Monday, December 17, 2012

Oh, Come.

For the past three mornings I have woken up with a curiously light heart. The first thing I'll see is either my snoring husband (when he is sleeping, I can see what he looked like as a boy) or our Christmas lights around the doors in our bedroom. I feel warm and covered and I count how many days are left before we'll be in snowy Ohio with our families and flannel pajamas and suffocating hugs. But then I start to stretch and then I remember, and then I sigh and I try to go back to sleep. I remember that I'm in a world where someone shot and killed 20 babies at an elementary school on Friday.

Once I wrote about how my heart is a shelf and everything has its place. This is another thing that has no place. And I can feel it; the angry weight of it and the desperate urgency to PUT IT SOMEWHERE but I have nowhere to put it! I don't know what to do with it! There were babies, with names, and brothers and sisters, and plans. There were probably Christmas presents. There were probably already Christmas presents. Wrapped and ready, even, maybe. Under the tree? Could there have been presents under the tree already? I can't tolerate it. It's coming back up my throat.

Have you ever had the feeling - maybe you're covered up under a blanket or something - when you breathe in, and you know you didn't get any oxygen? I've always wondered how my body can tell. The air doesn't feel any different. Maybe a bit warmer, but there's no less of it. But my body knows it's not oxygen. I balk and cough and lift up the covers. My lungs somehow know to reject what they have no place for.

That's what this feels like. I have no place for this. Not in my lungs, not in my muscles, most certainly not in my heart.

If I wanted to be dead, I could understand dealing with this. If I had already resigned myself to the fact that the world has gone to Hell and that I won't be here much longer, I would be sad, but I would be ok. I'd still crave chocolate and buy postage stamps and wake up able to step into the shower without choking on tears. Because I'd just be waiting. But the problem is, I don't want to die yet. I want to keep living with my precious husband. I want to keep singing. I want to keep finding recipes to try. I want to keep learning at my job. I want to have babies.

How can I want to have babies?

At church last night we sang "Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel." Afterwards Aar and I had a funny conversation - he said whenever he hears that song, he wishes it had a more joyful melody. Because it's such a celebration, he said! Emmanuel came! After he told me that, I had to laugh and tell him that every time I hear that song, I only wish it were even more somber. It's so melancholy and aching and beautiful - and even though yes, Emmanuel came, he hadn't come yet to the writers of that song. ("...shall come to you, O Israel.") Can you imagine their desperation? Their hope against all odds? Their hope in the midst of such a violent, hopeless time?

Our pastor prayed last night that God would heal the world, would repair our wounds, would guide us back toward love, would remedy our sick bodies and relationships and minds. I wanted to interrupt him and say - "no. NO. He's not going to, so stop asking Him." Because we have not been promised immunity from the murder of 20 babies, while they were supposed to be eating graham crackers and learning math and daydreaming about their Christmas presents (those presents.) We weren't promised anything too rosy in regards to our life here. Before Emmanuel came, the world was quite unbelievably violent. While Emmanuel was here, it was violent still. Since He left, (rather violently, I might add) the violence has actually decreased - Decreased! To murdered children! - but it's still here, still black with ugliness; still loud and interrupting and horrific and inescapable. And it's going to stay that way.

So like I said before - if I don't want to die yet, where do I put this?

I used to say "Jesus, please come back" in a very soft, very reverent, very non-genuine way. In a very Christianese way. As in - "Jesus, come back, there are hungry children in Africa and other places I don't know about, but also I would really like a Barbie hot wheels for Christmas this year, Amen." Even after 9/11, I didn't really mean it.

I don't want to die, but I don't want to have to claim a world like this anymore either. I don't want to swim laps and cook salmon on the grill while I breathe the same air that people who murder babies breathe. I don't want to walk around and say "Merry Christmas" to people who are also carrying this Heavy Thing, with nowhere to put it. So now I mean it. Now I am the writers of the song. Please come, O come, Emmanuel. We're lost.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bullet Points Episode 4

1. Hi. We went to Ohio for Thanksgiving last week. It was wonderful as usual. The best part was all of it. Here is a picture of the new family dog playing football with Aaron and Joey. Her name is Rosie and she lacks all social grace and judgment and will immediately lick your face upon meeting you, not unlike Aaron. I like her but hope for an improvement in manners when I see her again at Christmas.


The rest of my family was fine, too, though not without their own manner issues (I think my brother cheats at Trivial Pursuit but the investigation is ongoing.) Here is ol' Pops carving the bird, which was delish. Isn't it weird that turkeys say "gobble gobble" and that's what we do to them? (That joke fell uncomfortably flat at Thanksgiving but I know how good it truly is.)



2. We flew home last Sunday and I immediately went to Paradise Bakery to get us some healthy soup for lunch because my stomach was so full of sugar and icing and icing made out of sugar, and stuffing and gravy and icing, though the icing was not on the gravy nor made out of gravy. As I was in line, a wondrous thing happened. There was a nice lady. She was very prim and proper. She was probably in her 40's. She was wearing a nice floral-printed skirt and had presumably just come from a meeting of a religious nature, it being Sunday around 12:00 pm and all. And there she was, very feminine and polite as she ordered her sandwich, and then she looked over her shoulder, and then went for it. She picked a big ol' wedgie, ya'llsies. IT WAS AWESOME. I know, lady. I know. There's something just unacceptably uncomfortable about underwears right up your butt. Sometimes you weigh the social unacceptability against the discomfort unacceptability and the discomfort is way more unacceptable. We're pragmatic, you and me. I applaud you and I bet you were super comfortable while you ate your french onion soup.

3. After the soup and a brief nap, Christmas threw up in my apartment and I wasn't even mad. We have stockings and a tree and a wreath and a little ceramic Christmas train (there are always trains! Do trains come out at Christmas?) and I even made Snickerdoodles, though that had less to do with Christmas and more to do with my debilitating sense of guilt after our neighbors watched Jethro while we were in Ohio and wouldn't accept payment, so I gave them Snickerdoodles instead. Nonetheless, they featured green and red sprinkles so the Christmas spirit was still very much alive.






(Jethro acted as if he had done all the work. Unlike us. Unlike Aaron. I...I didn't do anything.

Also while we were decorating we tried out a new grilled salmon recipe on the, you know, grill. It's surreal to grill outside in shorts and socks while hanging tinsel, but I don't want to start being someone who overuses "surreal" and I feel like I'm getting close to that, so let's just call it "life." It was life to grill out while hanging tinsel.

Before I wrote this post, I made an outline of it, and yes, it was as grand as you're imagining.

Bye!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I Don't Deserve This

Last night I had just turned off the lamp next to our bed and laid down to sleep (lately a chaotic dream-filled adventure, inexplicably) when suddenly in my mind's eye I saw my guitar teacher and my gut wrenched into despair.

(This sounds dramatic but usually happens to me about every 3.5 seconds, with the guitar teacher being the variable, so don't be alarmed. Or do?)

I had the best guitar teacher. He was (presumably is) one of the sweetest people you could ever meet. He played for the worship team at the Catholic church I attended until I was 8. Then I moved away, but when I signed up for guitar lessons at Pellegrino's music in Belden Village when I turned 14, lo and behold, he was the staff teacher.

Every Thursday I drove to Belden with scratchy ripped CD's in hand, full of  The Who and Carly Simon and John Mayer and Michelle Branch and whatever other million songs I HAD TO LEARN. We'd put them on the stereo and he'd teach me the chords.

I took these lessons for years, and we became good friends. We even played at church togther on Christmas Eve sometimes, which was the best night at St. Mary's in Massillon. Catholic Churches have HUGE ceilings, and that's what Christmas Eve calls for. And dimness and candles and the small sense of awe that tells you that you need to shush, because something bigger than you is happening.

Anyway, I went off to college and met Aaron and fell in love and ate lots of bagel sandwiches at Bagel Street and learned Spanish and rollerbladed up Morton Hill, and then I was planning a wedding. So I invited my guitar teacher.

He came! He came by himself. He gave us a present. He got a new suit, he said.

I don't mean this metaphorically or existentially, I mean it literally: I don't know how to accept graciousness like that. How does the thought of him doing those things - driving three hours, getting a new suit and bringing a gift to the wedding of a punk kid he used to teach guitar to - not absolutely crush you? I wanted him to come; I wouldn't have invited him otherwise, but it would have been so much easier had he snubbed me or left a dead cat on my doorstep or something. Accepting sweetness like that is painful and I don't know how to do it.

So I stay up at night, hoping I was nice enough.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Love Letter to Songwriters



Hi I made a video blog. A vlog? Do we call them that? It's about songs and stuff. 




If you have a song to add to the list that uses these same chords, or some variation thereof, or something, leave it in the comments and I'll send you a prize, and that prize will be a mix CD of all of the best songs ever, which may or may not contain these chords.

Bye.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Weekending

This weekend I have several pressing matters to attend to, all of which you must be waiting with bated breath to hear, and I am not one to bate breath for much longer than necessary. (?)

1. First I plan to go back to the pool. I have been hot-yoga-ing 4 times a week for the past month but my Groupon has expired and I'm nothing if not cripplingly frugal, so I ain't paying no $100 a month to sit in a room of 120 degrees and try to stand on my elbows. I mean, say $20 and we'll talk, but, you understand. So I'll be heading back on Saturday to the pool, where it's only $2 for an hour and a half of unlimited uncoordinated flip-turns and water-up-your-nose incidents. Is it my birthday?!

2. Secondly we plan to take our car to the Toyota dealership to see if we can't trade-er-in for a newer model. Are you familiar with the story of our first interaction with Toyota? I'm eating a lot of protein tonight in preparation, is what I'm saying.

Really we're just going because we got a mailer that if we bring the Rav in before Nov. 7th to "discuss a trade-in" we'll get a $15 Starbucks card. I mentioned the crippling frugality, yes?

3. Thirdly I plan to finish my Ireland photo album. No I have not finished our wedding album, why do you ask? You know what, IRELAND HAS CASLTES. Aaron has... a beard? I'm just kidding, our wedding was awesome. But CASTLES.

4. Fourthly (fourthly?) I plan to make another Pinterest recipe. I can't decide what it means about me that I like to make Pinterest recipes. Every time I log onto Pinterest I think, "UGH, who USES this site? GROSS." And then I peruse for hours. As far as I can tell it's geared specifically towards middle aged teachers, the sexually confused and/or people who like Zac Efron. Am I one of these? I do not believe so. But then I find so many recipes I want to try, and then I do try them, and then I feel confused because I'm still hardcore, right? Like can I still wear thick eyeliner and combat boots sometimes or would that mean I have a personality disorder?

Actually I did make a Pinterest recipe this week and I decided I was going to photo-document it, like a good blogger would. I had grand plans to make my life look beautiful and put-together and fabulous and SO MUCH BETTER THAN YOURS, you know, a-la Cupcakes and Cashmere. But then the photos turned out like this, so it occurs to me that maybe I didn't do it right, but then maybe that means I did do it right?

Either way I promise I won't photo document these things anymore. Sorry, America.



Love you all. Happy weekend!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Why I'm Voting and Why I'm Voting for Mitt

(alternate title: This is my Blog and I Suppose I Can Write About What's Important to Me)

Before 2007, I didn't think Christians should use their Christian morality in the voting booth because I thought it would be unfair. But then I learned that wasn't true, and here's why I believe it isn't:

1. Every single law, right down to funding the public library, is based on a morality. Every law says we should do X and we shouldn't do Y. Welfare is based on the morality that we should help those in need. Banning super-sized sodas is based on the morality that we have to help the obese not be so obese - and further, that obesity is bad. If you don't vote based on your Christian morality, which by definition, we as Christians believe is the correct one - another morality will win out.

2. There are many examples, in both Old and New Testaments, of the importance God places on politics. Leviticus is an obvious example, but I like the New Testament example of John the Baptist confronting King Herod to tell him he was doing wrong. (See Mark 6.) Clearly we are not meant to separate ourselves from society to such an extent that we give ourselves no say in our culture's direction.

3. Jesus said to give to Caesar what is Caesar's. In our case, our 'Caesar' is a democracy - which demands participation.

4. Part of believing God is all Good is believing that God's will is what's best for us. That's why I can, with confidence and the utmost of compassion, vote that His will be done in our society.

Now that I believe I should vote, here's a few reasons why I'm voting for Mitt Romney.

1. The Economy
     I don't own a small business or a business of any size, actually, but I know things are not going well. They are not better than they were 4 years ago. I have a few key points here. The first is that in February of 2009, President Obama told Matt Lauer that if he didn't turn the economy around in 3 years, he would be a one-term president. That speaks for itself. (Here's the video.)

    Secondly, I do happen to work in the health insurance world in HR for a private company, and I can tell you firsthand how unbelievably, infuriatingly CRIPPLING Obamacare has already been. Companies need legal teams just to give them an idea of what the heck this behemoth is. Insurance rates have already increased because insurance companies are preparing for a mass exodus coming down the pike, which isn't good for anyone. This thing is an economic nightmare.

  Third, Mitt Romney has a very successful, very impressive economic record. I know we're inexplicably in the business now of finding economically successful people to be morally inferior (a bit judgmental, no?) but I'm not on that train. We can't hold "small businesses" to be of the highest moral fiber and then call a big businesses a monster. Big businesses are small businesses that grew big. That's just physics. Or chemistry? I haven't taken science since high school.

  Either way, economic and business savvy play a role in this election - a lot larger of a role than in the past, even. Mitt Romney has been successful in those areas. Obama didn't have business experience before his presidency and he most certainly has failed in this area since he took office.

2. Foreign Affairs/Policy
   The handling of the situation in Libya has made Obama impeachable. President Obama refused requests for additional security to a Middle Eastern embassy - on 9/11.  Then, when the embassy was attacked, and he knew it was an attack, he spent two weeks pretending it was a spontaneous mob reacting to a video that some "vile" American made (but "Piss Christ" deserves National Endowment money?). Then he doubled-back and said it was an attack. Now we know that the administration had real-time intelligence of the attack as it was going on, and someone denied military support. 4 Americans were killed, including our ambassador. Obama went to Las Vegas the next day to campaign. This reads like a very bad, very tasteless crime novel, doesn't it? If only it were fiction.
   Additionally, President Obama's unwillingness to call terrorism terrorism and to recognize the threat of Islam is just embarrassing and useless. If the overwhelming majority of recent terrorist attacks were committed by Islamic jihadists, supposing that the next attack is likely to be committed by a Muslim is not racial profiling, it's actual profiling. (To steal a line from Saul in Homeland. XOXO Saul call me.) It's statistical intelligence. The Muslim threat is real and we need a President who acknowledges it, or I'm afraid we'll ignore it. To our needless peril.

  One more caveat - investigating why or how or when we offended terrorists is the most backwards foreign policy stance I've ever had the misfortune of witnessing. Since when do we assign logic to insane, hateful, violent people? 

3. Abortion
  If fetuses weren't human, I'd be pro-choice, but with hesitation and sadness, because I believe (and have seen) that abortion is harmful to women. But fetuses are human. When two humans reproduce, they don't produce a lizard or a spider or a frog, they produce a human. Developing fetuses differ from born human beings in only 4 ways: Size, Level of Development, Environment, and Degree of Dependency. Born humans also differ from each other in these four ways, yet we don't call someone who is small or who has a less-developed brain than someone older than them "less human." There is no difference between a fetus and a born human that doesn't fit into these categories.

  If it's a human, our society has already made the decision on whether it's legal to kill it. It's not.

  If it's a human, this is genocide.

  If this is genocide, and I don't vote with this in mind - well, I don't want to be that type of person.

  The fact is, the next pres. is most likely going to appoint 2-3 Supreme Court Justices. That's where abortion comes into play.

4. Empowering those in poverty
  In college, Aaron and I volunteered at a homeless shelter/community outreach program called Good Works. Good Works took a radical approach to the problem of homelessness, and it's changed my outlook permanently. We need to care for the afflicted, and caring for them means empowering them. Coming alongside them, helping them through their emergency, and equipping them with tools to dig their way out. We don't empower those struggling with poverty by giving them two years of unemployment benefits. We don't empower people with handouts.  That degrades people; it stomps on their dignity. Moreover, it empowers people who want to take advantage of the system.

  However, sometimes handouts are necessary - food, shelter, money, clothing, medicine, etc. That's where we come in - the church, neighbors, the proverbial WE. Getting less take-home pay because the government thinks it can help the poor better than I can is a real source of high blood pressure for me. And probably the reason I eat so much chocolate. Let me keep my money, and I'll show you how much farther it can go.

  I know not everybody helps like they should. But we were founded as a country that said it would be home to both responsible citizens and lazy assholes, and that's our identity, for better or worse. Giving that up would cost much more than it would 'help.'  The very loveliness and essence of giving is destroyed when it's forced - and it's absolutely perverted when it's forced by an embarassingly incompetent government.

5. Our Leader's Attitude
  Obama thinks he's smarter than you. He thinks (pretends to think) that he is better at loving people than you. He thinks he's cooler than you and that he can handle your money and your sexual life and your healthcare better than you can. This is not how leaders lead. This is how cult masters manipulate. I'm tired of it and I'm embarrassed of him.

Ok.

Talk to me.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Weather Philosophy Revisited; Sorry Everyone

When I was in elementary and middle school, I was an altar girl. They always had to save the shortest white robe for me. I liked the way the priest washed his hands before breaking the communion. Our priest always did it very slowly, with his lips moving in prayer. That's one of those things that you find so inexplicably beautiful at the time, but you don't know why, and thinking about it too hard might ruin it, so you just let it be beautiful. You know?

Anyway, the couple that "trained" the altar kids at my Catholic school held a "server appreciation party" for us every year at Halloween. They lived on this giant farm outside of Louisville, with a huge barn and rustic decor and a cornfield. The Halloween decorations were always spot-on and they had a huge bonfire and hay rides and carmel apples and everything Pinterest could ever want.

When I think of those parties now, I feel an actual ache. In my memories of them the sky is in a permanent state of dusk, blanketed in gray clouds; there's always a chilly breeze; a dog howling somewhere. Realistically it was probably just a bunch of 10-year-olds with sticky hands eating tootsie roll pops at 4 in the afternoon, but it still felt like magic.

So much more magic than today. Sunny, 80-degree today; with a slight breeze bending the palm trees. There are pumpkins on porches but I think they're embarrassed to be there.

(Honestly, how many times am I going to write about the weather? Somebody get me a xanax, am I right?!?!?! I MEAN!)

But you know what it is about weather? It's not the weather itself. It's the fact that it changes. Phoenix is nicknamed the "valley of the sun" because the sun shines over 300 days a year here. When I first moved here I marveled at that and tried to figure out why EVERYONE doesn't live here. (The margaritas alone make it worth it, maybe.) But then I realized I was in the middle of a very Lois Lowry-esque novel, where the thing you think is great turns out to be super creepy, and you start to realize WHY no one else lives here, but you're late to the party? And then the thing you thought was really a really great secret is not actually great at all but the impetus to your imminent destruction?

300 sunny days a year make it feel like Groundhog Day, is what I'm saying. I don't feel a day older than the day I moved here three years ago because it still feels like that same day. Same season, same everything. Dead lawns, high cooling bills. What am I doing here? Have I done anything? I need some damn rain so that I can know I'm moving forward. Towards what - I have no idea, but as long as it's not February 2nd again, I don't have to panic. You know?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Words

They are how you become A Person. Also the only tool you have with which to order a pizza. Respect them.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Outside, Creation Groans

Yesterday when I was driving home from yoga I caught a whiff of something outside of my car window and I could feel my eyebrows shoot up in an attempt to NAME. THE. SMELL. "Why is this familiar? Why is it unfamiliar? What is it?" I asked myself. Then, I realized what it was. It was wetness.

Someone was watering their grass. That's the only explanation anyway, because I don't think it's rained for at least a month. I couldn't see the water but it made its way into my veins.

It smelled like wet earth, like a cool breeze with dirt on its fingers.

Immediately I sighed and felt sad, and looked - literally, looked with my eyes - anrigly at the concrete road I was driving on. You're so damn dry! No one likes dryness like that! The road thinks it's a talent to bake so furiously. It's not, its just pointless stubornness.

Inexplicably (but predicatbly?) my mind wandered to Thailand. If I can't be somewhere with naturally wet earth, how is it possible I'm not, then, in Thailand? We went to Ireland a few months ago, which was on my list. Thailand is on my list, too. So is Israel. But as I was smelling the painfully beautiful wet earth and thinking on Thailand, I suddenly realized that I was framing my thoughts a bit differently than I usually do, when they are flying across the oceans. I didn't feel anxious. I didn't feel urgent, or guilty. I didn't feel like the fact that I was driving home in sweat-soaked spandex on a ridiculously cracked-earth road in Phoenix meant I was wasting something. (Time? Me?) That was revolutionary, to start.

Then I saw a woman walking down the sidewalk, with a stroller, and I imagined what her day had been like. Maybe she had been at home all day. Not even a shower to speak of. Was she ok with that? Were her thoughts in Thailand?

And of course I then transposed myself in front of that stroller, with a showerless day behind me, and something clicked. Of course nothing was wasted. There was a little person in front of me that I Gave Up Things for. The world isn't huge, it's tiny. Full of people who either give things up or don't, and I want to be one who gives them up. That's what I was made for. That's how we work. We're not working right now because we're not giving things up.

You would think that the world feeling smaller to me would be sad, or would mean a loss of some kind of dreaminess or innocence. It's not! It's a deep sigh of relief! If me being here means I have Something to give up; Something that someone else needs, then I couldn't waste me if I tried. Thailand or no, the sidewalk of a dry road with a stroller is Thailand and everywhere else. It could be all of me, one day.

It made me think of a beautiful lyric I heard one, from a song I love - "Outside, creation groans..."

The road was groaning, and so was I, because there's so much to do and see and be, and we aren't doing and seeing and being all of them. But! To know that we're groaning for a home that we can have - with a Creator who gave me Things to Give Up - that makes the groaning sweet. Sweet like a sore-muscled sigh after 90 minutes of Bikram.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Mom

When I was about 10 or so, I was already in the business of Making Decisions About Who I Wanted to Be. At 10, that was a dancer. Soon after the decision was made, I soberly resigned myself to the idea that if I was going to be a dancer, I would have to dance, so I sad Mom, please? And Mom found me a studio in a town called Minerva, Ohio.

Minerva was, I don't know, like 300 hours from where we lived, or it was 10 minutes; no one can know when you're a kid. Anyway, Mom bought me a leotard and rearranged her schedule for probably the four-hundredth time since I'd begun the soul-search for Who Maria Was, around 8 years old or so. And for a few Tuesdays, we got in the car after school, ate a chicken sandwich from McDonald's, and went to Minerva to dance.

While I was kick-ball-changing in an overly mirrored room for an hour, Mom sat in the van down the street, reading the newspaper and, I don't know, wishing I had been a son? But she sat there every week. Because I wanted to be a dancer.

It took four lessons to figure out that this dance instructor was not as much in the business of teaching the art of dance and helping kids have a good time as she was in the business of dressing us up in the most disturbingly sexy leotards one could find for a group of pre-pubescent ten year olds. One look from my Mom and an earnest "Mom, this leotard gives me wedgies" later, we cancelled my enrollment in the rest of those classes.

I remember driving home from Minerva, pondering what my next life calling would be. It was fall, and "How Do I Live" by LeAnne Rimes was on the radio. It was in between afternoon and night - in Ohio in the fall, there really is no evening - and it was cloudy, as usual. I was mourning the loss of what I had been sure would be my true identity (dancer) and feeling simultaneously angry at my Mom for being a prude and at my dance instructor for wishing wedgies on everyone. You know, your general paradoxical angst. But in the back of my head there was a dull buzzing. A nagging thought. I pushed it away, because though I hadn't defined, it was making me uncomfortable. Guilty.

It was the realization that Mom had Given Up Stuff for this; that she had heard my "I must be a dancer!" cries and said, "Ok, Ria," and did research, and found a studio in Minerva, and signed me up. She sat by herself in a dark car for an hour and ate McDonald's for dinner. Then, when she found out it was the wrong place for me, she did the even harder thing and pulled me out.

To this day, when I hear "How Do I Live" on the radio, my heart shakes and trembles, and I can feel how powerful that is; that nagging thought that grew into Gratitude, and Love, for the most giving, beautiful Mom there has ever been. That song is for you, Mom.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Stuff We've Been Doing and Eating and Looking At

This weekend, Aaron's sister and her husband got here. We went up to Sedona and hiked and wore hats and things. Then we ate at Oaxaca, which, mmmm. Coincidentally, "Oaxaca" (wah-HA-ca) is my favorite word to say in Spanish, and also my favorite restaurant in Sedona at which to eat. It's like, a perfect storm. Just whisper "Oaxaca" and "fish tacos" to me in the same sentence and I'll vote for you for president.


We've also done other fun things during their visit... like go to a Cubs game and grill out carne asada, which is my favorite thing to eat. This post is making me think I maybe have a lot of favorite things to eat?

I also went to two 90-minute sessions of Bikram yoga over the weekend and I am now dying, or becoming undead, I'm not sure. All I know is I need water. All of the water. I'm going back on Tuesday and already I simultaneously regret it and am congratulating myself for it.

In other news, look at this and breathe.


I mean. Really.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What I'm Thinking About While I'm In Here


1. BRRRRR OMG  FREAKING FREEZING oh. ok now it's not so bad.

2. What is 100 divided by .95? How many 100's do I have to do to swim a mile? What do Olympic swimmers think about while they're swimming, and does it have something to do with animals? I think it'd be really crazy if you could say you had won an Olympic medal while thinking about animals. There's probably not a lot of other sports where you could do that. Now I'm thinking about koala bears, so does that mean I'm going to win a medal? Isn't that how the transitive property works? Maybe if you're a Democrat, heh heh.

3. My political humor is really getting good. I should tell Dad that joke. You know, the transitive property one.

4. Mr. Hairy in the lane next to me is slapping the water very forcefully as he swims and it's making me angry. There is pool etiquette, you know. Loud slapping is ON THE LIST.

5. Crap, I have no idea how many laps I've done so far. Let's try to gauge it by how hard I'm breathing. Ok, I've done 500988 billion laps. Damn, girl!

6. If I swallowed a moutful of water every time I swam a lap, would there be a noticeable difference in the water level when I got out of the pool in an hour? Am I curious enough to try it? The pros would be that I'd have a cool science story to share at parties, specifically where there are people who like science. The con would be that I'd swallow lots of chlorine and other people's sweat, and I'd probably ruin my appetite for fish tacos at Rubios after this. I'm officially not curious enough. Gosh, I'm so pragmatic. More people should be pragmatic like me.

7. Should I get rice and nachos or rice and beans at Rubios? Do you think lemonade is close enough to water for me to drink it and still be hydrated? That lady who was working at Rubios last time was funny, but she laughed a little too hard at her own jokes. There's a line, you know?

8. What if I do way too many laps and my arms bulk up like a bodybuilder and people start asking me for help lifting cars off of children and stuff? I'm a person too, ok guys? And stop putting your cars on all these children.

9. That flip turn was like, the worst flip turn in the history of flip turns. I turned way too early and didn't even touch the wall and then I had to swim backwards to hit the wall and then push off. I bet all those punks at swim practice over in lane 8 are laughing their little stupid butts off at how bad that flip turn was. They're like, 'what's up with that chick in Lane 3 with the bright yellow cap? Did you see that flip turn? It's almost like she has no idea how the transitive property works.' Well you know what, punks? I'm going to go home, eat cookies for dinner and watch Adult Swim until it's way past your bedtime, so suck on that. Plus I don't have to sit through Miss Featherbottom's math class tomorrow, SUCKAS!
10. If this chlorine chips my nail polish I'm going to be like, UGH. But then I'll tell everyone at work tomorrow MY NAIL POLISH IS CHIPPED BECAUSE I SWAM SO MANY LAPS YESTERDAY and then I'll be the Queen of Everybody.

11. Do you think that everyone who sees my swim cap, which says "ATHENS" on it in big letters, thinks that I swam in the Athens Olympics? If they do, they're probably confused by my snail-like pace, especially when it comes to backstroke, but maybe they just think I'm hustling them and I'm going to break out in lightening-fast speed one day. I don't know how that would benefit me though unless I had some financial interest in it. Maybe I could talk to all the moms out here when I'm done and bet them I could beat their little punk kid in a race? I'm going to file this idea for later when I haven't swallowed so much water.

12. Is there one specific moment where it goes from "Light" to "Dark" outside? Like, when I put my head down in the water to take a breath, can it change by the time I come up for air? Also, if I keep breathing on the right side, is my neck going to hurt later, and then my mom is going to give me another lecture about not letting stress get to me, but then I have to tell her it's not the stress that's making my neck hurt, it's breathing? I really don't want to have that conversation tonight though because I have a new episode of NCIS on my tivo.

13. If I splash around enough and act like I'm super slow and have trouble swimming in a straight line, maybe Mr. Speedo up there will get the hint and not ask to share lanes with me. (Now I am violating my own pool etiquette rules, and now I have to ponder why I value my own comfort above my principles, and now I feel like I don't deserve Rubios anymore but instead a lengthy conversation with a priest?)

14. I think I should be done soon.

15. It's been an hour and I'm starting to daydream about granola bars, so it's time to wash my hair and take the glorious walk out to my car with freshly showered skin and tired muscles and an open wallet. You know. For the Rubios.

Until Saturday, ya'll, happy swimming.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Anniversary 3

We went to Tucson this weekend to play Rich People for a few days and celebrate the fact that Aaron Michael picked me three years ago. 




We watched movies, ordered room service (OMG THE COOKIES), hung out by the pool and ate at the Westin La Paloma's swanky restaurant. AND we got massages. The view from our room was pretty gorgeous (see bottom right) but I think my view at dinner was even better. (wink wink flirt flirt. Seriously, though. What a hunk.)

We've taken that hand picture every year, starting with our honeymoon when we were sitting in an empty little cafe in Key West and admiring our new jewelry. It's getting fun to build up these memories - we've taken some awesome anniversary trips over these past three years.

Every year I pinch myself and thank God for being so smart. When I married AB 3 years ago I knew I loved him and that he was the bees knees, but there are so many things about him I didn't know then but that are such important attributes in a partner. He works hard, he is responsible, he cares about doing things right, he has integrity when it'd be easy not to... and every time he shows me one of these things I think - how smart am I? I didn't even KNOW how good your scrambled eggs were when I married you! Bonus!

Sometimes it's easy to get overwhelmed by things in my life that make me feel sad or worried or anxious, but it's a cold splash of water to realize that through everything, I have this smiley guy right next to me. He is the absolute best and I love him with my whole, entire heart. Here's to a million more, bud.

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Little Singy Song

I went diving into the black hole of Myspace this week to try to find this song upon the request of my coworker after I told her the over-romanticized version of my college days, surrounded by brick and ivy and coffee-shop songwriting sessions.

I love this song and am so happy these guys asked me to sing on it. It makes my heart feel like it's in Athens, just for a few minutes.



Happy Friday, dudes! Aaron and I are off to Tucson to celebrate our third anniversary by pretending to be rich for a few days at a swanky resort. I'll bring back some pictures and hopefully not a scorpion.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dear Facebook Friend Pretending to be Uninterested in Politics

I know.

I know that when something becomes "cool" it's actually just becoming "uncool." When something gets talked about a lot, the quickest way to I'm-a-brooding-loner-and-you-want-me land is to act oblivious to it, or at least tell all of us lesser people why you find it boring or unimportant.

I am wondering though if you drive a car. Or if you like being alive and staying alive and not worrying about getting killed by bombs at Target or whatever your version of Target is because Target is a little too mainstream, you know? I am also wondering if you eat food, and when you do, if you choose what food it is that you eat, or if you just close your eyes and chew. Do you go to sleep without holding a knife and with both eyes closed? Do you have family members that you care about? (That one might be iffy but it's ok if you say no to a few of these.) If you got sick enough, do you prefer having a hospital available? If your house were burning down, do you prefer having a fire department available? Do you like the fact that other people are alive? Do you like watching Adult Swim? Do you like playing your guitar? Do you ever drive to another city and visit it and stay in a hotel or at a friend's house and then drive home, on roads? Do you wash your hair? Do you drink orange juice? Do you wear shirts and pants?

Then you have an interest in politics.

Sincerely,

Maria

Monday, September 17, 2012

Marriage Exhibit B

(Maybe you remember Exhibit A)?


I mean, TOTAL SWOON, right? Aaron thought to himself, what is the quickest way to her heart....and he was not wrong, my friends. He was not wrong. (The fall colors! THE COLORS!)

In other unfocused news, do you know what song gets in my head like, multiple times a week? I seriously mean multiple. I'll wake up out of a dead sleep on like, some mundane Wednesday or something and here I am, humming this song. I haven't even watched this movie in YEARS, though I should remedy that, I'm thinking. Something about this melody. I like Middle Eastern music, I think.



You're welcome. (Can someone who is up on their Serendipity trivia tell me if that's actually Obi Wan in that video? If it is I'm really sad about it but I'm not sure why.)

How was the weekend, friendsies?

Friday, September 14, 2012

YOU GUYS. MUTEMATH.

I saw Mutemath for the first time at the Alive Music Festival in Ohio back in - oh... I think 2004? You know, back when all I wore was T-shirts and all I was all angsty and stuff. I had no idea who they were and they didn't even have a full album out yet. They were performing on a side stage at like, noon, and maybe 4 people were watching if I may be generous. I remember hearing them play "Control" and saying - oh my. Yes. Yes to this. When they were finished their set, we all kind of looked at each other wide-eyed and wordless. Like, um, did you see that? Did anyone else see that?

I've seen them another few times since then and then I saw them last night again in Tempe - headlining their own tour and performing for a giant crowd. Kind of cool to see that evolution.

My point is that last night's show was possibly one of the best shows I've been to in my life. By the end my feet were killing me and I was sweating my butt off (like any good concert-dancer-with-beer-in-hand should) but I was BEGGING for it to not be over. They have a crazy electricity. They have absolutely MASTERED what they do. The music, the writing, the performing. They have no room to improve. That makes me feel inspired and alive and all that stuff, and I mean it. People still master things. Isn't that great?









Also, the opening band was called Civil Twilight and may be (are clearly attempting to be) this generation's Radiohead? Too soon?
Anyway the guy played his guitar for a while with a bow, and that was ok with me.




I mean, seriously. When was the last time music made you feel this way?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Today: A Poem



Last night I got a mosquito bite
Well, several, in fact.
I was attacked by a horrible mosquito
Right there on my couch.

So I took some benedryl
Because I've been known to react
Get it? React?
And the benedryl made me very tired.

When I woke up today I was still tired
And Aaron took me to work
I slept during the car ride
And now I'm wearing a hoodie.

I want chicken soup
And a piece of chocolate
Well, two pieces of chocolate
And for everyone to stop asking me for things.


 
This has been our first edition of Today: A Poem.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Muscle Stretching

There are some things in life that we seem to have collectively decided are morally superior to other things, based on no discernable standard that anyone can actually articulate. You know what I mean? Like, sometimes when I finish reading a book - and I mean, any book; like I could have just read the most mind-numbing, silliest book you've ever heard of - but still I will think to myself, Oh Maria. You have just bettered yourself. You just read another book. You are better. Think of all those people just sitting around! Watching TV shows about wedding dresses! How deliciously pathetic are they! YOU JUST READ A BOOK. YOU DESERVE A MANI-PEDI AND PROBABLY SOME PEANUT BUTTER ON A SPOON.

You know what I mean?

And then Aaron will look at me longingly, and go... oh Ria. I wish I read more, like you.

And I say... I know, my darling. My sweet, xbox-playing darling. But we readers are a specific class of people. Not everyone can get in, Aaron. Not everyone can get in.

I don't really say that, but don't you think it's weird that somewhere along the line both AB and I have learned that for no explicit reason, reading books is morally superior?

I'm not saying books aren't good for learning and for vocabulary and expanding your horizons and all that. But I'm talking morally - like, way down in the very juices of our most unique souls - are we more valuable if we read? Are we worth more, as a person? Are we worth less if we don't?

I've always thought the same thing about exercise. I go to the gym three times a week. I run and spin and do other things that I just hate. And oh, do I think I am wonderful.

I think people might think I work out because I like it. There are things about it I do like - mostly, how I feel afterwards. And if I'm having a good day, energy-wise, I like how I feel during it too. But most of the time, I HATE IT. I HATE EVERY SECOND. Can you believe that?

If I spent 4-5 hours a week doing virtually any other thing that I absolutely HATED, you'd probably call me crazy. "Maria! Why in the world are you watching Keeping up with the Kardashians AGAIN?" You know, that sort of thing.

But you know what I do like about it? How much better than you I feel afterwards.

And you! You think I'm great. You think I'm super disciplined. Because you have the good sense to have a good dinner with your husband and watch NCIS instead of spending a grueling hour trying to avoid throwing up again in front of the men's locker room.

I think I'm great too. Because I read. And I work out.

A few months ago I started praying while I was running, and I started saying, listen. Get me off this. I don't want my only motivation for this to be that I think I'm better than people. Because where does that even come from? Please remove whatever moral importance I've attached to this very a-moral thing and let me be.

I was scared to pray that, because I figured He'd do it, and then I wasn't sure if I'd have any motivation to work out at all.

And then last week my doctor told me I couldn't run or spin for at least three months due to some muscle issues I've been having.

Like, no running or spin. For three months.

So who am I now, and how do I know whom I'm better than?

This is why we need Him, you know?


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Marriage




Aaron: "What do you WANT?"

Maria: "I need you to treat me like a princess today."

Aaron: "Then I can't even lay my eyes on you, because I'm a peasant. I'm going to play xbox."

Friday, September 7, 2012

Happy Ominous Friday


This sky greeted me yesterday after work and also this morning. In fact, this morning, it was so cold (84 degrees only!) and rainy that I got myself Starbucks and they didn't even ASK if I wanted it iced or hot! (It's HOT coffee weather, ya'llsies!) (Cynics may chalk this up to bad customer service and/or the fact that the Starbucks was inside a Fry's grocery store and the one lady who was working there kind of looked like she had pajama bottoms on but was hoping you didn't notice, but to you I say, be quiet, I'm trying to have a moment, and also this is probably why you don't get invited to any parties.)

Anyway, this sky is happening.

If I were in Ohio, I'd say FRICK THIS, WHY IS IT ALWAYS LIKE THIS and I'd drown my sorrows in hush puppies in my basement or something and dream about where else I wish I lived.

It is such work being me.

*Also, why is there barbed wire in my work parking lot? And why is this picture the first time I noticed it?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Dear Sad Lady With Red Hair

Dear Sad Lady With Red Hair,

The other day I was walking into the lunch room to read more Boleyn novel nonsense and you stopped me and said you liked my shoes, and then you looked forlornly toward the corner of the room, and you said, oh, I remember when I used to be young and dress cute.

And your voice made me very sad.

I think it made you sad too, because suddenly you frowned and walked away when normally we might have had a bit of a longer exchange of pleasantries.

First of all, I got my shoes at Stein Mart. Granted, they are fabulous, but I didn't raid some secret, black-lit, youth-only warehouse in New York City on Fashion Week or anything like that. If you had happened to go to Stein Mart on that Saturday with me, right after I ate that biscuit sandwich at the breakfast joint over on Scottsdale Road, you may have picked up the same pair, exclaimed "35 bucks!! Is it my birthday?!" and then walked back to your car a new woman, too. (And then texted your husband and said 'sorry in advance but I'm not telling you why.') My point is, these shoes aren't exclusive.

Secondly, I like your hair color. It isn't that weird, dull red that some gingers have, it's that fire-engine red, like Joanie on Mad Men. Joanie on Mad Men, no less! You're in the big leagues, red! Way to go!

Thirdly, I wish you wouldn't go on that crazy no-bread diet. No one likes a no-bread diet. And really, it can't be done. A few weeks after you've reached your "goal" you're going to have one cracker and gain it all back plus 10 pounds and a greater sense of injustice. Life is not meant to be lived in the absence of grilled cheese. If you want to get more fit, take a walk a few times a week and eat more broccoli. Otherwise, enjoy life, ok? Life includes your lunch break.

Fourthly, I bet you have a lot of people who love you. You say hi to me in the morning and it makes me feel better. You know, about it being morning. So add me to that list.

Fifthly, you can borrow my space heater whenever you want.

Please don't be sad. Being older than 25 surely has it's ups. Being 25 has it's downs, anyway. But overall, life is pretty good, right? I mean, major network TV series are about to start again; it's pumpkin-related food season, and we live in a world where this happens sometimes. Smile!

Cordially,

Maria, or that one girl with the shoes.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Camping Photo Essay


On Friday night, despite the threat of bear attacks,West Nile Virus, and/or becoming hippies, the courageous three of us decided it was more important to escape the one hundred million degrees of Phoenix (which have been well documented) and go camping in Prescott. Prescott is about two hours north of us and sits at a 6,000-feet elevation so the temperature when we got there around 7 pm was about 65 degrees and DELICIOUS and I wept for the beauty of it, or I made this face.




During the first night, Jethro woke up in the middle of the night and went absolutely bonkers over something outside the tent. I was convinced it was either a bear or the rapture, but it turned out to be a deer. At least that's what Aaron told me while he looked out with a flashlight and I buried my head in my sleeping bag and wondered who was going to read my journals when the police found them. Although, do police investigate the homes of people who die from bear attacks? I guess I'm not sure why they would, except it would make for great TV, especially if the bear had a vendetta or something. Moving right along.


On Saturday we hiked Thumb Butte. It even rained a little bit and after I yelled "WHO IS THROWING WATER AT ME" I remembered that sometimes when weather happens, rain comes down from the actual sky and makes the ground wet and stuff. Science. 

Then we went into town and the fair was happening again at the Courthouse. I suddenly realized I have never been to Prescott when there is not a fair happening at the Courthouse. What does this mean?


MOLLY'S TAMALES, WILL YOU MARRY ME


"OMG. OMG. OMG. Take my picture."


Then we saw this, and it's like, what's living if this doesn't happen every now and then, you know?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fantasy Football Has Come, Woe Unto Us


Should you have been a fly on the wall:

Aaron: DUDE! Oh my gosh, dude. I just picked up (evidently well-performing football player's name). Can you believe how good I am at this?

Ben: DUDE! BUT DUDE! Did you see who I just got? I just got (football player for whom a case is to be made that he is better-performing than the above choice by Aaron). So, yeah! Go me!

Maria: I think I have heard this person's name before, and in a football-related context regarding satisfactory performance. I will search for him and add him to my team.

Aaron: That guy is dead.

Maria: Please pass the salsa?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Here's a Story that I Don't Want to Tell

Sometimes when people do things that you think are difficult, you start to generalize about them.

That guy won the Boston marathon? He must have a lot of discipline.
That lady is the president of her company? She must be very intelligent.

And etc.

But it's very weird and unnverving when you start to realize that your generalizations aren't always true.

"That lady is old enough to have a baby? She must love that baby, and she must know how to be a mom, and surely she is willing to give up "clubbin'!!" for her new little one."

This is not always true.

Neither is

"That guy has on a white coat? He went to medical school? He graduated from medical school? He is now a doctor at this doctor office building? He has a distinguished mustache? He must not be stupid."

And here is an awful story about one time two weeks ago when I found that out, and it hurt my heart.

I was sitting in this office, waiting for the doctor. He was going to be my second new doctor in a month. Because my old old doctor was super nice but far away (Old Town? More like TIMBUCTOO! ARIZONA HUMOR!) And then the first new doctor I met said to me, "My, you have gained a lot of weight!" And then said "What are you here for?" And I said "to talk about how sad my weight is making me" and then we both just stared at each other.

So anyway, this was going to be my new doctor and he held much promise. You know, the mustache.

So in he walked, and he said, Hi, what do you want.

Just like that. What do you want.

I said... a bicylce?

No, I didn't, because you don't joke with white coats and mustaches; you act ladylike and adult-like and smart-like.

I am feeling anxious, said I. My counselor suggests an uptick in crazy pills. Simply for a few weeks or so.

He asks for details.

I provide. Shakily. Embarrassedly.

I got rid of my scale. After 10 years, I got rid of my scale.

He says. "So, let me get this straight. You had a scale, you were fine. You got rid of your scale, you became anxious. (Slight smirk.) I think you need to buy a new scale."

And my jaw never closed.

People in white coats, or at professor's desks, or in the Oval Office, aren't made smart by where they ended up. Expect from them that they are narrow, that they know only the type of life that they've had, and that isn't they're fault, that you're that way too. But don't walk out of their office with your tail between your legs. Teach them what life is like for you and maybe we can all be a bit more compassionate.

And shave your fucking mustache. No one likes a mustache.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mrs. Blankenship, Get Me a Drink

Yesterday I was listening to my radio at work like I always dreamed. I always dreamed I'd be a Work Lady and have a radio at my desk, along with multicolored pens and one of those big calendars you get from an office supply store, with lots of reminders written on it. I'd also have lots of pictures in frames on my desk of my awesome life. Sometimes I feel foolish for having had those dreams, but have them I did. I think it's because my first real job was not at an ice cream stand or a car wash or the Penny Alley in Louisville (though I did buy some snap bracelets there.) My first real job was filing paperwork at my mom's office in Canton, a lovely, indiscriminate little office building of a company called EMP. It doesn't even matter what EMP stands for, because I want it to remain a perfect symbol to you; the quintessential American Office, a bastion of paper clips and furnished restrooms and water coolers and bitter forty-somethings. It was a veritable no-mans land, where daily folks went to grind their gears and make money so Johnny could play baseball and so Dad could afford a dozen donuts after Sunday mass.

This may be turning into a sentimental and surely exaggerated vision of suburban life in the early 2000's, so I'm going to stop there and continue with my original thought. The radio and all that.

Anyway, on the radio there was a commercial about cars. Something has happened to me with commercials since I started watching Mad Men. And can I just say something about Mad Men? If I could describe it in one word, I would say, OMGSOHANDSOME, but then if you gave me a second word, I would say UPSETTING. Because that is what that show is. Every night I am excited to watch a new episode on Netflix and after each episode I think to myself...my, that was upsetting. Why do we do this, TV lovers of the cosmos?

Anyhow, what Mad Men has done to me aside from questioning my own sadism is it makes me analyze commercials. What would Don Draper think of this? If I were pitching this to Don (we're on a first-name basis, just think of me as Betty except with better teeth), would he say "I like it, draw it up" or would he say "IS THAT ALL YOU HAVE? GET OUT"? How would he pitch this idea or that idea to the client? How would he start?

Anyhow I was having these thoughts as I listened to this car commercial involving little Jimmy who requests that his Pop take good care of his car because it is going to be his in 16 years when he graduates or whatever. It's a silly commercial, really. And I shook my head, thinking "I couldn't agree with you more, Don. Crap. Just crap." But suddenly, something happened. I realized.... I know this voice. Who is this voice?

You know who it was?

It was Don.

And lo, I leave you with this, because, do you like websites?




Monday, August 27, 2012

The West Wing and The Tragedy That Is My Life




Yesterday something strange but utterly predictable happened, and while I do harbor a hatred for "beating the dead horse" I also harbor a love for "baring my honest soul" and today my love for the latter has taken over. Anyway the strange thing! I was watching "The West Wing" because my mama and papa sent good ol' Aar-Baer and me the full series on DVD. Have you ever seen this full series set, like in a Best Buy or anything? They made it look like a big... well, I don't know, a big top-secret presidential file. When I opened it I instinctively looked to my right and my left to make sure no one was seeing me spy on these uncovered cold case files revealing the truth about the Russians and how Sherriff Joe is really just a cryogenically frozen Darth Vader. Top secret government secrets of the topmost nature. Anyway, no one was watching me unfold the folders of discs.

So I put in disc one and pushed play and was instantly reminded of the giggly silliness of the theme music for that show. Immediately I texted my brother to complain and he said "You must! You must push stop on the show and fast forward through the music, lest that the mood be ruined!" And he was right, but sadly it was too late. But I was eating a big leftover pancake from a previous day's breakfast, so nothing could have ruined my cheer at that particular moment.

As I was watching Episode 1 of the beginning of it all, there was a scene in which Josh is having a sandwich with another little Capitol Hill worker bee lady whom he fancies. They made no reference in their conversation to the weather, which made the weather outside their little cafe that much more endearing, because it must have been real and not "backstage." It was windy beyond windy; coats flying, hair mussing, leaves swirling. It was gray and it looked cold out there.

And that's when it happened.

Despite the record-breaking fluffiness of the Leftover Pancake, my heart audibly broke, screeching like nails on a chalkboard. It started singing Alanis Morisette and it put on heavy black eye liner, and it cried into it's pillow and went to the gym just to run through the tears. IT BROKE.

Because RAIN! RAIN, and AUTUMN, and WIND and BRICK STREETS and COLD GUSTS you have ABANDONED ME! I have been deserted in a desert of desertion, with the cruel oppressive sun and air so I dry I wake up with night nose bleeds. I began to think about the last time I was truly, genuinely, in the midst of a crisp Ohio autumn day and it occurs to me that it was THREE YEARS AGO. What a criminally long time!

The dead horse has been beaten, grass confirmed to be greener, and here you are, another blog read and not a smidgen wiser. I'm sorry, but then again I didn't click the link for you.

Come to me, autumn. Come, pumpkin spice latte and gray days. Come make me sad for no reason. But a delicious sad that gives birth to an epically self-indulgent journal entry. I am waiting for you!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

We're Melting


Ever since Phoenix started gettting these eerie dust storms last year, I have been waiting for one that would lend itself to "THEE photo" for me. Two weekends ago I was driving to a book signing with Jenny Lawson in Tempe (I'm not worthyyyy) and this is what I drove into.

Once I got in there, it looked like I was surrounded by dark blue fog and it was late evening. I even took a creepy picture of the sun through the haze but unfortunately it didn't turn out well...

It looks like it's about to swallow us all whole... like some terrible CGI from the movie "The Mummy" or something. It makes me feel much like the times when Aaron and I are driving home towards the McDowell mountains and I suddenly can't shake the image of a giant hand coming out from behind the peaks, and then a big giant standing up and looking at us. He is always dressed like Mario in these imaginings. You know, like the video game Mario. I don't know why I am sharing this, but really it's out of suspicion that you all were thinking the exact same thing.

Creepy mountain giants notwithstanding, I'm posting this photo to try to re-energize my affection for this Godforsaken southwestern state, because this is the time of year when every time my Mom calls and hears my pathetically downtrodden voice, she says "what's wrong, honey?" and all I can say is "Mom...it's so hot." Because it is. It is just ridiculous. In the morning when I wake up, I literally dread opening our back door to let the dog out, because the HOT is going to hit me in the face. I just said a little prayer for whatever person/institution I inevitably convince myself is to blame for it.

The ozone? Vegans? The Miss America contestant who rambled that one year? WHO DID THIS TO US.

But dust storms are...cool...right?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

You Can Tell People You Know Me

Do you ever wonder if you're just a few years away from being totally famous? I think about that all the time. I'm not sure what I'd like to be famous for, but I'd like it to be positive. Not like - omg there's that chick who fell out of a hot air balloon and landed on that kid's bouncy castle at his barmitzvah. That is what I would consider being famous "for a negative." Or possibly for "being insane." I'd rather be famous for writing a novel like The Scarlet Letter where every sentence has a double meaning and takes at least 10 minutes to read. (Writing a novel like this is something I think about every single day, actually. It is a very real, inexplicable dream.)

Anyway, do you ever think, wow, here I am stirring the spaghetti sauce and one day people are going to be like "OMG I wish I had been there when she was just standing there, stirring the spaghetti sauce. Not being famous. She had no idea."

When I was a kid I figured that when I did the proverbial "growing up" I would be the next Celine Dion, only not really a whole entire generation ahead of her because we would also have a duet album. That was back when I believed that any thought you could accomplish literally any goal that you could conceive of. (Parenting points to Ma and Pa.) Anyway, I distinctly remember using public restrooms and then afterwards thinking "I bet they will sell tickets to use that stall one day since I used it." But now that I'm an adult and infinitely wiser I see the naivete of that, because I don't think anyone could ever get to that fame level, not even Celine Dion Version 2. Like, do they sell tickets to use the public restroom stall that John Lennon used? I'm sure it's a ripoff if they do. Also, gross.

Regardless, here is a list of things I think I could conceivably become famous for:

1. The amount of times I have watched Return of the Jedi (if I had to ballpark I'd say it's about 10 times more than you)
2. The amount of anxiety I get when I realize I have laid down in bed without socks on
3. The number of times I have incorrectly used the word "ethereal"
4. My inexplicable desire to constantly use the word "ethereal"
5. My pumpkin roll (this is not a euphemism)
6. Being the only high school student in the history of ever who got in trouble for asking 'too many calculus-related questions'
7. The poster I drew in fifth grade for the fire department sign contest in which I plagiarized Blessed Union of Souls lyrics and then won a Walkman (if only you could've seen the cigarette I drew in a red circle with a line through it. Chicago Museum of Art material.)
8. The number of times I have gotten lost
9. The number of times I have called Aaron while lost to ask for help without being able to describe to him where I am (this is a fun game)
10. The number of Hostess cupcakes I have consumed in one lifetime
11. Being a 25-year-old woman who has not read Twilight
12. Remaining a Republican after attending Ohio University
13. Remaining sober after attending Ohio University
14. My intensely boring personality (please see 12 and 13)
15. Not really getting what the big deal is about Ryan Gosling

Coincidentally this diatribe is making me think about how one time I wrote in my journal that the sweetest thing Aaron ever did was grabbing my face and saying very forcefully to me, "Maria. You are not weird." This is not meant to say that Aaron doesn't do anything sweet. I genuinely mean that this touched me possibly more than anything else he's ever said. Because I am afraid I'm weird. Like, bad weird. Bad famous weird. I don't know. Maybe eating all those Hostess cupcakes is just part of being a human being. We may never know.

Unless this list actually makes me famous. Call me, LA Times!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Adding to the Noise

Lately I've been locking myself in our back room and trying to write songs. I like to sing and play guitar and all that cliched nonsense, in case I haven't told you yet. Actually, it's kind of the one thing I like to do most. I sang in Catholic church when I was young and I sing at our church now, and in college I sang all the time, to the point at which my roommates had to codify rules regarding when singing was and was not permitted. (It was more about when the singing of CELINE was or was not permitted but that's just splitting hairs, because 99% of my repertoire is Celine. Not really, but kind of. )

So I've been trying to write and trying to believe in that whole idea that forcing myself to stare at walls until something comes out will work. (By "something comes out" I mean until a song comes out of my brain, not until something comes out of the walls, although I wouldn't be totally against that happening because it would probably be good material for a song.) But I keep asking myself this horrible question, and I know it's not helping with the creativity flow problem. But really - what if I have nothing to add?

On my way to work I listen to KLove, which is the most cheesiest of the cheesy Christian radio stations in all the land. I love how it makes me feel. It feels like a nice, soft hug that says "mmmm, mornings are hard. That's ok. Let's just ease into it." But the songs! I can't speak to the hearts of these artists, obviously.  And I'm worried that what I'm getting at here is a bit judgmental, but it is important to me to flesh this out. The songs are really, really terrible for the most part. They are the exact same as the one that plays before them and the one that plays after them. Same 4-5 chords, even. Same tempo, same exact lyrics in many cases. They're shallow and sometimes they don't even have a cohesive thought - they're just a bunch of "Christian phrases" strung together ("I stand amazed at You"/"You saved me from the storm (there is always a storm)"/"Jesus we love you" etc.etc.)

Are all these hundreds upon hundreds of artists really adding anything? Is it wrong to wonder if their time might be better spent elsewhere, in a 'profession' that every moody twentysomething with Garage Band and a Jesus tattoo is not trying to get into? And what about me? Could I possibly have something to add? Is it presumptuous to even ask that?

I do recognize that even the most bland, unoriginal song can still mean the world to someone because of the moment they hear it or who they're with or how it happens to touch them that one time. And maybe that's something? But is that worth me spending hours trying to write music when I could be spending those hours volunteering at the hospital or visiting the nursing home or some such tangible "giving up of my time"?

When I've run into this panicky type of frustration before, I've convinced myself that when we're trying to decipher a calling, we should read into what we like to do and what we're good at. I like to sing and I'm good at it. But could that really be all that's required? Turn on the TV - EVERYONE likes to sing. Not everyone is good at it, but A LOT of people are. So what now?

It's hard when you believe in God and Satan, because in the back of my mind during all this identity crisis nonsense I have to wonder if this is just Satan trying to get me off my game. Because it's hard to be creative when I'm simultaneously thinking about there being "nothing new under the sun" and the fact that it's pretty noisy out there anyway, so what will one more strum really contribute?

But then also in the back of my mind I have to wonder if this is God, giving me a bit of a nudge. Last night I read this:

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others." - Philippians 2:3

So? Is my music really "in the interest of others"? Is it just something I like to do? Are those two things aligned in this case?

OH MY GOSH. Remember that Switchfoot song - "If we're adding to the noise/turn off this song." Was that feigned self-sabotage or pure genius? MAN, IF THEY HADN'T WRITTEN THAT MAYBE I COULD HAVE, BUT THEY DID AND I DIDN'T AND THAT'S WHY LIFE IS UNFAIR. ("You know, the first time I saw the iPod, I just... I really could've kicked myself.")

And suddenly I need a nice, warm, predictable hug from mid-morning KLove.