Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Moments of Clarity

There have been moments in my life when I feel as I know exactly who I am at that moment. One of these moments was the fall semester of my sophomore year of college. I went to university an hour south of Chicago, to a strict and somewhat insane Christian liberal arts school. I would never suggest anyone go to this school, ever. If you are even considering Olivet Nazarene University, stop and turn around.


I had gone up to the city with some friends for the evening. We got dressed up a bit and met up with the boy I was dating at the time. We had a tenuous relationship, and while I believed that I loved him at the time, it was not a good pairing for either of us. He wasn't who I needed, and I wasn't who he needed. He could also be a bit of a prick.

So we had gone to dinner and it was fine, although I felt the strain between him and my friends. My friends at university were almost hipsters, but not quite. Still, they enjoyed the sort of things you'd think hipsters would enjoy: going to art galleries, blues clubs, that sort of thing. My boyfriend did not enjoy those sorts of things in the slightest, and he had a terrible (in my opinion) sense of humor. He and my friends did not mesh.

So we're walking the sidewalks of downtown Chicago and I'm frustrated at him because I'm not having a good time and he's complaining that I spend too much time with other people (even though I lived an hour away) and blah blah blah. And I'm arguing with him in public, which is super awkward. And suddenly I look down and see that I'm in a skirt and heels, walking in the city with a boy I don't even like all that much, and I'm holding a Starbucks cup in one hand and a cigar in the other (I haven't always made awesome choices). And I think, “My god, who am I?” I didn't want to be this snotty girl who looked so incredibly yuppie/waspish holding her coffee and cigar and arguing and wearing uncomfortable shoes and the reality of the situation hit me and left me cold. This is not who I was meant to be. And so over the next six months, I changed. I broke up with the boy and I changed my major and I concentrated on what I really wanted out of life, and it was good. It was a moment of clarity that told me I was headed in the wrong direction.

It took a while after I got married to truly feel like I was an adult. I got married at 22, which is super young, let's be serious. I knew that I was still immature but I trusted that when I felt like a child, Bryan could be the adult in the relationship. I know that sounds silly, but he'd been on his own a lot longer than me, and he was financially independent and stable and he knew how to do things like pay bills. So it made sense that I saw him as the “real” adult in the marriage. It was probably six months after the wedding that I woke up one morning and made my way to the bathroom. I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “I'm a wife.” It seems silly, but all of a sudden I felt the gravity of exactly what that meant, and I finally accepted myself as a grown-up. It was a moment of clarity that confirmed what I should have already known. It told me that I was headed in the right direction.

It's been a while since I've had a startling moment of clarity like that. Now and then, of course, I feel those moments when my world is exactly as it should be. Usually it's something as mundane as Bryan and I driving in the car together and him reaching for my hand and squeezing it three times to tell me in our sort of Morse Code, “I love you.” It seems, for a second, as though everything is as it should be.

But the older I get (and let's be serious, I'm only 27), the more I wish the world was clearer to me. I was so sure of things as a child, especially in high school. Now... not so much. Sometimes I feel like I can grasp the difficult subjects and almost understand them... and then someone presents me with a philosophical query and I just want to go “shut up I don't know.” A friend of mine posed a question recently on Facebook regarding the “problem of pain” which is a huge discussion in the Christian (and non-Christian) world. And once again, I felt like I had a decent enough response, but even in my response, there's huge plot holes. I gave my point of view, but the question still remained there, boring into my psyche. While I gave an answer, it felt flat, even to me. I don't really want to go into the ins and outs of the discussion, because the specifics aren't exactly what matters. What I'm concerned with is the clarity of my position; by this I don't mean whether or not my answer was easy to understand. What I mean is this: do I really believe what I said? When I take a position on something as large and looming as the problem of pain, am I merely appeasing my own need to believe in something? Am I trying to make my intellect and my faith compatible?

The answer, of course, is yes. But that's true for anyone. There are those who like to see Jesus/God/the Divine as a Judge, the ultimate giver of justice in the multiverse (cause there may be more than one, folks). To them, God will balance the books at the end of this life and those who are found wanting will be punished, and rightfully so. Many cling to this idea of God because it appeases their sense of Justice. Wrongs will be made right, the guilty will be punished, the end. There is backing for this in the Bible. There are verses to point towards.

And there are those (like me, I'll admit) who prefer to see Jesus/God/the Divine as the personification of ultimate Love. To them, God knows us better than we know ourselves, and he will judge us not only by our actions and our words, but by our hearts. And for those of us (me, again), who go even further, he will be gracious and loving and forgiving, even when we don't deserve it, even when we don't ask for it. There are reasons to cling to this side of God rather than the Judge side, of course, although my usually comes down to this: I prefer a forgiving, fluffy god to a judging, righteous god. And for those who find themselves with me in this preference, be happy, because there is backing for this in the Bible. There are verses to point towards.

And then there are those that simply do not believe in the Other. And I admit, I have found myself wanting to be in this category many times. I honestly think it would be easier for me to just claim agnosticism and throw up my hands and say, “I don't know.” While a large part of me wants to be right (I'm an Enneagram 1, after all), I would be satisfied to wash my hands of all of it and just not care.

But there is something in me that is drawn to the Divine, that believes in an Ultimate Love that is good and kind and is rooting for us. Many would say that this is an adult version of a fairy tale, and that I simply don't want to conceive of the here and now and that's it. But it would be easier to believe that! If I was to simply not believe in anything besides what I can hear and see and feel and taste, I would have less to worry about. I'm not even sure how my actions would be different from what they are now (although I'd probably be given to more hedonistic tendencies than I already find in myself). However, I feel that there is something inside me that tells me to trust this intrinsic belief in the Divine. C. S. Lewis puts it this way:

And I guess that's what I come back to again and again. Even when I would rather not believe, I believe. And yeah, there are parts of my belief that I find offending that I can explain away with things such as annihilism or inclusivism, and I'm perfectly satisfied to do so. It's when this sort of cognitive dissonance rears its head that I take a chapter from another writer's book. Walt Whitman writes:

“Re-examine all you have been told. Dismiss that which insults your soul.”

So I choose not to believe that those who are found wanting will suffer eternal conscious punishment in hell, because not only does it not make sense when it comes to the idea of a loving Father who cares for us and wants the best for us, but I find Biblical backing that points to not only annihilism but also inclusivism. Or course there is Biblical backing the points to the opposite as well, and this is why the Bible is an extremely dangerous weapon at times: we can all find a verse or two or twelve to point at and say “See, I'm right and you're wrong.” And then we usually tell the other person they are damned, or something like that, and it's all a bit ridiculous at times.

So I am a Christian and I still believe, but I find myself echoing the father in Mark 9 and pleading “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” While I don't think I will ever understand all of my beliefs, and I won't have a set of answers I can point to and say, “There, that's why children are raped and murdered, why women are abused and used as objects, why parents can't afford to feed their children,” I do hope that one day I will feel a bit more at peace with my faith. In the meantime, I'm not concerned with my salvation, although there are those who would disagree with me on this. I try to embrace the idea of mystery, and I allow myself to feel the moments of transcendence when I consider the communion of all saints, living and dead. I repeat the Nicene Creed, I take the bread and wine, and I believe. And I think that's enough for now.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

On Christmas and Santa

From my mom's perspective:

We told our kids from the beginning about St. Nicholas being a real person who lived a long time ago who loved Jesus and gave gifts to children and that the Santa Claus we see at the mall was just for fun and to remember him. Then a person at church asked Jessica if Santa Claus was going to come to her house. She said, "no Santa Claus is dead." So we had some explaining to do to that person who thought we were terrible to tell our kids Santa was dead...

I'm not sure what we'll tell our kids.  Santa or no Santa?  I can tell you this made me cry.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Morton Solid Perfume from The Morbid the Merrier
I bought this solid perfume based solely on its description: Morton key notes - earl grey tea, creamy milk, patchouli, vetiver, dirt, wood.

It sounds delicious.  Dark, moody, and delicious.  Also, there's a raven on it.  Did you notice that?  I'm so excited to try it!  Apparently this scent, Morton, is limited as one of the ingredients is no longer available.  My love for both Earl Grey tea and Patchouli has me awaiting this package anxiously.  I wore patchouli in high school and college, and some people hated it, and some people loved it.  I usually layered it with just a touch of gardenia for sweetness.  I'm excited to try this fragrance which comes with the following disclaimer: I will warn you - this is a dirty, morose blend. It's very beautiful, but heavy on the earth.

Ooo la la! I also love this gal's packaging and the sound/smell of other scents.  So unique!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Oh yeah I forgot

Did I tell you guys that Bryan quit Wells Fargo?  Like, his last day was the first of October?


Well he did.  And he got another job!  It doesn't start until December, but it's awesome.  It's at a hotel in Teton Village and he's going to be an accounting clerk.  No free ski passes but discounts on spa treatments... but just for him.  I know, what the frak?

Anyway.  The reason he was gone for a few days this week (and next week) is he's in Pocatello hanging out with family and friends and helping his folks and his grandpa out.  Because he's the Golden Child like that.

Yeah.  So that's that.

Also:  I made spaghetti squash spaghetti for dinner tonight. Instead of ramen for the third night.  I'm  pretty sure that means I'm an adult, and super responsible with my eating habits.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Weird things that happen when Bryan is away.

1. I get super lazy.  I'm not picking anything up until tomorrow night.  Deal with it, me.

2. I get gross(er).  Bryan and I use the same deodorant.  As in the same stick.  And I guess the right way to say that would be "I use Bryan's deodorant (because I like the smell) and he doesn't approve."  Well, he took it with him obviously.  Do I look like I'm about to go to Kmart and buy more?  No.  I'm just going to not wear deodorant for a few days.  I'll keep the office cooler and pretend I'm a hippie.

3. I eat weird foods.  Sometimes it means eating one food as a meal - like a plate of asparagus.  This time it means ramen for dinner.  Yesterday and today.  Maybe tomorrow too.  Tonight I made it fancy though - chicken ramen with thinly sliced carrots, cilantro, green onion, ginger paste and sriracha.  Yep.  DELISH.

4. Talking to myself.  Even more. 


Good thing I married young, I guess.  Can you imagine me living by myself?  ::shudders:: TERRIFYING.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Let's talk about my insecurities

Yeah, let's.

So the other day Bryan and I were sitting in church, getting our Jesus on and what have you.  Standing, kneeling, reciting and praying at the appropriate times (going to an Episcopal church is a workout compared to the other churches I've attended!).  This girl takes the empty spot next to me in the pew, and I look at her real quick and smile, because I'm nice like that.  Then I take another look at her and I'm like "Oh NO she did not just sit next to me."

Why would I think such a mean thought?

Because she looked like this:

Okay, so not exactly like that.  But she had almost a food on me in height, and, no kidding, her thighs were as tiny as my arms.  Okay.  That's an exaggeration, but still.  Not only that, she was dressed in boots, skinny jeans, and a plaid flannel shirt.  AND SHE LOOKED AWESOME.  And I felt like a hippopotamus with a bad case of acne next to her.

I try not to be like that, all "Uhhhh I feel so fat/ugly/normal-person-y."  But sometimes my insecurities come out and all I can think is "there's no possible way for me to look like that."  And there's not.  Nothing is going to make me taller, and you can only get so skinny, right?  And with hips like mine, I'm NEVER going to fit into a pair of size 4 jeans.  Ever.  It's just not possible, understand?

And most of the time I'm okay with my body and I think I'm cute and blah blah blah.  But now and then, I get all "uuuuuugggggggggggghhhhhhhhh."  I'm trying to get over.  For a long time I weighed myself every day, and then my friend Ashley told me that was dumb, or something like that.  And so now I only weigh myself once a week.  And, yay me, I've kept off the 6-7 pounds I lost earlier this year.  I'm still a good 15-20 lbs more than I'd like to be, but isn't that life?

Anyways.  I'm trying to have a better conception of beauty, and what I like about myself.  And although it may sound counter-intuitive, I've been trying to take a bit more time to make myself feel pretty.  Meaning that I'm actually picking out my clothes with a more discerning eye, and I'm wearing makeup that brings out my features and I'm wearing cute accessories.  And to a lot of women, this is the opposite of what I should be doing.  Many would say that I should embrace my weight, my make-up-less face (zits and all, and there are so many more now than when I was on birth control pills....), and my sometimes not-great hair.  But you know what?  I say rubbish.  Sure, I know I look fine without makeup - in fact, I wear makeup maybe 70-80% of the time, so it's not like I have to be wearing it to feel like a worthwhile human being.  But here's the deal, folks: I like makeup.  I like bringing out my features and I like feeling pretty.  And if mascara and cover-up and some eyeliner helps me feel pretty, then dude, I'm going to wear it.

I've decided to learn how to do more to my hair than simply brush it.  So I wear it curly sometimes (which I think is way cute) and other times I straighten it so it's sleek and sometimes I just muss it up a bit.  The last two days I've worn this sort of cool braid thingy on one side:

Cute and super easy.  It looks even better if your hair is a bit dirty - the bits that fall down are more defined that way.

And I'm going to attempt this on the cruise (January!!!)

AND I learned how to properly sculpt my eyebrows (apparently there is more than just plucking involved??) Yeah. 

So yeah.  I'm trying.  Trying to learn how to do things that make me feel pretty, and feminine, and trying not to concentrate on having a model's body.  I'm not promising that I'm all of a sudden going to feel awesome about my weight or my pants size or whatever.  My hip bones are never going to do that skinny-girl protruding thing, and my shoulder blades don't stick out and say "hey, notice me."   When I was in high school, I often wanted to look "hot."  Which meant tight shirts and revealing necklines and all of that rubbish.  But I don't feel COMFORTABLE in that sort of outfit, nor should I.  But when I embrace my feminine side, complete with ruffles and pretty eyeshadow and saucy nailpolish and flouncy skirts, I feel lovely.  And that's way more important that feeling hot.

(I still don't want to sit next to that girl in church, though.)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sleeping at Last and Geoff Benzing

On this fabulous blog that gets haphazardly updated, I've mentioned several times how much I love the band Sleeping at Last.

I've also mentioned how very much I love the artist Geoff Benzing, who does the artwork for Sleeping at Last. He's incredible.  His watercolors, his acrylics... they make me so incredibly happy.  He has a way of making art that makes you feel peaceful but inspired.  Or something.  He's friggin' awesome.

So you can understand how incredibly happy I was to find out that Sleeping at Last was releasing prints of the covers Geoff Benzing did for the "Yearbook" project.  SO. EXCITED.

I immediately told Bryan, who got super excited as well.  In fact, his parents are buying us the collection because they had mentioned in the past that they wanted to get Bryan some artwork.  Geoff's pieces are actually really reasonably priced, but art is art, right?  It's not exactly inexpensive to collect.  So I was SO HAPPY to find out about the prints that are now available!  Check them out:
So amazing!  Each print is (get this) EIGHT DOLLARS.  That includes shipping and handling.

Oh, you want all of the prints?  All twelve?  I see, you're greedy.  I understand, because so am I.  You'll be pleased to know that the set is only TWENTY-EIGHT DOLLARS.  Including shipping.  That's seriously... I don't even.... it's amazing.

I always said I wanted to get a piece of Geoff's work for our kids' room (when we have kiddos) because they are just so beautiful and inspiring.  You can tell he has a vivid imagination.  And now we can choose from one of these awesome prints!  (Will we ever have space for a "kids' room?"  Or will they just live in a crib in the corner of our room?  That remains to be seen.  Good thing we've got time).

To see more of Geoff's work, visit his site.

Oh, and his acrylics are amazing too.  Here is the piece I own, "Elephant on a Hill."  I love my elephant, and his crazy wheels.

Hello Mr. Elephant!  I love you so!

Sleeping at Last has a track on the new Twilight soundtrack, "Breaking Dawn."  I'm not a huge Twilight fan, but I hope that this does amazing things for the band!  The song is "Turning Page" and it's instrumental.  You can listen to it on Spotify or download it on iTunes.

Friday, November 4, 2011

To the super annoying, snotty woman at the Post Office.

I'm already pissed off that I don't get mail at my friggin' street address.  Why doesn't Jackson have street mailing?  It's super friggin' annoying.  So instead of just waiting at my door for a package, I have to haul my butt across town to wait in the long lines for one of you fabulous postal workers to take my fancy little yellow slip and get a package for me.  Oh, and you're opened during business hours, which is convenient for no one.

Oh you say you're open Saturdays?  Until noon?  Awesome.  I can get mail once a week.  Luckily I have Tuesdays off, so make that twice a week.  You don't like it when my mail piles up, so you shove it in the tiny little mailbox until stuff is all bent wonky?  I don't like that the Post Office doesn't offer different sizes of mail boxes.  So now we're even.

And I get REALLY sunshine-and-daisies when I leave work early to drive across town to pick up a package.  I get to the back of the line EXACTLY as the clock turns from 4:59 to 5:00.  And then you're SO PLEASANT when you holler (yes, holler) across the full lobby "Ma'am in the grey coat, we are closed.  You'll have to come back tomorrow."

SERIOUSLY?  If I'm not mistaken, you take NUMEROUS yellow slips back at once and haul everyone's packages to the front in a group.  So if there are two people in front of me with yellow slips awaiting their packages, you're saying that it's not worth your time or effort to take ONE MORE yellow slip to get my ONE package?  That's what you're saying?  Even thought it's EXACTLY 5:00 p.m.?  So if I had been able to hang up on a patient one moment faster and get to the friggin' Post Office one minute faster then I could get my package?  I don't get credit for the dozens of times I've stood in lines for up to fifteen minutes while you asked every sodding person, "And will you be needing stamps today?"


Expect a package with my name on it soon filled with moldy food.  And I won't pick it up.  I will leave it in your back room, smelling up the office until it makes you want to vomit.

Happy Thanksgiving, government employee.  I'm so thankful for your dedication to the people of this community.

(I'm sure it's iced tea or something)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


I've been sick for over a week now.  It super-sucks.  And before that I had a weird skin rash thing that hasn't totally gone away because I can't use my skin cream because it has a steroid that may make my cold worse.... and before that I had other nasty health crap to deal with.  Pretty much I've been some sort of sick for a solid month now.   My sleep habits have totally been affected by it, and all in all, it's SUPER LAME.

That said, I dressed like a cat today for work and ate lots of cookies.  So I'm sure that will help my immune system.

And this is pretty much all I want to do, all day every day:

Except with my Kindle... because that's how I roll.   Although, realistically, I still have serious issues not buying stuff at used book stores.

Any good fiction books anyone feels like recommending?  I still need to finish the Hunger Games series, and I've got a number of books that I plan on reading, but I like recommendations.  I really like series as well.  I like romance (but not lame-o chick lit romance), some classics, fantasy (but not TOO crazy, more like fantasy-light), dystopian/apocalyptic fiction and some historical fiction.  I'm not really into mysteries, anything involving cops, the mob, or lame vampire novels (some are okay, but let's be serious, most are lame). Anyone read anything they really loved lately?