May 27, 2010

Rediscovering the Amanda of Yesteryear...

I have rediscovered my love of socializing, adventure, and late-night frivolities, and I have my fiftysomething (don't tell her I told you that) aunt to thank.
I am the kind of girl who easily slips into a routine, and doesn't realize how monotonous she's become or what she's missing.  I have my night in on Mondays, my Panera book discussion on Tuesdays, youth group on Wednesdays, dinner with friends on Thursdays, and laziness/shopping/errands on he weekends.  And it RARELY changes.  I get comfortable in my cozy apartment after a hard day's work, and the thought of going out or trying something new makes my aready weary limbs practically paralyzed.  So I stay in, make an omelet, and watch NCIS reruns and the occasional ten-year-old rom com on cable.  And on a really good night, I'll watch "Chuck," or "Glee."  No, don't pity me-- I like it.  And that's what scares me.

I forgot about my college days, and how I'd go out into the City with friends until the wee hours of morning, not doing traditional college-hoodlum things, ie drinking, carousing, and hooking up, but visiting new places, experiencing new things, and laughing so hard it hurt.  I forgot how much I enjoyed the thrill of late-night socializing among the hoi polloi, and the energy of getting outside my comfort zone.

Then my aunt came to visit.  She had plans.  The fact that the local line dancing bar was closed didn't stop her.  Instead, we went to a little bar with very loud live music and Salsa dancing lessons.  And the next night, we went to a pub with a thatched roof and bad food in the middle of the city.  Dressed up, uncertain, outside my comfort zone, loud noises, lots of people, late nights, crappy food... and it was all so wonderful.  In just two late nights out with friends on the town, I've rediscovered my love of.... life, I guess.  And I'm determined to add a bit more of that so-called life-spice, variety, to my weekly routine.  I need to get a bit more of my old college spirit back, as I realize I'm slowly descending into the depths of boring adulthood.  And I never thought that would happen.

So maybe I lose a few hours of sleep a week.  So maybe I embarrass myself by trying to Salsa while wearing heels that make me tower over the entire dance floor.  So maybe I try some Irish food that makes my stomach feel awkward.  I'm living life, and I'm not wasting my moments watching a ten-year-old rom com every night.  That's got to count for something.

May 24, 2010

"Most Likely to be Realistically Idealistic..."

Today was yearbook day.  With eager little fingers, my students thumbed through the pages, hoping to find that magically, their yearbook photo had morphed into something fit for Hollywood, and they'd be forever remembered as the fantastic catch they know they are inside.  Also, they hoped to be in a photo montage, maybe just a few times more than their friends.

Do you remember those days?  Do you remember the wonder and anticipation of every turned page?  And more importantly, do you remember the adrenaline that pumped through your veins when, after a massive yearbook-signing-exchange, you get your book back and wonder if someone will express a year's worth of pent-up love for you?  Maybe that boy/girl you like will actually sign your yearbook, not simply with their name, but with "stay cool," or "have a great summer," or even "never change!"

Sometimes I feel like my life is still a little like that.  Sometimes I still feel the adrenaline of hoping that someone, some day, will express feelings for me.  I still feel wonder and anticipation of the unknown, never knowing when my life will change forever, and not in that my-picture-is-on-THREE-WHOLE-pages kind of change.  Though I find myself ever-jaded and slipping into unfortunate cynicism, I still possess that giddy hopefulness about life that my students possess about the yearbook.

I hope that's a good thing and not a set up for disappointment, like how I felt every single year when I turned to my yearbook photo and realized I still looked like me. :)

May 22, 2010

"On My Own"...

My apartment complex sent me a notice today with information pertaining to my lease renewal.  They are raising my rent by almost $60 a month.  I'm not an extremely emotional person, but my eyes filled with tears.  Overreaction?  Possibly.  But they also initiated a change of cable/Internet provider, which raised my Internet costs by $30, and I won't even go into the upward-trending cost of utilities.  As a single woman and a teacher in a Christian school, I struggle to make ends meet.  I swallowed the lump in my throat and tried to sing along to my iPod.  It happened to be "On My Own" from Les Miserables, so I abruptly turned it to some Train song instead; I was going to a friend's house and didn't want to show up with my cry face.

But I called Mom later.  I told her all of this, voiced my concerns, and even got a bit emotional.  I told her how hard it was for me to be alone, and then it slipped out:

"It's hard because there's no one to take care of me."
"Ah, so that's really it, isn't it?  It's not as much about the money..."  Is essentially what my intuitive mom replied.

And she was right.  Ultimately I know God will provide for me.  I know this because last summer, when I moved into my own place and was a bridesmaid in two weddings (three very expensive, unexpected, budget-unfriendly things), God brought me enough money for each bill, and I survived.  So it's not so much the money thing, though it is unbelievably frustrating to simply make ends meet and not be able to afford travel and other things I so enjoy.  The real trouble is my unmet desire to be cared for by "someone with skin," as my mom put it.

Most every girl wants to be taken care of.  We want someone to provide for us and protect us.  This is why it's very hard, almost unnatural, for me to live on my own.  Though terribly independent, I want to be cared for.  Enigmatic?  Perhaps.  But therein lies my biggest struggle.  Maybe you're thinking, she's back on the discontentment thing again?  Yeah, I am; after all, this is a blog about a single girl's struggles, and though I can't speak for any other single girl, I can certainly be transparent about myself.  This is an ongoing battle.  My victorious moments when I am content in the Lord and I'm trusting Him for the future are only sort-of victorious, because I know inevitably I will be here again with the same old struggle.

But, as with all struggles, the beauty is that God's grace can so clearly be seen.  When I am weak, then I am strong.  God has taken care of me financially, and he will take care of me emotionally.  If he cares enough to balance my checkbook, he cares enough to dry my tears.  It's just a matter of deciding to remember that, and probably steering clear of "On My Own" for just a little while longer.

May 21, 2010

"You Look Preeeetty..."

Last Saturday, I put on a sundress and went to Walmart.  Classy, I know.  But a girl's got to shop for gum and shorts somewhere she can afford, so why not dress so as not to end up on that creepy Walmart-white-trash website?

So I was moseying (well, that's not the right word, because I rarely mosey.  I often zip) zipping through Walmart pushing a cart full of odds and ends, when I pass a thirtysomething man loitering at an endcap.  Nothing was odd about him; he was just some customer in a t-shirt and shorts, loitering at an endcap.  As I passed, he stared at me fixedly with a smile and said, though well past noon, "Good morning."  I smiled a strained, closed-lipped smile and went on my way. 

He may have just been acting neighborly, or he could have been doing something I just don't understand about guys.  A girl knows the difference, and I believe he was doing something I just don't understand about guys, and that is this: getting the attention of a complete stranger in an I-want-to-pick-you-up kind of way.  What irrational thoughts go through the brains of men to make them talk to/shout at/whistle at/make gestures at/touch a girl they've never seen before and will never see again in their life?

Do they feel they can't let the opportunity pass?  Is it just sport-- "let's see how many women we can embarrass"?  Do they honestly believe if they acknowledge this stranger, she will stop in her tracks, turn in slow motion as the music swells and run into his arms, never to part?  How many hookups have started with a whistle?  I would think more often  than not, these outbursts end badly, or at least with the cold shoulder.  And yet some men persist.

Let me share some stories to illustrate my point:
Scene: Gulf-to-Bay during rush hour, driving a middle school girl to youth group.  I'm chilling in the turning lane when the car to my right honks.  Assuming the passengers of that car need directions, I roll down my window and look past middle school girl at a middle aged man.
"You look preeeetty," he says in an accent, leering creepily through the window.  I pursed my lips and rolled up the window.  Really?  What was the point?

Scene: Sitting in the back seat of Thor/Ladybug, a friend's red pickup in which I often hitch a ride.  Windows are down,  and I am enjoying the ride.  A muscle car approaches to my left and the passenger turns my way and stares.  We speed up.  They speed up. 
"Hey, girl!" I hear him shout above the roar of the engines, just before we speed up enough to lose them.  Did he think I'd jump out of the truck and join him in his muscle car? 

I could go on.  You ladies know what I'm talking about.  I mean, I appreciate a guy who is brave enough to start a conversation, but these outbursts are just... pointless.  So my question to guys is (whether or not you've ever been guilty of this, you at least can understand the male psyche), WHY?  Why do men do this?  And do they really think anything will come of it?  And ladies, do you have a trademark line or move to put these men in their place?  I think I should have one.  Not that this happens to me all the time, but when it does I would love to be prepared with something spitfire enough to inspire a little shame.

Because few things make my skin crawl like ogling creeps who verbalize their inanity.

May 18, 2010

The Stick-With-Yous...

It's funny, the things that will stick with you.  I'm not talking about I-just-ate-5-Guys-burgers-and-fries stick with you, or get-that-stupid-Ke$ha-song-out-of-my-head stick with you; I'm talking about out of all the things anyone has ever said to me in my entire life up to this moment, I remember these words.  That kind of stick with you.

There are obvious stick-with-you moments and words, but then there are some my mind remembers for no apparent reason, yet won't budge from their comfortable position in my consciousness.  They won't even politely retreat to my subconscious. 

Today, one of those stick-with-yous was on my mind.  It's always there and I don't have to sift through much to remember it, but I've never analyzed why it's stuck.  Until today.  Let me set up the memory for you:  I was seventeen, and on a mission trip to Northern Ireland with my good friend.  We had completed our week of training and now were on a team, ministering in the small town of Killileagh (I hope that's how it's spelled).  We worked a children's VBS in the mornings, planned all afternoon, and put on a youth group at night for teenagers.  We were fortunate enough to be staying in a huge, beautiful home that looked out onto the rolling pastures for which the Isle is so famous (though it must be said that if the wind was right, we could smell the pig farms).  And so in this house we resided one night, exhausted from a hard day's work.  I sat with my friend in the doorway of the kitchen-- I have no idea why.  We were talking with another team member.  Actually, she was a team leader and became very close to my friend and me (though she turned out to be a really manipulative weirdie with deep issues).  She was a Canadian college student, funny, and had a magnetic personality.  Naturally, when she spoke we listened, and in our minds, her words were wise.  I listened when at this moment, sitting in the doorway of the kitchen, she said:

"Amanda, you strike me as the kind of person who, no matter what has happened, will walk into the church with her children, head held high."

I remember I didn't know how to respond.  ...Thank you?  OK?  How... nice?  And I also remember that while it seemed like a compliment, I felt uneasy about it.  Every now and then her words echo in my ears and I get that same feeling-- kind of flattered, yet somehow uneasy and uncomfortable.  Today I think I figured out my uneasiness.  Why would I be walking into church with just my children, and what would have happened to make me keep my head high?  What would have happened to make my head want to droop?

Why would someone say that to another person?  It's like saying, "You strike me as the kind of person who will be OK, even when your husband cheats on you and everyone is talking about it."  What a weird thing to say to someone else.  Probably that should have been my cue that she was a weirdie.  Funny how it stuck with me for nine years.  I hope her little "insight" never becomes a reality. 

So do you know what I'm talking about?  Are there random stick-with-yous that always seem to float around in your head?  Tell me about them-- maybe it's like when a song is stuck: if you say it, it will go away... or at least slip to your subconscious.

May 10, 2010

Standing in The Runner's Sweaty Sneakers...

There is a woman who runs around my apartment neighborhood.  She is a living legend among my friends.  Completely unbeknownst to her, she has been the topic of conversation on many a Thursday-night-dinner.  She barely picks up her feet when she runs, and her head bobs up and down, mouth agape, with each step.  I tried it once, and my brain sloshed inside my skull and it hurt.  I can't imagine how she does it every day.  This would be weird enough, but she runs every day, and for hours.  Sweat-soaked, not "glistening," she makes her rounds throughout the neighborhood.

I just don't understand her, on so many levels.  First, I have a hard time understanding runners in general, as I find the incessant pounding of my limbs against the pavement to be torturous.  My knees ache, my chest hurts, and there is no goal.  I prefer to run only when being chased.  And hopefully that doesn't happen very often.  I also don't understand why she runs every day.  She doesn't have that lithe, bony look of someone who runs every day, so maybe that's her goal.  But in the months I've seen her run, she isn't morphing into a runner's body... so that's probably not why she does it.  We've pondered this.  Maybe she has control issues, we thought.  Or some OCD issues, thought Bestie (who, incidentally does not like the term "Bestie," so we need a new name for her.  Any suggestions?  BFFL?  Too adolescent and texty.  Give me ideas!).

"She was running when we left at 4:15, and it's now past 5:15.  She's insane."
"I know-- how does she stay hydrated?"
"She doesn't have a water bottle..."
"My sister says she sees her go into her house and then come back out to keep running.  Maybe she gets water.  I think it's an OCD thing."
This is just one example of the many conversations we have surrounding this woman.

We have mixed emotions about her.  For some reason, we had feelings of real animosity towards her, like, how dare she run so often?  And how dare she do that weird thing with her head  I'd like to just teach her a thing or two-- stabilize that head!  It was a little creepy how strongly we disliked her, or the idea of her.  And then we realized that one of our friends lived in her building!  Now we could stalk her every run and analyze her to bits!  We then started to feel sorry for her.  That's so sad that she feels she has to run for hours every day.  Maybe she has a problem.

Oh believe me, I get how creepy this is, the fact that we talk about The Runner over our chimichangas.  Every time I walk over to Bestie's (sorry Bestie, I'm working on a new name...), I pass her on the sidewalk.  I feel super awkward, as if she knows that we discuss her.  It wasn't until very recently that I realized that I had become my own version of a Scout Finch, wondering unabashedly and insatiably about her mysterious neighbor, Boo Radley.  For those of you unfamiliar with To Kill a Mockingbird (only one of the very best books of all time), Boo is the mysterious neighbor about which horrible stories are told and heinous activities assumed; none of these things are based on fact, and the children are told that until they stand in someone else's shoes, they have no right to judge. 

Touche, for I have not stood in The Runner's sweaty sneakers.  I haven't run the many miles she's run for whatever reason.  I don't know what motivates her or what she thinks about when she runs.  I don't know what tunes play on her iPod, and I don't know why she runs the way she runs.  But because I don't know is exactly why I shouldn't judge.  So, The Runner, my very own Boo Radley, I'm sorry I've judged you and I'll try not to be creepy about you during Thursday dinner parties anymore.  Also because I don't want to be Weird Redhead that my neighbors talk about.  But then my neighbors are an entirely different story...

May 5, 2010

Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers... Blogs...

I have a new pet peeve.  It may offend some of you, but I just have to get this out there.  When scanning blogs, I get a little irritated at all the baby blogs.  Sure, they're cute.  I am absolutely certain that one day, should the Lord bless me with a child, I will be equally as over the moon as these parents obviously are, but... it's all the same!  I scrolled through about ten of these blogs just now, and each of them touted some new and glorious event in their baby's life, like "Willoughby {they almost always have some weird, unique name} is 3 days and four hours old!" or "Seven just coughed up her first solid piece of mucus!" or "Pooch is a genius!  He just ate a beetle because of its nutritional properties!"

Please.  A photo diary might be cool, or even a unique Look Who's Talking perspective blog, but relating the daily infant minutae is a little much.  Does anyone besides Mommy, Daddy, Grandparents, and maybe Pediatrician really care if Sandollar's bowel movements have been irregular?  Doubt it.

So baby blogs kind of annoy me.  But I love babies.  In fact, maybe a tiny reason why baby blogs are annoying me so much recently is because as of late, I have been feeling out of the baby-loop.  Don't get me wrong-- I can't hear my biological clock ticking (well, not too loudly anyway), but I feel like I have been bombarded with baby imagery and information and news, and it makes me feel a little left out (not an entirely new feeling for me).
My married friends aren't quite at the baby stage yet, but the fact is they could be; when they are, I'll be two steps "behind," and life will be forever changed for them and for us.  And then they get to have a baby, this little piece of themselves to love and have love them in return-- plus they're really cute.

I suppose the problem isn't really that I want a baby.  Not now anyway; I'm YEARS from that (let's just focus on one thing at a time.  I think I'll need to find a guy first; that's usually how that works).  I think the real problem is what the real problem always is: discontentment, distrust.  If I were truly content here and now where God has placed me, babies would be enjoyed, but not coveted.  If I really trusted God's plan for me, I would think of babies with hope and anticipation, not anxiety and annoyance.  Guess I'll keep working on that old problem. 

But can I just say, even if I flipped a switch and suddenly found myself completely content and trusting.... I'd still be annoyed at baby blogs.

May 2, 2010

Musings on the Happenings of a Busy Saturday Afteroon...

We were a whirlwind of productivity, a flurry of fruitfulness.  A dynamic duo, a powerful pair-- that was my best friend/coworker and me on Saturday.  We had a goal in mind and a shopping list in hand.  Though the task was daunting, we ourselves remained undaunted, because we'd done this before-- many times. 
First on the list:  JoAnn's for the perfect fabric to function as a yet-to-be-painted backdrop for the all-too upcoming play.  It had to be sturdy, roll-able, the perfect size, and perhaps most importantly, the right price.

And we had no real idea what we were looking for.  In typical "us" fashion, we breezed our way (we do not dawdle, you see) through the front doors and straight to the fabric section, where we promptly told a busy-looking woman what we were looking for.  In rapid-fire, heavily-Greek-accented knowledge, she corralled us over to the right fabric, repeating the measurements over and over aloud.  As she spoke louder and faster as she explained what we'd do, I had to concentrate maybe harder than I've ever concentrated to catch it all.  But I caught it, and I also caught that this fast-talking, bright, Greek fabric woman wasn't concerned about making a buck.  She was enjoying the challenge of finding us the perfect fabric at the lowest price. 

I had to give my bestie a rundown in un-accented English, as the details had flown past her just a bit too fast.  She smiled and relaxed just a bit-- our biggest challenge was complete!  And as our new Greek friend cut the fabric (still repeating the measurements over and over aloud) and made sure we got a 50% off coupon, Bestie was ready to cry with relief.  What a blessing this woman was.  We made sure to fill out a survey card so she would receive little golden scissors on her name badge.  It was the least we could do.

We moved on to the next store, narrowly making the turn and again breezing straight to the Tempera paint aisle and making our exits faster than I may have ever gone in and out of a Michael's in my life.  We piled our bags and selves into the car and laughed.
"I love when we do this!"
"I know-- we're so good at it!"
"Hahaha, we've been doing it since-- we were RAs?  No, since we helped our RA with open houses!"
And then Bestie said, "I can't wait until you have some huge event that I can help you with like this!"  I laughed, but then I thought, I don't care if I ever have some huge event and I need help (though a wedding would be nice).  Because there is simple joy in helping the ones you love succeed, whether it's getting the best deal on spray paint and paint brushes or delivering Advil doses on their wedding day.  When they succeed, I succeed.  I can use my no-nonsense, "get-r-done" (thanks a lot, South, for giving me that phrase) proclivities for the benefit of my friends and family, and it blesses me; more importantly, it pleases the Lord.

So the next time you have a Saturday you'd rather be spending in a REM cycle or catching up on "The Real Housewives of Orange County" (not that I ever want to catch up on that show, ever...), consider blessing a friend with your time and talents, and in turn you may be surprised the joy you experience and the memories you make.