December 11, 2012

confessions of a recovering scrooge...

I used to like Christmas.

I used to love Christmas.

As a child, I never slept much on Christmas Eve.  I'd sneak up to the living room after the family had gone to bed, and I would sit in front of the tree (which we left the lights on all night, just that night), and sing all about that baby in a manager.

Christmas was magical, and filled with fun times, special visits, and of course, presents.

Even as I got older, I still had a hard time sleeping.  I still loved the twinkle of lights and the baking and wrapping that went on.

And then, the magic was shattered.

It happened in stages, but shattered is shattered.

From suddenly having a broken home (and trust me, getting "two" Christmas' is not nearly as fun as it sounds, when there is the tension of having to split time and affections, not to mention wanting to have gifts for your siblings at both places), and then having parents out of state who still wanted to do Christmas together, to the final straw of working retail.  It shattered.

And like Humpty Dumpty, all the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put my love of Christmas together again.

With the retail world pushing Christmas earlier and earlier, it's no real surprize that it pushed me over the edge.  They started playing Christmas music in October.  Thanksgiving barely got a nod.  And with such overkill, can you blame a girl for suddenly becoming both Scrooge AND the Grinch?  I don't blame me one bit.

But I left the retail world in 2010.  I spent that first Thanksgiving blissfully NOT shopping.  And I didn't do a lick of decorating for Christmas.  Sure, I still bought gifts, and wrapped them up nice.  But I wasn't going to sing a Christmas song until the very day.  The next year I was a bit better, allowing the music for a week ahead of time, but no more.

Trust me, when you've heard every bad version of The Christmas Song, you are ready to start setting heads to rolling!

But this year I felt like I needed Christmas.  I didn't need it in October or even November, but my heart needs Christmas now.  What I need most is not the presents or the trees, the lights or the music.  What I need is the reason we celebrate.  I need Jesus.

I've had a hard year--and trust me, I know it's not the hardest year of the people I know, I'm not special in this regard.  But it's been rough.  This month is beating me up pretty bad between the overtime and the grief, and the general feeling of suffocating that I get from my life these days.

So I need Christmas.  I need to remember that in a dirty stable halfway around the world, many years ago, God decided to come to earth.  He came to walk among us, to be with us.  To touch us and love us and weep with us and for us.

I need that Jesus.

So this year, when the thing at the top of my list is never going to happen this side of heaven, I am trying to reconnect with Christmas.  I am trying to remember that the presents under my tree (the tree I dug out of storage and actually decorated) represent the gift God gave us.  I'm trying to remember that the words behind the songs mean something.  And I'm trying not to let the sadness that I feel for both myself and my friends who are struggling with life and all it can throw at us get me down.

I need Christmas.  I need to sit by my tree and sing songs late into the night.  I need to know that somewhere in all this mess, there is joy.

Maybe next year I'll tackle going to the mall...

November 26, 2012

life lessons from the gambler...

About a week ago I was chatting with a co-worker about the upcoming holiday (Thanksgiving, for those who have been sleeping lately).  This co-worker had shared earlier in the day that this time of year is really hard for her family because her dad died 17 years ago on Thanksgiving weekend, and his birthday was at the end of November.  She also mentioned that it was her grandparents 65th wedding anniversary, but that they haven't celebrated it in 17 years because of the loss of their son.

It wasn't the first time I've been struck by this co-worker (who is just 21) and her legacy of sorrow.  It is sometimes hard to tell if the grief clings to her or if she (and her family) cling to it.  But this time, it really hit me.  I challenged her to not dwell on what has been lost in life and to, instead, consider what has been gained.  And I wasn't making that challenge to her alone.

Over the last several years, there has been a lot of loss in my life and around me.  My cousin, Tyler, drowned at age 17. My grandmother died.  One of my uncles died.  This year alone, I've had a co-worker lose a daughter-in-law in a freak accident, another co-worker's husband died suddenly, and just today I heard of another co-worker's father-in-law who passed away.  And of course, Will left us.

So as I've been reflecting on all this heartache and sorrow and loss, as I watch how people deal, there seems to be two main camps.  Some, like my co-worker's grandparents (and her entire family) hold it.  They let it color their every hour.  It rules their thoughts, their actions, and in the end, their lives.  Others learn to keep a more open hand.  The grief is no less real, it's no less a constant companion, but they do not cater to it.  They remember that life is meant to be lived, and we can't do that if we are wallowing and sinking into the mire of loss and heartache.  So they live. They laugh.  They keep going.  And yes, there are moments when it hits them hard, afresh.  And they might be out for the count for a day or a week or just a minute.

I don't want to be the sort who quits celebrating one joyful occasion just because something tragic happens around the same time.  I hope Scott and Shelly never stop celebrating their marriage, because it is beautiful and worthy of celebration, even if their precious son departed from this world a day before that anniversary. I won't stop celebrating New Year's day as a fresh start even though my grandma passed away on that date.  To stop celebrating is to let the darkness win.  To give into despair. 

So like the song says, you've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em.  Know when to walk away, and know when to run.  For me, that means I figure out when I need to grieve, but also when to stop and to celebrate.  It reminds me to remember the good times, and not to hold the tears inside for too long.

And there will be time enough for counting when the dealin's done...

October 25, 2012

a grief observed...

Pardon me as I borrow a title from Lewis.  It's allowed, titles aren't copyrighted.  Bare with me as I ramble a bit--I'm a writer, I deal with words.  I have to process things with words, even if they don't always come out the way I want them to or expect them to.

Just over two weeks ago, on October 10th, I feel asleep with this thought on my mind: God is under no obligation to explain himself.  It's not a new thought--it's been in and out of my mind this year, especially after re-reading Till We Have Faces (by Lewis).  You see, I'm the one who questions.  I'm the one who wants answers, even more, I demand them.  I can deal with just about anything if there's a good explanation.

But God is under no obligation to explain himself.

And then Thursday happened.

I woke up with the same thought, not giving it much heed, since I often ponder things like that for a long time.

Shortly after I got to work, and after posting that I was praying on a friend's facebook status that I was praying for her nephew (and my dear friend), she asked me for my phone number--then she called.  When she told me that our dear boy didn't make it, there was no way to stop the tears. Grief welled and flooded.  I could not imagine a world without Will.  But he was already gone--already in heaven, already rejoicing.

(Will's smirk--I'm sure his face was a million times brighter when he saw his Jesus face-to-face for the first time on October 11, 2012)

I won't bore you with the details--I'll just tell you that  I work with some very loving people, and they surrounded me immediately.  They took care of me.  They joined me in my grief.  My best friend took the day off work to stay with me.  My sister took care of arranging for us to go to Texas so we could be with the Myers family.  I am very blessed to have such people in my life.

And what kept lingering in the back of my mind was that thought--God is under no obligation to explain himself.

And for perhaps the first time in my life, I didn't ask him to.

Will was one of the most amazing souls I have ever known.  He and I became friends when he as about two--I think our "middle child, creative souls" found kindred spirits in each other.  Plus, I knew all the words to the VeggieTales theme song, and Will loved his VTs.  I had the job of watching him grow, of helping him grow, and of loving him and being loved by him.  I don't wonder a bit at God wanting to bring Will home--sometimes I wonder that God left Will here as long as he did.

No, this time, it was not God that I questioned.  And I saw that in the faces and hearts of those who loved Will the most, we all had a peace about Will's homegoing.  We all grieved, but we all knew without a doubt that Will was where he always wanted to be--with Jesus.  I heard Scott and Shelly both share stories about how they knew in their hearts that it was okay to let Will go.  They released him back to God--they always knew Will was only on loan to them.  I heard how his Sunday School teacher dreamed about Will going to heaven a week before he did.  I heard dear friends reflect that Will had an old soul, and that they always had a feeling he might not be here with us for long.  I saw the grace of God flowing through the lives of those who loved Will the most.

(Scott, Shelly, Jake and Kayla, finding beauty in the ashes, smiles in the tears, as they watch the balloons drift off into the distance)

So for perhaps the first time in my life, I didn't feel a need to question God.  But there was something I couldn't understand--how the world kept going on, and that makes no sense.

(The following was written on October 12th as I sat in a hotel room in Lubbock, TX. This is what I pondered as we drove.)

When we experience profound grief--the sort that stops us in our tracks, we expect the universe to take notice.  Time should stop, the very ground we stand on should shudder.  The world should come to a screeching halt, if even for a moment, to recognize the loss.

But it doesn't.

The universe takes no notice--it is we who stop, we who pause, who falter in our steps because we fell the impact.  Only humanity bothers to reflect, to mourn, to stand up and shout, "This person mattered. They mattered to me. They were here and now they are gone, and I'm going to make sure the world knows who we have lost."

Nature ignores, natures continues on, uncaring, unknowing.

But humans grieve, and we remember, and we are living testimonies of those who have walked beside us.

(End of reflection)

While it still doesn't make sense, this failure of the universe to notice, I am at least glad that I can be a testament to Will's life, to his heart, to his story.  Will always loved story, he knew from the get-go that life is an epic adventure, and you might as well experience it on a grand scale.  I can tell you stories about him that will make you laugh, that will make you cry, and that will point you to Jesus.  If I do nothing else with my life but that, I will consider it a life well-spent.

I miss Will.  For as long as I'm here on earth, I will miss him.  I'm sure I'll learn to live with the ache and the Will-shaped hole in my heart.  And I know that when I pass through that veil and emerge into the next adventure, that Will is going to be there, running towards me, trusting that I'll open my arms and catch him just like I did hundreds of times.  I don't know which of us will be more excited, but it won't matter.

And maybe God, even though he is under no obligation to do so, maybe he will give me a hint of the why.  He might not.  Either way. 

October 9, 2012

top ten tuesday...

It's that time of the week again...and since I like the topic, I'm going to entertain you with a list :)  The topic is actually pick your own, and I rather like the one Miss Pottenger picked, so I'm going to steal it.  So, without much ado, here are the top ten fictional characters that I'm in love with (fair warning, some will be movie/show characters, because I'm not sure I can pick ten from novels)...

From our friends over at  The Broke and the Bookish--check them out!

10. Doctor Who (Doctor Who)

Yes, I'm a sucker.  Though I'd much rather have the 9th Doctor (played by Eccleston), I wouldn't say no to the 10th (Tennant).  I mean, there's just something about a time-traveling man who is smart and resourceful and quirky.  Plus, he gets into a lot of scrapes, and he always goes back for his companion.  I wouldn't mind spending a while traveling around with him.

9. Jake Green (Jericho)
Another one pulled from the screen--if you haven't seen Jericho, you should.  It's only two seasons.  So sad!  Jake Green (played by Skeet Ulrich) is a Kansas farm boy who has seen the world, done some things he probably shouldn't have, gotten into some trouble, and he loves his mom.  He's got some bad-boy aura, but we know deep down, he's golden.  It doesn't hurt that he is put in peril several times.  Hot boys in peril pretty much snag me all the time.

8. Daniel Jackson (Stargate SG-1)
The last of my strictly screen selections.  How can you not love this nerd?  Especially as he becomes a buff nerd?  I love him in the original movie, and adore him in the show.  Jackson is smart, gentle, but he learns how to fight, and how to stand up to O'Neill.  Plus he is also often in peril.  And I think Michael Shanks playing the part didn't hurt at all.

7. John Watson (Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
As I've started reading, I can say that it's not just Martin Freeman's portrayal of this well-known man that I love.  Freeman pulls a lot from the book.  I love his vulnerability.  I love that he's smart, and that he's hurting.  I want to just cuddle up with him in front of the fire.

6. Colonel Brandon (Sense & Sensibility, Jane Austen)
This is one of my least favorite Austen novels, but I just adore Brandon.  Another injured soul who has been through so much.  He's smart, he's traveled, and he is patient.  He is also quite the gentleman, never forcing Marianne to see him, but rather waiting until she is willing to see him.  And Alan Rickman's version is fantastic.

5. Edward Rochester (Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte)
Not the most popular choice, I know, but I can't help it.  He's a bit of a brute, a bit of a tyrant, but he's also very broken.  He thinks himself not worthy of love, yet he dares to hope.  And we all know he's not the best looking of men, but he's rugged.  And I can't help but adore him.  I also want to curl up next to the fire with him.

4. Eomer (Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien)
I know, most people are drooling over Aragon or Firamir, or Legolas (thanks to Jackson's casting of Orlando Bloom :P ), but me, I'm for Eomer.  He's loyal and fierce, and he's lost a lot.  Another wounded soul who needs some love.  And I'd be more than happy to give him some.  Plus, the man can ride a horse.  That's sexy.

3. Captain Wentworth (Persuasion, Jane Austen)
Come on, have you READ this one?  Any man who can write such a letter as Wentworth does to Anne can make me fall in love with him instantly.  And he's a bit broody, a bit stubborn.  He's also a bit blind.  But he comes around, and even though he tries, he can't argue with his heart.

2.Valek (Study Series, Maria V Snyder)
Yes, he's an assassin. He's also amazingly loyal, has a wounded soul, and would do anything to protect his woman.  I melt every time I read about him.  He's not the sort to settle down, but oh, for a man like this, you almost are happy to take what you get, because it is so much more than most people get.

1.  Harry Dresden (Dresden Files, Jim Butcher)
Any surprize?  I adore this wizard.  He's broken, he's bruised.  He can never have a normal life.  But he stands for something, and he fights for it, even when there is nothing left in him to go on with, he manages.  He's flawed, he has a temper, and he's dangerous.  But he needs someone to snuggle with, someone to kiss him and tell him it will all be okay.  And someone to welcome him home after the long nights of fighting all manner of evil.  I'd be happy to be that woman, if only he wasn't fictional.  

And there you have it.  So tell me, which fictional character are YOU in love with?

September 16, 2012

gone, gone away...

I would just like to say that as of this morning, 20 pounds have been evicted from my body!  They are gone, and they will not be returning.

That is all.

September 8, 2012

let me count the ways...

that I love my two-yard.

So, what is a two-yard?  Well, it's two-yards (give or take, depending on your size) of fabric.

Why do I love it so much?  Let's see...

A bit of history.  One of my best friends, Dara, spent two years in Ghana as a PeaceCorps volunteer.  When she came back, I noticed that anytime we were chilling at her house, she was wrapped in a beautiful skirt.  Usually she had on comfy pants beneath it.  It seemed wonderful.  So I asked her about it.  She told me it was her "two-yard".  In Ghana, the women wear them (only they call them simply, "cloth". PCV's called them "two-yard" since it is most often about two yards of fabric.).  They serve as skirt or dress.  But as Dara told me about them, I saw they served as so much more.

Dara gave me some beautiful fabric from Ghana to make my own two-yard (which, let's be honest, was more than two and a half, closer to three, but hey, that's part of the beauty, you cut enough to fit YOU!).  It took me a while to get into the habit of wearing it.  I often remembered to wrap it around at home, over my sweats or yoga pants, because it gave me another warm layer.

But Dara had told me that the two-yard was also used as a towel, a money holder, a sleeping mat, and could be used as many other things.  Since I don't have much of a use for it as a money holder, towel, or sleeping mat, I just smiled and nodded.

Then, one cold weekend when Dara and Sarah P and I were up at my dad's to go to the shooting range, we found another use for it--a scarf!  We wrapped it around someone's neck (I don't remember if it was me or Sarah P) and it helped keep the cold out.  There's a use they might not think of in Ghana.

I also realized that the fabric was so very pretty, that if I paired it with a nice top, I could wear it as a skirt.  Plus, I could still wear shorts or yoga pants underneath, making me even more comfy!

I started packing at least one of my two-yards (I know have two, with fabric for two more!) on trips.  Trips around town (I might get cold, or I might want to get comfy), trips across the country (I took my red two-yard through Yellowstone, used it as a blanket in the car for when my dad decided to kick up the AC), and pretty much always think about it now.

On this last camping trip, I took both of my two-yards, and they came in super handy.  The first night in the woods it was cold and clammy, and my head was freezing.  I can't sleep under the covers because I get panicked that I can't breath.  But the two yard worked nicely to cover the top of my head, close up the open spaces around my shoulders, and didn't make me feel closed in at all.  During the week, I used it as a head cover, a shawl, a blanket, and a pillow.  Later, when we were at a friend's house, and I didn't want to dirty my last remaining clean pair of jeans (which I wanted to wear the next day), I used my second two-yard (still clean as well!) as a skirt.  It was perfect.

And I'm not the only one who has discovered two-yards.  Brenda, another friend, was on a hike with Dara.  At some point, Brenda's shorts ripped.  Thankfully, Dara had a two-yard handy, and Brenda was able to complete the hike wrapped in the comforts of fabric, instead of having to go on in ripped shorts!

So, do you want a two-yard yet?  It's cheap to make, easy to care for (they wash just like a sheet, and the best fabric is just cotton prints, which they have some fun ones out there!), and uber-useful.  I like to hem mine up so they last longer.  To use it as a skirt, you just wrap it around then roll down the top (which secures it).  Run now and make yourself a two-yard today.  You'll be amazed at how often you use it!

(photo-me wearing my two-yard as a skirt. Photo credit to Mary Burklin.)

August 23, 2012

headed to heaven...

No, I'm not on my last leg here on earth.  But I am headed for heaven.  At least a tiny pocket that got left here on earth.  It's time to head to the hills near Yellowstone for my family camping trip.  I haven't gone since 2009, so I'm really excited.  Last year, we did the tourist thing and went through Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons--it was wonderful.  But I'm ready to get back to the river. I'm ready for my hammock.  I'm ready to fish and relax. 

In other news, the 2012 Moot (the annual gathering of CleanPlacers) went off with nary a hitch.  It was a lovely time.  We were back at Bear Trap Ranch (which is truly home) and we had a great group. 

And to update you on my weight loss progress, I'm at 15.5 pounds lost!  And that was being "off plan" for the entire Moot!  I think my body is finally getting the hang of losing weight.  And I felt much better up at 11,000+ feet this year.  Being 15 pounds lighter and eating healthy food has some good results!

And now I'm going to go stare at the dryer until it finishes my last load, so I can put the few items I still need into my bag, throw it in the car, and then I can sleep!

August 21, 2012

top ten tuesday: ten top reads

Once again, you can find the blog that started it all @ Broke & Bookish.

This week, it's the top ten books you have read since starting your blog.  For the sake of not having to dredge up old blogs, I'm going with this particular blog, which means mid-2006.  And since I have detailed lists of books I have read starting in 2007, I think I can safely do this.  These will all be "new" books that I had not read prior to this blog, but may have read several times since discovering them.  These are in no particular order.

1. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher--yes, I know, it's a series. But it's a series I started reading after I started this blog.  And I love it.  Dresden is the perfect mix of attitude, male ego, a soft heart, magic and legend to keep me interested, even invested, in the stories.  And it's not just Dresden, there is a whole cast of characters that I love.  Totally worth the time I've invested in reading them!

2. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell--yep, this one.  Again.  It's amazing.  One of the top five books I have ever read.  And yes, it's about Jesuits in space.  And about languages, and about aliens, and about what makes us human.  Also one of the very best redemption stories ever told.  I laugh, I cry, and I find God every time I read it.  Amazing.

3. 100 Cupboards by N.D.Wilson--this one is a children's book, but don't let that fool you.  This guy might just be the next C.S. Lewis, and his world is pretty impressive (and he handles philosophy pretty well, too, as evident in his non-fic, Note From the Tilt-A-Whirl).  100 Cupboards is the start of three books that have an ordinary boy who finds that the many cupboards in his attic room lead to different worlds.  It's an adventure from there on out.

4. Theater of the Stars: A Novel of Physics and Memory by N.M. Kelby--wow, times three.  Kelby is one of those writers who blows me away every single time.  Plus, she's super nice.  She not only responded to my note on Goodreads, she emailed back and forth with me on all sorts of things.  This book, especially, blew me away.  This book is about a scientist who is the daughter of a scientist, and there is mystery about where she came from, her mother's role in developing the atom bomb,  and lots of interpersonal connections.  Hard to find, but worth the search.

5. Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl by N.D.Wilson--the only non-fiction that will show up on this list, but it well-earned the spot!  This is the only book that I can remember reading literally from front cover to back, then turning right back to the start and reading again.  It's philosophy, it's a prayer, it's finding God in all his handiwork, and seeing how that helps us on this carnival ride we call life.  Fantastic read.  Go buy it, you won't be sorry!

6. Raven Stole the Moon by Garth Stein--A delightfully heartbreaking work about a mother who lost a son, but is he really gone?  Or did the seal people steal him?  Stein weaves native myth from the Aleut people into an aching story of grief, loss, hope and growth.  The man made me like a dog in his other book, in this one, he pretty much stole my heart. 

7. The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen--so, I discovered Allen since the start of this blog, and so far, I've enjoyed all her books.  This one makes the list because it really resounded in my soul.  The plot is well-woven, the characters are brilliantly done, and I connected with it on so many levels.  There's a lot of interpersonal relationship stuff here, enough, well, to fill a novel.  And what fantastic filling Allen does.  A great read, especially for those who enjoy a good book about the power of friendship between women.

8. Proof by Dick Francis--before you poo-poo Francis because he wrote tons of mysteries that are somewhat formulaic, read one.  Read THIS one.  Not many writers can make me tear up, even fewer make me openly weep.  This one got the tears perched and ready.  Francis was good at creating compelling characters.  In Proof, the main character is a young widower who happens to be a wine merchant.  And he gets caught up in a mystery that has to do with wine, race horses, and some shady characters.  I loved it. 

9.  Good Man Hunting by Lisa Landolt--totally did not expect much from this book. Was totally surprized.  I thought it would be a throw-away beach read, but it had heart and substance.  It's about a club of older, married women who "hunt" for mates for younger women.  They are a match-making society.  But their methods sometimes aren't the best, and when one young woman gets caught up in their hunt, she finds that sometimes doing things on your own is the best method. 

10.  Second Glance by Jodi Picoult--I first read Picoult just before this blog.  And for a while, I was very much a fan.  This is one of my favorites by her.  I'm a sucker for a good ghost story, and this one is one of the very best I've ever read.  A ghost, a haunting, a mystery, and a love story, all wrapped up in one.  Plus, this is Picoult when she wasn't too big for her britches, so she's in fine form! 

So there you have it, ten of the best books I have read since starting this blog!  Hope you enjoyed the list.

July 31, 2012

top ten tuesday: character swap

Because even if I don't update with something personal, I like to give you something to read. And because this topic is the bomb!  This week we pick the top ten literary characters you would like to switch places with for 24 hours.  Here goes!  Thanks to Broke & Bookish for the topic!

1. Anne Edwards from The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. Because Anne rocks.  She's down-to-earth, she isn't overly sentimental, but she cares, a lot.  And she gets to go on a space voyage. And she loves her husband.  Did I mention she rocks?

2. Ransom from Lewis' Space Trilogy.  He gets to go to Mars AND Venus.  Plus he gets to meet Merlin.  I mean, who doesn't want that?

3. Thursday Next from Jasper Fford's Thursday Next series.  Despite all her troubles, I would trade places with her in an instant.  And SHE gets to trade places with a fictional character, so I'm sure she wouldn't mind at all.  Getting to book hop would be a dream!

4. Meg Murry from A Wrinkle in Time by L'Engle.  People think I'm calm and collected and self-assured.  I'm not.  I'm so much of Meg.  I think trading places with her would be comforting. To know that her life (fictional as it may be) turned out okay, and mine just might as well.

5. Yelena from The Study Series by Maria V Snyder.  Not only is she pretty awesome, but she gets the awesome guy.  And I would love to be loved by Valek. 

6. Ivy (The Archive) from The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.  Ivy is a living encyclopedia.  To know everything that has ever been written down, ever.  And she's just a little girl.  But she has a special link to Dresden (the only one who ever gave her a name), and I would love to have Dresden fighting to protect me.

7. Pippin or Merry from The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien.  No, I don't want to be Frodo, are you crazy?  And Sam, well, he has such a hard road, and he breaks my heart.  But Merry and Pippin, they are just adorable.  They grow, they become great, noble hobbits.  Who wouldn't want to join the fellowship?

8. Anne Elliot from Persuasion by Jane Austen.  Anne is my favorite.  I am most like Lizzy Bennett, but Anne, she is the one that I feel like I could live her story.  To know that a man couldn't stop loving me after eight years no matter how he tried, well, that's a love I'd like to experience.  Oh yes.  And she does get that amazing letter. And the scene at the still my heart!

9. Beryl from On Fortune's Wheel/Gwen from Jackaroo by Cynthia Voigt.  Both are from the Kingdom series, and I have a hard time picking.  I love them both because they are feisty, headstrong, apt to run off and do something crazy.  Both have to pay a high cost for their actions.  And yet, both end up content with life.  I'd like that. 

10. Bob from The Dresden Files by Butcher.  I know, I already picked a character from here, but Bob is Bob, and he's so wonderfully written, considering he is a disembodied spirit.  He's got spunk, he's got sass, and he's got a lot of scary know-how.  To hang out as him, helping Dresden, figuring out what he actually knows, that would be a riot.

And there you have it.  Ten characters I wouldn't mind being for 24 hours.  It's not the end-all list, but it's a fun start.  What about you?  Who do you want to switch places with?  Leave a comment and tell me!

July 20, 2012

top ten...

In honor of Broke & Bookish, who I totally borrowed some book quotes from, I'm going to post a top ten list of some of MY favorite quotes taken from the written story.  These are in no particular order. (though I will tell you the one by Lewis is perhaps my most favorite ever!)

1. But then there are those whose minds are merely a bouquet of stalks that bud as they learn new information—a new bud for each new fact—but yet they never open, never flourish.  They are the people of capital letters and full stops but never of question marks and ellipses…(The Book of Tomorrow by Ceclia Ahern)

2. Fate never promises to tell you everything up front.  You aren’t always shown the path in life you’re supposed to take.  But if there was one thing she’d learned in the past few weeks, it was that sometimes, when you’re really lucky, you meet someone with a map. (The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen)

3. There were many kinds of loneliness, she discovered. There was the loneliness that came from understanding but not being understood. There was the loneliness of having no one to banter or argue with, no one to be challenged by. Loneliness at night was different from the daylight loneliness that sometimes overwhelmed her in the midst of a crowd. She became a connoisseur of loneliness, and the worst kind of all, she discovered, came after a night when she dreamed of Isaac laughing.(Children of God by Mary Doria Russell)

4.  It has seemed to him that unhappiness had its own distinct scent, and suddenly that sour, stale smell crept into his nostrils. Or maybe it was just acid fumes from the wine and dust from old record sleeves. (False Mermaid by Erin Hart)

5.  He had also discovered the outermost limit of faith and, in doing so, had located the exact boundary of despair. It was at that moment he learned, truly, to fear God. (The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell)

6. On the other hand, all those doubts which I had felt before I entered the cottage as to whether these creatures were friend or foe, and whether Ransom were a pioneer or a dupe, had for the moment vanished.  My fear was now of another kind.  I felt sure that the creature was what we call “good,” but I wasn’t sure whether I liked “goodness” so much as I had supposed.  This is a very terrible experience.  As long as what you are afraid of is something evil, you may still hope that the good may come to your rescue.  But suppose you struggle through to the good and find that it also is dreadful?  How if food itself turns out to be the very thing you can’t eat, and home the very place you can’t live, and your very comforter the person who makes you uncomfortable?  Then, indeed, there is no rescue possible: the last card has been played.  For a second or two I was nearly in that condition.  Here at last was a bit of that world from beyond the world, which I had always supposed that I loved and desired, breaking through and appearing to my senses: and I didn’t like it, I wanted it to go away.  I wanted every possible distance, gulf, curtain, blanket, and barrier to be placed between it and me.  But I did not fall quite into the gulf.  Oddly enough my very sense of helplessness saved me and steadied me.  For now I was quiet obviously “drawn in.”  The struggle was over.  The next decision did not lie with me. (Perelandra by C.S. Lewis)

7.   The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance, but live right in it, under its roof." (Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver)

8.  If God is anything like a middle-class white chick from the suburbs, which I admit is a long shot, it’s what you do about what you feel that matters. (The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell)

9. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.(The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams)

10. There must be something in books, things we can't imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don't stay for nothing. (Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury)

July 18, 2012

take it back...

It has recently come to my attention that I’m a certain type of consumer…and that my best friend, Dara, is not the same kind of consumer.

Shocking, I know.  We aren’t identical, despite commonly held beliefs!

You see, I’m the sort of consumer who buys what she thinks she needs or wants, and, if I discover otherwise, I return the item.

Dara, on the other hand, ends up keeping the item. 

I’m in the process of training Dara not to hold on to these things.  For me, it’s a matter of getting my money back, and not having an item I don’t need (or want) taking up space.

For Dara, it’s a matter of, “I bought it, I’m stuck with it.” At least until she throws it out.

And I’m wondering, is the way we shop the way we look at life?

Do I take what life gives me, see if it fits, and if not, take it back for a refund?
Does Dara tend to just accept what life gives her, even if she never makes use of it?
And why don’t either of us make lemonade from our lemons?

I really don’t know, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about.

And don’t worry, I still fully intend to return stuff I don’t need, at least if it came from a store.

July 10, 2012

you know it's bad...

When you haven't blogged in so long that the entire interface looks different :P

Hi.  I'm Sara.  It's been a while since I've been here--a few months.  Not my longest stretch, but one that I am rather disappointed in.  I've had so many things I wanted to blog about, but then I get busy (gosh darn this working for a "living" sure cuts out a lot of the living you actually get to do!) and I realize I don't have the time or energy to say what I want.

I'm going to do better, at least, I'm going to try.  I just have to get over my "every post has to be epic" mentality.

Since March, I'm happy to report that my health got much better.  Between the various drugs, things eventually calmed down and are at least pretending to behave themselves.  I'm still working, and though it's not my favorite thing, I'll hang in there for a while.

I did start a new journey in June--I began to use the NurtiSystem program to help me start dropping pounds.  My sister had been using it for a few weeks and was seeing steady results, and when I examined how much I was already spending on food each month (considering how often I ate out because I didn't want to cook), it made a lot of sense.  I haven't told a lot of people for various reason.  A main reason is that while friends and family always tell you how supportive they are, you still feel like the world is right there, trying to get you to mess up.  And when it feels like people are expecting you to fail, it's a lot easier to just throw up your hands and give up.

Well, I've been on the plan for five weeks now, and I've lost 10 pounds.

Yep.  TEN!

I'm feeling pretty good.

The few people I have told have been very supportive, and even have helped me make good choices.  I appreciate them very much.  I especially appreciate how they have asked me about my progress and cheered me on with every pound that has been evicted.

And now I'm telling the whole world (well, the ones who read my blog at least).

Other than that, I've been busy planning our upcoming Moot for CleanPlace.  We are going back to Bear Trap Ranch this year (can I get an AMEN?), and our group will be, as always, amazing.  I am really looking forward to it, more than usual, I think because I'm working and need a break!

And I've been tripping down memory lane this week since I have to present my life story at work tomorrow.  I have some photographic proof that I was an adorable baby, and that I lived in the 80's (since I'm such a flower child and lover of folk music, some people wonder...).

Here's one of those pictures to entertain you until I come blog again:

March 17, 2012

best laid plans...

We all know about plans and what happens to them...that whole bit about mice and men and going awry. Welcome to my life.

In my last post, I talked about Lent, and how I was going to give it a try. I was going to exercise in an effort to identify with Christ's suffering (see below for how that reasoning makes sense). And I did start off with it. Slowly, because one should not jump into full hour workouts after not doing much. And it was going alright until something happened on the 29th...

Somehow, my sciatic nerve got pinched or inflamed, or just went stark raving mad--we aren't sure which. At first, I thought it was just an extension of back issues caused by a bad chair at work, but we got me a new chair the next day and the pain did not go away. By Thursday morning, the nerve was in a constant fire mode, and my right leg muscles were cramping. I don't know if you've ever tried to drive with your leg cramping, but it's not easy.

The weekend was horrible--I couldn't sleep despite taking high doses of pain killers, laying on ice bags, and using gelle and oils. By Tuesday, I decided to go to a chiropractor. He helped, a little, but I saw him twice, got spine x-rays, and he couldn't tell what was causing the issues (it wasn't the spine, but he still thought I should spend lots of money with him...not happening!). By the next Friday night, I was once again not sleeping, waking up in tears, screaming for relief. Saturday morning brought a trip to urgent care. There, I found a PA named J. Waters, who was as calm as his name. He confirmed it was the nerve, got me some drugs, some stretches, and a shot of something wonderful that helped right away.

This week was relatively pain free (until I rolled my ankle--that's another story), and I'm coming off the drugs tonight.

And what happened to that "suffering with Christ through exercise" plan? Well, it went out the window. At one point, in the middle of the night when I was again awake and in pain, I prayed to God and asked, "Lord, why won't you heal this? I can't exercise like this, I can't even think straight, walk without almost passing out, or sit still." But God gave me no answer, and no healing. And I started to worry that I'd be in pain the entire season of Lent...that maybe God had decided to teach me about suffering in a different way.

I'm glad that I seem to be healing. And I did learn a few things about suffering. I didn't choose to suffer, yet I suffered. Christ CHOSE to suffer. I don't know that I'm anywhere ready to do that. At least not with physical pain. There are other sufferings I'm more willing to endure, or more capable. Perhaps there's something to be said of a suffering that doesn't break us completely. I felt very broken the last few weeks.

Anyway, that's probably a lot of rambling, and it might not draw any solid conclusions. But it's what I have. And this is the first time I've felt well enough to sit and type at the computer for a few weeks, so that's what you get.

Let me know what you think!

February 22, 2012

new sort of reflection...

Today is Ash Wednesday. For those who don't know the significance, of that, it's the start of celebration of Lent, which is 40 days (roughly) before Easter. It's a time when several churches (Catholics and others) either require or encourage the faithful to reflect and fast. The basic concept is to reflect on Christ and to draw closer to him. Many churches limit their diet (some take out meat, some just on Friday's, some fast all week with Sunday being the only non-fast day, it varies).

I've never celebrated Lent. I didn't grow up in a church that did it, and once I was older and making my own decision about spiritual practices, it just never attracted me. I would hear about people giving things up for Lent--soda, sugar, television--and for me, it didn't click. I'm sure there are things that I could do without, but most of them I either don't really notice much, or the lack of them doesn't focus me back on God.

But this morning, as I was making phone calls at work, I had a thought. I thought about how Jesus prayed, asking God to take away the cup of death. Jesus didn't want to suffer the cross, and yet, he did. And then I thought that if I were to participate in Lent, perhaps instead of giving something up, I should do something that might help identify with Christ, especially in the area of doing what I don't want to do.

So I'm going to give it a try.

In order for it to really help me identify with Christ, I knew whatever I picked would have to be something I'm able to do, but something I really don't want to do. The first thing that came to mind was daily exercise. I can do it, but I so hate it. For me, every moment spent exercising is a chore, a pain, and taking me away from the things in life that seem worthwhile.

I know, it's kinda silly, but God often uses the foolish things to confound the wise, so I'm not going to question His ability to use daily exercise to draw me closer to him. Especially if it's about suffering, because believe me, I'll be suffering. I'm sure there will be much calling out to God.

I'm starting tonight, as soon as I'm home. I'll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, leave me a comment--have you ever given up something for Lent? How was the experience? Do you find such "celebrations" help or hinder your spiritual walk? Have you ever participated in any such celebration? Start talking!

February 8, 2012

hug a tree--why I think Christians should care about the enviroment...

Yep, long title. My college poetry teacher would be proud!

While I haven't blogged much this year (despite my desires and intent), it's only February, so I have lots of time to make up for a sluggish January. Let's start off with something that struck me (again) as I was driving to the grocery store last night.

I needed to stop at the store because I didn't have the ingredients for a whole meal--lots of odds and ends, but a real meal was lacking. So I'd made a list and figured I'd stop on the way home. Great plan.

Well, I pass two grocery stores on my direct route home. There are another two or three options if I want to drive a bit longer. But last night, in the almost snowy weather, I decided to go to Whole Foods. It's not the closest, it's not the cheapest, so why go there? Let me tell you.

I'm starting to appreciate better ingredients. Not just in that they often taste better, but that they are better for me. It's a slow process, and one that didn't start with health. It actually started more than a year ago with my desire to know more about where my food was coming from--and the desire to have my food grown locally.

Long explanation short, a lot of food grown for commercial use has been stripped of a lot of it's nutritional value. That, and shipping it across country (and in many cases, across the ocean) means cost for fuel. It also means that a lot of pollution in that transportation, more loss of nutrients due to travel time, and so on. Throw in the fact that a lot of animal food sources are treated poorly (to put is mildly), it's just not a happy picture.

So I've started shopping at Whole Foods for some items because they grow things more organically, they offer meat products from responsible farms that care for the animal. I like that about them. (I do, however, still turn my nose up at bananas grown in Peru, even though it's Peru, because it's just too far. I want something closer to home!)

And guess what. When I shop at Whole Foods (and other places), I try to remember to use one of the handful of reusable shopping bags I own. I have the kind that fold up pretty small and tuck into my purse. I try to carry several with me at all times.

And some Christians look at me (and those who are so much more gung ho than I am!) and shake their heads. I can see the accusations in their eyes: you are going native, next thing you'll be signing up with GreenPeace, protesting the killing of whales.

But it's not like that. Don't get me wrong, I think killing whales is a nasty thing to do, but I'm not going to chain myself to a boat to prove it. However, I am going to do what I can in my daily life to make sure I'm not trashing the planet. And I've got a pretty darn good reason: the Bible.

Remember back in the very first book, Genesis? Remember how God put Adam and Eve in the Garden? He put the Garden under their care. God told them to take care of the animals. God expected us to be responsible!

I'll give you a second to grasp that.

We have a God-given responsibility to take care of the earth and the animals on it.

That means we shouldn't tromp through this world as destroyers and usurpers. We should get upset when chickens and cows and lambs are kept in pens too small for them to even stand up in. We should use a reusable bag instead of asking for plastic every time.

I'm not saying we should all run out and hug a tree (not that it's a bad habit--trees are very calming and wonderful, and some of them smell like butterscotch!), but that we should take a moment to consider what impact we are having on the world, and how we might change that for the better.

Please don't get me wrong. I'm not going to ever put animal rights before human rights--nor am I going to say that we should die to save a plant. But I am saying that God put this planet into our safe keeping, and well, we've done a doozie of a job so far. We can't fix it all, but we can manage the damage, so to speak.

So next time you are thinking about where to shop, consider shopping the "natural" grocery store--you might pay a tiny bit more, you might run into some weird health nuts, and you might have a bruise or two on your fruit, but you will also be taking care of this planet. And since we all call it home, it might be in our best interest to not trash it so quickly!

Agree? Disagree? Just feeling like saying something? That's what the comment button is for!

January 14, 2012

december reading review...

A bit late, but here it is! I ended up the year with 101 books, without even trying.

A once-a-month review of the books I read.

The rating is the same as Goodreads--5 stars means "it was amazing," 4 is "really liked it," 3 is "liked it," 2 is "it was okay," and 1 is "didn't like it."

The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne (2 stars)

A classic that I sorta skipped out on reading during high school...I got a book that is a sequel, so I wanted to actually read this one first. The story is good, but the writing style was not my taste--much to much telling going on.

The Carnivorous Carnival (Book 9) and The Slippery Slope (Book 10) by Lemony Snicket
Series of Unfortunate Events (3 stars each)

I had to slow down on these ones because they were just getting rather tedious.

Hester: A Novel by Paula Reed (4 stars)

This is the sequel to Scarlet Letter, and it was so much better in many ways. Much more engaging, if a little drawn out, I felt like Hester was a more fleshed out woman in this story. The book was agented by someone I'm very interested in working with, and it turns out the author lives here in Colorado (and teaches at Columbine High School in Denver). Lots of local connections! Worth a read, even if you didn't enjoy SL.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (3 stars)

Right off the bat, no one under 25 should even think of picking this one up. At least if you are my CPers. If you aren't, just know it's not recommended for younger readers. This is a story of a 1940's woman who is magically whisked back in time to the last 1700's. There's a bunch of politics between the Scots and the English, with Claire being a Brit and her new husband is a Scot. And let's not forget that Claire is already married in her own time. It's a bit convoluted, but the story is engaging enough that I'm likely to pick up the next one in the series at some point.

Smoke From This Alter by Louis L'Amour (4 stars)

I stumbled upon this one when I strolled through the poetry section at the library. Yes, you heard me, poetry! Not what you would expect from a well-known western writer, but it was fantastic. More structured and stiff than I usually care for, L'Amour shows great command of many of the trickier tools like meter. I did fall in love with several, and enjoyed almost all of them. And the fact that this was published before all his novels just made it even more fun. I would recommend this to any poetry fan.