Monday, November 29, 2010

Why My Apartment is a Mess (Kind of Always)

When I was a kid, I had the book "What to Do When Your Mom or Dad Says Clean Your Room" by Joy Berry.  This book was part of a series of "how-to" books for kids, and let me tell you that I love "how-to" books.  I don't remember the exacts of the book, but I do remember the basic steps that it gave for room cleaning.

  1. Clear everything off your bed and throw it onto the floor
  2. Make your bed.
  3. Pick everything up off the floor and place on made bed
  4. Vacuum.
  5. Sort items on bed and put them away.
And to this day, this is exactly how I clean my room.  Almost every time.  

I have always been kind of messy.  Not dirty.  I don't leave popcorn bowls next to my bed or half eaten sandwiches on the desk.  I clean things often.  But I am easily distracted, and so I tend to leave small piles of undone things around the house, leaving the whole place looking just a little bit like it needs a little tidying up.  And it does.

Over the years, I have tried to figure out why I could spend an entire day at home, fully intending to clean, only to realize that it's 11 p.m. and I have spent my day reading old journals and magazines from 2007, looking through old photo albums, and changing my Facebook status.  Twice.  So here is what I have discovered.  

First, cleaning isn't fun.  I learned in one of my college classes that I am a Choleric-Sanguine.  This means that I am bossy, but I am fun.  I like to do fun things.  In fact, I almost only like to do fun things.  Cleaning is kind of boring.  It takes time that could be spent doing other things.  The other part of being Sanguine is that if I have to do unfun things, I would rather do it with someone else there to entertain me.  I get basically nothing accomplished if I am alone.  This is very unfortunate since I live alone.  I don't need help, I just need someone to talk to.  So, it turns out that I don't need a cleaning lady... I just need a talking one.  

Second, I am not a perfectionist (if I were, my house would be clean), but I like for things to be done right.  And the right way is my way.  At least here at my house.  So I like for the clothes in my "shirt" closet to be sorted by sleeve length and color.  If that can't be done in the short amount of time I have to clean, I just don't do it at all.  Right now I have two Rubbermaid containers of scrapbooking supplies that have been sitting next to my couch for three weeks because I have no idea where they would fit perfectly.  And so they sit.  If you can't do it right, don't do it at all.  

As I write this, I am looking around at my apartment and thinking that it could probably be unmessy in about one solid hour of work.  Only one.  And yet here I am, sitting at my computer because it is more fun.  But don't worry, I have about 20 books on how to keep a house organized.  I know all of the Fly-Lady's cleaning techniques, even if I rarely implement them.  I have an index card box on my kitchen counter that contains daily household tasks, though I will probably continue to ignore it.  But here in just a minute, after I eat breakfast and have plenty of energy, I will plug my ipod into the stereo and play the funnest music I can possibly find.  I will pretend that I am competing for a gold medal in speed cleaning (cause that's kind of fun, right?).  I will get this place looking fabulous because it is my day off, and it is what a responsible adult should do.

But if you ever come over to see me, and you find a clean floor and a perfectly made bed covered with a mountain of clothing the size of Everest, don't judge.  I am in the process of cleaning.     

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Julie Getting Married?

Oh yes, you read that right.  I made plans to get married.  I haven't heard from the groom in a while.  Years, actually.  The last time we talked in person, though, that was the plan.  Confused?  I was too, for a little while.  Sit back and let me tell you the long, long story of how I became estranged from my Mr. Right.

Scene 1
Setting: Baptist Bible College, Springfield, Missouri 
Year: 1995

I met him during my sophomore year in college.  I was 18.  He was handsome.  He had big muscles.  At 18, you kind of always go after handsome with big muscles.  He played basketball.  I was a cheerleader.  He grew up in Germany with missionary parents.  I took German in high school while living in New Zealand with my missionary parents.  We were meant to be.  After one "date" he decided that he didn't want to go out with me. (I think we hung out one afternoon and he kissed me.... yes, on the first date.  Don't judge.  Remember that whole speck/plank thing?)  So, I was momentarily broken hearted until I found out that he had other girls he was hanging out with (and kissing) all at the same time.  In fact, I forged a friendship with a couple of the girls he had kissed, and we bonded over our mutual misfortune of having fallen for him.  I also became good friends with his sister, and we spent plenty of time together so that I didn't really even miss him.  I moved on.

Scene 2
Setting: Nashville, Tennessee
Year: 2000

I was teaching at a private school, living my life when my brother told me that this blast from my past was going to be at a missions conference at my brother's church.  My brother and I shared an apartment, but we attended different churches.  So my Mr. Germany was coming to town.  I had mixed emotions, but I made plans to attend the meeting where he would be preaching.  I went.  He preached.  He was still handsome, still muscular, and still single. The following three weeks were kind of a blur.  He stayed in town for a week or so, and he made his intentions clear.  After the first few days of flirting, he starting talking about serious things.  Marriage.  Mission fields.  I was skeptical.  He had broken my heart (however slightly) 5 years before.  I wasn't sure if he could be trusted.  He told me that he had some meetings to preach in Florida and would be gone for two weeks, but he was going to use Nashville as a temporary home base and would be back.  And so he went.  And so I waited.  I didn't hear from him much while he was gone, but after two weeks he flew back and I happily picked him up at the airport.  Then he started talking details.  He was on furlough so he had churches to visit.  The plan was, though, that he would be back to Tennessee in November (this was September) and he wanted me to fly back with him afterward to his sending church in Texas and meet his pastor.  Then at Christmas, I would go to Germany with him to see if I liked it.  We would go from there.  He left me with the appropriate sentiment of two people in a serious relationship.  Hugs and goodbyes were exchanged, and he drove away to California to return a car he had borrowed for his furlough.  

I never heard from him again.  I called his cell phone, and he never answered.  I left voicemail and got no response.  I emailed but got nothing.  They always say that no news is good news.  Probably not when you are planning to marry someone.  

Thankfully, I had been guarded a little to begin with.  I was surprised but not devastated.  I didn't waste any time looking at Bride's magazines and picking out honeymoon locations.  

He is now my Facebook friend.  He didn't have the decency to officially dump me, but he did accept my virtual friend request.  If he were an active Facebooker, I would harass him endlessly about our upcoming nuptials.  After all, if an engagement plan is never called off, isn't it still an engagement plan?  I would pick out flower arrangements and post them on his wall for his approval.  I would ask if he wants to wear a black suit or a tuxedo.  I would send him invitation samples and ask how to spell his parents' names, just to make sure I get it right on the final printing.  We would definitely have German chocolate cake as the groom's cake.  I mean, it only makes sense, right?  

I don't waste time thinking about it.  I am not sad or angry or bitter.  It gave me a fun story to tell you.  But really, if any of you that known him ever talk to Mr. Germany, could you please tell him to call his fiance?


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Three Chords and the Truth

I have awesome parents.  While other kids might have lived in a house with a piano, we lived in a house where banging on the piano was encouraged.  My dad played, and we were allowed to sit down at any time and try our hand at it.  I learned to pick out the melody of songs at an early age.  Eventually, I learned how to add chords with my left hand, and I could play identifiable songs.  I learned that if you play in C, you will also be playing in F and G and maybe Am and Dm.  G came with C and D.  Three chords.  Easy stuff.  I listened to records to try to replicate what I heard.  Those hours of banging on the family piano paid off.  I am by no means a great musician, but I can play the piano and I have my parents to thank.

My dad always wrote songs.  He would take classic country songs and change the words to tell Bible stories or to tell of church life.  "Please Help Me, I'm Falling" became the story of Goliath and Eutychus.  "The Battle of New Orleans" became a song about Jonah.  "King of the Road" was renamed "King of the Church" and tells about the man found in most every church that feels like he owns it.    I grew up thinking that it was normal for people to write their own songs.  So when I was 8, I did it.

We were on deputation somewhere in Texas.  My sister Kari and I sat down at the piano at a little church, and we began to make up words and a tune.  We used Christian lines and cliches and pieced together a masterpiece of a song.  "Why Did You Die?".  It was a song about Jesus, not a morbid song about an unexpected death. We took it to our dad, and we sang it for him.  Apparently, he liked it enough to allow us to sing it in church.  We only sang it once, but it was a proud moment.  We had written our first song.

For whatever reason, song writing didn't stick with me then.  It's a good thing because in retrospect, that first song was terrible.  I am sure we would have just created embarrassing memories.  But when I was 23, I got my heart broken.  Really broken.  I had just lost my job, and I consoled myself by dating someone who was all wrong for me.  And eventually, he figured it out and took off to Florida (giving me no notice) to live with an ex-girlfriend.  It was a sad day.  But I lived in Nashville.  And when you live in Nashville, you learn very quickly that a sad experience can easily be turned into a sad song.  So I did it.  I bought a guitar, learned to play it, and I wrote my first sad country song.  

That was ten years ago, and I have added to my collection of songs.  They are not all sad, and thankfully, they are not all country.  I have grown and changed and so has the music that I write.  It's been a while now since I have written anything.  I was beginning to think that the shallow well of mediocre songs had run dry.  But alas, it has not.  A week ago, my dad read something from Isaiah 30, and it got stuck in my head.  I came home, took out my guitar, and I quickly finished two verses of a song that I could be proud of.  Two nights ago, I took out my Bible and my guitar, and I wrote a bridge.  Done and done.  Song is finished.  What will I do now?  I don't know.  Sing it at home.  Play it after I do my Bible study for the day.  Play it at an open mic night.  I don't write songs to be famous.  I write songs because they are there in my head, and they have to get out.  I write songs because I had great parents that told me I could.  And I occasionally write songs to get back at ex-boyfriends who leave me for a sleazy girl that lives in Florida (and eventually gets dumped by the girl and gets exactly what he deserves).  

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

You are such a Dorcas Tucker

When my sister Ashlae was just a toddler, she learned a very bad word.  It's the kind of word that still makes me cringe even today.  I hate it.  It's a racist word, and honestly, I have no idea where she learned it.  I just know that if she was out in public and got angry at one of us, we could be assured that the offending word was going to come out of her mouth.  Loudly.  This word is not acceptable anywhere, but in Houston, Texas, it was especially dangerous.  We came up with a creative solution.  We taught Ashlae that the word "person" was a bad word.  She quickly made the switch, ditching the truly bad word and calling us a "person" every time we upset her.
Name-calling was not allowed in our house.  I am sure we did our share of it behind our parents' backs.  With six kids in a family, name-calling is bound to happen.  After watching the movie Annie, we started calling each other pig droppings, and my mother eventually banned us from watching it.   (Pig droppings is kind of a hilarious thing to say)  We were smart, though.  We kept little bribes up our sleeves, and we would negotiate our way out of situations when a sibling threatened to tattle.  Stupid idiot, I believe, was my favorite thing to say.  It kind of still is.  Drive with me, and you will find out.
But somewhere along the way, we latched onto funny names of real, actual people and adopted them as names to call one another.  A particularly annoying pastor's kid named Esther became "Pesty Esty", and it became the thing to call a sibling that was being irritating.  My Mom worked with a woman named Dorcas Tucker, God bless the poor woman.  We loved this name so much that we still use it to refer to anyone that is weird.  I am sure that Dorcas would be devastated if she knew how often we have used her name in vain.  Let's hope she doesn't read my blog.  A missionary's wife named Roxy became "Foxy Roxy" (the last name was always included, but has been omitted for privacy purposes.  It did, however, go splendidly with the whole thing, making it extra fun to say)  That name was mostly reserved for women with huge hair.  Senorita Sexy Pants was another great name we gave to a rather bosomy church lady, despite the fact that she was not Hispanic and her pants were never all that sexy.  It became the name for anyone overdressed and overdone. 
I think I have outgrown my name calling days.  (Unless, as I mentioned, I am driving)  I haven't called anyone a Pesty Esty in, oh, probably 25 years.  I haven't even thought of Foxy Roxy in probably 15 years, until my mom brought her up today.  My mother assures me that these things make our family fun, not weird.  That's a mother talking, though.  She loves us, even if we are Dorcas Tuckers from time to time.  So the moral of this story is... well, nothing.  There is no moral, no real point.  But if my sister Ashlae ever calls you a person, just know you have made her really, really mad.  

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Times They Are A-Changin'

I can't relate to people who have lived in the same town their whole lives.  It is the plight of the missionary kid, I suppose, to feel like you have multiple homes, but you are never quite at home in any of them.  By the time I was a teenager, I had moved more than most people move in a lifetime.  I changed schools, homes, friends, continents.  I should be used to change.  You would think that it would be second nature, but I still hate it.  I know it's good and helpful and can bring about better things, but I still don't like it.

If you could take a snapshot of my life four years ago, and compare it to what it looks like right now, there would be little to no resemblance.  Four years ago I was married with five kids (four nephews and a stepdaughter).  I was a second grade teacher.  I was about 12 pounds lighter.  I had longer hair.  I lived in Tennessee.  I had a tiny little house that was filled with school uniforms, legos, and children's books.  I did at least two loads of laundry a day.  I would have given my right arm for a few hours to myself with nothing to do.  Now I live in Texas.  I am in a tiny little apartment that is filled with books, musical instruments, and my latest estate sale finds.  I rarely do laundry, and I get away with it just fine.  I have endless amounts of time to myself, and I would give my right arm for someone to be responsible for.  

The thing about life is that once you adjust to one change, something else changes and then you must adjust to the new one.  I was mostly adjusted to single life in Texas when I met Tim.  Then we started dating and I adjusted to that.  And now, a year later, we are no longer dating and I am readjusting to single life in Texas. It just keeps going.  My routine of hanging out on Tuesdays and Saturdays has been thrown off.  Today I had no idea what to do with myself after I was finished working at the church.  Normally, I would meet Tim for lunch, and then we would go find something interesting to do.   Thankfully, I only had a few hours to fill today before going to a family dinner, but you know what?  Next Tuesday and Saturday are already out there waiting for me.  They will have hours in them that need to be filled with activity.  You know what else?  I will find a way to fill them.  I will figure something out.  I will not console myself with Ben and Jerry's because I have a Weight Watchers goal that I have to meet.  I will play music and I will write some sad songs.  Break-ups are good for that at least.  And I will go to the gym.  I have been neglecting that.  I will drive to Fort Worth and play music on the cold street corner with my little brother.  We have been talking about that for a while.  I will find someone else to attend the Weepies concert with me.  I will take the trip to Tennessee that I have been planning.  I will fly to Orlando to see my best bud.  I will pray, and I will read my Bible even if I don't feel like it.  At all.  And tonight, I will get an extra hour of sleep, because even though most change is not easy, it is not always bad.      

Monday, November 1, 2010

Biscuits, Jello, and Corn Cob Babies or Why You Should Call Your Grandmother

My MaMa (pronounced Maw maw, but apparently, we are too refined to spell it that way) has been sick.  Last Sunday, she suffered what turned out to be a mild heart attack, although any heart attack at 88 seems like it should not be paired with the word "mild".  Over the last week, she has been sad and then deliriously happy and then back to sad again.  She can barely hear, so she accuses the nurses of being unfriendly and of not answering her questions.  She can't seem to get a handle on the time and date so she has been ready for bed at 10 a.m. and talking about how busy the weekend must be, even though it was actually Thursday.  

My dad's mother, Kathryn Elizabeth O'Dell, is quite the storyteller, and because she grew up in what seems like another world, it's a good thing she is.  I have great memories of being piled up on her hide-a-bed with Craig and Kari and Jana and listening to her tell about the time she was washing underwear in a water bucket beside the well house and a pair of panties accidentally fell into the well.  Oh, I just hope she was finished washing them.  She told a story about two families in her neighborhood that traveled to see when the local black family had a baby.  They had never seen a black baby before and were just too curious.  She went to school in a one room schoolhouse through the eighth grade.  During the colder months, the boys would build fires in the little pot-bellied stove, and she would warm her shoes next to it.  Her dad cut logs to put over the creek so that she and her brothers could cross on the way to school, but wouldn't cross alone and depended on her brother Robert to help her across.  She picked cotton, did her homework on the back of bank calendars, used Sears and Roebuck catalog pages as toilet paper, and played with corn cob baby dolls, baptizing them into the family of God in the animal trough.

At seventeen she married a man she didn't know, secretly taught herself to drive while her husband worked and her young children played in the yard, and she has watched the world change into something she can't keep up with.  She has never used the internet, although I keep telling her that I will help her, if she wants.  She doesn't own an ipod and has never DVR'd anything.   She would watch the Game Show Network exclusively, I believe, although her favorite has always been Wheel of Fortune.   She makes great homemade biscuits and yeast rolls, and when her grandkids were younger, she kept little gray Tupperware parfait cups of jello in her refrigerator.  Those were my favorite.  

She is the only grandparent I have left, and I am sad that my kids probably won't know her.  She will be eighty-nine in December, and though she is mostly healthy, she has been talking about it being her "turn" to go for years.  Right now she is sitting in a rehab facility waiting to regain a little strength so that she will be able to return to my parents' house, where she lives.  I am going to go visit her in a little while.  I might take my guitar, and if it won't wake up her roommate, I might play something.  I don't know how much longer she will be this alert, this healthy, and this alive.  So I will take advantage of it.  If you are lucky enough to have grandparents here on the earth, I encourage you to do the same.


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