August 28, 2010

Someday I Really WILL Be an Irish Hag...

"You're 26?  Daaang.  That's almost 30!"

"You're going to get old, and wrinkly, and saggy... you better hurry up and get married before nobody wants you!"

Didn't I tell you teachers had to be thick-skinned?  These comments from the mouths of my students on a Friday afternoon could reduce a lesser woman to tears.  But not I... not I.  I simply shook my head, rolled my eyes, and chalked it up to adolescent brain damage.

Of course, as I drove home, those words echoed in my ears.  I wasn't hurt; the words weren't spoken maliciously.  They were an attempt at humor, and I didn't mind.  It really is funny though; those exact words have come to my mind, and it was bizarre to have them uttered aloud.

Sometimes, when I get ready in the morning and look in the mirror, all I see are the tiny lines starting to form around my eyes and the sides of my mouth.  Oh, and that one that's starting to form above my left eyebrow because that's the one I use for the "cocked brow."  Sure, they're just evidence of many a laugh-fest and thousands of genuine smiles, but on a bad day, they seem more like reasons for a man to skip over me.

Don't make fun of me because I'm in my twenties and think about these things.  I'll bet I'm not the only one.  I realize I'm still relatively young, but my relative youth is no comfort at times like these.  It's not that I fear getting old, necessarily, or even wrinkles themselves.  It's the fear that getting old is going to be the reason I get passed over for a relationship.  It's the fear that the little lines forming around my eyes and mouth will cause men to think, "Hm, maybe I could get a newer model; this one needs a new paint job."

Yes, I realize this is irrational for several reasons (are you starting to see a pattern here?  I have irrational fears that I understand are completely irrational yet blog about them just the same, because maybe, just maybe, there are other single women out there who feel the same way).  First, God is in control and even if I am eighty-three years old and have a face that looks like a catcher's mit, God could still bring me the man of my dreams.  Secondly, the "man of my dreams" won't care about the lines forming by my eyes and mouth.  In fact, he may appreciate them and will definitely add more.  The right man won't pass over me because I'm getting old.  He'll appreciate me like a vintage car, which everyone knows is worth more than a newer model anyway.

Maybe he'll even think this, which would be awesome:

As long as he doesn't sing it, of course.  Because when guys serenade girls it's always hilarious, even if they're trying to be romantic and not funny.

So maybe my students are right.  Oh well.  But then perhaps there will be someone in my life someday who sees the "young woman" instead of the "old hag."  Hope so.

August 27, 2010

Hello, My Name is Josephine March...

When I was younger, the movie versions of Little Women I had seen painted Jo as a tomboy.  Which is why I never really felt that we had much in common besides our loud mouths.  I was never a tomboy... at all.  And then, I actually read the novel, and I was shocked to often find myself looking into a figurative mirror as her character revealed herself more and more through the pages.  Here and there I would dog-ear the pages and shake my head, amazed that over a hundred years ago Miss Alcott had penned a character that would pinpoint my personality so well.  Let me show you what I mean:

"Jo's ambition was to do something very splendid; what it was she had no idea, as yet, but left it for time to tell her...A quick temper, sharp tongue, and restless spirit were always getting her into scrapes, and her life was a series of ups and downs, which were both comic and pathetic."
This particular quote, I am ashamed to say, quite accurately describes my many weaknesses and seems like a character sketch of my childhood.  
"'You won't give anyone a chance,' said Laurie...'You won't show the soft side of your character, and if a fellow gets a peep at it by accident, and can't help showing that he likes it, you treat him as Mrs. Gummidge did her sweetheart-- throw cold water over him-- and get so thorny no one dares touch or look at you.'"
I feel like I've heard these words before... perhaps from my sisters?  Or their husbands?  Except of course they never mentioned Mrs. Gummidge, because who in the world knows who that is?

"...With Jo, brain developed earlier than the heart, and she preferred imaginary heroes to real ones, because, when tired of them, the former could be shut up in the tin kitchen-cupboard till called for, and the latter were less manageable."
I have an over-active imagination.  The heroes in my imagination are always preferable to real men.  Which is why I'm probably still single. 

"'I'm glad you can't flirt; it's really refreshing to see a sensible, straightforward girl, who can be jolly and kind without making a fool of herself.  Between ourselves, Jo, some of the girls I know really do go on at such a rate I'm ashamed of them.  They don't mean any harm, I'm sure; but if they knew how we fellows talked about them afterward, they'd mend their ways, I fancy.'"
I've already shared my opinion of foolish flirting-- you know, that hair-flipping, giddy laughing, silly-girl flirting.  I don't know how to do it, I don't want to do it, and I don't do it.  And I hope I'm respected for it... instead of just seen as a cold-hearted woman.

"Poor Jo, these were dark days to her, for something like despair came over her when she thought of spending all her life in that quiet house, devoted to humdrum cares, a few small pleasures, and the duty that never seemed to grow any easier. 'I can't do it.  I wasn't meant for a life like this, and I know I shall break away and do something desperate if somebody doesn't come and help me,' she said to herself when her first efforts failed, and she fell into the moody, miserable state of mind which often comes when strong wills have to yield to the inevitable."
Hmmm, I've felt this on many a night alone in my apartment.  It is no easy task, yielding to the inevitable.

"...Thirty years seems the end of all things to five and twenty; but it's not so bad as it looks, and one can get on quite happily if one has something in one's self to fall back upon.  At twenty-five, girls begin to talk about being old maids, but secretly resolve that they never will be..."
How did Miss Alcott get inside my head on my twenty-fifth birthday?

See what I mean?  So I finished the book, hoping there would also be some lovely parallel between her happy ending and my future happy ending.  But I realized, I'm not so much a fan of marrying a much-older German professor, so...

Instead I prefer something Jo says.  I hope someday, whether I have my own German professor or facsimile thereof, I too will be able to say, "'Well, the winter's gone, and I've written no books, earned no fortune; but I've made a friend worth having and I'll try to keep him all my life.'"  Although I would also like to write books and earn a fortune.  But hey, I'll just take the lifelong friend.

Well, I love Little Women.  No secret there.  I love finding a literary character I can thoroughly relate to, as well.  But don't think Miss Alcott's point has been lost on me.  She creates four very different sisters for the same reason there are four very different women on "Sex and the City," or "Golden Girls:" because every woman can find one of them to which she can relate.  And when we can relate to one of the March sisters, we can learn one of the lessons the heroines learned... like Jo, who learns to be content with her circumstances, serve others, and become vulnerable.  So maybe I can too. :)

What about you?  Have you ever opened the pages of a book, just to find yourself inside?

August 24, 2010

100 Posts Posted, 100 Lessons Learned...

This is my 100th post.  Well, technically it is not the 100th post on this site, but it is the 100th draft I've... drafted.  There are about four drafts that didn't make the cut.  Even so, I decided my 100th post should be somewhat epic in either length or substance, if not both.  And then my mind went blank.  I then left it up to my facebook friends to help me think of something worthy.  My friend Brianne (thanks, Brianne!) suggested I type up a list of 100 lessons I have learned, I guess post-college.  Epic, in my opinion, in both length and substance.  So here goes:

1.  IT (meaning life) is not about ME.
2.  Nothing can prepare you for a life of singleness.
3.  Men have fragile egos.
4.  Men and women cannot be best friends without one or both wanting more at some point. 
5.  I am not nor have ever been "big boned," despite my childhood claims to the contrary.
6.  Writing a book is not even the hard part of becoming published.
7.  Drama can be completely avoided.
8.  Smiling really does change your attitude.
9.  I have a lot more neuroses than I'd care to admit.
10.Working with youth opens you up to a whole lot of potential for hurt.
11.Friendships have no age barriers.
12.Boundaries keep the peace and sanity in life... and in countries.
13.I may get lost a lot but I always find my way eventually... literally and figuratively.
14.Given the opportunity, people can and will take advantage of you.
15.Serving is the best way to feel at home.
16.Teachers must be thick-skinned.
17.Facebook is my Achilles' heel.
18.You can teach yourself anything.
19.Being creative for creativity's sake and not for money is okay.
20.College does not prepare you for the hands-on of teaching.
21.It's okay to surprise people.
22.My time is more valuable to me than money.
23.I can't control what others will do; I can only control my reactions.
24.It's OK to pray out loud in the car, even if it makes you look like you're talking to yourself.
25.I don't need to correct others' mistakes... all the time.
26.A lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.
27.If you do a good job at one thing, you'll be asked to do something else... and something else...
28.Leadership shouldn't always be sought out, it should often come naturally.
29.High school students think they're funny; middle school students don't know they're funny.
30.When you're headed in the same direction, nothing, not even spouses or miles, separates close friends.
31.He's just not that into you.
32.It doesn't matter what your GPA was in college; your students will still think you're stupid.
33.It doesn't matter how cheesy they are; a girl likes a good chick flick now and then.
34.They'll seldom admit it, but a guy likes a good chick flick now and then.
35.It doesn't matter how spotless the rest of my house is, I will always throw my clothes on my bedroom floor.
36.My Bible training at Moody is priceless.
37.Going shopping is a natural "upper" for me.  Receiving my VISA bill is a natural "downer."
38.My parents are two of the wisest, funniest, most interesting and intelligent people I know.
39.The love my family has for each other (even extended family) is rare.
40.There is no place like home, but you can have more than one home.
41.Through its people, a place will wheedle itself into your heart.
42.I am truly a half-and-half mixture of my parents' personalities.
43.I will always have a love/hate relationship with technology.
44.I am an artist trapped in a box of financial restraints.
45.Prayer changes things (me).
46.Everything, literally everything can point back to some aspect of God's character.
47.Everything is redeemable.
48.Transparency builds solidarity.
49.Hope for the best, expect the worst.
50.Children are depraved.
51.There is no limit to human depravity.
52.There is no limit to God's grace towards me.
53.I grow most through trials.
54.Irish girls can tan, but it's a painful process.
55.Teachers are actors; the classroom is their stage.
56.I have walls around my heart.
57.My confidence and intimidation factor mask my insecurity fairly well.
58.God likes to put you outside your comfort zone... as often as possible.
59.Humor diffuses most awkward situations.
60.It is entirely possible to revert back to middle school every Wednesday night.
61.A husband will never fully fulfill me/complete me/satisfy me.  That's God's job. 
62.Independence is fun.
63.Boys LOVE to talk about poo, and it will probably always be funny.
64.My age is just a number.
65.I am the butt of many a joke.  Yes, I said "I am the butt."  har-har.
66.The following things will always be hilarious: falling down, abruptness, making hideous faces, laughing at inappropriate times.
67.The Helen Keller card is a no-fail in "Apples to Apples."
68.Never bring work home with you... if you can help it.
69.Life is too short to deny yourself your favorite food.
70.Nothing lasts forever.  Except my relationship with the Lord.
71.If the book was fantastic, the movie will probably disappoint.
72.Laziness accounts for much of what's wrong in the world.
73.There are some legit psychos out there.
74.You never know how a small gesture or word will affect others, whether good or bad.
75.Most students are more respectful of male teachers.  Female teachers work twice as hard for respect.
76.Who you are at home, when you are most comfortable, is who you are.
77.It is all to easy for me to become a hermit.
78.Axe spray should have never been invented.
79.Sometimes colored bras will bleed dye onto your clothes, and it will be sucky.
80.Fiber One yogurt is a bad choice.
81.Becoming a good cook/baker just takes experimentation and courage.
82.Apathy is one of the most unattractive traits a person can possess.
83.Inspiration distracts (happily) from the daily grind.
84.Once bitten by the travel bug, you will itch your whole life.
85.Good pizza is worth the calories.
86.Never ever pay full price for anything.
87.God is my protector and provider, even when I only have $22 to my name.
88.It's OK to cry, even in front of other people.
89.Toothpaste on pimples doesn't really work.  It just smells minty.
90.I have become a realist with idealistic tendencies.
91.You can't force someone to see things the way you see them.
92.Friendships require routine maintenance.
93.If I am really looking forward to something, I will be disappointed.
94.My imagination can be my best friend or my worst enemy.
95.You don't have to experience mistakes to gain wisdom.  Sometimes wisdom is gained in avoiding mistakes.
96.Moving is THE WORST.
97.Fresh starts are THE BEST.
98.Being a bridesmaid is ridiculously expensive.
99.Don't talk to strangers.  Or smile at them.  Or even look at them.  Unless they are babies or the elderly.
100.When you ask God to change you, he absolutely will.

If you actually read all 100-- I am impressed. :)  Thanks, friends, for reading.

August 18, 2010

Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It...

Today was one small fail for Amanda, and one giant win for the Lord.

I don't think I've mentioned yet that I have always struggled with my temper.  It would be great if I could blame it on my red hair and Irish heritage, but really it's just a sin problem I've had to work on my whole life.  When I was growing up, my temper would flare and I would lash out verbally to any and all nearby, cutting them to pieces with my rhetoric.  Only in the last few years has the Holy Spirit really started to make a change in me.  I pray almost daily that I am "quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry."

But my temper still flares.  It is hard to explain what it feels like to someone who doesn't struggle with anger.  It's like there's this burning ball of molten rage in the pit of your stomach, and it won't go away.  You don't even want it to go away.  You want to feed it, feed the rage until you can let loose and release the anger on someone, whether they "deserve it" or not.  It is blinding.  I can think of nothing else and I cannot simply sweep it under the rug or set it aside.  It is consuming, like fire.  Today, my temper flared. 

I was already super irritated at my claims adjuster who was supposed to have contacted me about the accident I was in last Monday.  An elderly foreign woman did not see me slowly backing out of my parking space outside my apartment and rammed into my bumper.  She was clearly in the wrong, but I found out today that my slacker adjuster believes I was in the wrong.  If he had done his job and gotten my story and my pictures of the damage, he could have seen for himself that I was right.  So now I'll be paying a deductible and bumming rides off my friends, on top of having to pay for the already broken AC.  I was furious at the injustice.  Ten years of no accidents, not even a parking ticket, and one oblivious woman and an inept claims adjuster changes all of that.  I could not see past my rage.  I typed an angry email to my mom, I had an angry conversation with Bestie, all "venting" about the injustice.  Really I was just throwing temper tantrums.

I sat at my desk and felt like crying.  Yes, because I was angry, but more because I knew I was failing at this trial God had thrown my way.  I didn't want to let go of my anger; I didn't even want to pray.  But it was one of those moments where I knew what was right.  So I prayed that God would take away my anger and help me to handle this situation the way I should, and that I would "consider it all joy."  Then I made myself busy not thinking about it.

Hours later, I sat back down at my desk and felt like crying once more.  But this time it was because I just realized that God had changed my attitude.  Nothing in me wanted to let go of my anger.  But as I sat there, thinking about the "injustice," the anger was gone.  Simply gone!  I still wasn't happy about it, but that burning ball of molten rage was gone, and a peace about "all things work[ing] together for good" prevailed.  I was filled with thankfulness that God would care enough to change my attitude for me, since I obviously did not possess the power to do so myself.  He is so good. 

And you know what's funny?  Not like funny haha, but funny weird?  I was praying in the shower this morning (where most of my best prayers, ideas, and singing voices occur) and prayed for humility.  Even as I prayed it, I hesitated, knowing that God would take me up on that and throw something my way to truly teach me humility, as I had asked.  I cringed inwardly, hoping I was wrong.  But I wasn't.  If I have to bear the guilt for this accident, I will.  I'll know the truth, but I'll try to swallow my pride and simply deal.

So, I failed.  But God won.  Pretty typical, if you ask me. :)

August 16, 2010

There's One in Every Group...

"Seinfeld" relates to all of life, and I don't care what you say to refute that.  Every true fan knows what it's like to make a hilarious, situationally appropriate "Seinfeld" reference and then hear only crickets chirping when the crowd doesn't know what you're talking about.  I hope this isn't one of those times.  One of my favorite quotes comes from George.  He says, "Every group has someone they all make fun of.  Like us with Elaine."  I always thought that was funny... until I realized how true that statement is.  And the fact that I am Elaine.

I think it hit me when we were all at the Applebee's a couple Saturday nights ago.  The Silly Six plus one (my cousin) were enjoying the half price greasy appetizers and we were laughing (as usual).  Then the conversation took a turn for the weird (as usual), and I became the running brunt of the joke (as usual).  I'm not going to lie-- it was still hilarious, but it hit me suddenly that I am the one in the group that everyone makes fun of most often!  I rewound my memories to see if I was right. 

Scene one: playing "Things" with the group.  Recurring "thing"?  Redheads.

Scene two: playing "Things" with the group.  Recurring "thing"?  Amanda, drunk (To keep my reputation unblemished, I would like to point out that I have never been drunk).

Scene three: lunch at the Cheesecake Factory.  Everyone laughs at the fact that Amanda's heart is "the Berlin Wall."

Then I realized there were too many scenes to count.  So I tried to play the guilt card.

"You know, it's just because I'm single.  I'll bet when I'm married you all won't make fun of me all the time."
"No, then I'm pretty sure we'll just have a lot more ammunition!"  Thanks, Bestie's Husband.

I made a face (which doesn't help them not make fun of me, by the way).  I was told there was "just something" about me that made it easy to make fun of me.  Great...?  After discovering my place in the Silly Six, I thought about my other groups of friends.  Did I hold that position in other groups, too?!  I did.  I didn't know whether to be ashamed or amused.

I decided I'd go for amused.  If somebody has to be "someone they all make fun of," I don't mind if it's me.  It's still pretty funny, even if I have to defend myself against ridiculous allegations.  And I love making people laugh, so if it's at my expense... that's okay.  Besides, it's not always me they make fun of.  We're kind of a ruthless group and go for the comedic jugular every now and then.  But meanwhile, I guess I'll still be the one "they all make fun of."  I won't complain too much, because at least there's a "they" to hang out with.  And "they" make me laugh.

Who is it in your group that you all make fun of?  If you don't know... it's probably you.

August 14, 2010

Singles' Guilt...

I've tried to make a habit of being candid here, and today is no exception.  I have struggled with something for many years, and I think I'll call it "singles' guilt."  I don't know if I'm the only one who has experienced this or not, because no one really talks about it.  Except me, who was talking about it randomly with Bestie in the pool today.  It just sort of floated to the surface of my mind and I blurted it out, though there was no real connection between my thoughts and our conversation.

Here's the gist:  my parents have given me maybe not everything I've ever wanted, but certainly everything I've needed and more.  Physically, emotionally, and spiritually, they have given me so much.  I'm able to give them very little-- a phone call, a blog shout-out, wise decisions, holiday gifts, faithfulness to the Lord.  I may be able to give back someday when they are aged, but in the meantime, I wish I could give them more to show how thankful I am for what they've done.  It's my opinion that there is a priceless gift a child can give his/her parents, and that's grandchildren.  I know that my mom especially wants grandchildren, and I simply cannot give her the one gift she really wants.  And so I have singles' guilt.

My parents are great in that they don't poke and prod me about meeting someone, settling down, and having kids.  I think they know I have zero control over that timetable, and I also think they know how much I want the same thing.  Though they don't often voice their hope of grandchildren, I know they must think about it.  Their closest friends' children are having babies, while their own children aren't even dating.

It's one thing to personally feel behind in life and to personally want a husband and children.  That I can deal with, but to feel like the fact that my parents want grandchildren and being absolutely powerless to give them that gift is crippling.  I feel a guilt about it, as if it is somehow my fault that I can't provide that gift for my parents.  I know full well it's irrational, but it's a legit feeling.  Singles' guilt is pretty painful.  I imagine it's something like when a husband loses his job and wants more than anything to provide for his wife and family, but cannot find a job, and he watches his family scrape by painfully but with acceptance.  I would like nothing more than to give the joy and happiness that come with grandchildren to my parents.  But I can't.

I suppose this line of thought came up again from the recesses of my mind because I'm thinking about my dad's retirement.  When I think of retired men, I think of grandpas.  When I think of my dad's retirement, I think of the picture I always had in my mind: Dad on the living room floor, playing army with his grandsons, making explosion noises and explaining war tactics; Mom in the kitchen, making cookies with her granddaughters, getting flour everywhere.  And maybe someday that will be a reality.  Until then however, the pain of singles' guilt gnaws at me every now and then.

As I write this, there are tears on my cheeks (though I do admit I've been more emotional lately than I have in a looooong time), but there is also a song playing from my iTunes.  Here are the lyrics, and they say exactly what I'll do in the meantime:

"While I'm Waiting" by John Waller
I'm waiting
I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am hopeful
I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it is painful
But patiently, I will wait

I will move ahead, bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience
While I'm waiting
I will serve You
While I'm waiting
I will worship
While I'm waiting
I will not faint
I'll be running the race
Even while I wait

I'm waiting
I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am peaceful
I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it's not easy
But faithfully, I will wait
Yes, I will wait

I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting
I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting
I will serve you while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting on You, Lord

August 13, 2010

Though the Miles May Separate...

I have a delightful friend who lives in Texas.  We have been friends for twenty-three years.  Twenty-three years!  Miles have separated us for most of those years, however, but we found a way to stay in touch.  There were summers in her grandparents' basement.  Let me give you a mental snapshot: it's 1997.  Leonardo DiCaprio's photo from "Teen Beat" is pasted to a pole in the basement, and we slow dance with him sometimes.  We also play the soundtrack to Selena, love the Spice Girls, and still play dress-up while creating in-depth dramas.  We are obsessed with Tom Cruise and Leo, and Titanic is AMAZING.  We laugh at anything and everything until we wheeze and cry.

Fast forward several years, and life gets busy.  We go to college-- she for art education, me for education education, and towards the end of our college years, we plan an epic trip to Europe.  Armed with our knowledge of art and history, we take on our favorite city alone: Paris.  Then on to Greece, Italy, Austria, Germany, and France.  It is the adventure of a lifetime.

And then life gets even more busy, and we have real jobs, real lives, and are grown ups.  The visits are less frequent, but somehow we manage through phone calls and facebook.  Finally, after three years apart, we reunite in Texas.  We find that we still have so much in common that it creeps us out a little (I mean, we  buy the same things without realizing it, sometimes at the same time, and we go through similar life experiences at the same time too... it's weird).  We still go antiquing together, and we still inspire each other to new levels of creativity.  And we still laugh until we wheeze and cry.

Though miles will probably continue to separate us for years, our hearts were bound together a long time ago in that inexplicable bond that childhood friends share. 

Who knows where we'll be in three more years, or thirty more years.  But one thing I know: we will always be friends, we will always be there for each other, we will always be family, and we will always laugh until we wheeze and cry.

August 9, 2010

Who Would YOU Want to Win a Date With...

I've got a lot to catch up on with this blog, so there will be frequent posts in the near future.  But for today, I have a simple, lighthearted thought for you.  I love the movie Win a Date With Tad Hamilton.  It's ridiculously cheesy, but I think it realizes it is.  Cute, quotable, and funny, with real re-watchability.  But my thought comes from the two leading men.  There is Topher Grace's character-- the lovable, smart, funny, boy-next-door, and Josh Duhamel's character-- the suave, handsome, charming superstar.  And it got me thinking: there are two kinds of girls in this world: the girls who want a Topher Grace character, and the girls who want a Josh Duhamel character.
I find that not only do I not want the Josh Duhamel character, but I'm not even friends with many women who want that.  Just an observation.  I'm of the Topher Grace persuasion, personally.  So which one, single ladies, do you prefer?  And which one, married friends, did you marry? 

Don't worry, I realize how vapid this post is.  Real posts will follow. :)