Tuesday, December 27, 2011


What is Christmas about? If you'd asked me as a child, you'd have gotten a very mashed up response verging on the incoherent side. If I am being honest, it didn't mean much. It surprises me how little. Maybe I feel a pang of sorrow too.

Part of the void between feeling any meaning and the actual event is explained by my upbringing, I suppose. My confusion doesn't particularly lie in my home, but in church. I was taught, sometimes quite adamantly how Christmas did not have to do with Christ's birth. That lesson was in our dialogue around December and sometimes said from a pulpit or from behind a podium.

So Christians were teaching Christians about the invalid nature of the holiday. But other Christians were making a fuss. Pageants, lights, and songs. And a Catholic mass: censers, candles, choirs, Latin...what was that about? Sometimes church marquise would say "Jesus is the Reason for the Season." The rhyme made it seem valid, but I knew the truth. My church did none of those things. We might have poinsettias if there had been a December funeral that year. But there were no further adornments. We knew Jesus was born, and who He was, but it certainly didn't happen in December or on the 25th. We might sing a Christmas-y song or two, a sermon might incorporate a wrapped present if it were an object lesson, but not much more.
The pageants, the lights, the presents, the songs, were a part of my life, but divorced from the splendor of Christ. They were at school, or driving through a neighborhood, or watching It's a Wonderful Life.

As an adult I realized how strange that void was. It was three years ago. I had a boyfriend, and I was beginning to see the side of Christmas I never experienced. Anticipation of Christ's coming. It wasn't until I was on the phone with him during the break that I realized how little I thought of the season; it meant presents and trees and family togetherness. To him it was more: Advent, lit candles, reading from scripture each night with his parents.
It opened my world to that other side. Opened, but I didn't go inside.

I faked it. The closest I got to putting Christ in Christmas was reading The Gift of the Magi aloud to him. I recognized it as a glimpse at the gospel, of love, but not fully grown.

It wasn't till later, till last year, that it all started to make sense. Christ, Christmas, the coming, and my acceptance of it. The desire and need for a Savior, not just a 'Jewish' humanistic girl with a penchant for literature, but an as-is, thank you Jesus for your grace, Christian.
At long last Christmas has substance. Songs make sense. The desire to be at a Christmas eve service is true, not a facade. So the date is wrong, no matter, we have a reason to celebrate. I have a reason to sing.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

phone calls

It has been my experience that any phone call that begins with the question: "why did you call me" inevitably goes poorly.
Likewise, phone calls that sum up with "was there something else you wanted to say" have achieved some new form of stand-offish-ness.
When both coincide, though, it must mean there is certainly something broken on the line.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Single Schnucks

There is this store in town called Schnucks that I frequent. It's a little more costly than Aldi and a little less than Whole Foods, and more than Target, so I go there occassionally.
Each Schnucks has it's own demographic that it "caters" to. I am most used to the Jewish Schnucks in Clayton, which has kosher foods. But more recently since moving into the city, I go to Scary Schnucks, which isn't really scary at all if it's light out. The way they cater to their clientele is to sell food past it's expiration date. Boo economic prejudice.
Today, I went to the middle of the road Single Schnucks, which got it's name by being so close to Washington University's campus. Now, it's not exactly true that you find a date by walking in, I never have, expecially since I have noticed the students are looking younger and younger. But today I fell in love.
I normally fall in love easily, an empathetic, sympathetic, heart warmed humanistic love of someone's turn of phrase or the way they wear a scarf. The mosaic of people in this world astound me.
But today in line, I was getting the fixings for Rotel dip because I don't want to eat another casserole in November, and yet I have 2 Thanksgiving dinners to down. And before me was a girl getting a ton of food, and behind me was some man-ish person, no big deal. But he had a basket, which is a good sign, and no list (written by a girl), which is better, and the first thing I always check is the left hand, and it was bare. Then it happened. My soda fell on the floor. I stared at it for a second longer than I needed to and he said "I'll look the other way and you can put it back." Ethically this is wrong, so I didn't, but it was exciting. He was a man with a dangerous side and most importantly, the talking barrier had been breached.
I told him to put his basket up on the roller thing, invited more than ordered, and then noticed the contents of his basket. 6-7 jars of spices, a pie plate, condensed milk other stuff. Obviously this guy is cooking something, so I asked if he had ever cooked before (um look at the spices, there was enough for a spice rack).

Him: Oh those are on sale, and I'm making pies this year.
Me: (thinking) Oh! Pies! I like that. He is also making eye contact. Brown chicken brown cow.
Me (aloud): What kinds?
Him: 2 pumpkin and one cherry
Me: (thinking) Gross
Him: I think pumpkin is gross...
Me: Because it is!
Him: Thank you. (eye contact)
Me: (thinking) Eek! No thank you love of my life. We're only in 3rd gear of banter, but you might be able to shift up to a snarky 4th. I possibly want to finish your sentences forever.
Him: but it's expected to have pumpkin.
Me: I guess so. (so conventional)

And the conversation waned as I paid and wished him luck and walked away. And even though I had gotten over the fact that he looked like a typical Aryan Nazi youth (parted blond hair does conjure the thought), I still thought he should at least facebook friend me.

Oh pie man who got away, look me in the eye and be sarcastic again, won't you?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

some notes come back

There are some things from the past that are beautiful. And they were. But with time that beauty can break. And if you come across the remnant again the beauty and the memory of it's wholeness remains. It's so easy to see and yet jagged with flaws. And even if the parts are still there, it is never the same. Likely some pieces are missing and you are left with the beauty that was and the sharp edge that is now.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The World is Round

Sleeping to dream. Sometimes I sleep to dream since there seems to be no other way to lay aside inhibitions and truly understand what I am feeling. But in dreams my brain processes, cryptically but well, life.
Last night I had a painting dream. It seemed like a Renaissance scene, rich in color and activity. At the focal point were 3 women in wedding dresses sitting on thrones looking out over a room of other women. On the highest throne was seated my best friend from grade school. To the left was her baby who had just learned to roll over, and did so then grinned up at me. They both shared the same striking blue eyes. Then I looked up from the rug and rolling babe and saw a co-worker announcing how she could buy a house. She had bundled her full ride scholarship to the mortgage using a HIPPA form (not everything makes sense in dreams). So her house payments came directly out of her supplemented income. And she was pursuing her 3rd grad degree and said this discretely as she repositioned her pearls.
Why such a dream?
Minus the opulence, this is life. No one quite prepares you well for friendship. To be a true friend, you understand that you must be loyal. When things are hard and friends need support I know my role and am able to comfort, listen, distract, easily. What people don't tell you when you talk about having friends and investing in them is how to rejoice with them well. I guess it's assumed that that should be the easy part. Rejoicing when they get engaged. When they announce they are pregnant. When they buy a house.
It's easy to run to them in sincerety and hug them. And then jump litterally for joy. It's easy when you're in the air of the first jump. But then you land. And then comes the pang. Is it gravity? And you've landed in different places with the thought "I'm not you." But you're not done jumping because this is a big deal. One jump isn't enough. We're landing in different spots again and again out of rhythm.
Jealousy gets in the way? I hope I would not shy away from that word, jealously. But given the choice I wouldn't take their joy from them. But it's much easier to take joy when you share the new stage together when you jump in unison.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

the keys are alright , or ... lost things

There is a fine line between being fine and only appearing so. It's difficult to distinguish from the outside and often from within. Even if you are analytical. Even if you are self-reflective. Even and especially if you are me.

For me, determining a state of okay-ness, relies on a finite number of soft signs. Obviously to wonder if there is mental clarity indicates that there is some, actually that there's a lot...but? But not so fast.

If I am distracted, since I am normally focused in a disorderly way, that is a sign. The extension of this sign is a key, or a set of them. "Do you know where your keys are?" This question could be synonymous with "are you alright?" Lately keys and their location seem to give the best insight to if I am or am not through and through functioning well emotionally, physically, etc. If say, I lock my keys in my car, it wasn't as simple as locking keys in a car. There was another reason. Not a blaming sort of reason, but a state of being reason with catalysts and multifactoral roots. I was too much in my mind and not enough in the world of objects.

If say 2 weeks ago when I again misplaced my keys for 20 minutes and searched for them in my car in the rain with a headlamp, wondering "how did I do this again?" Answer: You are clearly distracted. Distracted to the point of having the keys in my pocket the entire time. Distracted to the point of leaving the keys in my front door all night 5 days later. Distracted enough to not be thinking about tangibles about matter.

Where are my keys? Next to the door where they belong. In the ashtray that I use for keeping keys. Not in the door. Not in a pocket. Not in a trunk. Not in purse number 5. So I know yes, I am focused once again.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

a doorbell rings

A doorbell ring should be a hopeful sound, and yet it often is not. At least not the unanticipated surprise doorbell that rings out early in the morning. Instead it is a cue: be steady, an unknown situation awaits.

Again the doorbell rang this morning. And again I felt the surge of "I wonder who?" and placed a name in the unspoken answer. A good name. A welcome name.
Again I was wrong. I should have been steady and steeled.

Why is it so difficult to do what is right when it is right, but only for yourself? Why is doing the right thing toward myself not enough?
Why should there be another extrinsic reason to buttress my resolve, be it for humanity, or another person, or nature? And why, when no is hard enough, does it often need to come when there are so few braces?

The doorbell rang. I scooped my purse, already had on my coat. I needed to be across town at LabCorp in 15 minutes. I opened the door looking down, expecting maybe a note or bag, or something. That happens frequently enough that I've trained my eyes downward first. But no.

"I brought you breakfast. Do you have a minute to talk?" I take the bag. Why did I take it?
"I uh... I was just headed out." This is true. I lock the door. It verifies my statement. I'm leaving.
"Just a minute. Won't you listen?" He sits.
You've got me, everyone deserves an audience, don't they? What level of unlove is there that I can't listen? Listening won't change my mind. We sit. I clamp all of me together. I am as small as possible. Literally. If I don't move maybe I'm invisible.
The rational and a plan tumbles out.
Why am I sitting here? Why am I listening? I don't want this. I can't listen to you and to me. They are dissonant.
I stand.
"I need to go." Blocked.
I get stepped in front of.
"I need to go." Move to the side.
"But you didn't hear everything." Stopped again.
"I need to go. I need to go pee in a cup." What?!? I never thought I'd say that aloud. If this was on t.v I'd laugh. I'm not laughing. I need to laugh.
"But wait."
That didn't work. Child-like logic never works.
"I'm not lying. I need to go." I start flapping my hands. What do I do with my hands? Flapping? I need to change directions, he's in my way.
"Wait. Please Andrea" I break away.
"Can I walk you to your car? I'm not done yet. You haven't heard it all. You aren't listening."
I am. I was. I shouldn't. Well, you're next to me walking, and I doubt you'll stop, so fine.
"Can I give you a hug?"
"No. No. I have to go." Don't touch me.

I was fasting so, no food or coffee was in me. I was sad, so tears were already close by. I am alone, so there were no distractions or supports at hand. I had an appointment, but that didn't stop me listening and being late.

A lot of listening. A lot of trembling. A lot of trying to leave and being cut off. A lot of steps to my car. A lot of no from a hollow voice.
But not a lot of strength.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

fearfully and wonderfully

My mom told me once, and I didn't like it, that what you are made to do, you just do. You don't think about it, it comes out of you and can't be stopped. Now I do take issue with the last bit, that it can't be stopped. Just about anything can be lost, forgotten, or suppressed. That wasn't a very illuminating bit of advice when I came again to her asking what I should do in life. Read: job. Should I become a journalist? No matter that I hadn't written a thing. No matter that I didn't daily sit down and journal. I guess I believed in the think method*, only applying it to words, not to music.

You can't stop what you're made to do... The complicating factor here was, I was seeking a way to make money and this wisdom didn't directly translate to a pay check. Not that I was looking for much money, necessarily, but I wanted a path.
Since you can't help but ________ you should pursue _________ in school and do ______with it. A life-sized MadLib game. (As a side note, I never learned grammar till college, so MadLibs have never been fun. I didn't know what a preposition was. Isn't that strange for an English major to not know till Junior year what a preposition is?)

So I ended college. Didn't know what to do. Liked to read. Cannot edit to save my life. My options seemed limited. But I got into grad school, did well, and then got a job. And it's here that things got broken.

It's here I learned some of what I was made to do and it was suppressed. I am a writer of sorts. I wrote letters growing up, and collected daily doings writing them to my cousins. And it was fun and funny. How can someone go to the grocery store and not be on an adventure?

So, I started a blog. Had one really before going to Nebraska, but continued it.
Until it was found out by someone at school. And I was told to take it down. And apologize for my words. Words that were gracious and true and not poorly reflecting anything except maybe my vocabulary. I cannot understand still what happened to me in those 9 months. But all of the "you do what you are" shrank away. The more I was the more I was ostracized.

I stopped writing. I stopped laughing. I stopped talking. I stopped eating. I could not do the right thing without criticism and I was a shell inside and a blank screen to reflect incorrect images onto. It's strange what you believe when you are told who you are for long enough when you are alone.
Lazy. Inept. Hurtful. Stupid.
You'd believe it. Don't tell me you wouldn't.

It's taken years to undo. No, not undo. Label. Untangle. And like a chain, it's crimped in a way that won't hang the same again. It is so easy to relearn those lies, to get retangled to only see the snags. God sheltered me in those times. In such small ways. I was empty but was protected.

I am what I do. And since I stopped doing absolutely everything that was not necessary for waking hours: feed, bathe, exercise,laundry, sleep, what I do now has been basic.

It's similar I guess to the sensation of a phantom limb. I haven't had a phantom limb, but I have slept on my arm and had it go so numb I was surprised it ever had feeling again.

Now, nearly 5 years later, I am becoming aware of who I was. Feeling a tug, or a pressure, an itch or a tingle.

Start to write.
Start to read.
Start to be.
Test the waters.
You are safe.

*The Music Man, watch it

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fight or Flight

Fight or flight. Cleverly similar words with such appropriately different meanings. I believe everyone experiences the fight of flight response to situations all of the time. But I don't hear much about the after effects of this adrenal response or specifically about the mental reaction that must follow. To me it doesn't seem like a simple chemical reaction at all, nor do most of my fight of flight occurrences happen in the wild when bodily harm is truly on the line. Rather, it is as simple or complex as a social interaction or inaction

Lately, I've been put in or happened upon quite a few situations where I did not know how to respond. There seems to be a gulf between my first response in how I want to react (run, be silent, have harsh words) and what I do, which tends to be polite or understanding and is certainly not indicative of the thoughts within. When what I want to do, to avoid being hurtful, is run or hide, or both.

Of course I haven't hid. I shouldn't say of course, because I have spent many minutes escaping into bathroom stalls in my adulthood just to get away. It's why my first book, if I were ever to write one, would be titled: Hiding in Bathrooms. (It's always good to have a title on hand in case a book presents itself.) But I've stopped hiding, I suppose since I have hid I never developed the, how to stay put response well.

I grew up criticizing those girls who in a moment of stress or make-believe drama would circle up her posse and go gossip in a corner about whatever it was. Someone wearing the same shirt or some verbal exchange and its meaning. I never understood this need exactly nor approved since it seemed to create more havoc than good.
But I am gaining understanding and have the urge now.

When I am in one of these social, I need to get away moments, I long for someone else far enough removed, but intuitive and close enough to me to see and understand what is unfolding. The proximics, the syntax, the tone, the vocabulary, the non-verbals. How the surface is not all of the story and that I need a swift exit. I need to go and talk of "shoes and ships and sailing wax" to laugh, because laughter will shed light return it to where it needs to be.

All of those cards seemed to be in place today. I was with my faithful, observant, and best friend of a brother at church. And yet when I needed to cut out due to an uncomfortable situation, we didn't. I got the opportunity to be an adult but not run, but desired to not linger. Instead, we were 30 minutes later, still socializing, him in some unknown location, and not answering his phone. And certainly not taking hints even when I asked directly for us to please leave. But by the time we did it seemed too late. My thoughts and feelings were strewn about in such a way that I couldn't catch them, fold them up nicely, or put them back away.

And once removed, once the need to fight or flee is gone, what then? The trigger is gone, but the feelings aren't. Where do they go? They don't have receptors like adrenaline and get absorbed back into the body or mind. Where should they go?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Do something each day that scares you, Lent 2011

It is my understanding that during Lent a person is to give up something reminding them of their devotion to God. Last year, I attempted to give up soda. I only ended up cutting back, but still the exercise was somewhat fruitful.

This year, a week into the Lent season, I'd like to observe it in a different way.
I am taking creative license, and believe I can since I am protestant and the entire Lent idea is still quite foreign.

This year, I would like to challenge my sense of comfort. Comfort comes in all shapes and sizes. It can be coffee, curling up with my security blanket (true), staying silent. So recognizing that comfort is comforting and therefore often easier and pleasanter, I will try to activily do something that scares me daily.
I'm not talking sky diving scare or hitch hike with a stranger scare (since I have already done that). But make a conscious decision to challenge my comforts each day be it something that will be fun and I simply don't want to put myself out there or something that won't be enjoyable in the least.
I will try to update the list daily so as to be conscious of what I'm about and that it will hopefully make me grateful to have comforts but more grateful that I have a Comforter, Author, and Protector.

I am starting now, but can remember things I have done in the last week that were challenging to do.

March 15: Participate in focus group. Mend a relationship. Take a spinning class.
March 14: Ask for help at help desk in airport.
March 13: Eat things I can't pronounce at an Asian Market.
March 12: Fly to New England area. See a friend. Explore new things.
March 11: Write performance eval. Use strong "I statements" and explain my strengths.
March 10: Directly ask boss about my job next year and my position.
Ash Wednesday: state an idea in department meeting and defend its relevancy.