Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My Heart in Israel

So it's day time right now and it actually feels like day time in my body. Kind of. At least I'm not dozing off every 20 minutes and having to spend 5 minutes upon waking up trying to figure out where I am. It is much harder to adjust to coming back from a time-zone change like that (10 hours ahead) than it is going into it. But we're back from Israel.

I still have to pinch myself every morning that we were there. It was incredible, to say the least. It was life-changing. It was different, and uncomfortable, and so painfully beautiful. It was smelly and noisy and stressful and relaxing and I didn't like the food and I loved the people and some things scared me and other things inspired me and the climate was a lot like Phoenix, which my skin was happy about.

My current project is furiously writing down each day's itinerary in my journal. I'm spending my lunch breaks chewing pen caps and going through photos, trying to piece together what we did each day by looking at what I was wearing in each picture. We saw so much. We went all over that beautiful, stubborn country and I loved every single inch and footstep.

I'm planning to share more about the sites we saw and all that we learned in this blog, but what I want to write about right now is a feeling; or a lesson I learned or at least wrestled with while I was there. It turns out being where Jesus lived and walked and taught and wept dredges up some stuff, you know?

Before I go any further, though, I have to give a shout out to Morning Star Tours. If you are ever planning a trip to the Holy Land, USE THEM. And request Shmulik as your guide. He is an absolute ENCYCLOPEDIA on Israel, Jesus, the Old Testament, and British accents. I can't imagine what our trip would've been like without him - each site was absolutely fascinating but we were never sorry to have to get back on the bus because he would have some ridiculous story to tell.

So, being in Jerusalem was really something. It was a culture shock, first and foremost. The food seemed strange, the people were somewhat rude, the shop keepers were aggressive and every structure was drop-dead gorgeous. On our second day, we visited the temple steps that were built during King Herod's Second Temple Period. This Herod is the one that died right around the time Jesus was born, and this is the temple Jesus would have visited. Herod made the steps difficult to navigate - one long step, one narrow, one long, one narrow and etc. - so that people couldn't run down them away from the temple. (This wasn't a holy thing. This was a money thing, I'm guessing.)

And in front of the steps are dozens and dozens of little stone structures (they reminded me of the "famine houses" we saw in the Burren in Ireland) that Shmulik said were the ritual baths, where Jews would have washed themselves before going up to the temple courtyard.

Jesus walked up these very steps, and He likely spent some time teaching on them as well, because that was common back then. I wanted to sleep on them. To eat on them. To spend the whole rest of our trip on them. I wanted to look in every single direction from them and wonder "did he see this?" And I wanted to touch them and take them with me.

But at the same time all I could suddenly hear was Mark 2:17, where Jesus tells the Pharisees that He didn't come for the righteous, but for the sinners; because it's not the healthy who need a doctor.

I have no idea where it came from.

I was not sitting there thinking I am "righteous" or not a sinner. What I was thinking was - I am a boring sinner. I am an ugly sinner but a boring one; I don't cheat people out of money and I'm not a prostitute. I believe in Jesus but I lie and I'm lazy and I manipulate people and I'm proud. But these are boring and not showy and not always noticeable. And suddenly I had this thought - He would've ignored me! If we had been here at the same time, He would've ignored me.

It's like that feeling in school, when maybe you're doing really well in a subject so the teacher gives all her attention to the kids who are struggling, and suddenly you feel left out and sad. And again it's not that I was thinking "I am perfect so I wouldn't have needed him," it's that I was thinking "I already believed in Him, so would He have wasted time on me?" Or, maybe more accurately, "I wonder if He would have liked me enough to spend time with me" and then, answering, "no."

I went around for days ruminating on that, mourning over it, even waking up in the middle of the night in our hotel and crying over it. It broke my heart. To think He would've ignored me. And I started journaling about what I wanted - what did I want? I didn't know. I wanted Him to tell me that He wouldn't've ignored me; that He's not ignoring me now; that I mean something to Him. And then I realized that if He told me those things, I would think less of Him. Who am I that He'd think of me? Do I want a God who would? Could He still be Power and Might then?

As the days went on and we went to more and more places, I wouldn't say I ever came to terms with it, just that it softened to make room for all the other things going on in me - wonder, gratitude, repeat. It was such an unbelievable gift to be there and I felt that, and it made me feel loved even despite.

But when I got home I was talking to my mentor about it and she smiled a little bit and asked me - are you the "healthy?"

Then she brought up the story of the 99 sheep, and the one goes missing, and He goes after it. I said, yes! Perfect example! I'm the 99. The timid, boring ones who are easily hearded and scared to toe the line; never the squeaky wheel. And now I'm feeling hurt that He's ignoring me for the one.

(Now I picture Jesus taking off his glasses, rubbing his eyes, and sighing, because how do I manage to get every single thing wrong?)

"We're all the one," my mentor said. "That's the point."

We're all the sick. Who knew that could be so difficult to figure out? Or that it could make someone so happy?

More to come.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The "Am I Over-Sharing" Conversation

So, a few things. I haven't written much lately, and there are a few reasons for that.

First is our upcoming trip to Israel in less than two weeks. Currently I'm in the "OH SHIT" stage of the pre-trip emotional roller coaster, where I wake up at 2 am every night to write down something I'm terrified I'll forget to pack ("BUG SPRAY") and I spend all day convincing myself that I don't love Jesus enough to walk where He walked; you know, just your average pre-travel psychosis.

Then there are the freelance assigments I've received this month, on top of my usual nightly writing, and I'm super grateful for that but deadlines are just so suffocating.

Then there is my general waffling about privacy and blogging and what they mean to me and which one I should value more and why I'm wrong after I make that choice.

I've been giving a lot of thought to my online presence and how much of one I want to have. Last week I found this delicious blog called "Wait by Why" and they did a brilliant tongue-in-cheek breakdown of why everyone becomes their worst selves on Facebook, and I gave myself a headache with how furiously I was nodding in agreement.

I look at Facebook every day, but it drives me absolutely bonkers. And every time I consider updating my "status" I find myself in a sweat-inducing existential crisis about why anyone else would or should care about my weekend plans and whether I'm adding or detracting from the goodness in the world and you know, this and that. And every time I read all of YOU people's updates, I find myself getting really disproportionately annoyed. You just can't possibly imagine how little I care about your trip to the nail salon, and I want you to sit there and listen to how little I care, and then I want you to give me back the 5 seconds it took me to read about it!

There is also the case of people who over-like, or over-engage, or over-whatever themselves online. There is an etiquette to social media, which I don't think is unreasonable to say, and some people simply do not follow it. A month or so ago I realized that every. single. time. I posted something on Facebook or Instagram, it was truthfully less than 10 minutes before this same person would either "like" it or comment on it. I don't know this person particularly well, though we are acquaintances. He is a married dude around my age. And so all of that added to the just general weirdness I felt, I suppose.

After a while I decided to block him, and I felt so self-righteous in doing it; convincing myself that this is what Blake Lively must feel like walking down the street and all that. (Adoring fans) But then I had to face facts, that I am the one posting pictures about personal and private moments and "status updates" and what have you - how can I fault someone for engaging with that?

I follow the Eisley girls on Instagram and they are adorable and fun and I love their updates, but it's mostly baby pictures and baby feet and hands and snot and what-have-you - and oh my word, the comments! The other day I saw a photo of one of the babies under which a commenter, who admitted to being a fan and so presumably did not know the girls in person, had written "I love your daughter so much I feel physical pain when I look at her - I can't imagine how YOU feel!" I felt so gross after that that I almost got out of the line at Chipotle. (I didn't though, obvs. Barbacoa.) This stuff is creepy as hell, but are the posters inviting it? Or at least enabling it?

Ultimately I decided that blocking the above referenced dude was still the right thing to do, and I still believe there is an etiquette to the whole thing, (it started to feel like a dude with a crush trying to get my attention, and that is yuck) but it did get my wheels turning about exactly what I want out of being on social media, and I'm not sure I like my honest-to-goodness answers, which are essentially:

1. To look at people I'm jealous of so that I can try to be more like them
2. To try to make other people jealous of me

And honestly, that's about it, and that's ugly.

Now Twitter is a bit different - I follow mostly comedians and reporters, and I get news and laughs from that and that's ok with me. But Facebook and Instagram... I just don't know. I do like staying in touch with friends but most friends are using it less and less if my observations are correct, and I talk to my closest friends via text and email much more than through social media anyway. Blogging is different, I assure you, but I am also giving some thought to how personal I want to be here. We can write about ideas without me having to tell you about my medical history and whether my parents loved me enough as a child, yes? (They did)

What do you think?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Re Miley Cyrus and Moral Judgments

I feel like there's a predictable cycle these days with "news" or semi-news or old news (RIP Neil Armstrong...still) or Breaking Bad spoilers on social media. First, the thing happens and everyone's talking about it. Then, everyone's talking about how everyone's talking about it. Then, everyone's talking about the one or two dumb dumbs who take the 'minority view' to be cool. Then, everyone's talking about how horrible it is that we're talking about it when X is happening over here.

Cue Miley Cyrus.

Last night I was writing the news round-up for Rhode Island and one of the stories I saw mentioned that the town of Warwick is raising money for a memorial to the 100 people who died in the Station Nightclub fire ten years ago. Remember that? When there were too many people inside and they got stuck in the doorway?

I spent the rest of the night clinging to Aaron's neck and trying to dam my mind flood of all the terrible things that happen all the time, and whether or when they will hapen to us and what they will be.

But when I went to bed, all I could see was Miley Cryus. Going to bed after the VMA's. Alone with her thoughts. With what she just did. I immediately sat upright in bed and said to a sleeping Aaron who never heard me - Aaron! Miley Cryus is alone somewhere right now! And that was almost as bad as the Station Nightclub fire in that minute.

I saw the Onion's article yesterday faking CNN Managine Editor Meredith Artley's reasoning for covering Miley's performance (performance?) at the VMA's. I understand why people take issue with its prominence in the headlines, but I do think it's news. Because this is where we are now. This is what we do. No one booed her. No one cut the feed. This is what we do now.

It's kind of unbelievable to me (though predictible) that we're so up in arms about it, though. The collective We usually pride ourselves on being rabidly non-judgmental, don't we? Aren't we the tolerant relativists your grandmother never had?

It's a legit question, this one: can we make moral judgments? About anything?

We certainly have about Miley Cyrus. And cigarettes. And pedophiles. And cheating on your taxes and going to war with Iraq and using your NSA title to snoop on your ex-boyfriend.

But then curiously, several other things are simply out of bounds. We must NOT make moral claims about homosexuality. We must NOT make moral claims about abortion. We must NOT make moral claims about art, or curriculums, or how the government spends its money.

I think we need to do some soul-searching, because I think we all know that we need to make moral judgments, not just about some things but about everything, about our role here in general; and in fact it doesn't matter whether we THINK we should because we do make these judgments every day.

Now, re: Miley:

When I was in kindergarten in Massilon, Ohio my priest's name was Father Kolp and he rode his bike everywhere. He had bright white hair and every year on the feast of the Assumption he prayed from the pulpit for Madonna. Yes, that Madonna. A few years back I finally asked my Mom why he did that (I remember assuming as a kid that all Catholic churches were praying for pop stars that day.) She said for some reason he had some special burden for her. Her mother allegedly named her for the Blessed Mother and she was so lost that it broke his heart, enough to pray for her from the pulpit every year at least.

So let's do that for Miley.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Las Vegas in Pictures

I'm in a funk this week and it's just no good. I know what I need and I can't do it, but I can dream about it. What I need is a rainy afternoon in the fall. Nobody needs me to be anywhere. Glazed donut holes. Louisville High School sweatpants and a sweatshirt that's too big for me. Nichole Nordeman's cover of "Time after Time" on repeat.

That's it. I can't have that though, and I am in a funk. In the meantime, I'm going to tell you all about Las Vegas. Last weekend we drove the four hours up to Nevada, a state Aar and I had never been to before, hurrah. My sister Jen and her husband and his brother are there this week for a convention so we went up to see them.

Please to enjoy the picture show.
Jen and I at dinner

Garden in the Wynn

New York New York. We rode the roller coaster.
Jen and I, the Wynn pool which was delicious

tulip sculpture - I think at the Palazzo?

A sleepy Aaron Michael and I shopping (and spending way too much money at Anthropologie) at Caesar's Palace, and a tower of delicious cupcakes. I got the Snickerdoodle and oh my. Yes to that.
Rainbow on the way home

Hoover Dam and a storm

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Even For Us

I was sitting in my office today, chugging away at all my little HR duties, when I had my usual morning epiphany that hey! I'm married to Aaron Baer! And I texted him to say HI (just like that) and he texted back and asked if I wanted to do lunch and I'm telling you, I was as excited as a 16-year-old getting asked out on a date to go see the second Lord of the Rings movie and smuggle in Starbucks in my purse and it spills but I don't care because it was carmel apple cider and that stuff smells gooood. (This may or may not have happened to me once).

It was a lovely lunch; we finally went to this Thai place by Aaron's work that he gets to go to all the time but I've never been to. Delish yellow curry, just the right amount of spicy (I am inherently distrustful of the "spice scale" they ask you to use but this one seemed pretty accurate, but also what do I know about curry spice scales.)

We talked about some articles and blog posts I've been reading online this week, and how they've been leaving me wringing my hands and grinding my teeth and longing to crawl back in bed. Because they hurt.

I read a lot of theology blogs and other "commentary" blogs on religion. Lots of religions. And I read writers from across the spectrum - some I agree with, some I believe are misguided, etc. I do try to keep an open mind. I want to learn.

But for some reason this week (every week), everyone is out for the Church (again.)

We're "Abusive." We're "Fake." "Hypocritical." "Old-fashioned." "Judgmental." "Failing."

These are Christians saying these things. This is Relevant Magazine. This is Rachel Held Evans.

And they've been said before; last week, and last year, and ten years ago, and twenty years ago, and twenty years from now. Ya'll, it's not new to criticize the Church. If you take nothing else away from what I'm writing here, PLEASE TAKE THAT. You're writing is unreadable with how novel you think you are. It makes my stomach hurt, I'm serious.

And so in response, my heart wants to say four things:

1. The Church is not always, categorically, wrong. In fact, the Church does a lot right. (Believing in Jesus, for starters?)

2. The Church does a lot of good.

3. The Church is a human institution.

4. God asked us to be a Church.

Have you ever heard that pithy little phrase people like to spit out on College Green and stuff, where they say "I considered being a Christian until I met one."? If that's you, and you're really saying you refuse to be a Christian and/or you left the faith because you came into contact with some really terrible Christians (they probably watched the Bachelor) I have to give you some tough love here, because presumably you're better than that. This would be akin to me saying "I really thought the science of chemistry was true but then I had a super mean chemistry professor so now I think it's all a bunch of bullshit." (I do secrectly think chemistry is bullshit.) Either Jesus died and rose from the dead or not. Whether you believe that should have everything to do with whether it's true and nothing to do with the actions and/or personalities of other people who believe it. (And it's true.)

And if you're someone who does believe in Jesus, but you're really fed up with the Church, please understand it's human. I understand holding it to a higher standard because of the moral claims we make; and that's appropriate. But if you are letting human pain and relational squabbles interfere with your belief in or communion with your Father - well that just doesn't compute.It's hurting everyone. It's hurting you.

And if it makes you want to spout off, and complain, and accuse, and diagnose; for you I'm reminded of this incredibly beautiful blog post by my brilliant friend Kate. (When I texted her for her help in locating that post, I couldn't believe it was 3 years ago. That post had such a huge impact on me - it felt like yesterday I read that! 3 years in your twenties is NOT like 3 years in high school and something about that feels very sad to me; sorry for getting off topic but oh man, aging, am I right?)

That post is such a gut punch. At some point, all of us self-appointed 'commentators' need to stop considering our rage-filled "criticism" constructive and start finding the line that we're crossing. The line beyond which this becomes ugly, and angry, and too much and too often and incorrect. The line beyond which we''re starting to feel entitled to the Bible and the Church fitting US.

The last thing I have to say is that "pretty writing" doesn't make "true writing." This keeps me up at night.

You are - we are - Christ's bride. We are His people. He delights in us. We are trying. We are beautiful.

So have some grace and love and patience - even for us.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

We Went to a Cabin, Etc.

It's been a while since I've written around here and I totally have a complex about it. You should see me when I haven't written in my journal in a while. My palms get really sweaty and I spend at least two pages apologizing first. (To a journal.) (Now try to imagine my prayer life. OOF!)

 Anyway it's just been a busy season, is all. We're in the middle of the busiest time of year at work, and AB and I have had our fair share of extracurriculars as well. (I even got an endoscopy, for fun! It was really great.)

 But here I am now, to write, to regale you with tales of Life on Libby Street and all related nonsense and things. Aaron is playing another riveting game of college basketball on Xbox and Jethro is napping while squarely facing the front door TO BE READY FOR INTRUDERS. And I just spent 20 minutes praying over a Bible verse Aaron assigned me this evening to deal with my frantic heart. It worked, and it made me want to write.

 So does this past weekend.

 I don't know how Aar and I keep finding ourselves surrounded by and loved on by these incredibly generous people. It occurs to me that in our relatively short time together, as college punks and now young married twenty-somethings with not much money, we've vacationed (and honeymooned) in an unbelievable condo in Fort Lauderdale (for free), we've spent every anniversary in swanky hotels at discount rates thanks to my first job and the connections I still have from it (shout out, Morgie), we've taken whirlwind trips to Hollywood and LA and hung out on rooftops and the sets of TV shows, we've stood on the dock the Titanic was built on, and now we've skipped town for a weekend in this breathtaking cabin up in Pinetop, AZ. Because someone offered it to us.

 Pinetop is just like, I mean, it is like, well I don't know. It's like a place where things LIVE. Not where they go to die (the desert.) It's green and rainy and hilly and high (6,000 feet or so, I'm told). The houses have carved wooden bears on the front porches announcing the owners' names. (Are the owners bears? This is a burning question) There are hanging plants. It stormed TWICE. There is a local barbecue joint. Why in the world is Phoenix where people decided Arizona's main city should be? This is what happens when I'm not consulted on these things.

 The porch of this place was bigger than our house; I didn't measure but I know it in my deepest heart of hearts and I am absolutely ok with it. This is the porch. LOOK AT THIS PORCH.

Seriously, we spent the entire weekend out there if you must know; even in the rain. We hammocked. We read books. I wrote some freelance assignments. We read our Bibles. We drank tea. We watched it storm. We talked about our favorite teachers in high school. We talked about the Lord. We talked about each other.

 We couldn't bring ourselves to leave, even for food, so we cooked all our meals in the kitchen inside, with a glass of wine never far away (well we cooked everything with the exception of the local barbecue, WORTH IT). And that's pretty much all we did. All weekend.

 Except we also watched Friday Night Lights.

 Ok listen, it's kind of getting out of hand with the Friday Night Lights at the Baer house. I have been wanting to write about it for a while because it MAKES ME FEEL FEELINGS but I haven't wanted to because I don't want some party pooper to say OH! I LOVE that show! and then proceed to tell me things about it that I don't know yet. (So don't be that guy, is what I'm saying, I will ban you from this blog. And then where will you go for your nonsense reading? HUH?)

Honestly, how do I write about this show? Shall I compare you to a summer's day, Friday Night Lights? Seriously I know I might sound dramatic and this might just be because we're still in the middle of watching it but I'm pretty sure this is my favorite show on television. Ever. (Star Wars wasn't a TV show so we're good.)

 I'm going to write about why I love it and why it's going to save the world and why it's giving me renewed faith in humanity in a little bit. I have to collect my thoughts first. Also just an FYI I have loved Kyle Chandler ever since he was Gary Hobson getting tomorrow's newspaper today, so you can just back off, because we have a history. (My sister and I were so obsessed with that show that our neighbor, whom we used to babysit for, once saw a profile of Kyle Chandler in the newspaper and clipped it out and brought it down to our house for us. In the rain. This is what it's like to be me.)

 So for now, why don't you fire up your Netflix and start watching it so we can talk about it in a little bit.

Sorry I haven't written in so long (THE GUILT)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Strange Things Humans Seem to Love

1. Being the victim of something. Not something terrible, just something they can really milk for sympathy, or special treatment, etc.

2. Being Disenfranchised (why would you like that?)

3. Feeling like they stuck it to someone (we suck)

4. Something terrible happening that they can blame on someone else

5. Catching someone else in a lie

6. Gruesome murder stories, especially if true

7. Protesting stuff. Just in general.

8. Having a posse

9. Being Morally Superior (but NEVER judgmental!)

10. Cheese

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Idiot Doctors and the Patients who Apologize to Them

Last night I was having trouble falling asleep despite being totally exhausted. As I was tossing and turning and cracking fingers and toes to the background noise of Aaron's sleepy admonishments I realized I was clenching my teeth. Really, really hard. My jaw was immovable. Because I was thinking about this maxi skirt I saw at the grocery store yesterday afternoon. She was in front of me in line. So, so skinny. So skinny so skinny so skinny. She was buying french bread.

A couple of weeks ago I had an introductory appointment with yet ANOTHER primary care doctor, my third in about six months. I have not been having luck with primary care doctors. I was more nervous for this appointment than was reasonable. Sweaty palms, the whole nine. But in I went! Hi! I'm Maria! My stomach hurts sometimes. Will you give me my prescription?

He was a strange little dude, pretty old, and with lots of snide, meant-to-be-witty comments about his 'battle-ax' wife. (I'm never sure how to take those.) But he listened to me. For a whole hour, he sat there entranced by my medical history, making lots of notes, lots of sympathetic little noises, predicting symptoms before I told him about them, etc. I was encouraged. This dude lived and died for my colon!

When we got to the gall bladder part of my family medical history (seriously, the Fishers are a circus, starring Mom, hi Mom, love you) he said ohhhhhh, the gallllll bladderrrrrr. Just like that, very romantically. He said "well, doctors refer to the "F's" of gall bladder disease risk: Forty, female, family, and fat."

Then he said, "and you've got three out of the four, so." (Disappointed clicky sound of mouth.)

I literally had to bring out my fingers to count. "...but I'm not forty?" I reminded him.

He said, "Yep, that's the fourth one."


A few months ago, I went to see a nutritionist named Brina. She is just many kinds of wonderful and her office smells like lilacs, which should be a rule for medical professionals. She used all kinds of contraptions on me. A scale, and then several small metal instruments that pinched and measured me in several questionable areas, leaving behind awkward red marks looking like an angry father had dragged me by the arm to the car, but I forgave them for the job they had to do.

After her measurements she gave me the gist: my BMI is 19. That means I have 19% body fat. The "normal range" is 18 - 25 for women. Above 25 is overweight. Under 18 is underweight. She was very proud of me, judging by her tone. Immediately I tunnel-visioned the number 18, feeling chastised and a little embarrassed to be above it, but Aaron was there so he offered a quick reality check. Then she told me that I was in the 90th percentile for muscle mass for women my height. (But I don't want to be Serena Williams, my mind said. Then: Aaron's face. Exhale.)

I told this to the doctor. "My nutritionist says I'm right where I should be, maybe could stand to gain a little more." He did that really horrible little shrug thing people do, where they lift up their shoulders just slightly and lean their head to the side, eyebrows raised, non-verbally saying "sorry, don't know what to tell you!"

But he did know what to tell me, and here's what he said: "Well, if you can pinch it, it really shouldn't be there."

1. Have you ever met a female human before?
2. Can I please see the medical journal from which you are surely referencing that brilliant diagnosis?
3. Do you do a lot of pinching?
4. Is there a medical term for "girl got some extra cushion, if ya know what I mean"
5. .........(this is me walking out the door)

1. Oh, I'm sorry.


Honestly, I should be the subject of a medical study, regarding the psychological effects on the human confidence by white coated primary care doctors. I am not shy and I am not meek. I have a hard enough time in real life apologizing for things I SHOULD apologize for. But when I get in a room, with a licensed professional who presumably knows more than me, about important things, I am a wide-eyed doe. A frightened, guilty little girl. Who knows nothing and has ruined everything and feels really sorry for it.

It's been about a month now and while I'm still apparently clenching my teeth, and frantically trying to fit at least one vegetable into every single meal I can think of (a worthy cause, but neurotic nonetheless) I have come to terms with the ridiculousness of this strange, little man. I am still going to keep him on file as my primary care doctor for now because I DO NOT HAVE THE ENERGY TO TRY AGAIN. But he is an idiot, and I can say that with confidence now. Telling me I was fat was borderline malpractice, and just because he is a doctor doesn't mean he knows what he's talking about.

So for now please raise a can of Diet Sunkist with me, and let's eat a big dinner, and let's NOT do tai chi "with at least 3 or 4 friends to create a good energy;" in other words let's bask in our absolute refusal to abide by any of his recommendations. SODA FOR DAYS, GARY.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Handling Life (Poorly)

Today as I was walking into the library, a nice gentleman sitting outside asked if I'd like him to "read my cards." He had a big carton of tarot cards next to him. I said no thank you and then I went inside and spent my lunch break wandering around the mystery section. I left with the more Tana French (surprise) and a mild feeling of defeat after the guy at the information desk told me they didn't have Season 2 of Scandal yet. On my way out, the guy saw me again and yelled out, "when's you're birthday?" I told him "Twelve twelve!" and he started yelling something, I didn't catch every word, but I heard "oh, the hangman!" and then he also told me that 12/12 is Marisa Tomei's birthday too.

So it was that kind of day! And now we all know a little more about Marisa Tomei.

One of the most frustrating things about being an adult in an adult world and doing adult things like working and, I don't know, taking the trash out, is that you really have to keep your frustrations to yourself, for the most part.

Days of feeling 'treated unjustly' in high school were like, the very best days. Pages and pages of angry, righteous journal entries; handing out cold shoulders like Halloween candy; feeling more and more justified with every locker slam. Good stuff! There's nothing quite like being "unjustly wronged" and totally superior for it.

Now, I can't really do any of that stuff. Not just because it would make me a bad employee or a bad friend or a bad wife or a bad daughter but because a strong woman doesn't do that. And that's one of the very best parts about being an adult; the fact that you get to decide the kind of person you want to be and then you can go be her. I want to be a strong woman, and I want to be a kind woman. I don't want to give cold shoulders or wear my frustration on my sleeve anymore, or believe I'm entitled to everyone's best graces all the time. So I don't (or at least I try not to).

The secret is I'm still 16 between the ears and behind the ribs, and life still pisses me off.

I have a very, very hard time dealing with nasty people. Not just people who are nasty to me, but just gross people. People who lie. People who use their kids as props. Innocuous, seemingly harmless people who exhibit some of the most selfish habits we've ever been creative enough to invent. People who steal your lunch from the break room. People who abuse my sister's loyalty and friendship and brains and make her get up at 6:30 am for stupid things. People who take advantage of my friends. People who leave their dogs in their cars when it's 119 degrees. Lazy people who take advantage of my non-laziness.

Mostly though, it's people who treat me like I'm an idiot.

Because I'm just, so very not an idiot!

The thing is, we're all generally pretty nasty. I've talked about this before. I'm nasty too. I know how to manipulate Aaron to make him feel bad for me, or to make him feel guilty. And I do it sometimes. I beep my horn prematurely when people in front of me don't notice the green light fast enough. Yesterday I made a big show about how annoyed I was that it took 15 minutes to make Aaron's sandwich that I was picking up for him at Paradise Bakery. I'm a bit insufferable like that sometimes. A lot of times.

Our flags in Phoenix are at half mast today - I think it might be the first time I've ever noticed an entire city's flags being at half mast. It's pretty arresting, actually. They're at half mast for the firefighters that died. These are the strange, inexplicable parts of being human - that we have 19 firefighters who died in the line of duty at the same time as we have someone pretending to be a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing to get some money. Not only did those firefighters die, but more firefighters are still fighting that fire. They are leaving their wives and kids and pet goldfish at home to go fight that fire, that killed 19 of their colleagues! And there's also people in Texas sending e-mails to pro-life legislators telling them they hope their daughters are raped.

What kind of place is this? Are there two kinds of people, or are well all terrible? And are we all a bit good as well? Would the fire fighters have claimed false victimhood? Would they have cut me off on the highway?

Currently, I am in the market for an effective, respectable way to deal with these things. I pray for peace and wisdom and will continue to do that, but it doesn't always come, and I find this all very confusing and a bit overwhelming. (Tarot cards need not apply.)

I made cupcakes for the firefighters at the station down the street from our house and I felt like such a huge idiot giving them to them. They had white icing and then I wrote "Thx" on them with that blue writing-icing stuff. Is it common knowledge that "Thx" means "thanks"? What in the world did I write "thx" on there for?

I gave them to the guy and said Hi, we don't thank you enough, I'm on my way to the gym, thanks for everything, sorry you've had a rough week, I made some cupcakes, wow it's cloudy, hi, bye.

He offered for me to bring my kids to the station to see the fire trucks. I don't have kids, though. When we do have kids, I wonder if they'll be the good or the bad kind, or if you can be both at the same time?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Things to Talk About

1. Are you guys aware of how hot it is in Phoenix? It apparently was on the news this weekend, because I got texts from both of my best friends on Saturday, Ohioans the both of them, asking me if I was melting and/or staying indoors and shotgunning water jugs. Amy also asked if I was going to buy special asphalt-safe booties for Jet as she saw advertised on the news. (I'm not.)* It has been hovering between 113 - 119 degrees. I don't know how to describe this other than going outside feels like standing directly behind a running car's exhaust pipe. It is absolutely disgusting. The NERVE of this city to be this hot, I am telling you. Yesterday I had to park about a football field away from the Starbucks I was going into and I almost didn't make it all the way to the door. My sight started swimming and I saw a mirage of a giant waterfall in the parking lot of the Pei Wei next door.

However, after I made it into the Starbucks and after I was finished with some writing, I was walking back to the car and this sky greeted me.

It proceeded to get real windy and it might have actually sprinkled a few drops, so I did what any sane person would do, and I put on wool socks, turned the air conditioning down low enough to be cold, covered myself in blankets and pretended it was autumn. It kinda worked.

2. DEXTER HAPPENED LAST NIGHT. After it was over I had to write some radio news copy  and I spent a genuine moment wondering if I could work Dexter into the news. I couldn't. But that probably just makes me a terrible reporter.

Because OH MY, Dexter Morgan! It was kind of thrilling to see all the parts of the set we'd been too... and to imagine all of the behind the scenes stuff that goes into making each scene. And very cool to see Scott's name pop up as "Supervising Producer," Mr. Big Stuff. That show is just too much. Debra always looks like she is about to throw up and that is absolutely brilliant. THAT SHOW!

Dex's Lab, BLOOD!
 Four more episodes til my big debut, you won't even believe it. I'm the new love interest (I am not.)

ALSO - make sure you're downloading the Dexter wrap-up podcasts with Scott. They're on itunes. This week he interviews Jennifer Carpenter. Next week he'll be talking to Michael C Hall. Woo woo!

3. Last night, 19 of the most dedicated firefighters in the country died fighting a wildfire near Prescott. It's one of those things I don't know how to carry. Please help me pray for peace and comfort for their families, and the families of firefighters who are still going at it, can you imagine? It takes a certain kind of wild courage and selflessness to be a police officer or a firefighter and I never know how to thank them. This is a clumsy attempt. Maybe I will make cupcakes for our local department. Cupcakes say thank you for guarding my life with yours, yes? Oh geesh.

Help me out of this spiral. Tell me your things.

*I'm not buying those stupid things for Jet because we have a backyard covered in (dying) grass so we don't have to worry about the asphalt. I did see a tweet of one of my AZ friends frying an egg on top of his car yesterday though, and I read a news story about another guy's running shoe melting on the pavement. If your pity violin isn't out yet we aren't friends.

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Pilgrimmage

I don't go to Catholic mass often anymore, but I went today. Aaron's Aunt works at the Phoenix diocese downtown, just a few blocks from my office, and Bishop Nevarez was saying mass today at noon. It's the beginning of the Catholic Church's Fortnight for Freedom, and I will add my prayer to that.

I hesitate to talk about how I feel when I walk into a Catholic church because the last thing I mean to do is demean  the Church into a frilly little nostalgia. It is a serious, and a holy place, just as God's presence anywhere is; and I do not mean to say that the feeling of home and mystery that pushes on my lungs when I walk inside is just some lovely sentiment of a 'bygone' time in my life and nothing more.

So please do not assign any condescension to this, but walking into the basilica today was, as always, a change in the air for me. It is a different time and place in there. The smoke curling from the spicy incense; the organ which always, for me, has a certain 'outdatedness' about it, but instead of that making it less serious, it makes it even more so. The stained glass windows were beautiful. Nuns. Nuns! Holy water, whipsers, stillness.

It's frightening in an electric way - like staying up past your bedtime - but it's so reassuringly commonplace. That juxtaposition of emotions is, alone, a spark of electricity. Awe and wonder and a little bit of fear and the knowledge that you're safe; that just as there are no answers, there are, too, no surprises; this is religion.

It makes me remember being the altar girl; finding the shortest robe in the sacristy and praying the entire time I wouldn't drop the wine. It makes me think of singing at all those parish weddings - in my dark maroon dress with the sparkles and my mary jane shoes, wondering what I'd do with my $50 wedding fee and wrinkling my nose at the song in between readings that talks about "filling your house with children" - I was much more of a 'feminist' back in 6th grade. It makes me think of staring at the stained glass windows at St. Louis, wondering what Mom would make me for lunch that day and whether the sunflowers in the backyard had bloomed yet; and whether Mary was real and if she cared about me.

The incense especially makes my head swim with the Notre Dame basilica in South Bend - 8 years old, terrified, quiet whispering, wondering if Someone would appear to me. St. Catherine of Siena's bones - she wrecked me and then I saw her dust. She's just lying there! And what was I doing?

I went through the mass today, conscious of my ever-shifting focus, which I fought for so much of my childhood. I never understood how the Catholic mass seemed 'long' to some people - most protestant services are actually much longer - but I think the mass always seems short because I know exactly what's coming, and when. It's the same way that running 40 minutes feels like 5 when I know when I'm starting and when I'm stopping; but if I take off through the neighborhood without a watch on I can barely make it 3 minutes without getting irretrievably winded.

It was a lovely mass, and I still get the urge to call my mother and say "Mom! I saw the bishop today!" which is perhaps a consequence of growing up in a tiny town where the bishop was a celebrity who made rarely an annual appearance. But he was short and sweet with his homily, reminding us that we're a country of freedom but are in danger of losing it, and that we are killing our babies and can't be quiet about it, sign of the cross, close the book, back to the chair. Imagine what that would sound like to unaccustomed ears? We're killing our babies? What?! And he's just sitting back down?!

Mass reminds me of taking things seriously. Knowing God is bigger than me and my pithy little revelations in my sprial bound journal; I will never fully know Him and there aren't enough seconds in a lifetime to fill it all in. The fearful mystery of Catholicism and the reverence with which its people celebrate mass is a beautiful thing, for that reminder and for the way it has survived so many self-involved centuries and will surely survive several more, including this one.

I am delirous at the thought that our trip to Israel in a few months could be this feeling, magnified to an unimaginable maximum. I'm terrified of it.

Friday, June 21, 2013

10 Reasons Why My Dog is the Worst

SO! Do we like the new design? A litte cleaner, a little more modern, perhaps? My buddy Steve down Florida way is a fantastic graphic designer and made this banner for me. He is extremely talented and does freelancing graphic design so if you ever need anything, he is your guy.

Meanwhile. Listen, it's Friday, ok? I read a lot this week and wrote a lot as well, just not here, and today my brain is full of vanilla latte and emptiness, and I just don't have much in me. So let's talk about the Baer. Because he's the worst.

Jet weighs 40 pounds soaking wet, but he has a bark that sounds like one of those black rottweilers that live behind the chain link fence on 19th Avenue downtown. And if you enter my house, or walk near my house, or look at my house, or think about my house, he will bark at you, with a really mean tone if we're being honest.

2. He might be racist and is definitely sexist
Jet does not like dudes. He is instinctually mistrustful of them. Aaron's brother Ben has lived in Phoenix now for years and Jet still won't let him near him. I have no evidence to back up the claim of racism but let's be honest, the odds are with us.

3. He is a total foodie snob
Literally the only things in this world that he will eat that aren't poop are pepper jack cheese, steak, eggs, rice and Purina One dog food. He will not eat anything else. Not peanut butter, no vegetables, no potato chips. I totally bet he instagrams his food, too. Asshole.

4. He plays favorites
And it's me and he won't leave me alone and I secretly love every minute of it except I keep almost tripping on him when I get out of the shower every morning. HE IS ALWAYS RIGHT THERE

5. He has a better singing voice than you

6. He has better taste in TV than you
I swear on Dumbledore's grave that dog shuts up and faces the TV any time Law & Order is on.

7. He is manipulative
This is the face he gives me every. single. morning. when I am about to leave. Since when do dogs have eye brows?

8. He is putting pillow pets out of business

9. He gets carsick

10. I like him better than you
He gets me.

Monday, June 17, 2013

My Weekend

Friday Afternoon
Aaron and I both went to the dentist; it was so super cute, like the beginning of a Matthew Mcconaughey romcom, except we were at the dentist and I didn't have a French baguette in the front basket of my bike. However I don't have any cavities and Aaron has two, so it was a fun time for me anyway and really romantic.

(Side story re: the dentist. I still go to the one in Scottsdale next to our old apartment, so it's all fancy. Each chair has its own TV with DirecTV and they asked me what I wanted to watch, so I told them to just put it on the USA Network. It was another episode of Law and Order: SVU which I'm not particularly adverse to, but then it ended up being the episode where the guy is being sexually abused by his mother and has this real creepy psychotic break in the interrogation room. I was mortified, because the hygienist was hearing every word. At one point she was like - "Oh! Am I hurting you?!" and I said "No! why?" And she said "Oh, you just have a really awful look on your face." Probably the incestuous rape did it. Lesson: ESPN is usually a safer bet.)

After our dentist appointment/date, we had our obligatory "where should we eat" argument with each of us unwilling to name our choices but instead demanding to write them down before our opponent could, well, oppose them. Why are we like that? I don't know, but it works.

We went to BW3's (MY request) and watched baseball, revelling in the simple Friday-ness of it all. Such a lovely night, Friday. Isn't it? Then we went home and watched more Harry Potter. Dumbledore 4EVER.

Chicken wings are gluten free (not boneless though, and that's discriminatory)
Jet watching me watch Hermione
I spent most of the day researching topics for the radio show that night and taking care of some freelance assignments. I also went to the gym and watched The Five while I was there. Terry, the radio host who so inexplicably lets me keep coming back to be on her show, calls me the Dana Perino character of that hour and oh, how I love her for it.

Please to listen here to hear a podcast of the show


That night we had dinner with friends Kevin and Haily and their little girl Lucy, and oh em gee if Aaron didn't read her a book and I died.

The radio bit was fun as always. I have this thing where I feel really strongly about something political, say it, then immediately flash back to that terrible episode of South Park about NASCAR where one of them starts chewing tobacco and creates a Youtube channel where he just talks about "THIS OBAMA GUY" and how horrible he is the whole time. I don't watch South Park on principle but that episode. Oh goodness.

(I just found the clip and considered including it but... then I decided not to? Just go watch it yourself, but don't tell your mom I told you to.)

Church, nap, laundry, writing, made some gluten-free quiche for breakfasts for the week. Fin.

Today I'm putting some books on hold at the library for research into our upcoming trip to Israel. OUR UPCOMING TRIP TO ISRAEL I mean seriously, I have always wanted to type that! More on that trip soon. Which trip? Why, our upcoming trip to Israel.

What did you do this weekend?

Friday, June 14, 2013

My Goals This Weekend

1. Close all blinds

2. Turn the air conditioning down into the 60's, I'm going scorched earth on my heating bills

3. Gluten-free Dominos pizza

4. Harry Potter 1

5. Harry Potter 2

6. Harry Potter 3

7. Harry Potter 4

8. Harry Potter 5 (best one)

9. Harry Potter 6

10. Harry Potter 7

11. Harry Potter 7b

12. And I'll be on the radio Saturday night, but I only agreed to it because it won't cut too much into my Harry Potter time, and maybe I can talk about Harry Potter on the radio? I don't know, is there a line we can draw between the US response to Islamic terror and the Ministry of Magic's response to Voldemort in movie 5? Is Dumbledore the gay wizard equivalent of George W.? Is John McCain Professor Snape, except one hundred percent less cool and also one hundred percent less on the side of the good guys? If we all adopted a British accent would we be more civil with each other? Ladies and gentlemen, we have a radio show. Listen live on Saturday night 9-10 pm PST here.

Gotta go, I solemnly swear I am up to no good.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Always Give: A Question

There's a homeless man who panhandles at the intersection I drive through right before I get to work each morning and I don't know what to do.

He holds up a sign that says he is a veteran and then makes a reference to God. I always look away before reading the whole thing. But I see God's name there. Big letters.

It's getting really hot out there. 115 last week. (I mean, seriously.)

Over the years I've intellectually come to the conclusion that if I give money away to someone who is asking for it, I have no right to bother myself with what he/she does with it. I say "intellectually" because I have NOT come to that conclusion emotionally. If someone with a gold chain and a starbucks latte is begging for money downtown, my heart sneers. Are you kidding, guy?

And if someone looks, I don't know, out of it? My wallet tends to stay closed, too. I don't want to buy your drugs or your beer or your afternoon at the adult book store.

But blessed are those who are taken advantage of, I think. Get your face slapped. Give your tunic, even if they only ask for a cloak. If your brother asks for a dollar, give him two and spare no thought to what he's going to do with them. I think God asks only that we give. Actually, I know God asks only that we give.

Yesterday I had finished my run at the gym (it gets so much harder as it gets hotter out, even though the gym is obviously air conditioned. My body is just TIRED in this heat.) and I was stretching in the crowded little "STRETCH!" area of Planet Fitness when I kept hearing this annoying sound. It sounded like someone about to sneeze, or maybe trying to get the attention of their friend on the next machine or something. Like a little yelling noise. I started the typical dialogue in my head of 'geeze that's rude, can't you see people are trying to work out, etc. etc.' (I am much more short-tempered when I'm sweaty and tired; sorry about that) but then as I looked around, I realized it was one of The Girls.

The Girls are a group of three adorable ladies with Down's Syndrome. They are in the gym just about every day I am, which makes me wonder if they aren't there every single day. They work hard on the ellipticals and then they go lift weights together. And they always hold the door for people when they're coming or going.

Instantly upon realizing that the noise was coming from one of The Girls it stopped bothering me. I understood. Well, maybe not understood, but I wasn't mad. I'm only mad if I think the perpetrator knows better. What does that mean about me?

I tell that story in connection with the homeless man because it's unfair of me to assume he knows better, or anyone knows better, or that he's perfectly able to get out of his situation. He doesn't have Down's but maybe there's something else. Maybe he doesn't work because he has a debilitating depression. Maybe he doesn't march down the street into one of the steel plants and apply for a job because he's been convicted of multiple felonies. Maybe he stays in the Phoenix heat because he has family here and can't bear to leave them. How do I know?

The most frustrating part of this situation - though I am certainly not presuming this is more difficult for me than it is for him - is that I don't feel right giving him something. I can't figure out why, and so I don't know if I should trust it or not. I've given money to people pandhandling before. Lots of times, actually. I used to buy lunch a lot for a woman who hung out with her shopping cart at the library. It's not the money, really. I just don't feel right about it. Something feels off. Could that be God, or could it only be me?

Do you give to everyone asking? Have any advice? I'm open...

Monday, June 3, 2013

Middle Class Question Mark?

First, for some general housekeeping, I just want to let you all know that I am in the midst of re-laying-out my blog. Not re-designing really, because I don't know anything about designing anyone or anything. But I'm going to change my format and layout and banner and all of that. I don't know why I'm telling you, other than that everyone seems to warn everyone when things are changing, so I just wanted to do my part.


This weekend was lovely. On Friday night I had this romantic notion of my Saturday morning being spent out on our back patio with my new San Diego Zoo mug, drinking tea and knocking out some freelance assignments while the sun rose and birds sang and flutes serenaded me. So I did that, except it was 400 degrees. I still drank tea out of that mug and I sweat like a Bikram yogi, while Aaron cut the grass and Jethro un-gracefully rolled around in it but I loved it.

After giving Jet a bath, some cleaning and a trip to the gym I picked up some groceries and came back home. As Aar was helping me bring the bags in from the car, he noticed I had bought brand-name paper towels and decided to exclaim, with arms to the sky and eyebrows to the ceiling, WE ARE MIDDLE CLASS NOW! And then he gave me a giant high five and started to dance a little bit, but just a little bit.

I have never bought brand name paper towels, I don't think. I am nervous around money. Around it, with it, without it, etc. It makes me nervous. I can literally pinpoint a memory to you of standing in Claire's at the mall as a wee pre-pubescent and picking out a pair of earrings and then thinking to myself, well, do I want these earrings or do I want to go to a nice college? I can't remember if I chose the earrings or the college but as fate would have it, I earned a free ride to Ohio U, and every now and then I wonder how many more earrings I'd have now if I had known that all along. ANYhoo.

Whenever I'm about to spend money, on say, paper towels, for example, I always imagine what else I could be spending it on. You might think that makes me a wise spender or something nice like that, but really it makes me a hyper-obsessive malcontent for whom grocery shopping is one of Dante's levels. Because seriously? Paper towels? When I could just buy the off-brand ones for three months and then have enough for a pair of Nine West's or an upgrade at a hotel in Fiji?

Anyway I've come to learn after 4 odd years or so of living in my own space that some things you just cannot buy off-brand. Lysol wipes, Windex, bug spray (ouch) and, new to the list, paper towels. There is just no comparing. And 4 years is a sufficient test period, don't you think? So we're a Bounty family now.

Brand-or-no-brand theory notwithstanding, Aaron's exclamation made me laugh but also made me think. We have been so blessed since we moved to Arizona. Ever since those first few paychecks, our income has steadily grown over the past few years, through new jobs and promotions and what have you. But somehow, each time we get a little bump, we find a way to spend it (for the most part.) We have built up a modest savings for rainy and/or pregnant days (I AM NOT PREGNANT I AM MAKING A POINT) and have spent a pretty penny or two on some pretty awesome trips (Ireland, etc.) but for the most part, we spend what we make. Some of it is on paying down student loans, but still. We spend and we spend good.

I've always wondered if we'd reach a point where we'd step back and say ok, if we make any more than we do now, let's just save/give away all of it. Because we don't need to go beyond this point. Our house has a roof and enough rooms for us; our clothes are not falling apart; our bellies are full. Enough.

I think we should reach that point. Whether it's an exact dollar amount or a checklist of needs, we should have a threshold. The hard thing is, I think it's important that we decide on that threshold now before we get there. Otherwise I don't think we'll ever know we're there.

I'm still not sure what it is, but I want to start being intentional about figuring that out. And being able to give a good, Biblical, spirit-led response to why it is what it is. As in, why it includes Mary Kay mineral powder foundation and a yearly family trip to South Carolina. Because I think it will have to include those things.

So what about you? Do you have a threshold? Does it include Bounty paper towels because mine includes Bounty paper towels.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Lately I've Been

I was overwhelmed with the response to my last post. It was pretty heavy and a bit aggressive (at least that's how I felt about it) but I was really touched by a lot of your feedback. Thank you for that. It occurs to me that my blog is becoming somewhat of a theological experiment, which is funny to me because I consider myself to be very far from an expert in such matters. But I like talking about it and I hope (and it would seem) that you do to. So we move forward.

For today's issue of Maria Dot Com, however, we are going to hang on the lighter side of things with me giving you a generously long update on what I've been up to lately, full of just the sorts of minute details that surely are keeping you up at night.

1. Listening to
I finally synced up my iPhone with my iTunes. A year after buying the phone. Because I had an old version of iTunes and my computer wouldn't allow me to update it without first deleting the program and I was afraid I'd lose my library, and like, I need my LFO Summer Girls to be with me forever, you know? Anyway I took the plunge the other night and it didn't even delete my library, which honestly makes me kind of mad at this point. All of this to say I then promptly bought the new Eisley album and am in melody heaven. They are like sirens. And "Drink the Water." Oh my gosh.

2. Watching
We've started Scrubs over again on Netflix. Elliot's hair: yes. I'm sad there aren't a lot of good new shows right now. Maybe there are and I'm unaware? Please do tell.

3. Reading
I just finished "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed and loved it. It was vulnerable and lovely and her adventure was a page-turner. My only critique is... oh goodness, this is going to be very predictable. My critique is that she never found God. Seriously, that's my critique. Because when you go on a long, soul-searching journey, it is unrealistic that you find "peace" or "happiness" when you finally simply realize that you are imperfect and so is life so just enjoy it happy face! 'Just Do Whatever You Want' doesn't bring peace OR joy and any serious or seriously honest writer wouldn't try to pretend it did. Unless they are in denial, which is probably the case for a lot of us, Cheryl included.

Now I'm on to "I Was Told There'd be Cake" by Sloane Crosley. Research.

4. Doing
This past weekend we went to San Diego in the spur of the moment. It was Tuesday or so of last week when Aaron and I said to each other, darling, we have three free days and a beach not far away! How could we not? We couldn't not, is how, so we did, and it was lovely. Hotwire.com is my new best friend except the Manchester Hyatt, while fabulous, is not skilled in warming up their room service apple pie that is evidently pre-made and then frozen to a temperature colder than the Arctic Circle. Other than the Apple Pie Debacle of 2013 (seriously, try having eating issues but then talking yourself into permission to have your favorite dessert JUST THIS ONCE and then have the hotel mess it up. DISASTER) the hotel was lovely and we got to look at this all weekend.

We also went to Coronado Island.

Then we went to the San Diego Zoo and I died for sheer love of every second. (Mom tells me that we didn't like to go to the zoo as kids. That has to be complete hogwash; I remember very distinctly the poster I had of Shamu hanging in my room, though yes, that was purchased at the gift shop of Sea World and not the zoo but it is my love of animals that I'm trying to defend here. Anyway Mom says "you guys never wanted to go to the zoo!" and I spend the next 5 minutes frantically wondering if I really know myself at all and then Mom qualifies it with telling me that the Columbus Zoo shared a driveway with Wyandot Lake, which was a water park, and every time we drove up that drive way we (kids) chose the water park. UM, OBVI? We were children. That does not mean I did not love a squishy adorable elephant butt as much as the next person. Just that I liked wave pools more at that particular moment of my life.

Anyhow here are lots of pictures but not as many as I wanted to post, you're welcome.




Quick break to help the zoo bus up the hill, I work out



After the zoo we went to La Jolla. It was so very gorgeous. But it made my heart a bit achy for those Carolina beaches. Carolina beaches know how to be beaches, you know? California beaches are like, towns that don't realize there's a beach right there. Not enough "Gone fishin'" signs and condos named "Seaside Dunes" and such, if you know what I mean.

5. Thinking About
Writing a story. Or a novel. Something pretty. This is what I'd like to do.

6. Praying For
My Ma. She's the sickest healthy person you'd ever meet. She's in the hospital this week with pancreatitis. Add her to your list too?

And just what have you been doing lately?

Friday, May 24, 2013

You Might Not Like God

This post has been swimming around my head for a while now... months, even. I am nervous to write it because I want to write it right. I'm sure I won't. Climb in with me.

I decided it was time to write this on Wednesday, after reading Rachel Held Evans' post on John Piper, likening him to an abusive father who teaches his children about a wrathful God who enjoys inflicting pain on His people because they deserve it.

I'm not going to go into her gross mischaracterization of Piper's theology here, but her post cemented in me this feeling I've been wrestling with ever since that maniac shot up a movie theater in Aurora at the Batman premiere last year. That night, Aaron and I laid in bed and tried to pray about it, and my frustration went through the roof. How do you pray about something like that? I was angry at God for it, and frustrated that He would let that happen. Aaron told me He 'willed' it to happen. We talked and yelled over the implications of that for probably over an hour and while I think our theological differences are probably based more on semantics than substance, I still walked away from that conversation with a lump in my throat.

Because I knew I was learning something about God that I didn't like.

Aaron likes to trot out the ol' Pharoah argument, and usually with a real smug look on his face and then he sticks his palm in MY face and yells "FACE" and then laughs maniacally. Not really, but kind of.

"What about it then? Can we say that God is not fair? No, not at all! 15 God said to Moses, “I will have loving-kindness and loving-pity for anyone I want to.” 16 These good things from God are not given to someone because he wants them or works to get them. They are given because of His loving-kindness. 17 The Holy Writings say to Pharaoh, “I made you leader for this reason: I used you to show My power. I used you to make My name known over all the world.” 18 So God has loving-kindness for those He wants to. He makes some have hard hearts if He wants to." - Romans 9

The issue of free will is not what I want to discuss - if you must know I think the answer to that question lies in the fact that we understand time as linear, which it is not for God - but I digress (brilliantly.) What I want to discuss is the months it took me to be "ok" with that passage up there. And by "be ok" I mean able to read it without rending my garments and tearing out my hair and shot-gunning a sleeve of double-stuff oreos. I do not like that passage. I think it's terrible. It's horrifying. It truly, when taken on its own, makes the Father-God I'd come to know for the past 20 years seem like a mean, tyrannical bully catering only to His whims. He can do whatever He wants with us and we'd do good to know it. In other words, I thought, He was the opposite of Love. Which He also claims to be, coincidentally.

But no matter how much that passage made my stomach turn, I couldn't and would never portend that I could will it not to be true. In my wrestling and my talks with Aaron and with other brilliant friends on this issue, I've been able come to terms with the cohesiveness of God's sovreignty and His compassion. The two are not mutually exclusive, which John Piper points out in his recent treatise on disaster theology. I understand this. It makes sense to me. He can whip up the wind and still cry with us when it brings our house down. But this was a hard conclusion to come to, and my view of God and therefore how I relate to Him has changed. It has become truer, and deeper, but it has changed. And that is painful.

And I worry that people like Rachel Held Evans aren't willing to endure that pain. And that makes me angry, because if I had to do it, everyone should have to do it. This is the immature way that I think sometimes, and I don't want to pretend I don't. I shouldn't care about Evans' theology for the sole purpose of how it relates to mine and I will work on that. But I do believe that culturally we have become so averse to the idea that God might cause us some pain that we will do anything; we will believe any theology, no matter how far-reaching or how many sandy assumptions it builds its foundation upon if it paints a picture of a loving God. An exclusively loving God - One who fits our very human definition of 'loving.' One who never lets us hurt. One who never asks us to do something we don't want to do. One who never asks us to give up something we do want to do. One who never lets us die.

Toward the end of Rachel's post she includes the lovely sentiment "God always protects." My eyes bugged out of my head when I read that. That is a classic case of  saying something that sounds super nice and poetic but that has absolutely NO basis in truth, and that is the most reckless, most disrespectful kind of writing and coincidentally also the kind of writing (much less theology) that I have absolutely no patience for.
'God always protects'? Since when?!


I'm sure we could go back and forth over what she meant by the word "protects" but in the sense of - "never allows to be killed by a tornado, etc." I think even she would have to admit she is simply wrong. God, in his infinite and infuriating wisdom, does certainly NOT always protect us from the things we'd like to be protected from.

Let me say this, though, too: There is something to be said for showing sensitivity and love and kindness to victims in the wake of a tragedy. I understand that Rachel took issue with Piper's tweet - which I agree was seriously ill-timed and insensitive. (He has since taken it down and posted an explanation here.) But what I'm writing about here is theology, so let's move forward.

When I got in bed and was finally able to get Aaron to shut up enough to let me read (this is a joke because it is so completely the other way around. I HAVE THOUGHTS AT NIGHT!) I read through one of my favorite passages, which is Ephesians 3, and I noticed this verse toward the end:

"For this  reason I bow my knees before the Father...that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ..."
The strength! Not the "wisdom," not the "willingness," but the strength to know God.

Because He might be difficult to accept. He might not be who we want Him to be. He might kill the entire population with a flood. He might let His own son be brutally murdered. He might whip a deadly tornado through an elementary school. He might forgive people we don't want Him to. He might remember that we don't deserve His love. He might give it to us anyway.

It is DIFFICULT to let God be God. It HURTS. It is earth-shattering on the day you realize that you may not like Him, or a lot of things about Him. And that's ok. You probably just don't understand Him. I know I don't. 

But I do know this: He does not want us to wallow in our sinfulness.

He does not want us to hide our faces from Him in shame.

And, most of all, He cries with us.

Happy wrestling.

So, what do YOU think?