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. 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?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Mean Bean

I'm working on this super heavy post that has me pretty frustrated and emotional right now.

It still needs work. So in the meantime here is a picture of the Bean.

Monday, May 20, 2013


Her thing was writing down song lyrics. She would sit there, furiously scribbling in Geometry class in the notebook she carried everywhere, her frizzy hair bobbing at the back of her head like the comical phsyical manifestation of her runaway brain. She was so purposeful and I was jealous. She had a beginning and an end to her task at hand and she was going to get both places.

I don't know what lyrics she was copying. Megadeth, probably. Or Papa Roach or Powerman 5000 or one of those terrifying, screamy bands. Those were her thing, too.

She could never sit still. Her legs woulds swing furiously underneath her and I would think about all the miles she would have traversed if her toes had simply touched down one day. She was like that every day. Swinging; bobbing; writing; going nowhere.

One day in the spring of freshman year I invited her to church. She was the person who scared me the most at school and so, I reasoned, the person who most needed my invitation to communion. My evangelism back then was wholly focused on me - if I did it right; if I did it better than everyone else. It does not escape me that God still used it, or at least could have; and the sentiment in that truth is enough to make even the silliest moral failure an explosion of perfect, redeemed hope.

She said yes, and I know why, and I knew why then, too. Because it was unexpected of her. She was the truest kind of grunge - grunge for the sake of being grunge; not grunge so she could wear the clothes or get the boys. She hated institutions and the boxes she felt like she was put into, so she clawed her way out of every single one. In every decision she made, she calculated the exact opposite of what was expected or desired from her and did that. Wrote lyrics instead of the Pythagorean theorum. Said yes to an invitation to mass.

She wore black lipstick a lot.

Once she said yes I was thrust into a situation I had no preparation for, because even I had been suckered by her menacing demeanor into believing she'd never say yes. Again - the invite had been for me. A box I could check off; a grand, 'brave' gesture that would allow me to shout triumphantly YES, I DID! the next time one of the little "Taking it Further" excerpts in my Teen Bible asked me if I truly was willing to bring the gospel to the 'outsiders.' So I was terrified. I sang at my Catholic Church growing up and I was one of the Fishers. We were a pillar family in that parish and our hair was always combed and black lipstick would have never touched the edges of our familial sartorial consciousness.  How was I supposed to bring Gothy McFrizzball to mass?!

I agreed to pick her up from her house in the morning before the service, and she handed over her address with a smile that was both inquisitive and teasing. She was amused that she scared me. She was touched that I kept pressing anyway. She probably knew me better than I did, to tell you the truth.

By the time I pulled up to her house that sunny morning I was convinced I was in the midst of some kind of intense spiritual growth - which I was. I had successfully wrapped my head around the idea that I was about to bring a Marilyn Manson fangirl into the oldest Christian institution in the world and now I was proud of it; already egging on the old ladies I was sure would throw their judgmental glances my way as soon as we walked in. My evangelism totally trumps yours!

When I walked in, her mom greeted me with the same version of a kind, but mocking eyebrow-raise that her daughter had given me earlier in the week. The living room was full of smoke. So much smoke you could see it. The TV was on. Her mom pointed me to a back room and went back to the couch; pretending not to be interested in whether I bolted, but we  both couldn't wait to find out.

I opened the door to her room and she was on the floor, just lying there, in her pajamas, and she smiled at me. She didn't have any furniture in there. She was in a pile of pillows, smashed up into a corner. She looks tired; hungover. I was fascinated. I started thinking of "Black Baloon" by the Goo Goo Dolls. Did she do drugs? What did it feel like? "Hey," she said. "I can't make it today. Maybe next week." I said "ok" and tried to look as if I believed her. She was mocking me again, with that smile, but it wasn't mean. She was not telling me the truth but she wasn't lying, either. She was giving me an out.

For a few years after that, whenever school got really boring, I'd write lyrics. Really sad, cliches Lifehouse lyrics about loneliness and sadness and angst. I wanted to look like her in those moments; furiously writing something with the kind of purpose that normal, church-going kids apply to their Geometry instead. She was so intent, writing those lyrics. Those lyrics someone else had written.

I wish she had written some of her own. I would have loved to read them.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Who Aaron Is

The other night we went out to eat with Aaron's mom, who was in town visiting, and his brother Ben. We went to another of Phoenix's hundred million little independent restaurants; another hole-in-the-wall that really isn't, but that I've driven past hundreds of times and never noticed. It was adorable. All dim and warm; clinking dishes, muffled laughter, smelling of garlic and onions and everything wonderful. I loved it.

We sat on the second floor and once I was finished complaining about all the delicious-sounding menu items that were fatally full of gluten and ultimately decided on a less-menacing vegetable stir-fry, we started chatting about our days, as people do. It was a lovely dinner, really. Good food, good people.

Aaron still winks at me.

When Aaron has something to say, I listen. And it's because I want to listen. Aaron talks about his day with the simultaneous innocence of someone whom life is happening to, unlike some Big Fella In Charge of All Things, but also with such knowledge and wisdom and insight that it almost makes you self conscious. Like, he knows everything about everything - what could he be thinking of me right now? He is electric. And I love it.

He was no different that night; alternating between sharing the stress of his work day and remembering a funny quote from Family Guy, then beginning to repeat it but stopping himself in the wake of my prudish glare. And he listens the same way - intently; giggling at the right times, indignant at the right times, thoughtful always.

People don't listen like that very much anymore.

And even during that dinner, as our conversations wove around through the four of us, it still felt like Aaron and I were on a different plane. He laughs when he knows what I'm thinking. I laugh when I realize he's laughing because he knows what I'm thinking. He takes a bite of my dinner without asking. I take a bigger bite of his. He grabs my hand under the table.

Sometimes I think about how strictly we tend to relegate people to certain "roles" in our lives. Have you ever noticed how many people, whether on Facebook or in conversation, refer to their significant other as a Role rather than their name? "The hubby and I are going out tonight!" "Going shopping with the boy!" I always cringe at that. Don't you cringe? Doesn't it sound horrible?

I remember when Aaron and I had just gotten engaged. Some hometown friends of his were visiting us, and one of them told us that upon hearing of our engagement, Aaron's ex-girlfriend got very sad and said "Wow, if I were still with Aaron, I'd be getting married right now."

I think I spit out my Diet Coke. It was one of the weirdest, and saddest, things I'd ever heard.

Aaron is my husband. He is my best friend, he is my partner, he helps provide for us and he makes decisions for us. But before any of that, and above any of that, to me, he is Aaron. He is not The Husband. He is not "the boy." (EW.)  He was not a Place-Holder for the Altar or a Face for my Christmas Card Photo. He is Aaron.

When I said yes to his proposal, it wasn't because I had some life calendar upon which I had written "Get Married at 23" regardless of who I was dating. Neither did he. In fact, before meeting him, I didn't even want to get married that early. I didn't even know if I wanted to get married at all. But then I met Aaron. There would have been no one else.

It's like on Say Yes to the Dress when the producers ask the brides - why is your fiance the perfect guy for you? And I understand that the "for you" has some implications but their answers always make me hide under my blanket for that portion of the show. "He just treats me so great! He just gets me! He loves me! He wants to give me everything I want!"

I just feel so differently! I married Aaron because Aaron is Aaron. He is so kind, and so smart. He is funny. He cares about people. He has integrity. He likes funny TV shows. He likes to be outdoors. He is cute. HE is these things, as Aaron. Obviously I love and appreciate how he loves me, and the impact he has had on my life, and how he makes me better and treats me well. But I love him first and foremost because of him, not who he is to me.

I'm afraid that's what we're teaching ourselves to do - love whomever 'loves' you. It does not matter who they are. Look at everyone else in your life as simply having a role to play. Souls are not important. Actions are - the ones toward you, anyway.
How superficial would that be? How superficial is it already? How selfish is it? And isn't it plausible that THIS is why we're so broken with each other anymore? Why we get divorced so frequently? Why we're so let down when people - regular people; nasty, selfish, lazy sinners just like us - don't Perform their Role like we had expected?

I hope we can stop this, and that we can see people as people; as living, flawed, horrible, wonderful people who sometimes will make our lives better and other times will make them worse but at all times will be themselves and not our property or simply cogs in our wheels. And as having a purpose beyond the one they simply happen to fulfill toward us.

I am guilty of this too. So I will try, too.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

I Don't Think Cellulite is a Problem and Other Lightning Bolts of Awareness

Last Friday, Aar and I were like, UGH. You know, the Friday 'ugh'? WHAT A LONG WEEK. So after we bare-knuckle fought it out over who had the worst first-world problems (I won; fading hair color is A DISASTER) we decided to have a stupendous evening. This involved first going to BW3's (people in Arizona DO NOT CALL IT THAT. They call it "buffalo wild wings" all spelled out like that, like some huge idiot.) BW3's boneless wings are not gluten-free, but their regular wings are. I am determined to find the most unhealthy way to be gluten-free, is what I'm saying, and I am well on my way.

Anyway after B-dubbs we were going to go see a movie (Oblivion - it was rockin' - but did you see THIS about Tom Cruise?!?!) but we had a few minutes to kill. And being that we live in Phoenix, the land where B-dubbs is "Buffalo Wild Wings," there was also a Bath and Body Works right next to the restaurant. STRIP MALLS! (I JUST REALIZED WE SHOULD BE CALLING THAT STORE BBW. And now we're full circle.)

After I picked up my new stock of vanilla-scented shower accountrements I was perusing the True Blue Spa stuff (GET ME ALL OF IT FOR CHRISTMAS) and a nice associate came over to me and began telling me which things were her favorite. Then she pointed out some kind of "smoothing" serum or whoseewhatsit and said "that thing is so good on cellulite. UGH CELLULITE IS THE WORST!"

She was a tiny woman, a little bit older and very nice, and I started thinking about cellulite. Not just how she could possibly have it, but also what it is, exactly. A dimple in your skin. And I started laughing. Giggling like an idiot. A dimple! We have given so much moral authority to a dimple! The dimple is TERRIBLE! It is TO BE AVOIDED AT ALL COSTS! Buy this cream! Saran wrap yourself! Exfoliate! Get rid of that mother effing dimple before I send you to confession!

OMG I'm going to say it - even though I seriously hate repeating the word 'dimple' like this, ew - I don't think that the dimple is bad!

Yesterday I was a certain person. I was Maria, HR Specialist to the gods, sporter of fading yellow highlights and Tana French addict. And I probably had some cellulite (didn't inspect yesterday's specific damage back there, but it's a fair bet.) Today when I woke up, the cellulite may have been different. There may be more; there may be less. But!!! I am the same!!!!

 I still ate yogurt for breakfast and starting craving a Diet Sunkist around 10 am. I still did my job and drank some water and read the news and had thoughts and ALL of those things. I was the same!

Another thing that may have changed: the Number. You know, that number. The scale thing.

But! The same!

I don't think cellulite is a problem. Stop freaking being so cellulite-ist, assholes.

Additional non-issues:
1. The size of my pants
2. Pants being kinda tighter after the dryer
3. How loudly the floor creaks when you step on it (WELCOME TO THE INSANE MIND OF THE PATHOLOGICALLY BODY-CONSCIOUS)
4.The number of strawberries that become "too many"

Real stuff:
1. Kindness
2. Whether you get angry enough after the Starbucks lady forgets to put vanilla in your latte that you call the store later and ask them to credit your card back. I had a major victory this morning, everyone, in that I did NOT do that. It may have been because I couldn't find my phone at the moment but I didn't look for it very hard, ok. Also we have creamer in the lunch room, FYI, on an unrelated note.
3. Honesty
4. Wisdom
5. Generosity
6. Tana French

May you bask in the glow of new truth today, cellulite and all.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Not Making a Decision is Boring and Not New and I'm Frustrated At You About It

I know a dude who really likes to talk about working out. Like, talking about working out is his working out. Protein shakes. How many reps he did yesterday. The "kids" at the gym that are just constantly asking for advice and the ladies that are asking for phone numbers. Or whatever. You might be thinking - what a tool! And you wouldn't be wrong, necessarily, but that's not the point I'm trying to make.

Physically he is just kind of your average dude. Definitely not a body-builder, which, if you listened to him, you'd think he would be at this point. A little overweight even. Nothing wrong with that, but just kind of unexpected from a dude who should probably marry his dumbbells if he loves them so much (ZING!)

But, no matter how much we'd like it to be, talking about something isn't doing it. That's my segue (blogging is hard.)

This past week I found myself wandering through posts on a new blog that a very close and trusted friend had recommended to me, with the prompting "she reminds me of you!" So naturally I was excited at the potential of finding another e-kindred spirit. I love e-kindred spirits. (Also adding "e-" to things. SUCH A GEN Y, me.)

Immediately I found myself in a black hole of political-disguised-as-not posts. Don't get me wrong, obviously I don't find anything wrong with political posts. Hello, welcome to my blog. But I do find something wrong with being political but pretending you're not; or, more specifically, being political while talking about how you're 'above politics.' It's pretentious and manipulative for one, but it's just bad writing, too. If you wanted to know how I felt about that.

But one post really got to me. (No, really! I get mad sometimes!) It was about abortion, which I'm not going to get into right now, because neither I nor I expect you have the energy right now. I just don't. I can't. Maybe I will talk about it another day but not today. I even just shotgunned a whole Diet Sunkist in about 10 minutes but I still can't. All the Diet Sunkists in the world couldn't make me talk about abortion today! (If you wanted a one-liner from this post to put on your Pinterest.)

The post was very long, which I guess can be expected when you're talking about abortion (I'm too tired!). But the end conclusion was this:

"I'm not sure how I feel about it and we should all be nice when we talk about it."

That was the conclusion.

And the comments! Almost 1,000 comments! Comments of gratitude! These commenters were just so refreshed at her new take on things and her civility and they were just born anew in her new, original perspective and her radical notion of 'unity' and this brand new idea that 'maybe things aren't as black and white as I thought they were when I grew up in a strict evangelical household'! (Seriously, how many stories do we have to read of people 'growing up' in 'crazy strict evangelical households' and then becoming these brilliant, enlightened prophets with the TOTALLY NEW IDEA that maybe their parents weren't always right?!)

1,000 comments of praise for a non-decision. A not new non-decision. That's weird, right? And a little sad?

So I wanted to say this, to those of us who make decisions. To those of us to go to the gym, instead of just talking about it.

Making the decision is the risky thing. That is the brave thing. It's the thing that produces fruit. Talking about "unity" does not work in the face of a crisis like abortion. There is certainly a discussion to be had about treating each other kindly and about understanding that we might not know just how scary or difficult it might be to face an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy. But that discussion has been had. Over and over and one million times just now while you got up to use the restroom. It's not new and it's not novel, and it's not nearly as important as the actual truth, which exists whether we're nice about it or not (and whether we believe it or not.)

Please make a decision. Please. And if you don't, don't you dare criticize those who do. Not making a decision does not make you morally superior; it makes you a dead weight to the conversation.

Also - seriously, dude? If you mention your "traps" or your "glutes" one more time I'm going to go call Gold's Gym and ask how many times you've been in the past month, and then post it on the community board in the lunch room. Don't test me.