Westerners learning about all things Muslim because I was never hooked by anything that interested me beyond E.M Forster's A Passage to India. Every course, lecture or discussion that I have been offered has been a listing of facts: something to file away until I need the information to understand context in a new situation. Not something to study because it is interesting.

This blog has been that hook and is the medium that I chosen to learn from. Baraka writes with beauty, insight and candor. I am interested because she is interested. Like your best professor in college, who was the best because he/she loved the topic. I am also interested because she seems to share a process for thinking about the world with me. It always helps to feel a kinship.

I link to this post because most of my readers are from Judeo-Christian backgrounds, just like me. She has written an essay that is believable in its sincerity and is almost identical to other essays that I've read from Christian writers. However, she did not write this because she wanted to prove that beliefs across faiths feel the same. She is writing for an almsot entirely Muslim audience, if the people that respond to her blog could be considered a cross-section. She didn't have an agenda in writing this post other than to simply sort out her own feelings and that makes it even more powerful.

In addition to this blog, I have been reading Don Miller's book Searching for God Knows What. Although I do not normally read Christian literature, I really liked his other book, Blue Like Jazz, so thought I'd give this a try. It's different from the first, but I like it. He is basically arguing that our faiths should be less about the formulas that we should follow to be saved or the lessons of Jesus that can be followed step by step to make our difficult lives feel better. He says that when Adam and Eve betrayed God (and most of us know what real betrayal feels like and it cannot compare to what God must have felt), they lost the crucial ingredient for happiness: total knowledge of the identity that God had been giving them. Since they were so close to God, they had no choice but to know that He loved them, like they knew that water tasted good when they were thirsty. But when they sinned, they lost that absolute knowledge and since we were created to be creatures who needed to be told that they are loved, we've been searching for that ever since. We want our parents to love us as completely as God loves us, we want friends and lovers and the mailman and our bosses and the dog to replace that sense of knowledge that we used to get from God. This explains almost every bad behavior that we commit. It's a pretty comprehensive personality theory and I'm not doing it justice here. It's worth reading.

But I bring this up because this is at the end of Baraka's essay on belief:

"And that’s ok, for as humans we are ultimately alone. We can never fully reveal ourselves to or fully know another. If satiation was possible in this world it would quench the restlessness that keeps us questioning, seeking & striving, that keeps us engaged in the lifelong search for the ultimate Unity."

Another inadvertent powerful statement for its universal message. She and Don Miller agree.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


The people at work think that I'm crazy to take the train to work. At least three people have given me that look when I've brought it up. And I've only brought it up reluctantly after the first time. Their reasons for this disdain/concern are probably varied. There's a certain amount of concern since I'm a woman walking through the neighborhood, although my boss says that's unfounded.

Mostly, I think it's a difference in perspective. I've grown up mostly privileged and with a transportation culture that revolved around cars. It's a relief to me not to have to drive and I'm a little bit of an earth-muffin so I like that I use less fuel and pollute less by riding public transportation. Also, I feel a little less like I'm trying to be the Great White Hope if I approach this community on foot. However, a lot of the people that I work with come from this neighborhood or a neighborhood like the one I'm trying to help rebuild by working in it. Some of them grew up without reliable transportation and could not choose not to stand in the cold, if that makes sense. The difference in experience makes them offer me rides home and try to insist that I should drive on nights I'm going to be there past 4:30.

So, today was a classic cold snap. Yesterday it was 55 degrees and today it was 22 degrees with blowing snow. Since I do not consume much media, I was totally unprepared. So there I stood, waiting on an elevated platform for my train for 10 minutes. Then, I had to walk 4 blocks on the other side of the train ride to work. As I walked that second outdoor leg without gloves or a hat, I realized that I was defending myself to my co-workers in my head, "It uses less fuel and pollutes less when I take the train." "It's good for my soul to know what it's like, even a little bit, to be the only person of my race in a situation." "The walking is good for my health." I laughed at myself but kept up the mantra.

Because these things are true. I was convincing myself that I shouldn't drive for the rest of the winter without even realizing that that was what I wanted to do.

We'll see.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Are you ready to talk derby?




Roller Derby.

That's right. Roller Derby.

I knew living in the city was going to pay off. Sunday night, Daniel invited me to join him and his friends to go see Roller Derby at the nearby Congress Theater. But, he added, I need to get my own friends eventually.

But let's get back to the Roller Derby. Four teams of 14 women in matching outfits on old-fashioned roller skates with names like Hell's Belles, The Manic Atackers, The Double Crossers and The Fury. That right, folks, these are theme teams. The Manic Attackers wore skimpy mental institution dresses, the Hell's Belles wore red and black spandex devil dresses. When I say dresses, be sure to picture the girls in A League of Their Own and then add a little tough-chick punky goth to the mix. And, make sure to picture quite a few Rosie O'Donnels. Some of those girls were big girls. But they were big girls with beautiful curves and not afraid to simply sit on a girl to keep her from getting up and scoring points.

Here. See for yourself.

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The girls also had names like Garbage Pail Kids: Tex Ann, Tequila Mockingbird, Ann Putation, Val Capone, Kami Sutra and Ivana Krushya.

I won't try to explain all the rules of Roller Derby. You can find them here. It was fun to watch the chaos and attempt to figure them out for myself, though. It turns out that there actually are some rules and some of these girls are fantastic at what they do. Take, for instance, Quiet Storm, one of the only black girls in the league. She had a fantastic black-girl butt and it altered her center of gravity perfectly for roller skating since she was able to lean way forward. She was a beautiful thing to watch, slipping past her blockers to pass the pivot to become lead jammer every time.

These were the finals after a long season. The first match was billed as a "grudge match" and was filled with random mascots, fantastic fights and the aforementioned Quiet Storm.

Here. Look.

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It was kind of a joke match. At various points, the girls would break into an obviously choreographed gag: everyone producing a whistle to blow at the officials or big brawls (the little ones seemed pretty real). In the end, the judges eliminated all points for both teams leaving them with a 0-0 score. A good fun time was had by all.

But can I tell you what an odd sensation it was to actually care about who was winning the championship match? Before the second match, they played a little video introducing the girls on the Double Crossers and The Fury. I don't know, something about those Fury girls appealed to me and I started rooting for them purely for their image. But then they started losing, right off the bat and so I started rooting for them as the underdogs. So, they were consistently losing through the first half and continued this trend into the second. Then - like all good sports movies - they started to catch up. Tension built until we were in the last 2 minutes and they were only four points behind. By this time, I had learned enough about the sport to know that you can only really score four points in a 2 minute jam, so were standing on tip-toes with the idea that they could actually pull it off. And sure enough, after a few false starts and some pretty amazing skating, they scored all four points! The score was 33 to 33 and the clock ran out! They went into five minutes of overtime for the first time all season. I'm telling you folks, I do not bleieve this was choreographed. There is a certain intensity present in really good sports and it was absolutely there in that theater. So, of course, in those five minutes of overtime, tension builds,control of the jam goes back and forth between the teams, there's a fear that Hurrican Charlie is hurt and they'll have to play the secondary jammer but then she takes one for the team and goes out there for the final two minutes anyway. It was fantastic. And, in the last seconds, The Fury pulled ahead and won. We cheered and cheered. I was slightly ashamed of myself and having a glorious time all at once. Confetti shot out of the lighting rig and they walked Ivy King out into the middle of the rink to give the girls their trophy. Ivy King was a small, white-haired lady who looked to be in her late 80s or young 90s. They introduced her as the skating sensation, Poision Ivy, the first time Roller Derby was a national pasttime 70 years ago. Ivy got the biggest cheer of the evening. They showed her picture from then and named the cup after her. She's buried in this crowd of girls.

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All in all, a totally satisfying evening. We went back to Michael's house and ate really good meatloaf and mac and cheese and watched Rome, which they had Tivoed. I like these folk. They're my kind of people. Too bad I have to find my own friends. :-)

Saturday, November 12, 2005

I just got back from my inaugural voyage as a new resident on the elevated train system here in Chicago. I took the Blue line, which is right next to my house all the way to Oak Park to see my friend Jennifer and her extremely charming baby, Noah.

The Blue line actually splits as it gets south of the city, so I had to let one train go by me and waited for the train that I actually needed. Because of the unique nature of this line, I saw a slightly odd thing. When the train to 54/Cermak pulled up, a guy got off and sat down on the bench near me. He was a basically normal-looking guy. A little dorky, a little plump. Shaggy dark hair, Caucasian, olive jacket of some sort, jeans and black boots. Oddly, he smelled of frat boy cologne, which clashed with his non-participator image. I noticed that he sat down rather than leaving the station for the street because we're so far north that people aren't normally worried about transferring from one Blue Line train to the other yet if they got onto the wrong train. Still, his body language was languid and relaxed so he seemed harmless and I didn't think much of it. He got onto my car when I got on and, interestingly, got off at the next stop. So, he got off one train, got on the next one and got off that one again, maybe to wait for the next train?

So, I thought about that for a little while as the train continued on. Then, at one of the stops when the train goes underground in the Loop, he got on the train again!

How did he catch up?! Did the train behind my train overtake us somewhere along the line? Even if that train overtook us, if he maintained his pattern of only staying on each train for one leg of the trip, how did he keep from falling behind? This was 6 or 7 stops later! Did he get off a train somewhere and get on a bus, then go down the escalator to this stop? How did he do that and still catch up to the train that had left him behind?!

Then, at the next stop, he got off again, just like the pattern I had already observed.

Creepy. I think there's a science fiction plot to explain this somehow. Something about a guy coming back in time on several attempts to catch a moment on the El that he's not quite sure when it is. How else to explain it except time travel?

Now That I'm Gone

I guess there are some etiquette issues that I need to address now that I've left the island. I say this because someone went up to my friend Harreld and said, "Oh, so you're Harreld," because this guy had read about him on my blog but apparently hadn't read the link I had prominently posted asking people not to do things like this. It really weirded Harreld out.

Please don't do this.

I accepted some risk to myself when I chose to make this blog not anonymous. However, I guess that I didn't really think about the friends that I would make on the island and how they would feel about being not anonymous. I considered psuedonyms briefly, but I knew that I wouldn't be able to keep track of them and really, the main reason for using psuedonyms would be to keep the people on the island happy if they ever found out about the blog. But, people on the island would quickly figure out who I was talking about anyway. That's why I liked it; it was a small island.

But, in addition to the guy who somehow thought he could get in good with Harreld by his semi-stalker behavior, my blog is being found by people of the island. They search for the yoga studio that I first went to and the band that played at the Farmer's Market. The search for the resort I worked at and the name of Rhonda's farm. Someone also found me by searching for "dork magnet t-shirt," but I don't think that had anything to do with the island.

So, I have to deal with the reality that people might know what I think about them.

And, that makes me a little nervous. But when I really think about it, I'm OK with it. I didn't tend to post things that I wouldn't have said directly to the person if it came up in conversation. Any negative things that I said were usually in the context of my interaction with that person and should be read that way. I'm not making absolute statements here. My perspective and opinions and experiences with people colored my description.

When I look back on it, this blog was not so much about the island as I thought it would be. It was really about me and the changes that I went through while taking a sabbatical there. Please read it that way. What I said in November of 2004 or May of 2005 is probably completely different from the way I feel now.

If you are going to visit Orcas Island, please meet and engage with people there at face value. Let your experience with them determine how you treat them. It's not fair to them if you start your relationship with them more intimately than they have actually given permission for you to be.

I am continuing to write in this blog space because I think that I can take the same adventurous spirit with which I approached the island to the city. I'll try not to let it devolve into my internal ramblings but, instead, continue trying to make fun or poignent observations about the adventures I encounter in this new environment, be they social, physical or emotional. However, if I discover that leaving this adventure public is affecting the world that I left behind (but intend to go back to), I'll have to take the whole thing down. Don't make me come back there. :-)

Thank you for your interest so far and your (possible) continued interest as my focus shifts. Thank you also for respecting the people that have been so good to me.

Friday, November 11, 2005

A Bunch of Thoughts

My entire high school experience of being unattractive was repudiated this morning as I walked through my Hispanic neighborhood to go work out. According to several men in my neighborhood, I'm hot even in slouchy athletic-wear. As you may have deduced, I have found and signed up with a Curves that is a half of a mile away.

I'm a little nervous about starting work in an office on Monday. The expectations of me are so open-ended. Am I supposed to just start right in and figure out what needs to be done? Will someone guide me? And by guide me, I don't mean mentor me. I mean, will someone tell me specifically what I need to do. I'll figure out how to do it, but will someone give me a list of tasks or is it simply, "Go get us some more clients to use these resources"? Teaching and working retail are pretty well defined in terms of what's expected from me. "Make sure these kids know American Literature, especially Catcher in the Rye and Huckleberry Finn." "When someone walks in the door and asks for coffee, make them coffee." Like I said, I can figure out the details of how to do it and what to do with extra time in situations like that, but I have no idea about office work. Not a clue. I don't even know what time to show up. It's not like a bell is going to ring for when I'll be late.

I’m just a little disgusted with myself that I have abandoned my principles of re-use, non-materialism and anti-suburban life so quickly. I rushed right out and bought $150 worth of stuff from IKEA. I bought my first two sets of groceries while I was out in the suburbs visiting my mom. The third set came from Whole Foods, which I have to drive to, here in the city. Granted, the third time was a little of a bonding trip with Paige, my new roommate, but still, where is my idealism to walk everywhere? I have yet to step foot in one of the little local grocery stores or restaurants on my block.

I've had to defend my beliefs and my lifestyle a few times in the last week or so. As I bought my iBook from Lee, we talked a little bit about my blog and its religious overtones. He asked me to describe my beliefs and I had to stop and think of how to put it into a sentence. I said, "My Christianity is all about my relationship with Jesus and his commandment to love others. And you can't love someone when you judge them." I felt really comfrotable with that answer. I can say the words, "Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior" and mean it, but the unchurched tune you out when you start talking religious talk. (And unchurched doesn't mean anything other than that: someone that doesn't have experience with the traditional rituals of Christian churches.) Fellowship, light of Christ, the word witness, used as a verb: these are words and phrases that have no meaning to most of the people that I'm commanded to love. Isn't loving someone respecting that person enough to speak in language he can actually understand, rather than standing above him by participating a linguistic club where he can't get in the front door of what I'm saying because he doesn't have a decoder ring? The same goes for my lifestyle choices of drinking and swearing. I don't feel a need to conform to behavior standards that identify me with traditional Christians. There are a lot of instructions in the Bible that this society selectively ignores. Do not wear a garment of two fibers woven together, for example. Hell, even Wheaton College kids can dance, drink and smoke now. I make my own choices based on my conversations with God and based on Christ's commandment to love God and to love others. I figure those are like the Constitution of commandments; other scripture has to fall in line with one of those two commandments or it's not applicable in today's society and my life.

Finally, I've been knitting a little obsessively. I've made two tomato hats and I'm experimenting with an earflap hat.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Hello Mac!

I've done it! I have bought my first computer!

Gee, Rebecca, what have you been writing all these blogs on if not a computer?

Well, that's a good question. I've always inherited computers. Or, my husband was responsible for acquiring the computer that he and I shared. But, usually, I've inherited computers from my father or one of my brothers. The same generally has gone for stereo equipment. As a result, mt computers tend to be a little wiggy. They have lots of weird programs taking up space that I'll never use and when I try to un-install them, they leave little bits behind to get in my way. Keys on the keyboards (they're usually laptops) stick and I end up signing off of my emails, "Goo Gently." They definitely do not accept new software because new software is totally uncompatible with the ancient operating system, so I have to limp along with whatever was already there and the internet appears to move in jerky slow-motion. The only plus side that I've seen to these old warhorses is that I don't seem to get viruses, because hackers blow their nose in my general direction but otherwise leave me alone. There is no challenge in creating a virus for Windows Millenium Edition. It crashes all by itself. It would be a little like knocking out Grandma's cane in order to feel like a real man. It's just pathetic.

The update on how I'm feeling can best be expressed in segments of an email conversation that I'm having with a friend:

"Today I woke up feeling like I'd finally stepped out
of the coffin of soul-tired that I've been trapped in.
No West Wing for me today. I'm screwing stuff into
the walls! I just got back from IKEA and I am ready
to organize, damnit. I'm amazed at how easily I've
given up trying to use salvaged materials and things
without packaging. Everything just felt so hard,
though. Making the rounds of the resale stores and
modifying stuff to fit my actual need paled in
comparison to the mega-convenience of IKEA, which has
the exact thing I need for every need I think I have.
I'm so f---ing American."

He responded, "Good luck on the walls. Ikea is the great evil convenience which lures us all in to their scandinavian goodness. Fortunately, they create and fill needs all over the planet, so it’s not just American culture."

I feel only the slightest bit better.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Carrie A. Nation

I don't drink very much. When I was younger, this was because I was a little afraid of the world and of losing control of myself in it, but I've since realized that, as Judith Weinstock once wrote in a student journal, "Control is an illusion, but organization is possible." Even with that epiphany that eliminates any moral resistance to drunkenness, I still do not normally drink very much. I do not normally get drunk because, I'll be honest with you, I'm a puker. I'm not talking alcohol-poisoning-kneeling-at-the-toilet-at-the-end-of-the-night-please-hold-my-hair puking. One can easily grow up out of that stage. I mean that I'll have a couple of drinks, start feeling like I need a little air and on my way out the door, if there's a garbage can, I'll just boot a little right into it. There's no heaving involved. One second, the contents are in my stomach, the next second, they're projectiling out of my mouth. If there's no garbage can, my body waits until I get to the gutter. Then, I have to wipe off my mouth and go find a glass of water. Then I have to wash my hands, because that's usually all I have with which to wipe off my mouth.

It's pretty gross.

So, I don't normally get drunk. However, last night I found myself driving south on I-55 towards Bloomington with the fall scent of burning leaves in my nose with just that intent.

It's all Erika's fault. She stayed in Bloomington, where we went to college together, so when I go down to see her, we often end up hitting the bars together. We dance, we sing, we hit on guys. I lose my filter that normally keeps my thoughts of people walking by from actually being spoken. Erika takes me home early. And, I usually end up puking at some point in the evening. Last night was no different.

But it was all worth it.

The purpose of my trip was three-fold: Erika was my only friend to come visit me out on the island and since she couldn't come up to the party, I wanted to make sure I saw as soon as possible; Erika bought a condo that by all accounts was stunning, so I wanted to see it and bring her a housewarming present; and the band Maggie Speaks was playing at a local bar. I had only seen Maggie Speaks once before, with Erika, in Bloomington, at Springfest. But when she sent out an email to everyone saying that she would host anyone who wanted to see them again, I was eager.

Maggie Speaks is a little like professional wrestling. They are utterly entertaining and one feels slightly ashamed for enjoying something so cheesy so very very much. Maggie Speaks is a cover band. They play a set list of songs right out of every 16-35 year old's personal greatest hits album. If a group of drunk people can sing along to it, they'll play it. And they'll play it well. Simon and Garfunkel's "Cecilia" would be a great example. Everyone can and does sing along to "Cecilia" in a party atmosphere. Bo bo bo bo-oh bo, [two-part harmony here] bo bo bo bo bo bo bo bo-oh-oh. They'll follow it up with "Hey Yah" and then play James Brown's "Sex Machine." It's fantastic. My personal favorite mini-set began with Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean," which segued into Vanilla Ice's "Ice, Ice, Baby," and rounded out with "Bust-A-Move." I had completely forgotten that at one point in my life, I knew all the words to "Bust A Move." But, your best friend Harry has a brother Larry and in five weeks from now he's going to marry. He's hoping you can make it there if you can, 'cause in the ceremony you'll be the best man.

In addition to the music, I had one of the best times out at a club that I've ever had. I think this was because I was totally unconcerned with attracting guys. Having been really loved recently by a great guy made a huge difference. I had no need for someone else's approval. However, I called Erika before I left and asked her what she was wearing. She hesitated for a little bit and gave me some vague responses, so I narrowed it down, "Are you sparkly?" Yes. "Is there cleavage?" Yes.


I'm not good at either sparkly or cleavage. I've spent the last year or so on an island where we wouldn't ever bother putting out on the shelf at the re-use center any shoes that weren't boots, gym shoes or water shoes. We simply sent high heels right on to the Salvation Army on the mainland. Unless I'm wearing long sleeves, when I raise my arms, my armpit hair is visible. Raising one's arms is essential when singing along to the J. Geils Band's "Angel is a Centerfold." So, after trying on several tops that wouldn't match how good Erika was bound to look, I finally decided to go like an island girl. It worked well for my reunion, I figured I'd be comfortable. So, I wore my hot jeans, which are fairly baggy, my hiking boots and a navy T-shirt that said, "Babelicious" in the logo style of the bubble gum, Bubbalicious. The logo was sparkly pink, but it was a classic style T-shirt so there was no cleavage. It's amazing how different a night at a club can be as a female when one does not offer one's breasts up for general perusal. Not one guy asked my name, sidled up to grind on me or offered to buy a drink. I'm certainly not saying that normally I'm the center of attention, but my experience is generally that guys tend to like to dance with me in those environments. But last night, not one. It was fantastic.

Because my self-esteem was not tied up in finding a guy and guys weren't bothering me, I was free to actually watch the dynamic of the Bloomington club scene, while still singing along to "Sweet Home Alabama." It's fascinating. Although there are many nice and fun people in Bloomington, very few of them are hip or edgy. Hip, edgy people tend to move to Chicago. So, when most of the folks in their 20's in Bloomington get dressed to go out, their costumes all tend to resemble each other's. Sparkly tank tops in both the strapless and spaghetti-strap styles, most with a faux lingerie look: shiny satin with edging in lace. Tight jeans on girls, carpenter-style jeans to show off the guy's cute asses. T-shirts of various brand names (Nautica, Tommy, etc) on the guys. Lots of ball caps on guys and dangly, rhinestone earrings for the girls. Pointy-toed leather stiletto shoes for the girls. It was like Seventeen magazine come to life before my very eyes. I kept just walking around and peering into corners to make sure I saw everything with this huge grin on my face because watching the crowd and making observations in my head was the same kind of fun as watching wrestling or Maggie Speaks. Plus, I got to see just how ridiculously women will act in order to appear sexy to men. They'll practically swallow the phallus, excuse me, microphone that gets aimed at their mouths to sing the chorus of "Save a horse, ride a cowboy," tipping their heads up because the stage puts them right at the level they would be if they were on their knees. Towards the end of the evening, these pretty, slutty girls have disappeared (I wonder where) and the front of the stage gets crowded with girls that really aren't that drunk and really aren't all that confident in themselves. My brother used to call their type, "the homelies." Girls with nice personality and I really found myself really respecting them. These are girls that can't or won't sacrifice time from what they're actually interested in order to learn how to put on make-up or wear contacts. They won't spend money on expensively designed club clothes that they know will only end up sweaty and will maybe just a little of someone else's beer and/or vomit on them. (Innocent, on all counts, I'll have you know.) However, they've realized that no matter how much smarter than most of the guys they are, they do, indeed, have their own cleavage and they show it off. I can imagine them shopping and getting dressed with their roommates, prodding and daring each other into skimpier and skimpier outfits. As a matter of fact, I can see that scene, because I have been and probably still am one of them. But I respect them because they are not wallflowers. They are right up at the stage, singing along to Rick Springfield's "Jesse's Girl" and enjoying time out with their girlfriends. Most of them probably nurse a secret hope that they'll find a guy there (why else the display of decolletage?) but deep down they know that they probably wouldn't like the type of guy they'd meet in a bar anyway. Really. I loved them.

So, the climax of the evening came after I had spent some time sitting outside with my back against the brick wall of the building for awhile. There had been a garbage can available, so I could actually stick around outside, rather than having to disassociate myself from the mess that I had made. (The last time I had sat against this wall, a giant pink gorilla came and gave me a hug, then handed me a CD. How's that for creepy drunken surreal?) I went back inside and after awhile, I realize that we were, indeed coming to the climax of the evening because the lighting effects shifted to more white lights, rather than the muted fresnels that they had been using to emphasize the choruses. I also noticed that lots of arms were pumping the air and the volume of the crowd singing along had increased. Maggie Speaks had read their crowd correctly and were playing a medley of Bon Jovi songs to great effect. Ohh, we're half-way the-ere, Oh-oh, livin' on a pre-air. The crowd went wild and called for an encore after the band left the stage.

The encore? AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long." Of course.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Chutes and Ladders

They want me to help them through their own process of disillusionment.

That's all I can think of for why yet another of my ex-husband's friends has come knocking. Something has happened to cause them all to question their comfortable beliefs about how the divorce (and the marriage) went down and now they're coming back to apologize. But they want more than that, because they want to meet with me. I was always the maternal figure in the group since I was the only wife that participated in the boys' activities on a regular basis. I liked that role: doling out advice, giving female perspective, being friends with guys without sexual tension. So, now I think that they are coming back to me for the same succor.

It's not fair! This is not the time in my life for this. How do they know I'm home? I'm am supposed to be missing Jeff and setting up house in my new apartment, figuring out public transit and my new neighborhood, learning about my new roommate and my brother's girlfriend and being excited about my new job. Instead, I wake up in the mornings thinking about Dennis and reliving betrayal.

I was past this! I had moved on. Dennis occurred to me only every once in awhile. I was starting to tell fond stories of him to friends that had never met him because it didn't hurt to tell them anymore. Harreld told me before I left the island that at first, he thought that I had lived through some unmitigated hell being married to Dennis, but as time went on I did a good job of humanizing him as I talked about him.

It's like I'm back in unmitigated hell. I'm having to relive the betrayal that I felt when his friends left me behind, most without saying good-bye. I'm having to anticipate reliving Dennis' actual betrayal in the conversations that I have with these friends because Dennis absolutely lied to them about the situation.

It's so complicated because I have chosen to keep much of the ugly truth to myself, rather than release it in a wave of vindictiveness. I realized early on in the divorce that although an itch would be scratched by doing so, being the person who disillusioned those friends about Dennis would only make life harder for me and prolong healing.

So, here I am, like Chutes and Ladders, back at the point of having to make that decision again of whether to keep what I know to myself or whether they are actually asking me for it. And, I can't make that decision until I actually engage with them. So, I wait, a little shaky with adrenaline.

I've been assured by my mother, my brother and by Susan that I don't have to do this. But I do. It is an opportunity for closure. If I am truly committed to healing, I have to wade into fear, hurt and uncertainty. Hopefully, I will come out of the other side of the river just a little cleaner. I have to open the wounds a little bit to let the pus out. Otherwise, that poison will live with me, even if I have it blocked off in the name of "moving on."

I believe that God is here in this situation. Really, now is the best time to be doing this. Sure, I think that I would rather be focusing on something else, but in a week, I'll have a challenging job to focus on. Right now, I have the time and flexible schedule to make room for this. I can spend hours on the email, crafting messages that say just what I want them to say so that I don't say anything rash or easily misunderstood. I have the time to recover from the adrenaline rush and shaky inside feelings that come on when a new email address shows up in my inbox. I can plan coffee in places where I can fly back to arms that love me if it goes badly. Coincidences are rarely coincidences. They are usually an opportunity presented by God for us to exercise our free will in following His commandment to love others as we, ourselves have been loved. And we, ourselves, have been forgiven.

My mother would like to tear all of their eyes out. She said so to me the other day. I completely respect that. That is her prerogative as a mother and that primacy has its own rules. But I told her that she wouldn't have to live my life when she was done. If I miss this opportunity to forgive and to help others through their own betrayal by my ex-husband, I will have to live with myself in the long run and that will be much harder than any shaky insides and tears that I have to live through now.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Anxiety, relief, pleasure

Today has been a day of some controlled anxiety, a certain amount of relief, and a little pleasure.

I have officially taken up residence in my apartment. It took me awhile because I wanted to spend as much time as possible with Jeff before he went back to Orcas, and since he did not have a car, it was easier for me to simply stay out in Glen Ellyn. However, I have now spent two nights in my bed in my apartment, listening to the bus recite that it is the Kedzie/California 52 line. The Pancho Restaurant across the street plays the same Latin music CD all day and the nearby El requires that I turn the Gilmore Girls up fairly loud so that I don't miss the dialogue that is my primary reason for watching the show in the first place. I'm fighting the empty loneliness that rises in my chest when my roommates go back to the lives that they have. I do that mostly by unpacking and by eating whatever my little mouth wants. The eating will stop soon, but I'm being very gentle with myself right now.

I have almost been offered a job by a large, Christian non-profit doing urban community development work in Chicago. It is not-at-all the job that I described earlier. But I did next to no work to get it and since I don't know what else I want to do, I'm probably going to take it. I'll let you know when I know the details.

Yesterday, I said good-bye to Jeff, I was mostly (just not formally) given a job, my heart and mind were boiling with these people that are coming back into my life and it was my first day in residence. It contained a lot of emotions. It was hard.

So, today was a relief that it was not yesterday. Paige (my new roommate) encouraged me to take a vacation day. I like her already. It's a gorgeous day in Illinois today, with the sun shining and the temperature in the high 60's. As Paige and I talked, we decided that I should go to the Lincoln Park Zoo. I love the zoo and it's free, so, despite my extremely comfortable bed, I decided to go. (If the weather had been crummy, I would have had no problem staying naked in bed all day, reading Dune Messiah.)

The trip to the zoo was where the controlled anxiety, as well as the pleasure come in. I'm not very good with public transportation. Probably, that's not an accurate statement. There was a time in my life when I was awful with public transportation. That has made me a little gunshy, although I haven't had a mix-up in years. Also, I'm just not very good with new situations in general. I'm always a little nervous that someone will know that I'm not an expert at whatever it is that I'm doing for the first time. It's totally irrational but I've come to accept it. As far as neuroses go, it's a fairly low-key one. You'll just never see me with a map in my hands. Ever. Oh, I'll look at maps. I'll look at them obsessively with an intent to memorize. I might even jot down little notes on easily concealable scraps of paper. But that will be in the privacy of my own home. Never let it be said that Rebecca didn't know what was going on. :-)

However, I've made a commitment to engage this urban community at the ground level, on my feet. So, I eschewed the bed, smashed my anxiety into little ball and thought about the zoo. Paige, who is one of those New Yorkers with no driver's license, told me how she gets to the zoo. Although we used the internet, we didn't use the Chicago Transit Authority's equivalent of Mapquest driving directions. I guess that's the poseur's way. So, armed with some new knowledge, I approached the CTA. I fumbled some with the fare card vendor and then over finding the right slot on the bus to put said fare card into, but ultimately sat looking out the window while traveling down Fullerton Avenue feeling not-at-all mortified with myself. I got off the bus at Halsted and continued on foot down Fullerton on instinct. I would be completely screwed if the city were totally unfamiliar to my eyes. I got a little lost because when I got to the corner of lawn with a sign that announced, "Lincoln Park," it felt like the bottom edge of it to me so I turned left/north and walked for several blocks until I got to a big, gilt statue of Alexander Hamilton (Why do we have a big, gilt statue of Alexander Hamilton? Who raised the money for it and why? Out of some vague sense of civic duty that a city should honor the country's early statesmen? Can such an emotionally distant motivation really contribute to the common good?) Anyway, at the big, gilt statue of Alexander Hamilton, I turned toward the lake/east since nothing in the park I'd walked along seemed at all familiar. It's amazing what you never see when you travel by car, as I have in Chicago my whole life. It turns out that this area was just blocks from places I have seen plenty of times when attempting to park for events, attractions and softball games, but it was totally unfamiliar. When I got to the water (Diversey Marina?), I turned south again, out of instinct and the glimpse of a sign on my periphery for parking. This choice was rewarded, ultimately, with a view of the zoo just past, you guessed it, Fullerton. I was never lost; I just had little frame of reference to identify where I was.

The zoo was pleasant, I wrote about the past few days in my journal and then I reversed my route to head home, minus the lost time in the park. A hispanic man in a white van wolf-whistled at me and hung out the window as they drove by, just to be sure I knew I was the target. How nice.

So, I went home, watched a DVD of the Gilmore Girls, ate whatever I felt like and am now spending some time with you all. I wonder what I'll do tomorrow?

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Rebecca moved to Orcas Island and all I got was this lousy party

Well, those of you that did not come to my party missed a good one. And, you have no idea what we did or did not say about you in your absence. :-)

I had intended the party to be an open house and expected people to stop by, kibbitz a little and then go, but people stayed and talked to other people besides me. I love that about parties. I don't do well in groups of friends. I have lots of individual friends that I see for coffee and dinner but the TV show Friends has never been my story. Over the years, though, the friends that come to my parties have found people that they socialize with there when I'm off talking to other guests. It's really intense to observe. My friends impress me.

So, we (my parents and I) fed people pizza and offered them beer and pop. My friend from preschool, Carrie, is so naturally a mother. I met her baby Caitlin for the first time. Carrie is so much more sure of herself, confident. It was such a visible shift from who she's been to what we never realized was the real her.

I answered people's questions about where I'm headed in the next stage. I put out of bowl of quote scrolls and offered CD's full of music that resonated with me while I lived on the island. My friend Joanie, who is in her sixties, came and coyly, girlishly revealed that the man with her was her fiance. So full of the life that hope for the future gives a person.

I expected to do a series of 3-minute slide presentations with the pictures I took on the island. I dubbed it a "cool, retro slide show" on the invitation. I love film and doubt I'll ever shift to digital. So I took 85 pictures on slide film and pulled out my mother's old projector from the closet, took some framed pictures off a wall and started right up. Since it wasn't an in and out group, I was reluctant to break up their conversations with each other to gather them all in until 7:00, which was only an hour before the scheduled end of the open house. So, I had one continuous slide show, with breaks for people to get up and walk around, get another beer, go to the bathroom, head out the door for home. At least four people got what I was trying to communicate and that was enough. The rest were, at least, polite. :-)

My brother came even though he had declared he could not. I had called him in the morning, worried that no one would come. Although I had not asked for an RSVP, several people expressed regrets that they could not come ahead of time, but only three people (two of whom did not ultimately show) had said they would come. That made me very nervous. Daniel gave me a pep talk on why I shouldn't take an empty house personally since my friends tend to be like me, which means they tend to enjoy evenings at home with a book. But I bet 30 or 35 people showed up, including my softie brother.

It's good to feel loved. It's good to feel home.

On my doorstep

It's hard to blog lately because it seems like every time I sit down to the computer, people that haven't communicated with me in over a year are seeking me out. Some are responding to the email invitation that I sent out, but others are simply out of the blue and haven't even realized that I'm back in Chicago. The total is at least four and it puts my emotions in a roil every time. Somewhat, this is because the total includes two of my ex-husband's friends. When I was married, I spent almost all of my social time with the guys that my husband was friends with. Some time was spent with girlfriends, but I didn't have a default group of them, so I only saw them when we set up dates to have coffee. The people that I had fun with were my husband's friends. We played role-playing games together and spent speech tournaments together and it was a good time. I became very close with several of them.

However, when Dennis left so suddenly, every single one of those friends seemed to hide from me. Our best friend told me I was a bad person.

Actually, this is really hard to write about. Rather than go into all of it again, let me simply summarize that I never saw my friends again, which hurt terribly and I have had to accept that I would not be able to force any aspect of closure from the situation. So, I put it behind me as best as I could.

I don't know what to do with these men that are writing me now. One agreed with our best friend in his assessment of me then and told me so, but by sending me an email. The other told me on the phone that he liked me still quite a bit, but because of his somewhat scattered personality (which is part of what I have loved about him), I haven't really engaged in a conversation with him until now.

I've gone back over the emails from the few of those friends who engaged with me even to that small extent. Some of the things I wrote sound a little hysterical, but not all of them. Had they no sense of empathy for the condition I must have been in? Why didn't they care enough about me to even see if they had the whole story before telling me that I was a bad person and that if it weren't for me, the divorce would be amicable and not ugly? I mean, my ex-husband hasn't returned a phone call since I left for the island. And it's my fault that things got ugly? Didn't they consider our years of friendship and give me the benefit of the doubt?

It feels like they didn't. But I don't want to commit the same offense of not being empathetic to how hard it must have been for them that their friends were splitting up. I want to give the one who is now coming back to me the benefit of the doubt. But what would I say? Will I have to defend my actions? Will I have to tell him the sides of the story that they never knew because I had to become a private investigator to figure it out and they never asked before they cut me off? How much will it hurt?

So, now, as a chance for a little closure is presented to me, what do I do? It obviously still hurts since this is rediculously hard to write. Is it worth dredging it all up?

I don't know and it's too late at night to call anyone. Dad said bloggers, including myself are a little weird, and I think the fact that I'm laying this all out to you proves his point. But what else do I do with this sad energy that would never let me fall asleep?

Friday, October 28, 2005

On The Road Again

This morning, I'm going to West Virginia with my dad. We'll be home tomorrow evening. He's going for an event with one of his affiliates and asked me if I wanted to go along. We fly into Pittsburg and then drive about two hours south to get there.

When Dad first asked me if I wanted to go, I told him no. I thought about having just arrived in Chicago and interrupting my assimilation process to go, I thought about the fact that Jeff would still be in Illinois and going would mean missing two of my last days with him, I thought that basically there wasn't much in the trip for me to make the effort.

And then I realized that I was a grown-up.

Dad hadn't asked me to go because of what I would get out of it. He'd asked me to go because of what he would get out of it: my company. How boring it must be for him to make all the effort of arriving at the airport earlier than the flight, sitting on the plane for two hours (always physically stressful for Murphys), wrangling to get a rental car, driving for another two hours and getting dinner and a hotel room just for one little dedication. Or, he could do all of that with his daughter who, for some reason, shares similar interests (except for watching sports on TV) and a similar temprament.

So, I stepped up to the plate and said that I'd like to go. It's time to start paying him back for the sacrifices that he's made through my 28 years. Plus, I'll have a pretty good time while I'm at it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A New Covenant

When I drove out to Orcas with my brother Daniel, we saw a rainbow that seemed to cross the entire "big sky" of Montana. (Safe and Sound) I smiled one of those deep, private, inward smiles and murmured to myself, "A new covenant." Although I believe that God sticks his fingers in our lives when it's necessary, I generally do not believe in "signs." However, over time, our society has given meaning to certain objects and occurrences in order to help themselves understand the normally indecipherable presence of God in our world. When humans encounter a Mystery, they have to nail it in place in order to study it, otherwise its ephemeral nature causes us to stand there befuddled at the breach in logic that has just occurred. When we choose objects or occurrences to attach to Mysteries, we create our own signs. Thus, because I've known the story of Noah since I was a small child, I interpret the rainbow that I sight at the beginning of my new adventure as a new covenant: a new contract with God and the world. (My Uncle Kim, on the other hand, is always reminded of the time when he had to huddle under a table with 3 and 4 year olds because he was trying to communicate just how crowded it must have been on the ark. This then, brought him to having to discuss where all of that poop went. In hindsight, the discussion looks inevitable, but since he didn't foresee it, it's approach must have felt like a train in slow motion while he was pinned to the tracks by an untied shoelace.)

Yesterday, on my way to my first job interview for this new life in the city, I looked in the rearview mirror while stuck on the Eisenhower Expressway. I did not see the perfect elongated hump of a rainbow. We crowd out our sky with buildings here in Illinois. Instead, it was more like a rainline. But it was lovely. The erratic rain still fell on my windshield, but the sun also shone in the side windows and over the 355 expressway that I had just crossed under. I smiled one of those deep, private, inward smiles and murmured to myself, "A new covenant." My deal with God is no longer, "God, please take care of me while I rest and learn in this beautiful place" to which God said, "OK," much to my surprise because that doesn't seem like God gets very much out of that deal. It's like when my Grandpa used to offer me three pennies for a nickel. The kicker was that when I fell for it, he'd never laugh good-naturedly and give me my nickel back with a brief lesson on fiscal responsibility like most Grandpas. No, Grandpa would cackle and keep my nickel! And here I was, keeping God's nickel! The audacity of my asking and His kindness (it must be kindness since He's not naive, like I was at age 6) in accepting are astounding. And now God says to me, "Rebecca, take care of others while I push you out of your comfort zone." It doesn't seem like a fair deal by the world's logic: now God is offering me two dimes for my quarter. But what can I say but, "OK"?