Sunday, October 24, 2010

Charmed, I'm sure

I have a little piano I wear on my arm.  And a tiny Hawaiian pineapple.  And a princess crown.  Seems like a strange place for them, I know.  They make noise when I wear them.  They sing a little jangling song when I move my arm.  They are very disruptive during church invitations.  The occasionally snag my favorite sweaters.  But I forgive them and let them stay.  The piano and the pineapple and the crown are joined by others. There are hearts and a silver fern and a palm tree, all reminders of places I have been and things I have loved and people I have loved even more.  

The state of Texas hangs there to remind me of where I come from and the reason for my love of big hair.  There is a sand dollar that speaks to being home in Corpus Christi, Texas, and walking along the beach with one of my favorite high school friends.  There is a little silvery pagoda that brings back memories of my two month adventure in China, of playing Chinese jumprope with kids that I could not understand and trying to sample their seaweed snack offerings without gagging.  I think of walking at night through the village of Baisha, watching the families relax on the grass in the center of town.  Motorcycle taxis, pirated DVDs, tai chi, water buffalo, and cashew chicken.  I can't think of China without thinking of cashew chicken. 

There is a tiny little cheerleader with her pom pons in the air.  I don't care that I haven't been a cheerleader since 1997.  You can mock cheerleaders if you want, but I loved cheering.  I would be a cheerleader still if it were a respectable, grown-up thing to do (and if I still had the legs for it).  I have a little flag that has "Chicago" stamped across the top, a reminder of two of the funnest trips ever and three of my most fabulous friends ever.  It makes me miss the city and the friends. One of my favorites, and the oldest of the group, is a little wood burning stove that an 8-year-old me chose as a souvenir from the Alamo.  I have no recollection of the logic behind that choice.  I have nine hearts that were original, and I believe were supposed to hang alone, before I went places and did things that required remembering.  There is an ichthus with a cross inside that reminds me of who I am and why I am.  

I don't wear it that often.  After all, sweaters are valuable, and I try to keep my church service disruption to a minimum.  But sometimes I do wear it.  There is not much space left, but I intend to keep adding to it until it fills right up.  It reminds me that I have been places, and I have done things.  I have loved and I have been loved back.  And if I were to die today (and Lord knows I hope I don't) I would say that I lived well.  Don't believe me?  I have the charm bracelet to prove it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Oil slicks and Aqua Net- My Year as a Misfit.

In 1988, I wanted my middle name to be Alyssa.  Thank you, Who's the Boss.  I had a massive crush on Kirk Cameron, going so far as to make my own Kirk Cameron stickers with tiny pictures I cut out of the TV Guide.  I wasn't allowed to shave my legs until I turned 12, so for most of sixth grade I wore really long culottes to cover them up, as if wearing really long culottes was cooler than hairy legs.  I spent my spare time playing the DOS version of Wheel of Fortune on the school's computer.  I had been out of the country for several years so I was completely out of touch with American culture.  I wasn't allowed to wear makeup.  I didn't know what the cool kids were doing.  I didn't even know that I wasn't one of the cool kids.  I was a sight.  Sixth grade was the peak of my ugly stage.  My social, emotional, and physical roads all converged at the height of their weirdness.  Maybe this happens for everyone, but I know for sure it happened for me that year.

We returned to the United States from New Zealand on July 18, 1988.  I was so happy to be home.  Oreo cookies, M&M's, and Taco Bell bean burritos were the things I remember missing specifically.  I mean, family and friends, and all that, too.  But seriously, I missed the food.  I don't know what happened that we missed the first week or so of school, but somewhere in late August, our family of 7 (with one on the way) landed in Texas City, Texas.  Our temporary home was a 32' Salem travel trailer, with teeny little closets and bunk beds in the back.  A church in Texas City, which also housed a school, invited us to park our trailer next to the church, a full-time parking place for our temporary home.  So if all of my personal quirks weren't enough to alienate me from my peers, the sight of my singing gypsy family showing up a week late for school in our travel trailer would do the trick.  Most of my clothes were still in New Zealand, and I remember going with my mom to Weiner's (a terribly named clothing store that you have probably never heard of if you are not from Houston, Texas) and buying one denim skirt and two shirts for school.  And so I started sixth grade.  

I noticed that most of the girls had perms and really huge bangs.  Not me.  My hair was long and straight and pulled back tight with a barrette and securely sprayed with Aqua Net.  One of the older boys told my brother that I looked like I fell in an oil slick on my way to school.  Thankfully, I didn't learn this until years later.  (But really, Paul Campbell, that was a jerk face thing to say about an 11 year old)  Despite my awkwardness and bad hair, I made friends.  I didn't excel in looks or fashion, but I was smart.  I worked really hard to make good grades.  I was innovative.  When the school wouldn't buy uniforms to have Junior Varsity cheerleaders, I asked my mom to make us spirit sweatshirts with puff paint bear paws on the front.  I was living the American sixth grade dream, whatever that is.
Then came school picture time.  This is the time of year when everything that you are during a certain grade is captured for all to see.  I don't even know if I knew it was picture day.  Probably not.  On the weekends, our family traveled and reported back to our supporting churches, and we often got home late on Sunday nights, making it difficult to keep things together school-wise.  I am almost positive that picture day fell on a Monday.  I cried when I got my pictures back.  My parents paid for them,  I brought them home in my backpack, and there they stayed until I found a good place to hide them.  I think it was the first time that I saw myself and actually compared myself to other people.  I was ugly.  The white envelope from Gibby's Photography was sealed in 1988, and was not opened until last night.  I dug it out and opened it up.  I didn't see what I saw in 1988.  I saw a regular little girl.  Yes, I looked like I was missing a few teeth, my hair was frizzy, and I have what appears to be a large blemish on my right cheek.  But who cares?  I was only 11. 

That was the year that I learned to wear makeup.  I finally was allowed to shave my legs.  I cut my bangs and learned the fine art of teasing.  I got over Kirk Cameron and transferred my affections to sweet, baby-faced Joey McIntyre.  The end of the school year brought a class water balloon fight, where I proudly wore my knee-length yellow shorts to show off my hair free legs.  My favorite part and the culmination of a year's worth of hard work, though, was the school awards banquet.  My mother sewed a teal taffeta dress for me that I paired with teal pumps.  I had huge 80's bangs and a side ponytail.  Topping off my transformation was the award that I received that night- I had earned the highest grade average in the whole school.  97.9, the highest in all of Kindergarten through 12th grade.  This was a huge deal for this dorky little home-schooled missionary kid.  It was a big night. 

Given the choice between smart and pretty, I will always choose smart.  But on this one magical night in Texas City, Texas, wearing a wrist corsage, white pantyhose, and a smile so big that you could barely see my eyes, I got to be both.  

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Never Watch Star Wars, I will

*I realize that I am starting most blogs with random fact about myself.  I promise to change things up but not today.  Bear with me, please.

I have never seen Star Wars.  Practically every boy that I have dated swears that he will be the one to cure me of this.  Guess what?  I win.  Still never seen it, and I clasp my hands together and shake them in the air from side to side in victory, like it matters.   I also missed E.T., Ghostbusters, Stand by Me, and Nightmare on Elm Street.    There are movies that I didn't see back then but caught up with later in life... When Harry Met Sally, Big, Rainman, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off.  What was I doing in the 70's and 80's? Um, being not born, then being a baby, then not having a television, then being a missionary kid and being a dork.  (Those last two go hand in hand, I believe)  I think that sums it up.

Then came Netflix.  Actually, then came VCR's, home computers, dial up internet service, broadband, and then netflix.  But eventually, there was Netflix.  Never would I have imagined that I would be able turn on my television and choose from thousands of movie titles and tv shows for only $9 a month.  So, for an exciting change of pace, I will share with you my top five favorite movies that I can think of right now.  (I add this because I am sure that after I write this, I will hate this list and think of others that should be on it)  I know, you are so thrilled.  Go ahead, get out your pen and paper and write these down. 

1. Life is Beautiful- I want to tell you that this movie is in Italian.  Even if you hate subtitles, see the Italian version.  There is an English version which is just horrible, the English voice has a sad little Italian accent, and of course the lips and voices are doing different things.  Horrible.  Don't do it.  I will also tell you that for the first 30-45 minutes of this movie, you might hate it.  You might hate me, but stick with it.  It's a beautiful story about a Jewish father who protects his son from the truth of work camps.  I cry every time I watch it.  I promise that you will want to tell everyone you know about this movie.

2. Pride and Prejudice, the 6 hour BBC version.  I am sorry.  I am just a girl who loves Colin Firth, even though the picture of him from some awards show with a teeny little mustache was just creepy.  I watched this before I read the book.  I was not a Jane Austen fan when I started.  I am now.  And a 6 hour movie might seem insane, but it was originally a mini-series so it's broken up reasonable well.  Jennifer Ehle is a perfect Elizabeth Bennett.  She makes Keira Knightley's Pride and Prejudice performance look like amateur hour. 

3. I am Sam.  This might be one of the best sad movies I have ever seen.  And Beatles covers by Ben Folds, Sarah McLachlan, Ben Harper, and the Wallflowers.  Throw in Dakota Fanning and Michelle Pfeiffer... what's not to love?

4. The Incredibles.  Yes, I said the Incredibles.  We bought this for my nephews when they were living with me, and I have seen this movie a million times.  In fact, for a 12 month period, Cameron assigned each family member an Incredibles character.  Of course, they had to double up because they all wanted to be Dash.  Baby Cody didn't care that he had to be Jack-Jack.  My step-daughter Lindi was Violet.  I, of course, was Elastigirl.  So maybe I love it because it reminds me of being a mother.  Or maybe it reminds me of my inner superhero.  Either way, it's equally entertaining for kids and adults, and it belongs on the list.

5. That Thing You Do.  Do not judge me here.  I love the Oh-nee-ders.  And the Wonders.  Matching suits, catchy music, Liv Tyler's outfits, Steve Zahn, and Tom Hanks.  I would love Tom Hanks if he filmed a movie reading cookbooks or dictionaries.  (I do hope he never stoops to doing this) So if the name Cap'n Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters doesn't ring a bell for you, you should watch this movie.

I never claimed to have stellar taste in movies.  Music, I definitely claim stellar taste.  Movies, probably not so much.  I blame the fact that my formative years were virtually movie-free.  And our bonus feature is a short list of movies that I am embarrassed to love.

1. Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves
2. 13 Going on 30
3. Beaches
4. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
5. While You Were Sleeping

Thank you for reading.  Be sure to check back later for more useless information about me.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dancing in the Minefields

I was married once.  Most people know this, but it's fun to reconnect with college friends on Facebook and watch as they try to piece together the story without coming right out and asking.  Of course, people think it's rude to ask, but I am kind of open book.  I don't mind at all.  I got married almost exactly 7 years ago.  It was one of the happiest days of my life.  I got married outside on a 70 degree day in October with beautiful blue skies, even though they called for rain.  I had a bounce house and a cotton candy machine and blackberry pie and a bluegrass band, and I was happy.  Wedding days should be happy. Let me tell you, though, that weddings are more fun than marriages.  Nobody really tells you that ahead of time.  No one tells you that once you are married, it is possible to feel hatred for your husband to the same degree that you once felt love.  People say that marriage is work, but they don't tell you that it's work that you often don't feel like doing.  We aren't properly warned, and maybe there is a reason for that.  Maybe if we had any idea how much work it was going to take, we wouldn't dream of saying "I do".  I think that maybe the reason I was so happy on that bright October day is that I didn't know what was coming.

I got married for lots of reasons.  I was 26, which seemed like a responsible age to be married.  I had dated enough to know what I didn't want.  I wanted kids.  He was a nice guy.  He was handsome.  He knew how to fix things that boys are supposed to know how to fix.  He had a spiritual sensitivity that made up for what he lacked in spiritual maturity.  He was financially responsible and secure.  He had a daughter and was a loving, involved parent.  It seemed like the right thing and the right time.  I was going to be a wonderful wife, and he was going to be a fabulous husband.  We were destined to be happy.

What I didn't know, though, was that marriage is sort of like a flashlight that reveals the damage from a sin nature and a lifetime of hurts.  It shines on your ugliest tendencies and habits and emotions, and little by little, the cracks and flaws began to show.  He wasn't a fabulous husband all the time, and I certainly wasn't a wonderful wife.  I realized that I was far more selfish than I ever believed.  I discovered that I was quick to anger.  I could say hurtful things with little to no provocation.  I had lived my whole life believing that I was a nice person, that I was good in relationships, that I could communicate effectively.  Then I got married and learned that I was wrong.  Every wound, every hurt, every insecurity I carried into the marriage lay in wait to be triggered.  Once they were triggered, well... love really was a battlefield.  

In the end, both of us were to blame.  Anyone who places full blame for a divorce on the other person is either lying or delusional.  After 5 1/2 years of trying to make it work, though sometimes one-sided and sometimes half-hearted, we divorced.  I still fight the feeling that I am a failure.  I still get a little sad when I think about the promise that we chose not to keep.

If the chance to get married ever comes around again, I have an idea of what I am getting into.  I am smarter.  I am more realistic.  I have identified some of those flaws, and God has healed so many of my broken places.  I know there are more, and I will wait patiently as he fixes those, too.  I do believe that I will have another one of those happiest days of my life.  I will do without the bounce houses and the bluegrass band.  I will definitely buy another overpriced white dress.  I will pay whatever it costs to hire a great photographer.  I will fold a thousand Japanese origami birds because I think they are so cute.  More important, though, I will work to give a soft answer.  I will say that I am sorry, even when I don't feel sorry.  I will practice James 1:19 and maybe have it tattooed on my arm.  (Don't worry, Mom, I am not really going to get a tattoo)  As difficult as it was, if God is willing, I will do it again.  I will go dancing in the minefields.  I am not afraid.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Cheesecake and Hankies and Blog Titles... my life of crime and thievery.

I have never liked life on the edge.  I remember having friends in middle school that would steal popsicles ("ice blocks" in New Zealand) to see if they could get away with it.  No way.  Not me.  Not because I am an angel, but because the thought of being caught and punished scared me to death.  Even so, one of the most embarrassing stories (and most often repeated) of my childhood is the stolen cheesecake story.  I have always hated the cheesecake story, but honestly, as the years have passed, it has lost its power.  People hear it and shrug their shoulders.  That's because they didn't know 11 year old me.  11 year old me and 33 year old me are nothing alike.  11 year old me was awkward and shy.  I promise I was shy.  The only people who ever believe that I was once shy are the people who were there to see it.  Here it is, though, in all it's glory.  Friends, I present to you the Cheesecake Story.

I don't know how I got invited.  My brother Craig, my sister Kari, and her best friend Rachel were going.  I think we had to have an adult with us, and so Rachel's mother, Mrs. Rolston, went too.  The plan was to take a coffee cruise on the Lakeland Queen, a boat that toured around Lake Rotorua.  I felt very grown up to be included in these plans.  I dressed in my pink skirt, white shirt, and yellow suspenders, and headed out for a day of fun.  I remember most of the details of this day vividly.  We boarded the boat, and Craig took out his camera to take pictures.  Craig was always taking pictures.  I modeled and smiled and gave my best far off look.  After the picture taking, we went downstairs for coffee.  This was the coffee cruise, the discounted one hour cruise.  There was coffee and scones and cheesecake.  I love cheesecake.  As Craig was helping himself to the coffee and scones, I grabbed some cheesecake and went to sit down. When I sat at our table, Kari's eyes got really big, and she informed me that the cheesecake was not included in our ticket price.  I was 11.  I had no money.  I don't think I had even paid for my own discounted fare.  I wanted to throw up.  I had just stolen a piece of cheesecake.  I had to think fast, so I pretended that I didn't want it anyway.  Let me insert here that my sister Kari thought this was hilarious.  She made a much bigger deal out of it than was necessary, and she is certainly the most common repeater of this story.  Craig took the stolen cheesecake to the server and told him I didn't know that it wasn't free and then it was over.  End of story, right?  Nope.  I spent the rest of the cruise with my head resting on the table, pretending to have a stomachache and on the verge of tears.  But that wasn't my first accidental theft.

My first accidental theft was maybe a year before the cheesecake incident.  My mom and I were in a department store, and my mom asked me to hold something for her.  To the best of my recollection, it was a package of handkerchiefs.  I asked my mother and she doesn't even remember the incident so there is no one to argue with me.  It was handkerchiefs.  Anyway, I held them as she shopped.  Then we left, and I still held them.  Halfway down the street, I realized that I was still holding the handkerchiefs.  I was a thief.  Different story, same ending.  I wanted to throw up and cry.  My siblings laughed and wanted to tell everyone they knew.

Yesterday, I logged into Facebook, and I saw that a friend had written a new blog.  This friend is one of the funniest friends I have.  She is such a creative, relatable writer.  She makes the most mundane things entertaining.  I read her latest blog, and then looked to the left to see comments that people had made.  That's when I saw it.  It said "Comments for Where My Girls At", and for a split second, I was 11 again.  I had stolen her blog title and not even realized it.  For a brief moment, I was afraid to click on it, fearing that I had ripped off her title and maybe even her whole blog entry.  What if the whole blog that I thought was mine was really just hers, rewritten with my own personal details?  But thank heavens, I am 33, and so 33 year old me clicked on it to find that the content was completely different.  So I laughed out loud at my unintentional thievery and sent her a message to thank her for the borrowed title.  It also gave me something to write about today, so thanks, Caryn Grey Thexton, for being creative and copy-worthy.  If my next blog is about having a Bob Mackie Barbie, and marrying a guy named Larry, you can sue me.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Weight Watcher's Biggest Loser

Since January of 2007, I have probably lost a total of 50 pounds on Weight Watchers, maybe more.  For six months, I counted, calculated, and measured every little thing that went into my mouth, and I lost 16 pounds to get me to my goal weight.  I was so excited.  My clothes fit again, and I didn't feel gross.  Then I went through a divorce and gained that back.  Then I moved to Texas.  For those of you who do not live here, let me tell you this.  For all that Texas lacks in changing seasons, mountaintop views, and humility, we do have the best Mexican food on the planet.  (Hey, I told you we lacked humility)  Handmade tortillas, cheesy enchiladas covered in chili sauce, and the best chips and salsa anywhere.  So I gained some more.  And for the two years that I have lived here, I have joined and rejoined Weight Watchers probably 6 times.  The check-in ladies know my name.  They have watched as I have gained and lost the same 9 pounds over and over again.  They are always encouraging, but I am waiting for the day that they tell me to give, that my current weight is fine.  Some day, they will refuse to take my money or let me weigh in.    

It's Monday morning, though.  Monday is the miniature New Year's Day.  Everything could change this week.  There is so much possibility in the next 7 days.  This could be the week where I finally decide to make use of the unused electronic food scale sitting on my kitchen counter.  I might have salads for lunch and actually go to the gym.  I could cook every meal at home and not have dessert.  I might skip Starbucks, and go for a walk instead.  I might end this week 3 pounds lighter than I started.  C'mon, girls.  It's Monday.  Who's with me? 


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