Oh, California.

January 13, 2013

I admit that I was cold today. Five years in California ruins your blood. Still, this is pretty funny.


April 5, 2011

Part of the reason I rarely update my blog anymore is because work keeps me so dang busy.

So, here’s a little something I wrote for work.


February 13, 2011

About 3 years ago, my dog passed away. I’d had her since I was 12, and her death was very difficult for me and my family. It wasn’t something we planned. She was getting old, but the finality of her death struck suddenly. I was in California, and my parents called to break the news. I cried. She’d been a birthday gift and a dear friend throughout my childhood. She had curly little ears and the softest head. She slept next to me at night.

Recently night-time dreams have been giving me some trouble.

They started fairly bizarre — a few about fish morphing into kitchen utensils. In one, I showed up to the office wearing only underwear; in another, I drank a gallon of paint.

Around Christmas, they became somewhat more alarming. In December, I jolted awake nearly every night. In one dream, a man with a mustache grabbed me and threw me on a bed. He attacked me. I couldn’t move and thankfully awoke before I knew all that he intended.

In another, I was stabbed in the stomach multiple times with a giant syringe.

There were many dreams about falling into darkness and awaking gripping my blankets, my shirt sweat-soaked. My serial teeth-falling-out dreams made a comeback. A former boyfriend and his friend berated me while spitting on either side of my face.

In another, I went into a public restroom at the fairgrounds with my five-year-old niece. She got mad because I wouldn’t let her do something. She disappeared when I turned my back, and I couldn’t find her. I ran all around the place, calling her name, looking for her, digging up dirt, but she was gone. I was so afraid. So, so afraid. I told God that he just couldn’t take away something so dear, that we had to find her.

I dreamt that I had an affair with a friend’s husband. I couldn’t believe what I had done. I sat there trying to sort it all out, picturing my friend’s face. I was so grateful to wake up that I could have cried.

In the worst dream, I was sleeping in a large, cold, empty warehouse. Stacks of newspapers lined the walls, and they covered all the windows. I slept near the windows on a pile of the newspapers. I could feel a presence inside me that was oppressive, and I needed to et it out, so I kept chanting, “You have to get out of me. You have to get out of me. Please get out of me. You have to get out of me.” People, some of them creepy, kept peering in the windows at me. It kept getting more intense, and a voice that sounded like my mother said, “Ann, you need to wake up now. It’s time to wake up now. You need to wake up now.” I woke up.

I prayed a lot about the dreams, especially when I returned to California after taking a break in Minnesota for some time with my family over Christmas. I prayed that God would protect my mind. I’ve learned some things in the past few years that I wish I didn’t know — things about how people in reality hurt other people, which is much worse than bad dreams. It is difficult to reconcile the pain of the world when you grew up going to Sunday school, reading books with your mom, being neighborly to the people next door. There was never a Sunday school flannel graph depicting racism, hatred, abuse, rape, neglect, manipulation, or slavery.

One evening, I felt particularly anxious about going to sleep. I prayed for a long time that night. In my dream that night, I was in my room in California, and my old dog came trotting up beside the bed. She jumped in with me, exactly the way she had when I was a little girl. Her velvet muzzle felt the same, and she stretched out next to me, that soft, soft head against my cheek. I whispered some things to her. She wagged her tail. I awoke feeling the kind of comfort I hadn’t experienced since living in my parents’ home 10 years before.

The next day, I told a dear friend about the dream. I got tears in my eyes while I was telling him, and he said that maybe God had sent my dog’s spirit to me at a time when her presence was the only one that could comfort me.

It was really kind of new-agey. And odd things happen in dreams.

Still, I believe that God can do that.

Grandma’s Things

January 26, 2011

When I was seven or eight, my brother and I would go to Grandma’s house three times a week while Mom was at work. We walked the mile across our tiny hometown each time, arriving at her back door. For the longest time, I thought her back door was actually her front door because we never used the front door. People who used the front door were strangers. We would ring the doorbell, open the door, and I would call out, “Is there anybody home?” Years later she told me that she loved hearing my little voice coming through that door. It made her smile and sometimes laugh. I don’t know where I learned that a person should call out, “Is there anybody home?” while entering a house. I probably heard it on TV.

My grandma was a serial duster before age stopped her from cleaning the house.  The clutter would disappear, the dust would die, the dishes would wash before anyone even knew they were dirty. She vacuumed already immaculate floors. It was a stark contrast to the house in which I grew up, where piles of things built up across surfaces. We were like a family of beavers building our dams.

Grandma’s closet was exquisite, her photos books arranged by date in stacks on the shelf.  When she came over to our house to help clean before family gatherings, she dusted areas of the chairs I didn’t realize existed – the bar between the legs and the seat, the underside of the curved back between the rungs.

Each evening she rolled her hair up, piece by piece, into springed, spikey rollers and pinned them to her head. She had a box just for it, with a mirror and a comb. We were allowed three cookies when we came over, and to watch three shows. “Three is the limit,” she said, and then we would play card games with her for the rest of the afternoon. We learned to shuffle and to deal. We learned the rules and keeping score. There were many games, many winners, many losers.

We didn’t know she was lonely – at least I didn’t – until her sewing club came over with a book of poems after Grandpa died, and she began to cry and hugged them all. She was wearing a green dress that day, or maybe I just remember her in a green dress because it doesn’t make sense that she would be wearing it in winter. Her friends held her for a while as I peaked around the corner from the other room. The book of poems had a shiny cover and was in a slim box. “Wings of Silver,” it said.

Twenty years later, she is safe in a nursing home, presumably content with her season of life. I wonder what she thinks of it all while she’s busy being gracious. In some ways she seems more like a child, returning to the time in life when all you had was family there to take care of you. She grew up without a dad, and I wonder if her sons have become her dads, her daughter her mother. She forgets things. We drove by her old house, and she asked if I’d ever visited her there. I remembered all the nights my cousin and I had spent in the little upstairs bedroom, the dinners on her round wooden table, how we’d mow the lawn, sweep the sidewalks, play cards, and gather for holidays there in the small living room, uncles and aunts and cousins, oh my!, with her as our matriarch. They were good years. It was a good life. Yes, I’d been there.

When she moved, I told her that living in the nursing home is just like living in a college dorm, and she needs to be careful to observe quiet hours and do her homework even when the boys upstairs ask her to come over for a party.

This past Christmas, Mom and I went through the boxes of Grandma’s things that didn’t fit in her small room. It was a late night. We sat at the table, near where dad had fallen asleep on the couch, separating Grandma’s things into boxes to give to individual family members, and boxes to take to the thrift store. The poem book was there from the evening I’d seen her cry many years before – “Wings of Silver” – a slim silver plush book in a box. I recognized it but didn’t keep it.

I said to Mom, “I think I know where I got this gene,” as I held up a notebook of handwritten research Grandma had done, simply for the joy of learning and knowing things. It felt like an invasion, reading her version of a diary, even though much of the pages were just notes on how we’re related to such-and-such person who lives in Ottumwa, Iowa, or Sheboygen, Wisconsin, whom we’ve never met. There were addresses for people who have died with photos of strangers it felt weird to throw away. What do you do with a photo when no one wants it anymore? The person in it was once, indeed, a person: born, lived, died.

I found a notebook among her things with a story I kept but haven’t yet read. The story was about me, and the first few words made me laugh. “Listen to this,” I said to Mom, and I started reading Grandma’s words.  She talked about that time when I was seven or eight, and how she felt joy and excitement as she anticipated our arrival at her door. When I got to the point in the story, not too far in, where my child-self called out, “Is there anybody home?” I stopped reading, and I covered my face. Mom and I shared several quiet moments before we composed ourselves. I set the notebook in my small pile of things to keep.

At the grocery store, I picked the shortest line, holding my Lean Cuisine meal. I stopped by to pick something up on the way home from work, too tired to cook, surprisingly too responsible to purchase fast food.

I hadn’t even put make up on. I wore a flannel shirt and jeans I’d pulled out of the laundry hamper, a ratty ponytail and a headband.  On Thursdays, I work alone all day, and it didn’t seem necessary to put in any effort just to sit in the presence of my laptop.  Admittedly, I had thought, What if you meet your future husband today? and decided that if I met my future husband, he’d better get used to this face. He’d wake up to it for the rest of our lives.

The guy in front of me was dark-haired. He had one of those ethnic noses that I love so much, the Adrien Brody type. Something dignified and proud about it. A nose that’s really prominent. A nose that’s not afraid to be a nose. A small package of toilet paper sat on the checkout counter, but not on the conveyer belt. When his groceries moved toward the cashier, the toilet paper stayed behind, like it was hiding. Who could blame it? Who would want a life condemned to… you know? Wouldn’t you rather just stay in that nice package, nuzzled together with your soft friends?

Maybe he would still notice the toilet paper, so I wouldn’t have to say anything — if it were a bag of apples or pistachios, it wouldn’t be quite so awkward. Excuse me sir, you may need this later, during that moment when you turn toward the roll in the bathroom and realize that there is only a cardboard cylinder, you know, while your pants are around your ankles.

The cashier greeted him. The belt moved forward. She scanned the other items, but the guy still didn’t look back to notice his toilet paper. There went the orange juice and the milk and the microwave popcorn. The yogurt. The frozen pizza. The package of kettle cooked chips. I couldn’t take it any longer. The Lean Cuisine meal was making my hands cold, and I wanted to set it down, but I didn’t want to get between a man and his toilet paper. I picked it up. “Is this yours?” I asked.

He looked at the small package, then at me. “No,” he said.

“Actually, that’s mine,” a voice said from behind, and then someone stepped in front of me. He was tall, dressed for work — a blue shirt and grey dress pants. Bright blue eyes, sandy hair, your typical SoCal boy. Hot as hell. Too hot.

Naturally, I decided to make a joke. “It’s very nice of your toilet paper to save your place in line,” I said.

I looked up into his eyes.

“Oh,” he said, looking away. “Heh.”

He turned aside.

I stood there, holding my Lean Cuisine. The cold was making my hand hurt. I grabbed the plastic divider wand and set it behind his toilet paper.

He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and looked at it.

I thought about my ratty hair and my lack of makeup, about my hamper jeans and my frozen dinner. I thought of Liz Lemon and was strangely comforted.

He wasn’t really my type anyway. Too pretty. I don’t date boys who could win contests. Furthermore, I personified his toilet paper right in front of him and didn’t get more than a “heh” out of him. His girlfriend is probably dumber than that glob of dried lotion that gets stuck in the pump between applications. He probably reads G.Q.

I pulled out my cell phone and pretended to text someone.


December 14, 2010

These are a few things I could do without in 2011 (in no particular order):

1. Worry/fear

2. Event coordinating — other than small gatherings in my home, which I enjoy coordinating very much

3. Homesickness

4. Car trouble

5. Debt

6. Unhealthy food

7. Neglecting my friends and family. Guilty as charged.

8. Nail biting

9. Having a messy room

10. Skipping lunch because I forget to eat

11. Wire coat hangers

These are a few things I hope to keep/do/have, etc. in 2011 (in no particular order):

1. My roommates. I can’t live without them, both literally and figuratively.

2. My co-workers. Don’t leave ever.

3. My job

4. Chick-fil-a

5. Naps

6. 30 Rock, Modern Family, Mary Tyler Moore, old movies

7. Visits to Minnesota, including the epic Clipperton Family Reunion at a Bible College in Bemidji, MN, home of Paul Bunyan, yes indeed.

8. Trader Joe’s

9. Girls’ nights and dates

10. Kind words from dear friends

11. Scrabble with Katrina


Tell me your lists. That isn’t a polite request. It’s a demand. Now.

I Laughed So Hard I Cried.

December 14, 2010


December 13, 2010

Typically one of these posts begins with an apology.  It is like striking up a conversation with a very dear friend after several months’ separation. A few literal conversations like that are in the future as well, via phone when I am away in Minnesota for a few weeks. So, the apologies will wait for those conversations. This is, after all, my blog. There is a certain obligation that comes with having readers — readers I have let down; however, it does seem somewhat presumptuous to assume that the absence of my writing has let anyone down. That is not a dig for a compliment. It’s just an honest speculation.

Most of the traffic that comes to this blog shows up because, if my blog is any resource, people are looking for pictures of dachshunds and Bigfoot. They are probably disappointed to find that the only photo of a dachshund showed up because I once compared my thighs to it on a particularly low day. The posts about Bigfoot are likely slightly more satisfying, though I haven’t posted nearly enough information on him. He remains a fascination. I have yet to go on a Bigfoot scouting expedition. I’m saving it for my Honeymoon.

For quite sometime it has become very clear that I need to find healthy coping mechanisms to balance out the stress of my job. I love my job, but it can also be challenging. I don’t like the way I just phrased that, because the fact that it is challenging is one of the perks. I’m never bored. It is a relief to do the boring stuff. On long days, all I want to do is sit down and enter information into a spreadsheet, to give my mind a rest from problem-solving and decision-making and customer service. Nonprofit work is often energy-sapping. There is so much work to be done and not enough people, resources, or time to do it. I’m not trying to be a martyr. Lots of people have stressful jobs and are doing important things — probably more successfully than I. I’m just explaining why, after such a long absence, it has become particularly vital to post something on this lonely blog.

Writing used to be such a beautiful thing to me. The stacks of journals I wrote as a child and teenager and college student are sitting back in my bedroom at home. For this past year, any time I have sat down to try to write something, I have needed to stop. I’ve tried to write in the journal, write letters, update the blog, and even write short quippy things on Facebook. These have been met with limited success. It’s been a year of growth and maturity. It’s been a year of tearing down walls and randomly crying in episodes of Glee because those kids are just so talented, and isn’t it beautiful the way they dance and sing so triumphantly? I am not sure if I am crying because of a longing that life could actually be so simple as to be summed up in a song, or if it is just beautiful to see people — any people — manifesting their talents like it’s nobody’s business.

Heaven has meant more to me this year than it has before. Now I know a little more of why God made it, and why this world can be so hard to understand. The vague concept it used to be has become as much of a reality as it can for me in this life, at this time. In India, I saw a newly-wed wife and her young husband exchange looks from across the room. The warmth and love and excitement and joy in her eyes were so clear and unquestioning that I didn’t even have to glance to the other side of the room to know who she was looking at. That look was meant for one person, and in the middle of a normal day, it just happened as quickly as a breath, much shorter than this sentence.

Some friends have started writing using Reverb10 prompts. They have come up with some good stuff, and inspired at their success, I signed up to receive the prompts via email. The questions have been good and thought provoking but have amounted to little more than a few scratches in my journal so far, a journal that is as lonely as this blog. Perhaps my journal and my blog should hook up after a long night at the bar. They could spend the whole evening railing on me.

I don’t like writing in the form of answering questions. It feels stilted and self-centered even though it isn’t much more stilted and self-centered than being so presumptuous as to start a blog about myself. So, I’m going to start answering a few of these questions but in the form of essays. I do, however, want to give Reverb10 credit for the prompts. They’re doing a cool thing.

I also feel the need to say that writing has been hard lately because it requires quiet reflection, and that’s something I’ve been avoiding for a long time. Thinking about things only opens up to thinking about more things, and not having solutions is difficult. I problem-solve so much at work that life tends to take a backseat right now. And maybe it’s the season for that. Still, when I got home from work today, I couldn’t even listen to music, because I felt that even that was taking in more information than I can handle right now, because so many words and ideas and speeches and others’ thoughts and others’ plans and others’ solutions are going into my brain, and very little of my own reflections are coming out. I am full and overflowing with things I have inputted without giving myself a chance to let them go. That brings with it a tremendous amount of unbalance, and maybe that’s at the core of the stress.

So, I plan to write a lot in Minnesota. I will be there for two glorious weeks of family, food, sleep, and snow. I will likely leave my computer behind so I’m not tempted to work at all, and just use my parents’ ancient desktop to update posts and check Facebook sporadically. I plan to read books. Imagine that. And bake. And watch cheesy Christmas movies on ABC Family. And talk to my mom. And play on the floor with some kids. I may just cry when I step off that plane, because the reuniting is just always so beautiful, like when I landed there for Christmas last year, and there was my mom holding onto my winter jacket, ready to put it on my shoulders and take me home.

Business Meetings

October 21, 2010

Yesterday we had a meeting with Suresh and Christina, our Indian partners who are rescuing ladies out of the Red Light areas from villages in Andhra Pradesh. They are incredible people — full of faith and love and a good sense of humor, and we are trying to help them by training the ladies they rescue to sew in IPP sewing centers. We have one already established with them, Ashraya, which means hope and dignity and houses 25 ladies. In the past few months, they have begun rescuing ladies in another region called Peddapuram, and Kelsea and I have come to work with them. I am mostly here to learn — Kelsea has trained many women with similar stories how to sew and work on a team. I want to learn as much as I can from her. I am also here to work with fabric scouting and help find shipping solutions.

When we began the meeting, we were sitting out on an enclosed porch at Suresh and Christina’s home. A downpour had just washed the courtyard clean. We ran through it to get to the house, and the water was warm. A rooster paraded around the courtyard. He kept crowing, so Suresh and Christina told us to come inside, and when they said inside, they meant into their bedroom. “Sit, sit,” the told us, motioning toward the bed, and Kelsea, John, and I sat Indian style in the middle of it. Suresh and Christina pulled up chairs at the foot of the bed.

I love these kinds of business meetings.

Joethe, one of Suresh and Christina’s foster children, came in partway through with a tray of chai in small cups. After the meeting, we just sat and talked for a while. Kelsea asked about different words and conjugations in Telugu. We laughed about the differences between how Suresh and Christina speak the language. Most of the words end in an “o” or “a” sound, and it is a beautiful, soft language, but Suresh speaks more shortly, and Christina is more sing-songy. She smiled and said, “I am being polite.” We talked about their children, the youngest of which is a goofy little three-year-old who bounces everywhere instead of walking. “She is naughty,” Christina said. “She is terrorist in the home.” She has ankle bracelets with bells on them, and you can hear her bouncing long before she enters a room.

Today we will buy saris for the ladies at the center. I was here last one year ago, and the improvements these ladies have made in the quality is astounding. It is due to Kelsea’s work, and I am thrilled to learn from her this week.

Before we work, we will celebrate. The ladies deserve it.

Thoughts On a Plane

October 19, 2010

I take a lot less for granted now because I have seen so much. In my journals, I started off writing nonsense — the silly nothings that sweep through a young girl’s mind. And then, after India that nothing started to become something. It was strange how I could be filled with so much pain and so much gratefulness at the same time.

It is painful to think about why I was spared from a different life, painful to think of all the good people who went before me, setting me up into a position of freedom and, even, a little authority. My grandpas fought in a couple of wars. My grandmothers cast their ballots in the first votes. My parents never treated me as if my life should be less adventurous than my brother’s because I’m a girl. My family has filled our circle with so much love. It fills up, and it overflows. They are good people. The best people. It staggers me to think about why I was given so much love when so many people have none. I just don’t know why that is. It hurts. My eyes sting as I write this.

It hurts because it means there is a requirement, a pressure for change and sacrificing complacency. There is the obligation to speak up, and the knowledge that I am bound to this cause, until slavery is gone or Christ returns. Every decision that I make going forward rotates around the knowledge that my life will never be my own again, though it really never was.