December 27, 2010

Resolved, Part 1...

I heard someone randomly say this week that New Year's Day is like the first day of school-- a chance to start fresh.  I have always loved "fresh starts."  Sometimes I even see Monday as a fresh start.  I think, okay, here's my chance to begin again, to meet my goals, to do better than before.  And that's how I feel about New Year's Day.  Most of the time whatever half-brained resolutions I've made never even make it past MLK day.  But once in a while, a resolution or two will stick.

Some balk at the idea of resolutions.  After all, if the resolutions are things we should be doing, why are we not resolved to do them anyway, without the formal title of "resolution"?  I agree, but everyone needs a kick in the pants now and then.  And for me, New Year's Day is that kick in the pants.

This year, I'm actually doing something for New Year's Weekend.  More on that later.  And this year, I'm actually thinking about resolutions early.  I haven't thought them out in detail yet, but so far, here's what I've got:

1.  To memorize more Scripture and apply Deuteronomy 6.
2.  To exercise three times a week, without fail.
3.  To lose 15-20 lbs.
4.  To be entirely transparent.
5.  To remember to trust God, no matter the situation.

I will have more and I will have details, but it's a start.  I encourage you to think about yours early this year, and truly resolve to stick to them.

December 24, 2010

Christmas Thoughts...

'Twas the day before Christmas, and all through the house rang the sounds of old Christmas movies as the inhabitants moved about.

One such inhabitant sat typing away at her computer as the snow fell softly out the window.

It was idyllic. 

This is one of my most favorite days of the year, the day before Christmas.  It's got all the anticipation of the entire year resting on it, and there is a soft, magical feel that is almost tangible.  And every year I try not to build it up too much in my mind, so as not to be disappointed.  But this year, I am not disappointed, for there is snow-- lots of fat falling flakes.

I am disappointed about one thing, however: BF isn't here with me.

Despite that sad fact, however, I am enjoying Christmastime.  Is there any way to put the joy, magic, and mystery of Christmas into words?  I think not.  Call me childish, but I think I'll always feel this way about Christmas.

And yet I had a startling discovery this morning.  I had allowed myself to forget the one important thing about Christmas.  Buried under the "joy, magic, and mystery," the gifting, the parties, the decorations, was the one thing we must never forget, and I had so easily forgotten: the greatest gift of all-- Jesus Christ, our Savior.

As I awoke on this day before Christmas, these words came to mind: "Nail, spear shall pierce Him through, The Cross be borne for me, for you; Hail! Hail the Word Made Flesh, The Babe, the Son of Mary!"  And isn't that what Christmas is truly about?  Snow or no snow, magical mysterious feelings or no magical mysterious feelings, gifts or no gifts.  The Word made flesh to dwell among us and sacrifice himself for our salvation.  That is not only what Christmas is about, but what life itself is about.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Let me leave you with some Christmas in Chicago snapshots:

December 20, 2010

Tastes of Chicago...

It seems as though I am off the blogging wagon.  As I've alluded to in the past, I have no problem blogging all about my inmost thoughts, but when they involve another person, that just seems not okay.  So I'm still trying to figure out what my new blogging role is... but until then, let me give you a few snapshots of Chicago.  I'd been away from the dear City for six months or so, which means my senses have been sharpened and I now see Chicago-ness more acutely and can pinpoint what is so beloved more easily.  For example:

The morning after I arrived in Chicago, my family went out for breakfast, as we often do.  In the summer we walk to The Diner, but when it's 18 degrees, we drive.  I had just rolled out of bed and wore no makeup.  I proudly sported my glasses and raccoon hat (thanks to BF), and settled into the tiny restaurant.  I was overwhelmed with a sense of Chicago-ness when a husky young man in a White Sox shirt brought us some water, and a sassy old woman in a Santa hat and other Christmas paraphernalia took our orders and ordered my brother to smile.  She's the same woman who, when the meal is through, asks if we need anything-- maybe coffee, maybe a kick in the a**...

I went shopping at Jewel with Mom, where the accents were thick and the Bears bric-a-brac abounded.  There were lots of moms with kids who were looking to make the same Chicago-y Christmas treats: pretzel Rolos.  And there were burly men in the parking lot sporting White Sox coats, even in December.

And then yesterday.  I picked up Portillo's for dinner (only the best beef sandwiches in the entire universe), and my favorite worker was handing out the orders.  Tonya always wears a smile and makes up a rhyme for each customer.  "You ready to get out of here, number 1-4-0?  Here you go, little hero."  Then she asked me if I dipped the onion rings in ranch or Caesar dressing.  When I responded in the negative, she waved her hand at me, grabbed some packages, and told me not to get addicted.  I left with a big bag of beef and a smile on my face.

Today I wandered the city by myself and encountered more friendliness than I would have ever expected given the bitter cold.  But that's Chicago-- strangers are still strangers, but they're strangers with smiles, because everyone knows if you're a Chicagoan, you're family.  And people from Chicago love Chicago.  They take joy in their city-- they sport the skyline and the sports teams with pride.

There's a taste for you.  As I sit here with an afghan around me (the kind made by my grandma, not the kind from Afghanistan), staring at the snow that's falling and the neighbors' Christmas lights, I just wanted you to enjoy what I'm enjoying. :)

November 25, 2010

Snapshots of Thankfulness...

I love Thanksgiving.  That's no secret.  But I hate change (also no secret).  So how does this Thanksgiving-loving-change-hating girl fare when her favorite holiday must be spent in an entirely different place?  I think I'm faring just fine, thanks. :)  This is the first year I haven't spent Thanksgiving with my family in Chicago.  My mom makes the best Thanksgiving dinner I've ever tasted, and we have such rich traditions that ooze comfort and warm fuzzies.  Yet this year, thanks to the greed of commercial airlines, I stay in Florida, with my other "family."  I miss my family and the warm fuzzies, but I'm not complaining.  In fact, I thought I'd be a lot more homesick, but I think the combination of a sunny, 84 degree day and the palm trees outside my window have made it just different enough from my traditional Thanksgiving that I'm somehow comfortable making new memories.

And so I got up early, baked an apple pie while watching Miracle on 34th Street (everyone knows that's the movie that kicks off the Christmas season), and I am now watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade as I type.  Today I will have Thanksgiving dinner with BF's family (gulp), and later scour the ads with my "family" as we graze on leftovers.

And this departure from tradition is just fine with me, mostly because God has helped me have an attitude that's in keeping with the day: thankful.  I have a lot to be thankful for.  Here are a few snapshots of what I'm thankful for this year:

A God who is sovereign: I didn't want to spend my week off on the couch in respiratory distress.  But somehow God planned it that way, perhaps so I could remember my dependence upon him, or maybe so those in my life could remind me why I'm thankful for them.  I don't know why, but it reminded me of God's sovereign hand in every part of my life.  I'm thankful that he is in control of everything, and therefore I don't need to worry about anything.

BF: Picture this-- I had not slept the night before.  I had been coughing so much and so violently that I puked.  I could only croak, and my hair was in the fuzziest, nastiest bun.  My face was flushed and I was in a post-fever sweat.  There's a knock at the door, and standing there is BF, holding a big bouquet of bright flowers and two bags of get-well-food.  And after seeing me like that, he still wants me to come to Thanksgiving dinner today.  Enough said, right?

Friends: Picture this-- I was walking up the stairs to my apartment when I got a giddy, loopy phone call from my sisters.  Was I home, they wanted to know, and could they come over?  Moments later they're standing at my door, with goofy grins.  They pop inside and simultaneously shout, "We're pregnant!"  I simply stared at them in disbelief-- I didn't believe they were, and I also couldn't believe they'd think I'd believe them.  They laughed, and no they're NOT pregnant.  Then they produced a "friendship ring."  The three of us now have matching metal flower rings that must be worn AT ALL TIMES (oops, guess I'm a bad friend).  We then reclined in the living room and cackled together as all sisters should. 

Those are just three brief snapshots of what I'm thankful for, but that's just the tip of the iceberg.  My family, my job, and the youth ministry are also things for which I'm very thankful. 

So however you're spending Thanksgiving this year-- whether you're with family or friends or are alone; whether you're enjoying old traditions or making new ones; whether you're healthy or ill, rich or poor, tired or rested; I pray you will find your own snapshots of what you're thankful for this year. 

Happy Thanksgiving. :)

November 21, 2010

Making a List of "Rights"...

I have found that while It's somewhat easy for me to write about my inmost struggles to all of face-less cyberspace (or really, the fifteen or so who may or may not read this blog), I am reluctant to write when someone else is involved (a.k.a. BF).  So while I've been itching to write, I haven't figured out how to strike a balance quite yet.  But I did think of something today, as I was fading in and out of sleep on my couch, between hacking coughing fits and feverish sweats (too much information?  Sorry).

I don't keep a record of wrongs, but I do keep a record of "rights."  And let me just say I've been enjoying a lot of "rights" recently.  I'm not used to someone taking care of me.  Yes, when I'm in Chicago, my parents are really good at that.  And Bestie, Bestie Jr., and their respective husbands take care of me as much as they can.  But having someone in my life who cares about the little things is completely new for me, and frankly, it's humbling.  It makes me feel not good enough, too selfish, and undeserving.  Here is a quick list of "rights" that BF, who claims to be as deep as a dinner dish but I say is like unpeeling the layers of an artichoke, has blessed me with recently: giving me a Snoopy get-well-soon card, cough drops, and vapo-rub (cute, right?); changing the oil in my car (not an easy task, let me tell you); taking me to a Bucs game (my first pro football game); a private golf lesson (and being really patient); actually wanting to spend time with me despite my weirdness; lots of free food; remembering that today is our one-month of dating. :)

So, in case you're wondering, I'm enjoying life right now.  It's still new and a little difficult to get used to, but it's good. :)

Also, it's Thanksgiving break, so YAY.  And there will be a bit more blogging due to the whole no work thing.

November 12, 2010

A Very Big "First"...

I have a confession to make.  Over the last few weeks, I have experienced many "firsts."  But I haven't blogged about any of them, as much as I wanted to, because nothing was official.  But now it is.  So here's my list of firsts:

First second date
First time I didn't run from a guy who showed interest
First DTR that ended with a smile
First boyfriend

What?! you shout, What is this about a boyfriend?!  Would you like to know how this happened?  Good, I'll tell you, but only the condensed version.  I did not meet him online.  I did not meet him at the grocery store.  I did not meet him through a mutual friend.  It turns out, he was under my nose the whole time.  Or, as Bestie Jr. put it (here edited for content... hahaha), "He was under your nose like the stache under his nose."  Bestie's husband likes to rub in the fact that long ago, he told me I would find someone right under my nose, but I told him he was wrong.  And I believed it.  Turns out, I was wrong (Get your fill of those words now, Bestie's husband, because I won't say them very often-- not to you anyway).

It turns out that I was friends with a great guy, and that over the past few years I've had the opportunity to serve with him in ministry and get to know his character and laugh at his insanity.  Apparently, we were on each other's radar for basically as long as we've known each other.  Which to me, is really funny.  Who knew?  Certainly not me.

I don't really know how it happened, it just did.  At some point we started facebook bantering, which some people claim was flirting and I claim it was NOT.  At least not at first, anyway.  Regardless, it was fun.  And then I think I texted him (I know, can you believe it?)-- but only to make fun of his mustache.  Maybe it was the stache that brought us together because then we started texting often, then every night, then all day every day.  And then he asked me out and we began dating on the sly, until we made it "official" on Sunday night.  It's real now, but only because facebook says it is... just kidding.

Let me just say that through this whole process, I have wanted to blog so badly.  I have had to learn so many lessons I never expected to learn.  I thought I had a handle on this whole "trusting God" thing.  Turns out I was so wrong.  But I'll get into that another time.  I'll get into my struggle with fear and trust and all of those goodies that I've never experienced in this way before.

So now begins an adventure.  I have never done this before, ever.  I will make a lot of mistakes.  I have no idea what to expect.  I know I will fight my own fears again and again.  But I'm excited.  I'm still a little shocked that this is happening-- and that the Lord has answered prayers I've had for a long time.  I always wanted a relationship that grew from friendship.  Check.  I always wanted a relationship with someone with whom I served in ministry.  Check.  I always wanted a relationship with someone who loved the Lord more than anything else.  Check.  I always wanted a relationship with someone who could make me laugh a lot.  Check.  Actually, I could check off a lot of things on my checklist.

What encourages me more than anything is the fact that I know I didn't seek this out.  The Lord brought us together somehow, and whatever he has for us will be good for us and glorifying for Him.  I'll keep you posted... because even if I'm no longer single, I still have single girl issues that will be working themselves out in this relationship.  Fortunately, BF (henceforth he will be called) is patient with me.  Which is another thing on my checklist.  Check.

November 4, 2010

I Have a Dream...

So there's this dream that Bestie, Bestie Jr., and I share: a waterfront summer home.  This is a dream that has evolved over the last year or so, but the general idea is that someday, when we all have an actual home and broods of children, we will buy a fantastic summer home together (because in this dream, of course we have enough money to do this) and we will spend much of the summer as one big, happy family.  We haven't decided where this will be, but the places thrown out there are: somewhere on Lake Michigan (my vote), Maine, somewhere in New England, and North Carolina (by the water).  I'm not sure how Bestie and Bestie Jr.'s husbands feel about this, and I don't know how my husband will feel about it as I do not have a husband.  Nevertheless, we girls are dreamers, and we are excited at what our imaginations foresee.  It's more than just the idea of a summer home; it's the idea of creating a big family out of friendships, the hope of future fun memories, and the dream of always being near to one another.  So let me share this dream with you, because we all should have some sort of impossible dream for which we can hope and plan... so maybe this will inspire yours.

This may not be what the summer home looks like for Bestie or Bestie Jr., but in MY mind, this is what we'll have (I have collected these images randomly over time, so I don't know where I got them... so if you know the source, please enlighten me):

It will have a light, airy feel, like this.  There will be lots of fresh whiteness with pops of color.  We will dry the linens on the line and let them get bleached by the sun, and we will leave the windows open so the breezes can blow the curtains.

And we will have a gigantic dining room table at which all of us will sit, like this.  We will have fantastic grilled meals (mostly because one of us is a chef *cough-Bestie Jr.'s husband-cough*) and pass around the food and have random conversations and laughing fits.  "These mashed potatoes are so creamy!"

There will be many porch-like lounging/eating areas, as we will enjoy looking out onto the water.  I anticipate lots of great conversations here.

The kitchen will look like one of these or a combination of the two.  This is where the culinary magic will happen.  It will be much messier.
Of course there will be a breakfast nook, where sleepy heads will enjoy their rise-and-shine.

And the living area would be something like this, only full of people and probably messy.

There would be three separate wings of master suites for the three sets of parents, and maybe the rooms would look something like these.  They would all have a fantastic view of the water, and maybe even a door onto the wonderful aforementioned porch.
There would be two sets of bunk rooms on the top floor; one for the boys and one for the girls.  They could get as rowdy as they want, as long as they keep it there.  That is where our children will become best friends.  And maybe we'd have a guest bunk room too, on the first floor.  In a screened-in porch, because why not?!

And at the very tippy-top, maybe there would be a cool room like this, and I may or may not do painting there.

There's your glimpse at one of my dreams: a waterfront summer home with my sisters and our families.  Someday, maybe it will be a dream come true.

October 29, 2010

Inappropriate Hospital Behavior...

Oh dear.  I'm afraid I have definitely been inactive here.  I have an excuse, I promise-- but I'm not telling you what it is, sorry. :)

Last weekend, I spent much of my time in the hospital, not as a patient, but a visitor.  Bestie and Bestie Jr.'s mom had to spend several days in isolation due to low white blood cell count, so the three of us (and assorted husbands) kind of made a squatter camp in her room. 

I don't like hospitals, not because I have bad memories there, though one would think I should.  I don't like them because they are cold and sterile (I suppose they should be, but still...) and reek of urine and other bodily excretions.  Also they make my hands smell like medicine.

Despite this dislike, I found that the three of us had a very interesting, even unique attitude about our time at the hospital.  We didn't spend our time there speaking in hushed tones, gingerly making a little home out of the room and walking on eggshells.  We didn't wring our hands or pace about the floor.  No, we laughed and took pictures.  It wasn't until the second day of this that I realized perhaps our behavior was not normal hospital behavior.  When most people are visiting their loved one in isolation, they are struck with a bad case of the nerves and seem to be on the brink of tears.  Yet in spite of our concern and care, we were howling with laughter, making fun of each other, and enjoying thoroughly the fact that we all were required to wear surgical masks.

As I pondered this, I realized that this behavior must be directly linked to our childhoods.  Sadly, we both had parents who spent a large chunk of their lives in the hospital as we grew up.  We learned at an early age to go about normal life, only sometimes in a hospital instead of a house.  I still remember going to visit my dad one summer after he had been in the hospital for what might have been weeks.  We played in the waiting room as if nothing was wrong.

And then there was the birthday that was spent with Dad in the hospital.  Dad had given the nurse some money and she went out and bought me something "from Dad."  It was a necklace and bracelet set, made of little pastel- colored stars.  I loved it.  I opened all my gifts there, sitting on Dad's hospital bed.  The thought that something was wrong or weird never even entered my mind. 

The familiarity with hospitals had desensitized us to their sobriety.  So when we popped those surgical masks over our faces, our first instinct was not to tear up because of the circumstance, but rather to take pictures, lots of them.  And where some might speak in hushed tones around the bed, comforting the patient, we laughed about everything and probably made a few jokes at the patient's expense. 

Why do I write about this?  Really, I don't know, except to give you further evidence that my group of friends are not normal... but I love them. :)

Because that's what we do.

 PS: the black box is protecting "he-who-put-up-a-stink-about-being-on-a-blog."  LAME.

October 15, 2010

Ah, the Innocence of... a Twentysomething...

I took one of my classes outside today to enjoy the fantastic cool weather.  I started swinging.  Students started arguing about lip gloss.

"Miss Hardt, have you ever talked to your boyfriend about lipstick?"
"I've never had a boyfriend"
".....What?  Miss Hardt!  You've never had a boyfriend?"
"Nope.  But I don't mind."
She touched her finger to her lip.  "So you've never been kissed?"
I smiled.  "Nope.  But that's okay.  Someday I will"
She looked troubled and I felt I had to assure her that I was alright, and this was not a bad thing.  "Really, I'm just picky.  For me, the point of dating is to see if I would ever marry that person, so I don't go out with guys who wouldn't make the cut."
"But Miss Hardt!  Have you ever been asked out?!"
I kind of laughed.  "Yeah a couple times, but I said no.  Someday it will happen, it just hasn't yet.  I'm not worried.  Besides, the way I see it, once I get into a relationship I'll have a lot less emotional baggage to deal with.  I know it's unusual, but I think it's smart."
"Yeah, I can see your point... Miss Hardt, you remind me of a little girl."

I laughed inwardly and thought, good.  I'm glad I'm different from their worldly ideas of what a 26 year-old woman would be.  I'm glad I've surprised them.  I'm glad I gave them something to think about.  I'm glad they see me as one with childlike innocence.

It's a strange feeling, knowing that in many ways you're more innocent than your students who are nearly half your age.  Sure I've got years, experience, and wisdom on them, but in many ways they have worldly experience I haven't had.  And I'm not jealous of that.  I'll savor the fact that I'm not worldly, and thank God for the ways he's protected me.  This is not the first time I've been surprised by my students' worldliness this week.  Earlier there were girls in my classroom talking about a boy:

"I think he's a virgin!" One whispered, as if this were as surprising as saying, "I think he's an alien!"
I smiled from my seat at the computer and spoke without looking at them.  "You know, there's nothing wrong with that.  It's a good thing, you know?  Self control?"
They were a little quiet after that.

I know it's only God who has protected me from heartache and mistakes, both physical and emotional.  I'm sure if left on my own I would not be any different from my students.  I was encouraged this week that I apparently am different, because that's what I've always prayed for my life-- that God would help me to be holy so that others would see that and know the God I serve.  I hope my students see that I'm different and see the God I serve, not a prudish spinster. 

Being a teacher is the strangest, most challenging, most enlightening job ever.

October 12, 2010

It Means Everything...

I met with a friend and coworker for dinner at Panera today.  We discussed the book we're currently going through-- Humility by C.J. Mahaney.  It's a butt-kicker book, for sure, but we're used to that.  This particular chapter focused on Christ's atoning work on the cross.  It seems that lately, God has wanted me to focus on that.  It's easy to take it for granted when you grow up in the church.  So I've been thinking about it quite a bit, and what came to my mind today was this:

Picture Christ: the sinless Son of God who left the glory of heaven to live on earth and experience trials and temptations, hunger, thirst, and fatigue. He knows the end of the road leads to a torturous death and complete separation from the Father as he takes on the sins of mankind and experiences the wrath of God to become our righteousness so that we might have the opportunity to repent and believe and have a relationship with God. And yet he is willing to experience all of this to reconcile us, the sinful, the profane, to God. Then he will rise again to conquer death and return to the Father, victorious.

Now picture this man walking towards his death.  He carries the crossbeam on the back that has been ripped to shreds already by whips in the hands of sinners.  Silently he walks to the place where he will atone for the sins of the mankind.  People on the left and right spit on him, mock him, insult him.  People on the left and right for whom he was about to die.  People on the left and right that he created.  People on the left and right like you and me.  And then he was crucified.  He endured not only the physical agony of the cross but the far greater agony of separation from the Father when he carried my sins, your sins, our sins, and the Father forsake him.  With a victory cry he said, "It is finished," and gave up his spirit; the Lamb of God was slain.

And what I find so unbelievable, so insulting, and so sad, is that people have the audacity to look at that and say in effect, "That didn't happen, that isn't important, that means nothing."

It means everything.  It changed everything

And I just wanted to leave you with that thought tonight.

October 9, 2010

The Musings of Two Single Gals In Starbucks...

I've been off the singleness vein in my blogging for a while.  But today I'm back, as I usually get some good ideas when I talk to my single girlfriends. :)

Over caramel apple cider and a pumpkin scone, I met up with a friend and former colleague at Starbucks.  I hate coffee, by the way.  Random fact.  I love the smell, but the taste makes me shudder.  Just fyi.  But on to more important things...

We have had similar experiences, she and I.  We both moved from the North to the South for our teaching jobs.  We both have hearts pulling from two places.  We both have been single for a long time.  We talked about our jobs, our families, and the excitement of the unknown for our futures.  We talked about what it's like to have lots of married friends.

And then I told her something I've thought for years and never thought to blog about, until now.  Maybe some of you long-single ladies will understand what I mean.  And maybe some of you married ladies, too.

I realize I don't know what it's like to be married-- all the hard work, the fights, the struggles, the aggravations.  I also realize that these things are a normal part of marriage and a marriage probably isn't healthy if the husband and wife don't deal with issues and occasionally fight.

But.  I like to think that by the time I ever get married, I will have waited so long for this man that I won't be able to help looking at him every morning and thinking, I am so glad God brought you to me, and I'm so thankful to have you.  I think (or at least I hope) I will be less likely to take him for granted or become aggravated, and will be more likely to remember he is an answer to years of prayers.

So, just a thought.  Maybe it's just an idealistic thought like when I assumed that if I respected my students, they'd respect me... could be.  Regardless, I hope it's true.  Whomever he is and however long I have to wait to find out.

October 5, 2010

What Would You Do For a Burrito...?

I LOVE food.  I'm not one of those girls who is like, "Oh, I love food!" and then orders a salad.  I'm one of those girls who is like, "Oh, I love food!" and then eats half a pizza and an order of breadsticks all by herself, and will also probably have dessert.

It's this love of food that made me a perpetually chubby girl, and made my weight loss the most epic challenge of my life.  I remember when I started Weight Watchers almost two years and thirty pounds ago.  Every.  Single.  Food.  Commercial. elicited the "yummy sound," (not sure what that is?  Just hang around when I take the first bite of anything) and I literally dreamed of food.  Think I'm exaggerating?  Think again.  I LOVE food.

I love making it, I love thinking about it, I love planning it, I love looking at it, I love smelling it, and mostly I love eating it.  If I had the fastest metabolism in the universe, I would eat every hour-- not because I'd be hungry, but because I just love food.  And I'm not super-picky, either.  Sure I have a list of DON'T's (mayo, mustard, pickles, olives, horseradish, raw eggs and/or raw meat... ew.), but my list of DO's far exceeds that mini list.  Just add cheese, bread, or sugar, and I'm game.

With this admission comes another admission, decidedly more dastardly and dark... I have been known to wish I had a boyfriend simply because I wanted excuses to go out to eat (on his bill, too).  Yikes, I know.  I've never actually acted upon this-- you know, like wink at the guy in the car next to mine just for a quick trip to the Olive Garden-- and I wouldn't, of course... but that doesn't mean I haven't thought about it.

I'll be honest: when Bestie and her now-husband started dating, I didn't so much envy the fact that she was in a relationship... I envied the fact that she went to fine culinary establishments at least once a week... for free.  Well, maybe not for free... she did end up marrying him, so I guess for him it was an investment... 

Perhaps this indicates that I have a problem.  Or maybe it's just proof that I'm a healthy American girl with a robust appetite.  I'm not really sure, at this point.  I only know that I want Mexican food right now like I want world peace, and I'm thinking very seriously about winking on my way home...

.... just kidding.  But seriously.  I want a burrito.

October 3, 2010

My Perfect Life...

Sometimes, I read blogs.  Shocker, I know.  And sometimes, when I read blogs, I see the pretty pictures and I read the pretty words, and I somehow get this impression that the blogger's life is perfect.    This happened the other day.  I was reading a delightful blog, and this uninvited, bitter thought invaded my otherwise cheerful mind:

Their life is perfect.  They have everything they've ever wanted, they have someone to share their life with, and their dreams are coming true. 

And for a moment my lip curled in disgust.  Until just a moment later, when I felt extreme disgust at my own bitter thoughts.  After repenting, my very next thought was this:

Amanda, your life is perfect, not because you have everything you've ever wanted, someone to share your life with, or because your dreams are coming true, but because you are exactly where God wants you right now, doing exactly what he wants you to do.  And your life is exactly as it should be.

It was a comfort.  I mean, I know it's not perfect.  I sin (obviously, as illustrated above), and the people around me sin, which results in an imperfect life.  But God's plan and God's will is perfect, and because of that, my life is "perfect."

Besides... I know that behind the pretty pictures and the pretty words are other sinful people like me, who struggle through while finding some kind of solace in blogging, just like me.  And as believers, their lives are "perfect," just like mine.  Funny, I never thought I'd think that singleness, a challenging job, and daily hurdles would equal a perfect life... but it's amazing what perspective can accomplish. :)

October 1, 2010

How I Earned My Nerd Glasses...

I recently bought a pair of nerd glasses.  My high school students seem to be fans of them and sometimes refer to them as "Li'l Wayne glasses," much to my dismay.  I absolutely love them, even if they make my head hurt behind my ears like a cheap plastic headband; but some of my friends do not feel so friendly about my nerd glasses.  Because they are not prescription and were instead bought in an awkward transaction at Forever 21, some, I fear, think I may be a poser.  Lest you think there is no nerd behind said nerd glasses, I would like to proudly plead my case.  I once denied my nerd status; I now embrace it-- hey, it's who I am.  Love it or leave it, I always say.  Well, I've actually never said that, but maybe I've always wanted to.

Life, through nerd-colored glasses:
1.  Look at my bookshelf (just one of several).  I read and collect (nay, horde) books of many kinds.  And I have read most of these.  Also, I decorate with books.

2.  I don't collect baseball cards, classic cars, fine jewelry, or designer bags.  I collect unique editions of Alice in Wonderland.
3.  I couldn't shout the answer of who sang "Breakfast at Tiffany's," but I could shout answers like, "Bay of Pigs!!!" while hanging with the Crew at the Applebee's on trivia night.  That's right, I came pretty close to the correct answer too. 
4.  I not only teach literature and grammar; I make notes like these (and relish them):

5.  Bestie Jr. recently said, "Sometimes Amanda uses big words."  Not sometimes, Bestie Jr.: habitually.  In fact, it is a quotidian occurrence.
6.  Sometimes when I am listening to instrumental music (hint one), I have a strong urge to conduct with my hands (hint two).  And I usually do it, too.
7.  I would rather have an unlimited museum pass in Chicago than an unlimited theme park pass.
8.  The morning after my friends and I returned from an exhausting six-week backpacking trip in Europe, I got up early with a friend to see King Tut's tomb at the Field Museum in Chicago because it was the last day of the exhibition.
9.  I love "Chuck."  Enough said.
10.  I have an unintentional cornucopia of "Star Wars" trivia in my brain thanks to my brother.  But I have only myself to thank for the fact that one Halloween, I dressed up as Princess Leia (but not in the white dress with cinnamon-roll hair; in the pretty Cloud City outfit with braids).
12.  I have seen every single "Star Trek" movie that has been made, thanks to my mother.  But I have only myself to thank for the fact that I've started watching the original series, and like it.
13.  I knit.

14.  And I'll stop here, because fourteen is my favorite number (that's kind of nerdy too, isn't it... to have a favorite number?), but this is what I have on my "nightstand," the window ledge beside my bed.  Not my phone, not a magazine... but The Grapes of Wrath.

September 27, 2010

Autumn On My Mind...

Give me a thick layer of dark clouds and a crisp breeze;
Give me a breeze that brings pink to my cheeks.
Give me sweater weather with a scarf;
Give me a scarf and gloves, matching set.
Give me a warm mug of apple cider;
Give me apple cider by the fire.
Give me autumn.
Give me the trees' rustle of fire-flavored leaves;
Give me the leaves that crunch beneath my feet.
Give me the taste, the smell, of pumpkin;
Give me the pumpkins, smiling in rows.
Give me the drizzle that promises snow;
Give me snow that tastes like comfy cold.
Give me autumn.

These are the words in my heart right now.  Mom told me they had a fire in the fireplace last night.  Friends on facebook are sporting those fall clothes I love so much: sweaters, hats, gloves, scarves, jackets... and in their hands are steaming cups of apple cider and pumpkin lattes.  Somewhere in the north leaves are changing to beautiful, vibrant colors.  Soon, there will be pumpkin pie, turkey, and snowfall.

Here, the leaves are getting... dead.  There is now a cool breeze as relief from the still-suppressing heat.  Halloween decorations deck everyone's halls, but a pumpkin left outside in these conditions turns moldy all too quickly.

This is my home now, but I'm not ready to give up my dreams of autumn.  I just love it and miss it too much.  Florida, that is my one complaint.  Could you please have a real autumn?  I'll buy you a caramel apple cider and a pumpkin muffin, I promise. :)

September 16, 2010

Give Me a Break...

I know it's time to take a break from blogging when I feel guilty for not blogging and search my brain for something to blog about.  The fact of the matter is, I'm feeling a little emotionally frazzled at the moment, like the end of a piece of ribbon that's begun to fray.  SO... I'm taking a little blog break.  When the blogs start rolling into my brain again, I'll start rolling them out onto the keyboard again.  For now,  I'm just working on trust and trying to fixed my frayed ends. :)  I don't think it will be TOO long...

September 11, 2010

A Staycation for Sisters...

I was going to blog about my memories of 9.11.01 today, but instead, I thought a better way to honor the heroes would be to blog instead about the joys in my life today, joys that I wouldn't have without those who have been and are willing to sacrifice themselves for my freedom and safety.  And so, I give you "A Staycation for Sisters"...

With the good fortune of a long weekend, a discounted hotel, and two sisters in the vicinity, I packed up and headed to Orlando.  Here's how we knew we were set: we had an iPod of great music, and 2 bags of different kinds of Goldfish each, plus milk and Oreos.  Here's how we knew we were getting old: we also had milk because one of us had acid reflux.


Let me introduce you to the main characters of this adventure.  It's been said that simply looking at our wardrobes will show you our personalities.  You decide:

This is Bestie (classic):
                                 This is Bestie Jr. (trendy)  Bestie Jr., don't be mad... it's just because you're younger. :):
                                                                                                                                          This is me (girly):

Our first dinner on our budget staycation was at Chipotle.  We cackled in the car as our conversations ranged from the ridiculous to the insane.  Let me give you some snippets:

"It drives me nuts when people sing 'Lord of heavend and earth' instead of 'Lord of heaven and earth.'  Heaven doesn't have a 'd' sound.  It is so annoying.  Are they just anticipating enunciating the 'and,' so they accidentally tack on a 'd' to the end of heaven?"

"You definitely are a maneater.  You have more boy experience than any of us.  Remember how many little dates you went on in college?  And how you dated Josh just but didn't like him at all?"
"I tried to make myself like him.  Is it considered a date if he pays?"
"Well then, I dated the whole brother floor.  I don't think I paid for a single Starbucks drink my entire first semester!"
"I only went on one date."

Those are just a couple fit for print.  There were also wookie noises, but no one knows why.  So we made our way to Chipotle, where we proceeded to cackle like three middle-aged women who had been let loose from the daily confines of their households.  There were some skater kids who probably thought we were 35, so I guess that fits.  Also, there was a man who looked like Keanu Reeves, but balding.  Next on our adventure was Redbox, for a chick flick.  At this point it was raining quite hard, and we were driving through a less-than-savory portion of Orlando.  We ended up at a 7-11 with a weird overhang and some creepy guys with bulletproof vests and motorcycles.

Our hotel room was as cold as a meat locker, or maybe colder.  Which would have been fine, if I hadn't stepped in water in the bathroom, making my socks wet and therefore having to go sockless in a meat locker.  Also, there was what may or may not have been a booger on the nightstand in an otherwise very clean room.  I "killed" it, as I am always the designated bug killer/apparently now booger grabber and throw away-er.  In the two nights we stayed there, that room held its share of laughter.  If we weren't laughing at the two movies we rented, we were laughing at each other.  If we weren't laughing at each other, we were laughing at the grotesque faces we were making for the camera.  And if we weren't laughing at that, we were laughing at the ridiculous videos we were making.

We laughed so loudly, in fact, that not only did my voice start to go hoarse, but the neighbors actually pounded on the wall for us to stop.  I felt guilty, like I used to feel when I was an RA at Moody and would  break quiet hours with my sisters, and a girl would poke her sleepy head out of her room and inform me that it was after quiet hours.  So I sheepishly stopped cackling and as we turned out the light, Bestie must have been thinking the same thing, because she mumbled something to me about "breaking quiet hours."

In the light of day, we found ourselves poolside, each armed with our own copy of "Glamour."  That way, we could point out who looked freakish, or what color nail polish we wanted, or what item of clothing for which we'd be on the prowl.  And then we followed our fancies to the mall, where the three of us, all broke, still managed to find amazing deals that we simply couldn't pass up.  The next day became an outlet mall excursion where we spent far too much time rifling through underwear that was only $2.50 and ghetto brand-name t-shirts.  Don't ask.

While the three of us have remained quite close despite all the changes of the last year or so, I was reminded of how life is different these days when this happened:

I guess that's what happens when you have a husband. :)

But a good thing about being the single one was I got a "heavenly bed" all to myself because hey, they're used to sharing.  Until the second night, when Bestie uber-creeped-out Bestie Jr. and therefore Bestie Jr. bounded into my bed for the night.

Our second meal-on-the-cheap was a "splurge" at the Olive Garden.  We were hyped about this because Bestie Jr. is married to a chef who cries inside at the thought of the the Olive Garden.  We fairly leaped with joy at the thought of unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks with a never-ending pasta bowl.  Who wouldn't leap with joy at that thought?!  But see, the longer we sat there, the crazier the pictures became, and the harder we laughed.

You never can tell what will happen when you buy nerd glasses, either.

So the retreat ended, and I'm back in my apartment alone, typing away on the computer as usual.    But it's okay.  Bestie and her husband are two buildings away.  And Bestie Jr. and her husband are just across the pond.  And even though we're back to real life, I am refreshed and reminded of how much I love my sisters.  As I told them in the parking lot of the mall,

"Guys, I never get tired of spending time with you."

And it's true.  They are two very, very big joys in my life.  Here's to sisters!

September 5, 2010

Excuse Me For My Girly-ness For Just a Moment...

For some reason, many of the cable channels I frequently watch have taken Labor Day weekend to mean Rom-Com weekend.  Which is fine; I just don't understand the parallel.  So as I sat in my apartment crafting away, watching one delightfully cheesy romantic comedy after another, I began to think about the ones I love.  There is a handful of rom-coms that I enjoy more than others, mainly because I had always hoped in that irrational, girly section of my brain/heart that one day I would have a romance just like that.  Hey, a girl can dream.  Though I am quite aware that life isn't the movies and men don't have scripts, here is a list of rom-coms of which I am particularly fond, and find particularly... rom. :)  Sorry this is so sappy-- I'm not always so girly.  I simply got inspired.  Hey, I'm a single girl-- isn't this accepted, if not expected of me?

The Sound of Music

I suppose this is not so much a rom-com as it is a musical, but I have always thought that the story of a woman capturing the hardened heart of a widower with children was just sigh-inducing.  I love the internal war Maria has with her feelings, and how she runs from them, only to later muster up the courage to confront them head-on.  I also love that the straight-laced Captain finds himself in love with the free-spirited Maria.  So sweet.

The Quiet Man

John Wayne's character thinks he's seeing a dream when he spots Maureen O'Hara's red head in an Irish pasture.  It's a bit of a Taming of the Shrew story, and I love those.  She's got a fire in her, and he tames her with tough love.  It's so romantic, but not in a shmaltzy way.  I feel the same about this movie:

But for the record I do not advocate domestic violence.  Haha.  But I've always known I'd need a man who could calm me down.  Just maybe not drag me around.

27 Dresses

I think that whole "we hate each other so much but wait, we're starting to realize that we actually are falling in love, and yep look at that, our anger was actually love all along" thing in movies like this is fascinating and there's a part of me that has always wanted it, but maybe not really.  I love this one more than others like it because I relate to Jane more than any other rom-com heroine (over-committed, over-planning, over-controlling, overlooked, and taken-advantage-of), and I also love the way he pursues her relentlessly and tells her what her problem is, straight up.  But loves her anyway.  And also that he has a sweet heart under a rough exterior.  Cute and irresistible.

You've Got Mail 

I suppose this is another hate-each-other-then-love-each-other movie, but I think the way their friendship grows is sweet.  I love how he has fallen for her, but wants to really hook her for real before he tells her it's been him emailing her all along.  I enjoy their believably funny conversations (especially about his handle-- 152 something...):
"Mr. 152 insights into my soul!"
"Maybe he had 152 moles removed and now has 152 pock marks on his face."
"152 people who think he looks like Clark Gable."
"152 people who think he looks like a Clark Bar!"

They're longtime friends, something I've never had in a guy but have always thought is wonderful (though not often possible).  He chastises her for poor behavior.  She makes him want to be a better man.  Together, they improve each other.  Their love is deeper than passion.  It has a foundation of friendship, which is why I think Mr. Knightley's proposal is the sweetest ever:
"Maybe it is our imperfections which make us so perfect for one another.  Marry me?  Marry me, my wonderful, darling friend."

Return to Me
This is a unique instance where it is not the leading man and woman that I find so wonderful.  In this movie, Bonnie Hunt and Jim Belushi are a couple who have been married a while, with several kids.  I think they are hilarious, as they obviously still love each other and find each other hilarious, even thought they fight.  Both are so drastically imperfect, but so perfect for each other.  Every time I watch the movie, I maintain that I would rather have that than the hyper-romantic relationship of the leading man and woman.

It Happened One Night
This is one of the most hilarious, romantic movies ever.  They are opposites who hate each other (of course) but are thrown together nonetheless.  The dialogue is quick-witted and fast-paced, and again, he doesn't take any of her crap.  Instead he is the strong one she needs, and she softens his manly heart.  Love it so much.  It made me want to get on a bus, fall asleep on a stranger's shoulder, pick a fight, get lost together, and make him admit he loves me against his better judgment.

Win a Date With Tad Hamilton
While completely cheesy, I love that these two were friends for years and years, and Topher Grace's character has been in love with her for a long time.  His jealousy is super cute, though it rarely is in real life, I guess.  But who wouldn't agree that the fact that he knew all 7 of her smiles and what they meant was really adorable?  I always wanted a guy to know and love me that well.

While You Were Sleeping
I adore the friendship that develops between these two as they wait for her "fiance" to awake from his coma.  They share a lot with each other, including a hilarious/romantic scene in which they fall on the ice and he rips his pants.  This led to my friends insisting that we've always wanted a "Bill Pullman moment" with a guy.  And when he tells his comatose brother that he's jealous of him because he has Lucy?  Adorable.

And you know what else?  All these characters had chemistry.  That je ne sais quoi that I can't put my finger on.  Anyway.  I know my life will not play out like any of these movies.  But my one-day romance will be my own story, something written just for me, and I look forward to it.  Excuse the girly-ness.  I just couldn't help myself.  I blame cable TV.