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February 2006
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March 2006

Don't know much about science books

I just completed two "writing exercises" for a potential new job. I either spent a week obsessing over a dozen paragraphs I will never hear about again, or I am one step closer to an actual writing job. Who knows. Let's not think about it.

But in order to finish the assignment, I had to acquire a copy of the AP stylebook. If you put the pointy part of a compass on my house and pulled the pencil out 5 miles and drew a little circle, you would find no bookstores in that area. None. I know five miles does not sound like a lot, but let me remind you that I live in SEATTLE, where driving anywhere takes fourteen hours and possibly a detour to the emergency room to have your road rage stab wound disinfected. Also, I live smack dab between the two major highways (neither of which would take me to a bookstore) and directly above a lake, which is pretty, but which makes navigation rather difficult. After work I either had to go downtown and deal with nightmare parking or the closest Barnes & Noble and deal with nightmare traffic. I decided to hit up the University Bookstore which had the benefit of a tiny bit less traffic and the opportunity to feel smug about patronizing an independent bookstore.

Since I no longer fork over 100% of my income to my state's higher education system, I don't have a lot of reasons to go to the U District anymore. We'll go there for my favorite teriyaki or to pick up my sister or appease my bubble tea cravings (why must the bubble tea shop near my house insist on putting COFFEE in my peach milk tea? WHY?) but it's been a long time since I bought used CDs or saw a movie on the Ave. It's too bad, because the U bookstore is awesome (even if I could not find a simple hooded sweatshirt for under $40. Ridiculous.)

They didn't have my book in the general bookstore, so that meant I had to go down to the basement where they keep the student stacks. Buying textbooks at UW means hauling your miserable butt down to the bottom of the fancy pants U bookstore and wading through shelves and shelves of books, none of which are used. It's impossible to find your book, since there are hundreds of other sorry college students, just like yourself, wandering about in horror because the seventh edition of the Sociology 101 textbook is $492, even though the only difference between the seventh and sixth editions is the font on the cover. (What a racket. Let us all think a lovely thought for my sophomore year astronomy professor who did not make us buy a book lest we feed the flames of the textbook publishing industry.)

Okay, so I was not excited about going downstairs. Also? I am not a student. I am a PROFESSIONAL. I am in the REAL WORLD. I was wearing sensible shoes and pants that were not denim and dangly earrings. I had done my share of waiting in first-week-of-the-quarter book buying lines, thank you very much.

But I went down there and I was drawn- DRAWN, I tell you- to the stacks of novels in the English shelves. Well, first I asked a nice man to tell me where the AP stylebook was because I wasn't going to look for it myself, THEN I went and spent the next hour looking at all the books I have yet to read. I had to admit that I actually had a good memory of buying books: just looking at them. I even found myself getting a tiny bit nostalgic, thinking fondly of Victorian lit, the Greek plays, that crazy old bat who taught the Romantics. I almost found myself wishing I could take another literature class.

I went to a giant school where I could take pretty much any class that interested in me. I maxed out on creative writing classes and was eventually told I had to finish out my credits with non-English classes if I felt like graduating any time soon, so I didn't exactly give myself a well-rounded education. I didn't get a minor because I was too busy minoring in English. There are times when I reflect on my college education and wonder what the hell I was doing. No math? Only as much science as required? Not even history or art or the token acting class? (And we won't get into extracurriculars, which consisted of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and not much else.) I would think of my dad telling me about his professors, late night bull sessions, intellectual debate and deep thinking. Me, not so much.

And for all my English classes, I'm not even particularly well-read. I've read some Greek plays, some Shakespeare, an important novel from every time period, but shouldn't I be able to hold forth on movements and schools of thought and themes? Shouldn't I have more to show for my degree than an all-abiding love of Edna St. Vincent Millay?

In the post-moderns class we read only four novels, one of which was my favorite book until very recently, Written On The Body. That class was all about discussion, which I bombed. There were a lot of humorless wannabe intellectuals in that class and though I desperately wanted to be like them, they totally intimidated me and I could never think of anything decent to say. This was true in all of my classes, actually, except for the class where discussion was 75% of your grade and the professor called on us randomly. (My favorite professor, incidentally. Hands down. No contest.) I did not discuss Written On The Body, but I wrote a 15 page in-class midterm on it and, when the teacher handed them back, berating us for doing such terrible jobs, there was a giant 4.0* at the top of my paper, along with a stern red "PLEASE SPEAK UP."

In the bookstore today I thought: if I were in school now, I would definitely speak up. I am a few years older. I am a few years more secure. I no longer want to be a humorless wannabe intellectual (well, not all the time.) I would get to know that Victorian lit teacher who really liked me, and actually go to her office hours. I would defend my embarrassing angsty poetry. I would volunteer to read Beowulf in Old English in front of class because really, how often do you get to speak Old English out loud? HWAT!

I've occasionally regretted the English degree, because I feel wholly unqualified for the work force. I've regretted not earning a minor, because I should have explored a different discipline. I've regretted not taking some of the more difficult lit classes, the ancient texts and philosophy, because why take those when I could take short story writing for the fourth time? But I LOVED short story writing! I loved those lit classes. I took exactly the courses I wanted to take. (And, to my unending dismay, four "science" classes. Damn that "Natural World" requirement.) I can't say that I regret taking those, or that I would sign up for different classes if I were back. It wasn't the art history shelf calling my name. And everyone needs someone in the office who can recite a sonnet, don't you think?

*That 4.0 is the best example I have of what you really learn when you are an English major: how to BS. She actually made anonymous copies of my paper for everyone to use as an example, which was totally embarrassing and extremely not fun because I got to hear everyone trash me and my "piece of crap" "THIS garbage is what she was looking for?" essay under their breaths.

City kids try their hand at island life

Do you like pictures of water? Everyone likes pictures of water! Shimmery water with blue sky and little tufts of islands poking out? Beautiful! Check out my weekend.

Also, I would just like to say that it appears Nature is trying to get back on my good side. When every mini-vacation I plan happens to have excellent weather, when I am floating on ferries and surrounded by sparkly water, when driving to the nearest Point of Interest takes only ten minutes- THAT is outdoorsiness I can get along with. I had to buy my wine from a grocery store this time, but breakfasts with dessert (DESSERT. I kid you not. Cheesecake!) totally made up for that.

So anyway. When I am old and tired of the noise, maybe Phillip will buy us a boat and we'll float out to the San Juan islands and be cranky retired people in a house that has a view clear to Victoria. Well, after we earn that $3.2 million first.

"I went up and talked to him because I wanted to make him feel welcome."

This happened while I was waking up in Friday Harbor on Saturday morning. The papers have done a rotten job reporting it, in my opinion. The newest info could always be found here and was compiled here. It's awful.

I have absolutely no connection to this tragedy whatsoever. I am the farthest you can get from a raver. I laughed at the guy who said he thought the killer "was a cop, because he was so straight." Well, I didn't laugh. More like nervously chuckled at the insanity of it all.

I can barely picture it. The poster for the event they all attended before the afterparty disgusts me. I know it was a "zombie" theme and "dressing up" was part of the show. Maybe it isn't any different from Halloween. (Maybe Halloween should disgust me?) Even without the gore, the whole raver scene kind of weirds me out anyway. I've never fit in with the people who can party all night. In high school, even with techno music hammering into every surface, I often fell asleep on one of the couches off to the side, waiting for my friends to get tired and go home. I rarely went out when I was in college and I felt completely out of place the one time I attended a party down the road from this one on East Republican street. I was hopelessly straight. There was no bowl smoking at this party, no disturbing costumes or hopped up ravers, just your average drunk college students and I still persuaded my friend to go home early.

That said, it wasn't the rave culture that killed these kids (the youngest was 14.) It was a nutjob with an armory in his closet. By all accounts it was a mellow afterparty and the only violence at the dance itself was the gory nature of the costumes. By now enough predictable Seattle voices have decried policy proposals and editorials that "blame the victim" and reinforce the idea that the grown ups are afraid of the teenagers. The kids dressed up, danced to some crazy music and got a little high afterwards at a private home. It was a 28-year-old guy armed "with a 12-gauge pistol-grip shotgun, a handgun and [wearing] bandoliers of shotgun shells and additional clips for the handgun. In his truck, police found an assault rife and multiple “banana clips” carrying 30 bullets each."

I tend to be on the conservative libertarian end of things, but my God. How did we let this psycho get his hands on that stuff?

There are other questions, obviously. It's naive to think the zombie rave was drug-free. The hopelessly straight part of me would also like to know why the hell a 14-year-old was still at a party, a party thrown by people at least ten years older than herself, at 7 in the morning? What role did alcohol play? Did the killer's roommate, his own twin brother, have any idea?

It's just awful. It's hardly different than any other random shooting, but this one is in my city in a popular part of town. It's upsetting. A lovely man with an American name living in France wrote a letter to the editor today, informing us that there is something fundamentally wrong with our society and that the rest of the world is not surprised, only us. I'm tempted to write down exactly what I think of that asinine simplistic comment, but my mother reads this website.

I have beautiful weekend-away pictures to upload and things I want to post about writing and work and the neverending process of figuring out what I want to be when I grow up, but I wanted to acknowledge the deaths of these young people who were unceremoniously mowed down on Saturday morning, hiding in the bathtub, stumbling across the lawn, startled in the living room. You can find their pictures and read about them here.

An anniversary post three months early

I have always been a tiny bit embarrassed about the fact that I was 23 when I got married. I don't know why that is. Ha. I lie. Of course I know! Because you don't get married when you are TWENTY-THREE, are you crazy? You go to college, you travel the world, you find a kick ass big city job, you be your own fabulous woman- THEN you find a boyfriend. And if he is nice and extra good-looking, THEN you get married. At, oh, I don't know. Thirty? This was my plan. I was not going to be like my 23-year-old grandmother, for pete's sake, waiting for my grandpa to get home from the WAR, waiting for her engagement ring in the MAIL. Sheesh.

But now I live in the World and see that people make all kinds of choices. Fancy that. Twenty-three isn't even all that young! My little brother had a BABY by age twenty-three. Now THAT is crazy. (Except not. What is crazy was waiting that long to unleash this Cuteness on the universe.)

The other night Phillip and I went out to dinner with New People, people our age who just got married this past summer. They were still excited about it, showing us pictures and giving us the ceremony play-by-play. Then they asked, "How long have you guys been married? A year or two?"

Phillip and I looked sheepishly at each other and said, "Almost three."

At a St. Patrick's Day party (where I managed to choke down my very first Guinness, go me!) we were talking to a guy we knew in college and for some reason he mentioned our wedding- "and wow, that seems like a long time ago!"

In my head I was very indignant. It is NOT a long time ago. Not-even-three-years is NOT a long time. But the Guinness mellowed me out some and I came to the not-so-disagreeable conclusion that, well, it was a while ago. Now could I have some Bailey's over ice please?

So there you have it. At ages 26 and 27, we've made it longer than most celebrity marriages and I believe we've lost that newlywed glow. (Although, did we ever have that newlywed glow? I think not. We are not the glowy sort.)

But Internet, lately I've come to realize there is a distinct advantage to getting married at 23, that being that YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING.

Ah! You are wondering how this is an advantage! I will tell you!

My non-married friends, either single or dating, are all dealing with the same thing: What kind of person do I want to marry? And a lot of these people have a lot of requirements, good requirements. Things like: must be employed. Must be paying his own rent. Must be willing to buy me flowers on a weekly basis. Must have plans for the future
beyond what bar he will be patronizing this evening. Must understand the evils of pleated pants. Must love children. Must know how to use hair product and shaves on a regular basis. You know. The necessities.

Here is what I was thinking when I started dating Phillip at age 19: "Gosh he's cute. And he likes ME! MEEEE!"

Here is what I was thinking when we kept talking about getting married at age 23: "Well, it's not like I'm going to marry anyone ELSE. Might as well!"

You think I jest. Because I, in case it hasn't been well evidenced on this website, am an overthinker of VAST proportions.  There is no horse I have not beaten, no well-traveled rut I am not willing to drive through all over again. But Internet, my decision to marry Phillip (or, as my pre-Cana workbook would call it, my Decision to Love, said in the voice of the priest from 'The Princess Bride') had nothing to do with actual Thinking and everything to do with the fact that I just couldn't see myself marrying anyone else. I don't know if you know this, but dating is HARD and who wants to do it ALL OVER AGAIN? (And to show that I am not made of stone, Phillip is the exact same way. So there. Two stones in a stone pod.)

Here are the things I was totally not thinking about:

  • the fact that I go to bed really early and Phillip stays up really late
  • who would pay the taxes
  • how we would pay the taxes
  • if Phillip would be okay providing for the family if I wanted to stay home with kids
  • kids!
  • where we wanted to live
  • the fact that Phillip loves cats and I think cats are the sneaky tools of Satan
  • budgets
  • that there might be someone out there who likes to read books instead of computer screens and is therefore much more suited to me (no, this did not occur to me until about a month before the wedding)
  • careers
  • paying off my school loan
  • what we would do NEXT

Luckily, this worked out for me. We're coming up on three years people! That's longer than Nick and Jessica! Now that we are more entrenched in Grown Up Land, we may be arguing about those things on a near-weekly basis, but we're married now. We're stuck. We HAVE to figure this stuff out or ELSE. Now, I quite understand why some people would hesitate before enthusiastically advocating this particular route to married bliss, but I have to say I don't envy those friends who are trying to figure all of this out now. I have no idea what it's like to decide to get married when you are the age I am now, after you have been in the World and paid your own rent and bought your own house and been promoted and earned your master's degree and know much more about who you really want to be. You people are much smarter and thinking about all the right things. It must be really frickin hard.  I feel bad that I never went through that stuff. Maybe God knew that if we waited much longer to get married, I would clue in to all the things I was supposed to consider beforehand and oh, how he must have pitied the future Phillip for having to put up with THAT drama. Better to have her blindly stumble into the whole married thing and figure the rest out later. (Seriously. I can't even imagine what that would be like, except for a vague picture of many many empty wine bottles.)

So 23? Not so bad. Not so embarrassing after all. The unfortunate part is that you can't tell your girlfriend to rewind back to a time when she wasn't thinking about careers and futures and mortgages and the personality traits of the perfect husband and just marry the guy because he's wonderful and he loves her and that's all she really needs to know.

Killer tomatoes

Yesterday, because I am lazy, and also in an effort to slow the sucking of my life force whenever I enter my place of employment, I stayed home. It helped that it was to be the last sunny day for the next year or so. I composed a short "I'm taking a personal day and if you don't like it, you can see me in hell!" message to my boss (who is a lovely person, I just added the "see me in hell" part because I am a timid wussy girl and must work myself into a full-on Tizzy in order to Be A Rebel. By staying home from work. Although, how much of a rebel can you be when you take a personal day instead of pretending to be sick? Gah.)

Also, the average person playing hooky from their full-time job probably goes back to bed after hitting "send" on the not-going-in-today email message, but oh, not me. No. I make tomato sauce.

Phillip shipped off for his day at the office and I tapped my fingers on the kitchen counter scheduling the next eight hours. I made a list, people. I made a list of the the things I wanted to do before noon, the things I wanted to before five, the things I needed to buy at the grocery store and the things I didn't feel like doing but needed to get done (hello final project!) Mostly I just wanted to go shopping at U Village, but my shopping friend was unavailable until later that afternoon, so I decided to start on dinner. At nine in the morning.

I thought I would have to buy tomato sauce, like the rest of America, but Internet, I hail from the tomato sauce capital of the universe, and also, I own a very pretty sparkly kitchen that has produced only twelve tons of chicken stirfry and fourteen thousand chocolate chip cookies in its year-long existence. We'd also just been to Costco and the fridge was full of produce that we were going to have to throw out in a week when we would realize, for the millionth time, that we shouldn't buy healthy food because healthy food is ignored and then it ROTS.

So anyway. I cored six Roma tomatoes (only six! It was an experiment!) and poured boiling water over them, just like the cookbook said. I peeled off the skins. I squeezed out the seeds (gross) and diced them. I sauteed some garlic in some olive oil, dumped in the tomatoes and let it simmer for 20 minutes. The end result was not pretty. It might have burned a little. It might have been an unfortunate brown color. I tried not to look too closely.

This is the fifth or sixth time I've attempted to make my own tomato sauce. I have yet to succeed. It's true that I did not follow the recipe completely. I did not add onion or carrot or celery, because, EW. I did not eat red sauce for the first twenty years of my life because of all the THINGS floating around in it. Ick. (I didn't like tomatoes either, but fortunately I've snapped out of that.) The only red sauce in the universe that I would eat is the stuff the Italians dump on top of a plate of Spaghetti Pomodoro. Tomatoes, olive oil, basil, garlic, salt, pepper, basta. My sister even gave me a tomato grinder for Christmas one year, but I can't get the grinder to actually grind. It should not be this hard, people.

I had to go buy tomato sauce. (I like this stuff.) Then I made eggplant parmesan. Then I cleaned up the kitchen, made the bed and started some laundry. Then I sat down on the couch and thought about taking a nap. That's what other people do when they stay home from work. But I? Am INSANE and berated myself a full fifteen minutes before my body was finally all, "Girl, you crazy" and fell asleep. But I woke up because they are laying the pipes for the new townhouses next door and those bulldozer thingies are noisy. So I cleaned the bathrooms. Sigh.

The rest of the day took a definite upward turn when I helped my shopping friend spend her entire paycheck at Ann Taylor (let us all kowtow to Pants That Fit!) and, while browsing through Crate & Barrel, fortuitously remembered that I'm going to a wedding and picked a gift off the handly little registry computer thing. So convenient!

THEN, because I am a timid wussy girl who felt incredibly guilty about staying home on a sunny day, I made treats to bring to work. It's all part of the plan- getting the powers that be so fat that when it comes time to fire me, they won't be able to speak for the fat rolls crowding their jowls.

(You may ask: why I am I pursuing this job security strategy when my full-time job makes me want to poke my eyes out with a spork. Good question! Probably becaue I am currently plotting to do away with my crap job entirely and create a new very cool very awesome job and I need them to want to keep me around. Cookies help tremendously. You have no idea.)

And? AND! I am going on vacation this weekend. (I KNOW. A day off AND vacation? Spoiled. Rotten.) This, after my husband and I have spent a small fortune on a new coffee table, a funky dining room ight fixture and mounds of produce we will not be able to consume before it all grows fur. But we are going, dammit, because if we don't go SOMETIME we will never go and I hate that whole "let's wait until the absolute best time" thing because it NEVER EVER WORKS. That is why I have not been to Europe in TWO YEARS. TWO YEARS PEOPLE. For someone who will not eat red sauce unless she is physically in Italy, that is an ETERNITY. I can't believe that the last foreign country I visited was CHINA (and we are totally ignoring Canada because, really, Canada?) and China was EONS AGO.

Whatever. We are going to Friday Harbor, which is not even in a different state, much less a foreign country. And we will be holing up in the least Victorian bed and breakfast available and watching television for 48 hours straight. I CANNOT WAIT.

Transfiguration? Some initial thoughts.

The other night Phillip and I were in charge of the Yes, Look At Us We Are Organized Now Young Adult Lenten Bible Study. We're using a little book one of the other young adults ordered from a nice Christian bookstore and it pretty much follows the previous Sunday's scripture readings. It's sort of easy to plan a bible study when you've already heard a sermon on the passage. Except not, because you are planning it with your husband and the two of you should not work together, ever. But it went well, I think, mostly because Phillip is really good at that sort of thing while I am most definitely not. So when I say that "we" were in charge I mean that I did the hokey prayers at the beginning and end and Phillip did all the real work.

We read the chapter where God calls Abram to leave home at age 75 and start over in a new land. And we read the story of Jesus' transfiguration in front of the disciples. How open are we, Phillip asked us brightly, to change? I have been thinking about how to write a post about the suspicious lack of anxiety in my life right now and this morning I decided that it had everything to do with being Transfigured.

Ah, I am so profound today.

From the massive amount of anxiety-related research I've done, most people have anxiety attacks: momentary paralyzation, certainty that they are going to die, panic attacks, giant rushes of adrenaline related to... I don't know. Driving, going outside, flying, using the phone, whatever. I don't have that. I have adrenaline that hits me like a cartoon anvil, quickly dissipates just enough for me to survive unmedicated and lasts a painfully long time. It's only now that I'm feeling the faintest bit of free from the last one, and the last one happened over two years ago. It's happened to me twice, totally unrelated incidents, but in both cases I was willfully ignoring (maybe even completely oblivious to) something I shall call Change.

I don't think of myself as a particularly dense person, but when I look back at what triggered my battles with anxiety, I'm in shameful awe of my own stubbornness. Especially the second time. The second time I wasn't letting anything stand in the way of My Perfect Future, not even the fact that my perfect future had already materialized, on its own, through the grace of God, and was in my living room. I refused to consider that choices the 18-year-old me had once labeled the Height of Dull might be the things making the 24-year-old me deliriously happy. What kind of girl goes around telling everyone how crazy awesome her life is, while actively turning it upside down, just to please the twisted part of her brain that vowed never to be That Girl?

I'm stymied and appalled by my own will.*

Once I figured out what was really making me anxious (which took forever, because I am THAT STUBBORN), much of the anxiety lifted.  I was at the point where I didn't care how much I had to change, just as long as I could fall asleep at night. In that respect, transfiguration was easy; I got used to the idea almost overnight. I only had to live through an entire winter of fearful insomnia to get there.

Of course, none of that means I'm now humbled and receptive to God's work in me. Hardly. In fact, I've been wondering why the last six months haven't triggered a third anxiety episode, as some of this figuring-out-our-future stuff has been some of the hardest stuff I've had to deal with. I am no good at giving up what I want. I make life miserable for myself and everyone around me, but I wonder if I have learned a thing or two.  Maybe I've been able to sleep because I've actually tried to let that stuff go, even when it meant feeling sad for months on end. I haven't tried to make them happen anyway. I haven't tried to ignore the fact that I'm sad, acting like that stuff doesn't matter, like it was small and insignificant and easily conquered. It's been huge and unhappy, but somehow I've managed to let the bad things sit alongside the good, knowing that God will take care of me. Dare I say it- I've allowed my plans to change?


I mean, I think Abram had it easy. God's voice thundered from the heavens. Who wouldn't obey THAT?**

*I am NOT saying that I could have prevented anxiety through the power of my fabulously muscled mind. I believe all the smart folks who say that anxiety and depression are two sides of the same neurological disorder, everything to do with the little thingies in the brain not pulling their weight. I think anti-depressant meds etc. are a very good thing. That said, I do know that my own neurotic self and my oft-mentioned highly anxious personality traits encourage that disorder a good deal and for ME, the first plan of attack involves reigning in the self-produced crazy. I am humbled knowing that the fact that I've been able to deal with this on my own means there are a lot of people way worse off. End of wishy washy disclaimer.

**I am never sure how much I want to write about this anxiety thing, but I know that my favorite sites are unflinchingly honest about the crappy stuff no one talks about. It has made me feel less alone and less crazy, so I guess I hope that the random person googling 'anxiety' leaves my site thinking, "At least I'm not alone." I would also be okay with, "Thank God there's still someone crazier than me."

It's a good day for a Guinness

Either I am sick or, unbeknownst to me, I drank an entire bottle of gin last night. I feel like someone was playing drums on my head while I was sleeping. There are ten pound weights hanging off every one of my eyelashes. Also, I had a crazy person dream where I was acting in a play with Logan from Veronica Mars, the boy I liked in high school and Phillip. And the boy I liked in high school totally did not care that I had makeout scenes with Logan, which irritated me to NO END, but I ended up going home with Phillip which is good, because I am married to him and I wouldn't want to dream-cheat.

I have absolutely no interest in psychoanalyzing that dream. Especially on a day when my brain feels like Jell-O.

You know what is good? Sugar-free fat-free Jell-O Chocolate Fudge pudding. I highly recommend it for those of you contemplating a carb-free lifestyle but are terrified of facing a world without chocolate creaminess. Fear not, the geniuses at Jell-O have come to your aid and delivered to the world about 27 flavors of sugar-free fat-free pudding that sets in five minutes. FIVE. Of course, this does not matter when, the day after you have finally attained the weight you claimed to the state government on your driver's license, you eat your weight in Red Robin french fries. And you know what? They didn't even taste good. How is that possible? But I kept eating them hoping that one of them- just one!- would taste like the deep-fried Ranch-drenched goodness that I remembered so fondly.

Maybe it wasn't that someone was playing drums, maybe someone was squeezing my head in a vise. In case the universe is interested, I think it's terrifically unfair to have a hangover without first going through the drinking part.

Speaking of drinking, I went to a church retreat this weekend and learned a fabulous new poem:

Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
There's laughter, dancing and good red wine.
At least I've always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino!

Hilaire Belloc

That last line means: Let us bless the Lord!

I KNEW I was called to be a Catholic! It's Awesome To Be Catholic Part II: The Archbishop said that us good Seattle Catholics may eat meat on Friday in honor of St. Patrick. Awesome.

And speaking of St. Patrick, this half-awake post is dedicated to Lee, who ensured that I will not spend my entire week suffering CSS-induced fits and who only requested my presence at his St. Patrick's Day party on Friday as reward. Isn't that nice? Of course, I'm going to have to partake of the Guinness, which makes my eyes roll back just thinking about it.

She's a Pisces

Somewhere in the world there is a contemplative easy-going blond girl celebrating her twenty-eighth birthday. I think she is on the East Coast. I think I found her phone number via the magic of Google, but I'm not going to call. What if it's a wrong number? What if it's not?

I spent an hour trying to track down her sister's email address, but she got married and I don't know her new last name. Her dad has a fancy job now, the kind that doesn't post your email address online. I have no idea how to contact her, which is strange, because I thought we would be friends until we were gray old ladies, seeing each other every few years, calling each other on our birthdays.

My 26th birthday was the very first birthday I did not get a call.

I can't decide how sad I am. I thought if this ever happened I would be heartbroken, but now I wonder if this is just the natural string of things. Friends move away, lose touch. Even friends who have spent their whole lives moving and vow to stay connected, it's easy to forget. I'm pretty good at keeping touch. If you haven't heard from me in a while, I'm well aware of it and most likely I feel guilty. I miss her. I should have a working phone number or at least an email address. She hardly ever answered emails.

When I left my good friends in one place, she took up that lonely spot until I finally made friends in the next new place. It was a long time, several years, and even afterwards she would visit and I'd be ecstatic and we would go right back to being each other's favorite person.

I'm glad Phillip got to meet her.

I always ALWAYS called on her birthday.

I think I'm very sad after all. Happy birthday, Anna.

The Obligatory Lent Post

Phillip and I started going to our church before we were dating. I'd heard from a friend of a friend of a friend that St. Upper Class Urban Neighborhood had an amazing priest. At the time I was tired of the "scene" at the Newman Center: all students reminiscent of what I imagined the Newman Center to be like when my mom had gone to college, hippie hymns and overly earnest guitar playing. I wanted families and old people and babies and feeling like you were at church. Phillip, my lone still-practicing Catholic friend was game to try it out, so he picked me up one morning and off we went to St. Upper Class Urban Neighborhood. It was a giant church with the slanted roof and the steeple and everything. It was huge in comparison to the Newman Center, which was still meeting in a house basement when I was in school. (Now it looks like this.) And the priest? He was amazing. Hundreds and hundreds of people attended Sunday morning Mass just to hear him talk. And he always said the same thing- love! your! neighbor!- but he always found a different way to say it each week.

We'd been attending a little over two years when the order he belonged to decided to send him to Africa to train seminarians. Phillip is still not quite over it.

We were not immediately enamored of the new priest. We could not adapt to his decidedly less charismatic demeanor, his solemnity, his reverence for the liturgy. We missed the energy and emotion of the old priest, we missed the way he made us feel. We grudgingly began to "church shop", going to nearly every Catholic church in a ten mile radius. I'm not sure what we were looking for, but we certainly didn't find anyone to match our old priest. For a while I entertained thoughts of attending non-denominational churches because, I reasoned, those churches had feeling. They had spirit and life. Besides, for two kids who had spent college entrenched in a "non-denominational" Christian student fellowship, those churches seemed a lot more familiar than Catholic liturgy.

Except not. I ignored everyone who kind of implied that I was in the wrong religion (of course, no one dared to say that outright!) I liked being Catholic. I liked how big it was and how universal. I liked that I could walk into any Catholic church in any country and know what was going on. I never understood the churches that collapsed after a pastor scandal or split up into two after a rift in the leadership. I liked the enormity, the vast, the sense of the magnificent. When I took him to Italy, Phillip loved the cathedrals. So grand and lavish and enormous- those were proper houses for God.

So we go to St. Fairly Wealthy Mostly White Folks because we've always gone there. We looked around for someone else, but we came back. It's familiar. It's where we got married and where we know a handful of people. We've stuck around long enough to learn that our priest is tremendously gifted in small groups, so talented at sharing his knowledge. Normally I'd gouge my eyes out with a spoon before joining a tour group, but I'm a little bummed I'm not going on the Holy Sites of Italy tour he's leading this spring. I can't imagine the things I would learn. We've stuck around long enough to participate in a small flicker of involved young people, one of whom is reluctant to miss a morning with his amazing pastor at the Presbyterian church and attend Mass with his wife. He told us this and another person said: What if the pastor leaves? Are you going to follow him? Who are you worshiping?

We've stuck around long enough that last night, after our first Lenten bible study, when we were sitting in the pews for Taize, I thought to myself: I feel very much at home.

This Lent I find myself in a very confused place. I am conflicted about how long I'm going to keep my job, what I'll do next, what I'd like to do next, what I should and shouldn't do, how long I'll do whatever I'm doing, can I hack what I really want to do?  I've been waking up early every morning with these thoughts circling around me. I'm restless and out of sorts. But I think God is calling me home, asking me to leave those things at the cross. I am not at church to hear a fantastic sermon or sing beautiful songs or to feel anything. I am there because that's where he is and that's where I should be.

For Lent I am going to a Wednesday evening Taize service, doing a bible study with the other young adults and attending the church retreat this weekend. I should probably give up my fake-sugar candies too, but instead I'm going to pray this prayer. It's actually a prayer for soldiers, but I think I can use it too:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. There will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Thomas Merton