On Finding a Setting

August 13, 2008

This evening D and I had a conversation on the phone that lasted more than our typical phone conversations now-a-days. Actually, we had an argument, but that’s not what this post is about. In the midst of all of it, during the resolution of the whole thing — the time when we are done with the heightened feelings and adamantly trying to prove a point, when we both re-cap what we need and try to find some sort of compromise — I closed my eyes for a moment and could picture my apartment back in Arkansas so clearly, right down to the feel of my bed and the cat’s tail ticking against my leg and the way my bed creaked when I moved. We spent a lot of time talking on the phone in those days, back when he was the California branch of our relationship.

It’s funny that the very thing the argument began with (our arguments rarely end with what they began with) was the very thing I was picturing: Setting. This post is not about the argument, so I’m not going to go into the details of what transpired. For the past few days, however, I’ve been attempting to put into words a discovery I made on the beach Saturday. But I’ve also been trying to challenge myself to improve my writing style so it’s slightly less amateur and emotive. Today I tried writing a post entirely devoid of “I” as a subject. It just doesn’t work in blogging. This is what I came up with:

“One of the major components that separates a seasoned writer from an amateur is the emphasis on setting. The category of seasoned writers is by no means this girl’s dwelling place, but freshman year fiction writing left me with a better understanding of setting in writing. Heck, this blog nearly tripled in its readership once it took on the personal of a Midwestern transplant living in Los Angeles. Or maybe it was the advertising to friends on Facebook that did that.” Can you say boring textbook? I just need to stop trying to justify blogging with failed attempts to turn this entirely narcissistic thing into something literary. It’s a blog. Of course it’s going to have a high degree of gush.

Anyway, what I really wanted to say is that often amateur writers neglect setting in their work, and they leave their poor characters floating around in a readers’ mind in banal, shadowy places like generic bedrooms, rather than putting them someplace specific. In real life, we live in specific places: not just any room, but my room with the pile of laundry on the bathroom floor and the broken blinds and the stale scent of herbal shampoo. Not just any old park, but the park with the statue of the man who invented the chocolate bar. J.R.R. Tolkien is so fantastic with his settings that I am having such a terrible time getting through The Lord of the Rings. Any time Frodo or the other hobbits think of the shire and how they long for their home, I start crying. Homesickness…meh.

Saturday, le roommates and I went to the beach, and the fact confronted me that I’ve only been to the beach three times in the last seven months even though is less than five miles from my apartment. And by going to the beach, I mean donning a bathing suit with at least a slight intention of getting wet. Saturday was the first day since I moved here that I actually immersed myself in the Pacific. And then I realized that part of the reason that I have been homesick to some degree since I left for college back in 2001, moving away from Minnesota for the very first time, is because I have never given myself a chance to get to know the land in any other place.

If you were to ask me about Minnesota, I wouldn’t just say that I lived in a house there or went to high school there. I would tell you about the countless snow structures we built and how we would hang our mittens and hats and scarves over the radiator in our first house to let them get warm before we put them on. I would tell you about the mulberry bushes in the backyard and how they would become so ripe and juicy that you could bump the branches and they’d fall to the ground, washing it in purple, and how the birds would poop mulberry seeds all over the patio. I would tell you how our family built that patio with bricks and sand and cement blocks, and it all went quite well until the ice that winter built up under the bricks made them explode. Every winter the fire department would flood the park for ice skating, and Jack Frost would paint our windows. I remember how it feels to lie in my bedroom, the exact way the bed fits my body, and how it is to wake up there to the sounds and smells of absolute comfort — to knowing the people you love most in the world are only a wall away. When I was a little girl, in our first house, I could always tell who was coming up stairs by the rhythm of their steps. Mom would always stop at the bottom to pick up toys and bring them up. There were twelve steps at my first house. Sixteen at my second.

I never gave myself the chance to know Arkansas that well. There was the damp and musty feeling of our house on Maple Street, where I lived with 3 other girls, and the sounds of the frogs outside my window in that studio above a professor’s garage. There was the feeling of desperation and sadness when I finished college, broke up with my boyfriend, and moved out of that apartment all in a few days. But the same elements and concretes are not there. I was so busy being productive that I didn’t take the time to memorize the number of steps from the ground to my door. These were merely places, apartments for a temporary life. It’s no wonder they never felt like home.

Sometimes I think that I will never feel at home again unless I get married, have kids, and settle down somewhere. Nothing reminds me of home more than watching my niece and nephew play and seeing again the things that are important to children. For my niece, it is wearing pink, putting on chapstick, and reading books. My nephew just wants to run everywhere with his binky in his mouth. They want other kids to play with, adults to entertain them, and lots and lots of cookies. They remind me of what it was like to grow up with an older brother and what it was like to have such a big living room… what it was like to have a house not just cover you, but protect you. There were all the alcoves and crannies to that place… the towel cupboard you could climb inside and close the door, the secret storage closet in my brother’s room, the turning cupboard in the kitchen corner where breakfast cereal was kept.

At the same time, I know that my life is here in L.A. now, at least for the next few years, and I need to be investing myself here. I need to pursue the land with the same intention that I pursue the friends I am making here. I need to count the steps from my carport to my apartment. I need to go to the beach every weekend and find a spot to memorize. I need to stop floating around in this generic place and make it specific. I need to find my setting.

Dear Los Angeles,

At first I thought I ought to write something heightened and romantic to celebrate our six-month anniversary. It would be a vulnerable comeuppance, full of all the six-month sentiments I have developed for you in our time together. I thought I should go to a place fitting for this sort of letter, taking my quill and pen to the ocean, for instance, to write to you from the very edge of the continent. Or I could bring my pencil and notebook to the gardens at the Getty and tell you about art and flowers. Yet the more that I thought about the atmosphere for this letter, the more I realized that the most appropriate setting is right here, in the bedroom of my little, messy apartment, full of the every-day noises that are slowly becoming home.

Right now there are six of us living in our three-bedroom apartment, which is quite a change for the girl who used to live alone with her cat, slowly degrading into a life of crochet and watching library movies on her laptop computer. Four of us are legally bound to our place, and the other two are here for the summer, completing internships before they return to their respective institutions of higher learning, both in the South, where it rains. I would not have mentioned the South, except that it rains. I miss rain. You would not understand, Los Angeles. It has been so long since I have smelled the earth.

Right now the closest thing to rain is the sound of E’s shower in the next room. There is also the faint movie mumblings from the living room where M and J are flattened against the couch, watching the TV, and there is the periodic clank of dish and spoon as G washes the dishes. I will never get used to the noise of our little house, nor your noise, Los Angeles. Over my bedroom balcony waft in the noises of the second largest city in the U.S. (I mean you, you fat, fat city) — the distant freeway, the chatting pedestrians on their evening walk, the passing sirens, and the nightly helicopter hover, which I like to pretend is the news instead of the LAPD spotlighting its latest criminal’s rise and fall.

For a while I would miss home at these moments, and I still do sometimes. I miss the kids playing in the lot next to my dad’s auto repair shop, above which my family lives. I miss the dank, musty basement smell of the shop, and having my dad make his living right underneath our home, just a staircase of 12 steps and three rooms away. I miss the quiet evenings and the settling of summer — the stars in the corn fields and the country drivers, my church and my cousins, and the people who have known me longer than I’ve known me, the people who know me because they knew my grandparents. I miss the hospitality, the neighborliness of it all, in the place where all the Thrift Store Owners know me by name.

Do you remember, Los Angeles, a few months back when I left you for the first time in three months? And do you remember how hard it was for me to come back to you, how I cried all five hours back on the plane, and I wondered why I was coming back — why I had to leave my parents and my niece and my nephew and all the comfort of being known? D was busy that week, and I felt so very alone, surrounded by thirteen-million people, coming home each night to this little apartment with a few roommates that I only just met. I think this is what they call culture shock, a thing I only mildly experienced when I moved from Minnesota to Arkansas for college. But after that initial breakdown, things got better. They really did. I think I came to the decision that I was here, with you, and here I would stay. Perhaps I needed that last goodbye, that last purge of what it was like to be a child.

At D’s encouragement, I have recently begun reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It has been so very long since I have read a book. I think I’ve been afraid of falling back into my girlhood, where I would hide in my room, reading stacks of books, instead of making friends. It is a lot harder to be an obsessive reader when you have a job. I’m only about 100 pages into the first book, and oh, how I’ve cried. I know, I know, it’s a little early to start crying, but Tolkien has just introduced one of the major themes of the book: Home. Frodo is speaking with Gandalf, and he is first realizing that there is a large and courageous journey he must take, and that no one else is going to do it for him.

He has never left his home, the Shire. He tells Gandalf, “I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.”

I read this after I got off the phone with my mother, after I told her I will not be able to make it home for the Clipperton Family Reunion in August. High gas prices have made it nearly impossible. This is the first Clipperton Family Reunion I have missed in my life, ever since I was 6. And I will be 26 next month. Mark my words, Los Angeles: If you do something to prevent me from going home for Christmas Eve with my family, going to Grandma’s church for the same Christmas Eve service I’ve attended since I was born, I will up and quit my job and move home.

You cannot ruin 26 years of Christmas, Los Angeles. I do not care how big you are.

All my love,

Ann

Inspiration

April 8, 2008

Yesterday evening one of my favorite art bloggers, Emily Martin of The Black Apple, posted a link to a podcast of an interview on Craftsanity. The interview is a long one — over an hour and a half — but inspired me at this I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing-with-my-life period because Martin took something that she loved and made a successful business of it in just a few years. I listened to part of the podcast last night before going to bed, and while I enjoyed hearing about the process of her business, I was struck by how similar her experience living in Brooklyn for a few months was like my recent experience moving to L.A. Martin says that when she moved to Brooklyn, people never asked her what she was doing in Brooklyn — the moving to Brooklyn in and of itself was the large accomplishment. I’m not patting myself on the back here in saying that moving to L.A. was some gigantic feat. It’s just that what Martin said about it resonated with me. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that anyone besides my mother asked what I DO at my job. A year ago when people would ask my parents what I was doing, my parents would have to tell them that I was working at a church in Arkansas. Now they can just say, “She moved to L.A.,” and that is interesting enough. Perhaps it is such a huge accomplishment because of the sacrifices one must make to live in cities like New York or L.A. or Chicago or San Francisco. The cost of living is so high, the traffic is so crazy, parking gives you ulcers… I paid $400 a month back in Arkansas for my huge one-bedroom apartment with two walk in closets and abundant parking. Now I live with two other people and pay… well, that’s my secret. It’s shameful for a mid-western girl to admit how much she pays for rent in L.A. I’m doing all right though. Working at a church for a year back in Arkansas and getting paid on the non-profit organization level taught me a lot about what my mom likes to call, “living on a shoe string.” Plus I’m not too far removed from the student stage of my life when having $60 in my checking account was a solace.

So, what do I DO here? And more importantly, is this job contributing to the big scheme of my life? Well, I work at an organic juice company in Santa Monica, as I’ve stated before. It’s a small start-up company, but it’s quite successful, and the products are high-quality and sold nationwide. The company has grown 50% in sales since last year. It feels weird for me to be talking about all this because business never really interested me until I took this job. My official title at said job is Administrative Assistant, but I mostly assist on the financial side of things. This is a new realm for me, and even though the thought of entering numbers and searching for missing pennies and balancing accounts once sounded like prison to me, I have to admit that I sort of like it. My last job was almost entirely creative, and while I loved it, my creative energy was completely sapped at the end of the day. It’s kind of nice to have a job that is one giant formula, so all I have to do is plug the numbers in.

And the real reason I am kind of liking my job is because I’m learning a bunch of things about running a small business. Now, I’ve only worked there a few months, but I did grow up in a small business as well, so I’m catching onto things pretty quickly. And even though this job isn’t the answer to my quarter life crisis, at least it seems to be leading somewhere. Which brings me to another somewhere:

Today I signed up for a beginner and intermediate sewing class. It’s an adult evening class at a nearby elementary school. It starts April 21 and will continue for 5 Mondays, 6:30-9:30 p.m. I know how to sew already at a rudimentary level, but my skills need some refinement.

And this class, small as it may be, fills me with excitement. Maybe I’m not doing exactly what I want to be doing right now, but in some ways I believe this class may be the beginning of something very fulfilling.

Emily Martin’s podcast

Promises, Promises.

March 23, 2008

Ann has just parked her car on a street parallel to Fairfax Avenue in Hollywood. She is going to a thrift store to purchase a few more dishes to use for the Easter Feaster she is hosting the next day. She has just gotten her hair cut, the temperature is in the mid-seventies, and she is feeling relatively good about her appearance and about life.

Enter Young Gangsta Gentleman in a pimped out, black car in the Starbucks parking lot, which Ann is cutting across to arrive on Fairfax. Young Gangsta Gentleman is sitting in his car, listening to music with the windows rolled down. As Ann approaches, he glances out the window, stares at her, smiles, flexes his massive tattooed muscles, adjusts his backwards cap, shines his gigantic gold cross necklace and calls out, “How you doin’… Baby?”

Now, Ann, being of the somewhat quiet and intellectual sort, usually blows off politely ignores guys who not only drop “g”‘s from their verbs, but also give her pet names. Some examples from her Arkansan past include “Honey,” “Sugar,” and “Sweetie.” Up until this point, she has never heard “Baby,” except when she and her boyfriend are being facetious.

But on this particular afternoon, Ann is having such a good day that she stops, turns toward Young Gangsta Gentleman, smiles, and exclaims, “WON-der-ful!” with palms up and head tipped back toward the sunshine.

And then she keeps walking.

Now what, you may ask, caused Ann to respond in such a delightful manner?

Saturday felt like a day I’ve lived before. The sun was out, the weather was AMAZING, and the freedom of a Saturday fell on my shoulders like the sunshine. I got my hair cut, I went to some new thrift stores, and I went grocery shopping for items to create a special Easter Feaster meal for a group of terrific friends who came over today.

As I was driving on Venice Boulevard, the day suddenly felt like a moment I’ve lived before. It felt exactly like an evening I spent in Mexico seven years ago where this boy I’d just met and later dated showed me his first little step of affection. We’d talked on the drive down to Mexico, and I had a giant crush on him, but I wasn’t sure what he thought of me. One night our whole group was walking back to base camp from a Mexican restaurant, and this boy caught up to me and walked beside me the whole way. He gave me a piece of gum, which is still my favorite gum to this day, and the wrapper is glued in my journal from March 2001. That was the beginning of something very sweet, and very special. That is why this exact memory hit me with its overwhelming deja vu while I sat at a stoplight on Venice Boulevard seven years later with my windows rolled down.

The only real contact this boy and I have anymore is through Facebook, and even though nothing came of that, I still remember how full of promise it felt to be his pursuit.

Saturday felt like that: Full of Promise. I am finally feeling healthy even though I’m constantly exhausted, and I’m starting to explore more and develop favorite things about this new place.

L.A. is a harsh city. Once you start loving it and feeling at home and feeling like you belong, it will turn around and bite you in the assembly line. But perhaps people stay here because it’s called the City of Dreams, and we all know that dreams can also be crazy and scary and baffling. So, in the midst of all this complaining I’ve been doing about being here and how difficult it is and how my perseverance has endured some heavy testing in the past few months, let me tell you, some of the things I have heard and seen and felt since moving here have left me speechless. Here are a few things that I’m LOVING:

1. Getting to know my old friends better and making new ones. I LOVE being around creative, ambitious people and am honored to call many of them my friends. So many people have shown me true kindness since I arrived, and I am very thankful.

2. The writing inspiration that a city provides, especially in a place that is supposedly the creative capital of the world.

3. Walking to Whole Foods grocery store on my lunch break to eat fruit and nuts for lunch and sit outside, in my patch of sun, on their huge wooden bench to watch people walk by. (Yes, my eating habits are beginning to turn slightly granola… there are just so many good foods here that are all natural, and the fruit here is like candy.)

4. Getting involved in a church again, which I plan to do much more now that my health is returning to me.

5. Being young in a big city with my whole life ahead of me…. and the beach five miles away while I still look fabulous in a bathing suit… white pasty skin and all.

Today’s installment is going to have to be quick because I’m a sick-y, and my head is pounding. Who knew that so much mucous could come out of one so polite and genteel as I? The illness gods have not granted my wish for that one really, really good nose-blow where everything comes out from deep inside, and afterward you can’t help but peek in the kleenex and say, “Yesssssss.”

Thankfully we had no fruit orders to go out today, so my co-workers and I didn’t have to work. Mom went shopping and asked if I wanted to come along, but I decided to spend the afternoon in my pajamas on the couch with the dog. It has proven to be a fantastic decision except that every time I get up to re-medicate, the dog has stolen my place on the couch.

For the most part, those who replied to the last post (and you can still reply if you’d like) said that they, too, believe that technology has made long-distance dating more rampant than it was twenty years ago. Some brought out the point, however, that times of war change the statistics. Quite logical. Perhaps one reason long-distance dating is more common today is because of the War In Iraq, all technology-speak aside. But World War II or World War I probably saw more situations of long-distance relationships just because so many more soldiers were involved.

The most difficult obstacle I’ve encountered in this whole D Dating Debacle is trust. Sure, it’s tough to go places without your boyfriend and to not know when you’ll see him again, but trust is a major hurdle. I have to trust that even though he hasn’t seen me in the past four months, he still likes me. I have to trust that he is, indeed, the good man that I think he is and that he won’t chase any skirts or capris (dear goodness, I hope not) or gaucho pants. It would be so easy for one of us to cheat, and no one would ever have to know about it.

I especially struggled with this in the beginning. Here I was dating this guy whom I had met only twice before he scooted off to California for his next year of school. When 9 p.m. rolled around and those free cell phone minutes began, I would often get worried if he didn’t call me. When 9:05 came, I would carry my phone around with me and start glancing at it every thirty seconds. 9:10 brought with it sweaty palms and glares of angst. 9:15 had me fuming. Why hasn’t he called yet? And then I would try to call him and get his voicemail, and the whole world would tumble, tumble, tumble: Who is he with? (My knees look particularly ugly today.) What is he doing? (I should probably consider working out a little more.) Where is he going? (I don’t just feel fat. I am fat. My hips are entirely too wide for the rest of my body.) WHY DOESN’T HE CALL? DOESN’T HE CARE ABOUT ME? AM I NOT A PRIORITY IN HIS LIFE? (He’s going to dump me because he thinks my thighs look like Dachshunds.)

dachshund.jpg

So, for a while, like a mother, I instated this spoken un-rule that we needed to check in with one another at 9 p.m. my time and 7 p.m. his time each evening. I used the excuse that I wanted to plan my evening around his call so I wouldn’t sit by the phone waiting for him, but I could still fit talking to him into my “busy” schedule. Yeah. My busy evening schedule of watching episodes of Mary Tyler Moore on DVD, snipping cute outfits out of magazines, and contributing to those sausage thighs with giant bowls of ice cream.

Now, on occasion, I would go out with L, or my roommate and friend AS, or friend AA for dinner or a movie or game-playing. On those nights, I was far less worried about what D was doing. In fact, 9 p.m. would roll around, and I wouldn’t even notice that we hadn’t checked in. Why? Because I was actually getting out and living my life.

Apparently I am a much more structured person than D is because the spoken un-rule started to drive him crazy. He called me on it, among other things, and we had a big fight of the worst kind: the Maybe We Should Break Up kind. So, I realized I needed to lighten up. If I had to speak to him each evening in order to feel like I could trust him, then I really didn’t trust him at all. I must note here that D has never done anything to make me doubt his trust. In fact, he is one of the most loyal people I know — loyal to his family and friends. All the worries resulted from my own inability to get beyond stuff that’s happened to me in the past. I have an abandonment complex which overpowered all the truth I knew about D. In my head I believed he would leave me, and if it was in my head, I was convinced it was how it was going to be.

I’m kind of dumb sometimes.

After D and I talked about all this, I knew that I had to let go. My fear of my own inadequacies was pushing him away from me. He felt like he had to choose between being with me and living his life. And if anyone starts feeling like that in a relationship, the wise thing to do is to contemplate whether or not you should be in it. I’ll never forget the beginning of that conversation, just how he said, “I feel like my needs aren’t being met,” and the four hours of talking/crying/yelling it out and the no-sleep-that-night that followed. The deep, hard sacrifices come with marriage and engagement. At this point, D shouldn’t have to choose me over his friends and his goals. I should come with his friends and with his goals. We are together at this point not because of need but because of choice. And sometimes perhaps there is more power in that logical, active choice than in a vulnerable, passive need. Any thoughts?

Those first few nights of not talking to him were agony. Thankfully L was visiting from San Francisco, and she and my other friends encouraged me and hugged me and helped me get over the little wounds in my heart. They also helped me stay busy because I’m such a homebody that my first tendency is to stay at home “reflecting” on situations when really what I am doing is drowning in the proverbial abyss of self-centeredness. Once I took time to be upset about it for a while I just needed to move on. I had to make the decision — the non-emotion-driven decision — to trust D. I had to list off all his fantastic characteristics and decide that they provided enough evidence for me to trust him. I had to stop taking my issues out on him. I had to let go of me.

Before we begin today’s installment, let me just note that I have a kleenex stuffed up in my nostrils, hanging down over my face. It is the only way to keep the drips in without rubbing the sore rims of my nostrils. I used a decongestant, and while my sinuses are now killing me, at least I can breathe air without stupidly hanging my mouth open. One nice thing about long-distance dating is that you never need to be worried that you gave your significant other that cold. Baby, I miss you and haven’t hugged you in nearly four months, but that cold? Yeah. Not from me. But since we’re on the subject, FROM WHOM DID YOU GET THAT COLD IF IT WASN’T FROM ME?

I’m excited about the response I’ve gotten on the first two posts. Not everyone is willing to comment on the actual blog, but via the blog and friends on Facebook and MySpace, I’ve gotten some interesting feedback. I’d like to share it with you:

SC, the artist formerly known as D’s roommate, wrote, “[…] I’ll give people tips on how easy close-distance relationship s are… you know… cause they’re really easy. Plus to make you even MORE jealous… I get to see your boyfriend all the time!!!”

SC, if I were a mean person, I’d be mad at you for rubbing in the fact that you get to see my boyfriend more than I do. If I were your English teacher, I’d tell you to use exclamation points more sparingly and to please, PLEASE stop dotting them with little hearts.

All that aside, let’s address the real issue here. Pointing out that long-distance relationships are hard does not diminish the fact that ALL relationships are hard. SC is quite right in his sarcasm. I find it interesting that when it comes to a close-distance relationship, most people will say, “Oh I really like such and such so I’ll date such and such.” When it comes to a long-distance relationship, most people will say, “Oh, I really like such and such, but I’m not going to get involved because such and such lives too far away.” I guess I’m more of an advocate of the idea that if you really like that person, you’ll at least be willing to try. I understand that many hurdles come up when one gets involved in a long-distance relationship, and a lot of trust is required, but as our fine heart-dotting friend has pointed out above, ALL relationships will have hurdles, and trust will always be required.

Jennifer had a comment on the last post: “[…] Do you think these tidbits of long-distance dating advice could help a relationship that stretches across an ocean and not just a country? And C. The Hornets have moved to New Orleans. I believe this happened somewhere around 2002.”

This comment made me laugh because Jennifer’s knowledge illustrates just how little I really know about sports. I knew a little bit in junior high because my brother convinced me to start collecting basketball cards so he could trade with me. But that was like 13 years ago. Thanks for the knowledge. And yes, I do think the advice could be helpful for any couple in a long-distance relationship. Brad commented after Jennifer, asserting that once the person is a plane ride away, it’s pretty much all the same. I think I disagree with you, Brad. It’s cheaper for me to fly to L.A. than it is for me to fly to Holland to visit my other boyfriend, Olen. So my relationship with D is stronger because I see him more often than I see Olen. And the whole cultural thing is just a little challenging. Olen wants me to wear wooden shoes, and I have to remind him to stop telling me what to wear.

For the most part, long-distance daters depend on the telephone. Telephoning could get a little more tricky with an overseas partner because it costs more money. I can’t tell you how many times I have praised God that I have free evening and weekend minutes on my cell phone. We definitely take advantage of those. Now I guess there are technology advances like Skype that could help the overseas relationship considerably. Also, the Internet is a great resource for keeping in touch, though if I had to choose between seeing D’s grammar and hearing his voice, I’d choose his voice every time.

Sometimes couples will put off talking about a serious issue because they’d rather do it in person. This may be a healthy thing for couples who see one another regularly, but for the long-distance dater, speaking face-to-face isn’t always feasible. The tendency is to hoard those important things that need voicing with the excuse of wanting to talk about them in person, when what you really need to do is to just say what you think/want/need/etc. Don’t save it up. Resentment will build and because you aren’t around for your significant other to read your body language, your parter may not have any idea that something is bothering you. Bad communication is frequently the root of the Break Up.

Another important thing I’ve learned is that I need to support D’s life, even if it is far away. One reason it took me over a year to decide to move to the L.A. area is because D didn’t want me to come if I was just coming for him. I have my own life and my own interests and my goals. It just so happens that my goals can happen in L.A., and that D is close by is a HUGE perk. If he broke up with me tonight, I would understandably be a little heartbroken, but I think I would still go. D is a great part of my life, but he’s not my life.

D could’ve come back to Arkansas during his summer break, and honestly part of me hoped that he would. But when he decided to stay in California to take a class and spend time with his friends out there, I convinced myself to be glad for him. I mean, what was he going to do in Arkansas? Sure, he could’ve hung out with me, but I had my own life and job and friends. It was a better decision for him and his goals.

Today I started wondering if long-distance dating has become more common than it was, oh, say, 20 years ago. We have the internet now and internet dating sites. With technology, long-distance daters have an advantage of daily contact. D and I play Scrabble together over the internet. We send each other interesting links. I post lolcat pictures on his MySpace even though he keeps threatening to delete them, but even when he says he will, he never does, so I keep posting them. I’d like to know your thoughts. That means you, lurkers who don’t identify yourselves. Is long-distance dating more common than it was 20 years ago?

If you’re hesitant to post your answer on the blog you can email me at ann [dot] clipperton [at] hotmail [dot] com.

P.S. It was six degrees in Minnesota today with wind chills plunging to sub-zero temperatures. I’m California dreamin’.

Before I pick up where we left off last night, I must inform you that this evening when I was changing out of my work jeans into more comfortable pants, I found a penny in my jeans. Not in the pocket–actually inside my jeans. I pulled them down slightly and the shiny copper glinted in the light of the bathroom. It was miraculous.

I have decided that God is answering my prayer for provision by making my body produce a 1988 American penny each and every day. By this time next year, I will be $3.65 richer.

Yesterday I started writing about a few principles that make long-distance relationships easier. You can read that post by scrolling down. I am too lazy to provide a link. Here is the second principle:

2.) Baby, I know that you’re over 1000 miles away, but let’s go to South America this afternoon.

Translation: Indulge in a little long-distance dating, as in going on dates even when you’re not even close to being in the same city.

D is a sap. For Valentine’s Day he took me on a date that was so romantic it almost made me vomit. The only problem was that he was in Hollywood and I was in Rogers, Arkansas. D, however, is a man with genius ideas, and he surprised me with a great little date. For the whole day, he left me sweet messages on my Facebook, MySpace, blog, and phone via voice message and text message. The messages would say things like, “Check your Facebook at 11:30,” etc., sending me on a virtual scavenger hunt. For the final message, he told me what we were doing. He went to Build-A-Bear in Hollywood, and I went to Build-A-Bear in Rogers, and we built bears for one another and mailed them to each other.

Build-A-Bear was a little bit of a let-down. In my idealism, I thought I was going to get to go in there and build this totally awesome custom-made bear with cooky eyes of my choosing and all kinds of different body parts… a Frankenbear. But I wasn’t thinking about the average American who can’t sew. I wasn’t thinking about a revenue-generating business. I wasn’t expecting the hundreds of deflated bear carcasses lying in their mass graves, just waiting to be stuffed through a tube on a reverse vacuum. The whole experience was significantly disturbing, but I got an awesome bear out of the deal and sent D and equally awesome bear. The clothes for the bears were far too expensive, so I dressed mine in a pair of underwear and a pink cowboy hat, and D’s wasn’t wearing any pants… ooh, la la. What may come across as suggestive is really just the plight of the money-less.

This whole scenario has become one of my favorite memories with D even though I wasn’t actually with him.  I also learned a lot about him through the adventure — about his creativity and ingenuity and thoughtfulness. And even though it was a bit over-the-top, I have to admit that I really, really like the bear he made for me.

Another evening was much more spontaneous. D had a copy of a book on the 1000 greatest films ever made. We decided to have a little healthy competition and read every single title of those films to see which one of us had seen more of them. D read them off as I wrote down tick marks on a sheet of paper to score, and in order to make it through the list quickly and efficiently, we had to say either yes or no unless we had an important comment or suggestion. No fluff. I was winning for a little while during the classic film, but D smoked me after we got through the ’50s or ’60s. Yes, it was a little bit ridiculous (1000 movie titles? Really? Yes, really, and it took a long time), but it was a great way to just hang out together. It was something we would have done if we lived close together and were hanging out at his apartment for an evening.

It is vital to a relationship to have some time to just spend together, not necessarily talking about anything fantastic or impressive. That is the rut that so many long-distance relationers fall into: All conversation must be meaningful and significant. While deep conversation and good communication are key, I honestly don’t think D and I would still be together if we didn’t take time to be flippant. To waste time. To be friends. This is not easy over the phone, but it is possible with a little ingenuity.

Thankful.

November 22, 2007

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The Extended Fam, Christmas 2005

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Mom and Me In New York, Summer 2006

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Dad, Christmas 2005

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Niece Lydia, November 2007 (Photo by sister-in-law Angela)

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Nephew Ezra, September 2007

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The Extended Fam Crammed Into Brother Alan’s Closet Office (Photo by Angela), October 2007

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Lydia and Her Mom, November 2007 (Photo from Angela)

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D and Me, the Floating Head, May 2007

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L and Me (June 2007)

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Friend AA and the Now Dearly Departed Kate, Faithful Dog and Loyal Friend, May 2007

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Friend AS At Her Birthday Party, April 2007

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Friends MW and MS

I am grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving, Friends and Family!

In honor of the sapping of my creativity, I am re-posting an entry from my former blog from April 28, 2006. This is the entry on which D first spoke to me, and I got a whopping 18 comments (that is big for me!) because people have some very strong feelings about Christian bookstores and Augustine. Without further ado…

Christian Bookstores and the Absent Augustine

Today I attempted to overcome my dislike for Christian bookstores. I have been in the mood lately to read Augustine’s Confessions, and I got such a spontaenous urge to get it that I decided I couldn’t wait for half.com. So, I went up to the local Christian bookstore, Kingdom Bound. This name is problematic for a number of reasons. I know they are trying to create a glory, glory, hallelujah type of name that plays on words. The word “bound” can mean three things: bound as in I’m going there, bound as in a book’s binding, and bound as in bondage. I hate the first meaning because it connotes an “I’m better than you” sort of vibe. I hate the second meaning because it’s too cute for a serious business. And I hate the third meaning because it seems to say faith is incarcerating, which goes against the gospel of freedom that faith teaches. I don’t think the Kingdom Bounders (saying it like this makes it seem like they jump over kingdoms) took into account the third meaning before they named their store. At least I hope they didn’t.

Anyway, I went into the store and had to search through shelves of Max Lucado, Gilbert Morris, Joshua Harris, and that guy who wrote about how men should be warriors in that book with the rock climber on the cover and based most of his ideas on popular movies. I forgot his name. Finally, I went to the front of the store.

Ann’s first question: Where is your theology section?
The Cashier: Theology? All our books are about theology.

Ann’s second question: Um, do you have Augustine’s Confessions?
The Cashier: I can look. What did you say the name of the book was?
Ann: Augustine’s Confessions.
The Cashier: Oddestine?
Ann: No, Augustine’s Confessions
The Cashier: Oh, Honesty and Confessions.
Ann: Actually, Augustine wrote the book. It’s his confessions.
The Cashier: And that’s spelled O-d-d…
Ann: It’s Augustine, like the month.
The Cashier: Oh! Augu-stein.
Ann: It’s A-u-g-u-s-t-i-n-e.
The Cashier: And who was the author?
Ann: Saint Augustine.
The Cashier (staring at the computer screen): Oh, yes, The Confessions of St. Augustine. Here it is. It looks like pretty heavy reading.
Ann: Not heavy. Just honest.
The Cashier: We don’t have it, but I can order it for you.
Ann: I’ll think about it. I might be back later.

How does one pronounce Augustine? I say it like the month: Aw-gust-eene. But I also pronounce aunt “awnt” instead of “ant.” The cashier pronounced it Augustein, like he was German. Yesterday a friend of mine pronounced it with the accent on the second syllable instead of the first. What is correct?

I have fulfilled my Christian bookstore quota for the year. I am now counting the blessings of half.com.

Then I went to the library booksale, and it redeemed my day. I found W.B. Yeats’ autobiography for 25 cents. I also found a book on Greek and Roman mythology with pictures of artists’ depictions of them through paintings and statues. That one was 50 cents.

Ah, mysticism and the pagans. They are good for the soul.

Hello! It’s me!

I do my best to update this blog every day, and I was having a lot of fun with it while I wasn’t working. The freedom in my life from not having a job for a few weeks filled my mind with all sorts of ideas and things to write about in general. But now that I’ve begun working, I’m afraid that even when I think of something to write about in the afternoon, I am so worn out by the time I get home in the evening that I can’t write about it creatively. That’s why this paragraph of explanation SUCKS. If you are still reading, thanks.

So, where am I working, you may ask? I am working at a seasonal fruit packing company. It worked out perfectly for timing and pay for my little hiatus in Minnesota between leaving Arkansas and going to California. Speaking of Arkansas, I haven’t really missed it much except for the people I left behind. But then today I saw that it was 70-degrees in Arkansas while it was 39 for the high here, and you know, that’s definitely something to miss.  That’s ok. I guess I’m doing my time before I go to California, where I will perpetually become a beach-monger.

What have I been doing at my job, you may ask? I’ve been putting stickers on things. On Friday, I put over 6000 stickers on bags of nuts and chocolate covered nuts. And let me tell you, I’m really good at stickering. Today I folded boxes. About 600 of them. And I pulled apart and fluffed a bale of Easter grass. Riveting.

But you know what I really love about my job? Sure, the people are super nice and the pay is good and we get two paid breaks and a lunch break… but what I really love about it is that I can just work and work and work and work and not talk to anyone if I don’t want to. I mean, of course I talk to my co-workers every once-in-a-while, but for the most part I can just lock myself in work mode and barrel on through.

It’s also so nice to be home. Six weeks ’til California. I’m getting so freaking thrilled.