They Bring May Flowers

April 12, 2010

Before we get into this post, I just want to share what my friend Lee Ella shared with me on my Facebook wall this morning: “Last night I dreamed you and I got in a fist fight at a skating rink. You kept screaming, ‘I must win because I’m wearing polyester.’ You were and you did. Way to go.”

I love it that 1. I won, 2. Lee Ella took the time to share this with me, and 3. Lee Ella has vivid dreams (about me).

It is raining today. The Californians are saying that June Gloom has come early. It is cold, and I am grateful that today is my day to work from home, where I can hole up in my little room, under my fluffy down blanket, and plow through my email inbox. The window is open even though it is cold outside. The smell of the rain feels as though it is refreshing my lungs — it is the same damp musty smell that saturated my dad’s auto repair shop when I was a little girl — and I don’t mind that my fingers have iced over.

I am thinking a lot about time lately. Last night on the phone with my mom, I was expressing some grievances about life. She expressed sympathy, and I said, “It’s okay. When it comes right down to it, someday I will die, and none of this will matter anymore.”

But I have dreams. I have things I want. Lately there is this one thing that I think of, and every time I think of it, my heart just naturally wells up with prayer. It seems that the wanting is rooting deep, deeper each day, and I struggle with how much I should pray, “Thy will be done,” and how much I should pray, “God, I want this.” So, typically, my little in-car or before-bed conversation goes something like this: “God, you know my heart,” and then I throw in something about how C.S. Lewis talks about the problem with us humans is not that we ask too much of God, but that we don’t ask enough.

God must be impressed with my intelligence when I mention C.S. Lewis.

So, needless to say, I’ve been thinking a lot about dreams lately. I love my life and my job — I love the present-tense of my life right now, but being only 27, there is much future-tense to be had.

The other day my dear old high school friend Ryan recorded this. I haven’t seen him in years — he lives in Berlin now. I’m excited to reconnect with him and learn about his life. Ryan is an incredible photographer. He has always been an immensely talented musician, and to hear him singing this was touching. His voice is so beautiful and melancholy, just like Ryan himself. He lets himself feel things. He is a tremendous artist and a loyal friend. So, yesterday I asked him if I could re-post this song for you all, because it resonated with me:

Have you been half asleep
And have you heard voices
I’ve heard them calling my name
Are these the sweet sounds that called
The young sailors
I think they’re one and the same
I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it
There’s something that I’m supposed to be

I have done a lot of things in my life, and I’ve come to a place where, even though things are tough at times, God has instilled in me a sense of peace and purpose. It’s really kind of surreal, given my record of anxiety. I’m thankful. The only way I can explain it is to say that his grace is sufficient for me, and his power is made perfect in my weakness.

The last few years have included a lot of hard decisions — the hardest ones I’ve ever made — and sometimes I am tempted to have regrets. What if I had gone to fashion school right out of high school instead of spending those years at college in Arkansas? What if I had taken this guy or that guy back and married him or him? It would be so nice to have a partner with whom to share this period of my life. What if I still lived close to my family?

It is a sacrifice to live this far away. It is a sacrifice to think about how big my niece and nephew are getting and that I am just this person who floats in and out of their lives during the holidays to get re-acquainted and then leave again. My favorite cousin is due to have a baby in August, and I so desperately want to go to Minnesota during that time, because it’s so, so important when a new person joins your family. It’s beautiful and terrifying all at the same time.

And then there are all these hopes and dreams that well up inside me at random moments. If my life were a musical, they are the moments I would break forth in song. I talked to my grandma on the phone last night. It seems that my life is the time for looking forward, and hers is the time for looking back.

So, I’m not going to have any regrets. I’m just going to strive to trust that God knows my heart and that whatever I’m supposed to be, I’ll be.

2009, Reprise

January 1, 2010

Comparatively, I didn’t post much in 2009. Factors including busy-ness, tiredness, and laziness contributed to the lack of writing, but I also just needed a break from posting aspects of my life online. I needed to live them instead of feeling like I was looking through a camera’s eye — a photographer snapping away at life instead of living it.

It has been the best and the hardest year of my life. In cliche blogger fashion, here’s a list of accomplishments and set-backs:

– I lost a very dear friend to the epidemic called breaking up

– After several rigorous interviews, I got my amazing job working with women rescued from prostitution in India. Also, my supervisor and only co-worker at said job is pretty freaking awesome.

– At that job, I have spent the past year learning, learning, learning. I have been humbled and honored to have the position, but it is a lot less glamorous than it sounds. Like any job, there are good days and bad days.

– I left my life in Los Angeles and moved to Orange County — a bittersweet deal.

– For the first nine months in Orange County, I suffered from the strongest sense of culture shock that I’ve ever known.

– I gained an amazing house three blocks from the beach, with the most fantastic roommates I could’ve dreamt of having.

– I traveled to India in April and October.

– I was a bridesmaid in an Indian wedding.

– I visited the Red Light Districts in Mumbai, Kolkata, and Tenali.

– I rode in a rickshaw, ate food so spicy it made my mouth bleed, felt heat so hot I think I melted a little, became part of a family across the world, and saw and understood love in a way I had never experienced it before.

– I witnessed an argument in Telagu between a pimp, a madam, and the leader of one of the social organizations we work with.

– I saw my family in May, August, and December.

– My brother came to visit in May, and we went to an Angels’ game, saw the new Star Trek movie, ate Indian food, went to the beach, and had an all-around good time in between my work and the conference he came to LA to attend.

– Friend K moved away in May. It was very, very sad.

– I went on vacation with L to San Francisco, Jackson Hole, and the middle-of-nowhere Wyoming.

– I started attending a Wednesday-night church and a Monday-night support group with people who are quickly becoming my Orange County family. After meeting weekly with them for three months, I realized I hadn’t felt a grain of anxiety for about that long. I attribute this to their prayers, support, love, and honesty.

– I lived through three of the most busy months of my life and am thankful my friends have been incredibly understanding about how I’ve neglected them.

– I turned 27.

– My car was towed, and I had to spend a lot of time at the DMV. Thankfully, a good friend came with me and read to me out of the book, How to Make Anyone Fall In Love With You.

– I got an amazing tan.

– My very, very dear friend A.S. and her husband and daughter moved to Southern California in November. I can’t tell you what an incredible blessing it is to have their lovely selves close by.

– I went on several very bad dates, some of them hilariously bad. I desperately wish I could blog about them.

– I started dating a lawyer. A lawyer? A LAWYER. I’m so professional, even in my romantic pursuits. His name is C.K., and, no, he is not a fragrance from the ’90s. He took me out for southern food and mini golf on our first date. Just give me sweet potato fries and a giant wooden windmill, and I’m happy as a pup. Oh, yes, and he is a pretty stellar person as well.

– I went to the ER for the first time in my life with a kidney stone. Said kidney stone is still just hanging out in my vital organs.

The year was a blur of change, grief, and beautiful moments of losing who I thought I was and accepting who I really am — the good and the bad, the strong and the weak, the anxious and the hopeful. Though the difficulties were few, their magnitude was overwhelming. I had to re-learn many things and had to reintroduce myself to myself. I think that’s kind of what happens when you break up with someone you’ve been with for a long, long time. You forget who you were when you were alone, and once you’re alone again, you find yourself with a stranger.

But I have learned who that stranger is again, and I’m a better person because of it. At least I think so.

It’s been an incredible year. And an incredible decade, which included the end of high school, college, various jobs, various living situations, various states, deaths, births, and so many incredible people God brought into my life to carry me through the past 10 new years. It has been a joy to know you all and to experience your grace and love.

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.

Men must’ve been walking on the roof, and I said as much. “What are they doing up there?” I asked when the building moved.

The night before the earthquake D and I were driving back up to L.A. from Newport Beach after spending Sunday and Monday in the O.C. with best friend L and her boyfriend JT. Saturday night offered a birthday party at D’s house up in the Hollywood hills for a roommate; spending the night at JT’s aunt’s home — a big-whig CBS person; a Sunday brunch with JT’s sister and brother-in-law — a studying architect and a cinematographer; a Sunday afternoon lounging on JT’s grandma’s deck in the Newport Bay while watching JT windsurf; a Sunday night snuggling on the couch to the romantic-est of romantic movies, American Psycho; a Monday driving around Newport in a 1970s convertible Volkswagen, license plate similar to but not exactly THE THING, with a surf board sticking out the back; and a Sunday early evening watching JT, L, and D surf (and attempt to surf) in our very own little section of the ocean.

In the car, on the drive home, we were tired. And satisfied. We love our friends. In the quiet satisfaction of the drive, I sang aloud the song that has been stuck in my head for days and days now, Natalie Merchant’s “San Andreas Fault,” a song I put on a mix CD for D before we started dating. It is off the album Tiger Lily, an album that has been somewhere in my head since I was 14. I know every lyric on it. When I was 14, I almost wished I had a broken heart so the song “Seven Years” could be true of me. It was that lovely and tragic, and I was that masochistic. Still, “San Andreas Fault” is my favorite on the album:

Go west
Paradise is there
You’ll have all that you can eat
Of milk and honey over there

You’ll be the brightest star
The world has ever seen
Sun-baked slender heroine
Of film and magazine

Go west
Paradise is there
You’ll have all that you can eat
Of milk and honey over there

You’ll be the brightest light
The world has ever seen
The dizzy height of a jet-set life
You could never dream

Your pale blue eyes
Strawberry hair
Lips so sweet
Skin so fair

Your future bright
Beyond compare
It’s rags to riches
Over there

San Andreas Fault
Moved its fingers
Through the ground
Earth divided
Plates collided
Such an awful sound

San Andreas Fault
Moved its fingers
Through the ground
Terra cotta shattered
And the walls came
Tumbling down

O, promised land
O, wicked ground
Build a dream
Tear it down

O, promised land
What a wicked ground
Build a dream
Watch it all fall down

For as long as we’ve known it, the West has beckoned people with dreams; first those literal gold-diggers with their shovels and pans, those unsinkable Molly Browns. Then Hollywood boasted gold, a Golden Era where riches dwelt not in rocks but in pictures. It is that gold that people come with their pick-axes to claim now-days. There are so many people here, so many, many people who are fighting for that gold, like Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester in A Star is Born. One must wonder if this role resonated a little too deeply with Frances Ethel Gumm/Judy Garland when she played it. Like me, she was born in Minnesota. She crossed the fault line into Hollywood. Perhaps she wouldn’t have died of a drug overdose or attempted all those suicides without all those insecurities about her appearance, exacerbated by studio execs pushing her to be a skinny woman. She might’ve had a long and happy life in Minnesota. Perhaps there really is no place like home.

Sad songs are always the best songs, and I never really understood “San Andreas Fault” until I moved to the wrong side of the actual one. At 14 I didn’t know much about youth even though I possessed it in abundance. Now that youth is ticking away, it has become a precious commodity, more precious than the number in any bank account — even William Randolph Hearst, circa 1928. I moved here not for a dream of wealth, but for a dream of youth. I came here to spend my years of sweet lips and fair skin in a land of water and seemingly endless sun.

You would think that a City of Dreams would offer its residents lovely neighbors, that the opportunities would abound like the pigeons, and all the people would drown in gold and get grills for their teeth. But maybe L.A. is called the City of Dreams and not the City of Successes because so may come here with a dream and leave without it. It doesn’t slip through just any old crack. It slips in the San Andreas Fault. That’s why we have earthquakes: All those orphan dreams are rolling around down there.

When the earthquake happened I stood up. Others I know dove to the floor. Apparently the plastic electrical plates burst off the walls in office buildings close to the origin of the quake. D’s sister E had an awkward moment with her boss under a desk. In my office, we stood in the hallway, each in a respective doorway, watching the juice our company manufactures slosh in the bottles to see if the building was still swaying and that it wasn’t just our scared little knees. A California-native hugged me. This was my first quake, wasn’t it? Was I scared?

Scared? No. So thrilled I felt it through my whole body? Yes.

It isn’t really the San Andreas Fault that scares me, even though my new homeland will supposedly someday fall into the ocean. My own faults scare me much more… faults like financial irresponsibility, worrying so much about my life that I fail to live it, the ways that I take my anger out on the people I love, the inability to figure out what I’m really doing with my life, my tendency toward depression. Meanwhile, youth ticks away. My birthday is next month. My twenties are more than halfway over.

The earthquake didn’t really scare me because the ground did not jump or shake here like I expected it to. I expected it to shake us like pennies in a jar. Instead it moved like the L.A. traffic does when you watch it from the Hollywood Hills at night. All those lights snake up the hills, in a choreography of curves and different sounds. Sometimes when I’m driving home I listen to the classical music station because its like we’re in an orchestra. Enter Ford F150 with your booming tympani; come gently little old Volkswagen Beetle with your flighty piccolo; El Diablo, bring your classical guitar; don’t forget your French Horn, Mercedes Benz. When you’re in it, it can feel jerky and unpracticed — some people play the wrong notes. But when you look above and see it happen with a different perspective, all of it works together. You see the beginning, and you see the end and all the lights and buildings and hills in between.

And when those faults do act up as they inevitably do — the Angelinos have been expecting The Big One for years now and are relieved this small one came to relieve some pressure — perhaps it truly is the best idea to run to the first doorway and stand in it until the swaying stops, and on scared little knees, take a new step.

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

The Weekend Recap

July 6, 2008

Fourth of July weekend was a busy weekend, indeed, and I most certainly welcomed a paid holiday, a little bit o’ rest, and some great memories made with wonderful friends. I told someone over the weekend that L.A. feels a little bit more like home each day, with a few exceptions, and the time off afforded me a chance to get to strengthen some great friendships. It was a busy, busy weekend. This morning at 11 a.m. I had brunch with the Ladies Who Brunch from my church small group at the lovely friend K’s home. Since then I have spent the entire day in my apartment resting, reading, and eating, save the 15 minutes I spent only a moment ago at the gas station. I filled my entire tank for $50 at $4.55 per gallon. My goal is to make this tank last for 2 weeks. Let’s see how I do.

Thursday D invited me to the wrap party for the film he and his brother G have been working on. D has been working as the producer’s assistant, and G is some type of coordinator. They have been working long, hard hours for the past several weeks, and the wrap party provided them the opportunity to bring their very supportive girlfriends to hear some good music, eat some good food, and schmooze with the Hollywoods. And, thanks to the fantastic outfit suggestions of several friends, I purchased this dress at Forever 21 before the event. It was cute, vintage-ey, cheap, tasteful, hip, and  fit me perfectly. Unfortunately, Forever 21 makes crap clothing, and the zipper broke while I was frantically trying to get ready after work. Hence, I had to throw together a different outfit with stuff I already had. But this conundrum afforded me the chance to wear my new hat. Also, at the wrap party, Tea Leoni touched my shoulder. I was pretty un-star-struck about the whole thing. She was trying to get people who were standing outside to come in and hear Billy Bob Thorton’s band play. I heard one song, and it was great, but I was there to hang out with my friends, and it was too loud in the room to really talk.

All dressed up and ready to go, but apparently D is sulking. Perhaps he wanted to wear a hat too.

Galen ruins everything.

Billy Bob Thorton’s band provides the entertainment for the evening.

We like each other. Sometimes.

After all of this, I realized that I didn’t get any pictures of me with G’s girlfriend N, who is an awesome little lady, and I had such a fun time with her.

Friday the four of us went to a pool party hosted by a co-worker of our friend AB. It was a great time and the perfect setting for a hot day. Yay, hamburgers! Yay, America! Happy Independence Day! Afterward D and I both took naps because we were exhausted from our cavorting, and then we watched one of my favorite movies, a little-known Steve Martin film called Lonely Guy.

Saturday a whole cohort of D and G fans (not Dolce and Gabbana — D and his brother) came over to my apartment to read through the script of a little project they are working on. The friends gave feedback on it, and the boys got some very helpful critiques. Again, I was so busy hosting that I totally forgot to pull out the camera. Another great photographic opportunity is lost for the sake of etiquette. That evening the boys, N, and I went to a new favorite restaurant, Natalee Thai on Venice Blvd.

Today I had the aforementioned brunch and have been lazy all day. It’s been a welcome break. I wish the time didn’t fly by so quickly.

And while we’re in photo-posting mode, here are a few photos from last weekend, when D and I went to his former roommate C’s wedding. It was an outdoor wedding at a country club, and I most certainly wore a hat.

D found it so attractive that he had to try it on himself…

…and again. notice the finger he recently slammed in a car door.

And here is Blue-Eyes looking a little more masculine.

I’m so California.

Now that I have gotten back into the Christian Church Small Group Phenomenon after being absent from it since college, I have been thinking about religious attitudes. I didn’t attend a church small group when I lived in Arkansas because I had a broom up my Aston Martin about it. Part of this broom was my own arrogance, but part of it was valid: sometimes people use Bible Study to complain about their problems or to stand on a soapbox.

Also, in the community where I lived, it seemed that single people my age either slipped through the cracks within the church community, or we were forced to attend “singles” groups, which really should have been called: How to Find Your Future Spouse In Just 10 Easy Sessions Disguised as Bible Study Because You Cannot Be Godly Unless You’re Married Especially if You’re a Woman. I lived in a community that was significantly family-based. Those who were not already building their families were surveying for land, if you know what I mean. I am not a field tilled for the planting, thank you very much.

I love the church small group that I have attended a few times here in L.A. Health issues and people’s visits have hampered my attendance a little, but what makes me excited about this group is that they accepted me willingly. It’s a group of creative, outgoing, hilarious people, most of whom moved to L.A. to work in one of its many industries, the most predominant being film. I feel at home in the group, and that is something I have not felt in a church group for a very, very long time. Sometimes it seems that we find our peace not only in discussing our faith and values, but also through laughing. I am a firm believer that laughter can heal a multitude of ailments. That is one reason I am with D. He doesn’t get all sappy and goo-ey when I’m having a tough time. He listens to me. He hugs me. Then he makes me laugh. It’s his way of saying, “I understand, but get over yourself.”

My friend LR is one of my favorite people in the world, and one of the wisest people I know. She is one reason I am so glad that I moved to California – I have been able to see her about once a month since I got here, and it has been a blessing, indeed. She says that marriage is not about cuddly feelings and sharing one another’s hopes and dreams. Those things are part of marriage – the lesser purposes, if you will – but they are not the main point of marriage. “Marriage is about sanctification,” she says. To use less churchy language: The main purpose of marriage is to challenge one another to be better people. That is not easy. Sometimes it is downright annoying. Sometimes it hurts our feelings. Sometimes it makes us so mad that we want to cuss.

For instance, on Sunday D and I went to Borders to look for a book. I was walking a little ways ahead of him. I should point out that last weekend I morphed into Deranged Girlfriend – a mess of emotions and unhappiness and fold-your-arms-and-slump-over-in-your-chair-because-daddy-won’t-give-you-a-guinea-pig-ness. There were constant tears, constant frustrations, constant silent-treatments, and, from D, constant patience. As we were walking to Borders, D totally stepped on the back of my flip flop by accident, and I did that horrible, awkward jerking thing where you feel like you’re going to trip and the thong (thong?? rah-cha-cha) part of the flip flop digs into your toe cleavage (cleavage?? rah-cha-cha). I totally knew it was an accident, but it pissed me off. Oh, how it pissed me off. So, I told D: “I know you didn’t mean to do that, but nothing annoys me more than when people step on the back of my flip flops.” So, D, in his incredible boyfriendly kindness DID IT TWO MORE TIMES. “Does that annoy you?” He asked, smugly. “BLEEP yes,” I said. He smirked. “Well, get over it.” HE ACTUALLY SAID THOSE EXACT WORDS, TWICE. And I was so angry, so very, very angry that I wanted to break up with him right there in the middle of Biographies/Non-Fiction. I coddled my sweet little tenderness, thinking, I am sensitive. I should be with someone who is sensitive to my needs and wants. I deserve someone who will never, ever annoy me. I deserve someone who will pick me up when my toe cleavage hurts rather than hurting my toe cleavage more.

At the end of the weekend, I called D crying. I was mad at myself for being such a Dog of the Female Variety, seriously considering getting on anti-anxiety medication again, and I was afraid he was contemplating breaking up with me. I imagined the conversations he would have with his friends: “Ann went the way of Lindsay Lohan when she got to California. She’s not cool anymore.” But instead, D listened to me talk, and then he said something that didn’t excuse my behavior. I was expecting to hear an “Oh, it’s okay, Doll-Face,” but instead he spoke the wise truth: “I accept your apology. I know that not every weekend will be like this one.”

(Disclaimer: D and I are not thinking about getting married at all – neither of us are interested in that right now – but I do appreciate what he does to challenge me in his wild boyfriendly ways.)

So, from hanging out with my church group, from Laura’s wisdom, and from seeing the ways D makes me a better person, I am confronting an issue that many Christian women grapple with, but in a different way than it usually manifests itself: Why are Christian women so concerned with whether or not we are “marriage-able”?

Beloved non-churched readers, I don’t mean to alienate you from this issue. You might find it interesting that many Christian women seem to have elevated the idea of marriage to such a high place that it almost seems unattainable. And I wonder if this is part of the reason the divorce rate is so high among Christian couples… people walk into marriage expecting a Disney movie and get a Grimm’s Fairy Tale, chopped off feet and all, instead. I hold the value of virginity before the wedding night and believe that divorce is a sad, sad thing. Marriage should be a respected and revered institution, but do we sometimes revere it too much by wanting to become better people in order to be marriage-worthy, rather than wanting to become better people simply because it is good?

And why do we religious women tend to think that marriage is the alpha and omega of our lives? I don’t doubt that marriage is good and fulfilling and that offspring can be an amazing element of a woman’s existence. Heck, I love my niece and nephew so much that I could gobble them up, and I am just their aunt. Their parents love them thousands of times more than I. Marriage and children must be precious and good, but they are still wrought with their own problems. I see so many girls who are simply living to get married rather than living to, well, live. And are we so hard on ourselves, so skeptical about ourselves, because we wonder if we will ever be good enough, not just for a Prince Charming, but also for Marriage itself?

If marriage truly is about making one another better people, then why should we question whether or not we are good enough? Marriage might just be one more thing that helps us be better, in the same way that Christ does: “I am not good, but I know that you will take me as I am, and from your acceptance, I will become who you made me to be.”

Once Upon a Dream

April 29, 2008

I left work at mid-day today, struggling with a migraine. I’m not even sure what I told my boss before I left. It probably did not make much sense. I had to stay about an hour later to process a few orders and make some phone calls. Now, after 3 hours of sleep, an overdose of ibuprofen tablets, and a hot shower, I finally feel better. I cannot tell you how much I wish my health would return to me. I’ve always been a naturally tired person (need naps!), but I haven’t felt 100% in a long, long time. I need to start exercising, but I think I might have mono, and I don’t want my spleen to erupt. How’s that for an excuse?

All that aside, I love my apartment. It was a glorious day, and now the wind is blowing through the palm leaves and into my bedroom through the balcony door. I especially love the night-time. Summer evenings are some of my favorite things. I can’t wait to return to Minnesota for a family reunion in August. We’re totally camping at this hoe-down of a fair called the Threshing Bee, which celebrates old methods of farming. My grandfather built a windmill on the grounds where the Bee is held, and one of his tractors, an old green  and yellow John Deere is one of the focal points of the train, tractor, and antique car parade. It’s a great ol’ time of threashin’, blue grassin’, and barbeque-in’. I am trying to convince D that it will change his life. We have been dating two years this July, and he has still not been to my hometown. He has still not met my dad. Send him nasty notes, please.

Speaking of D, the other day someone googled “my boyfriend is a model,” and it led them to my blog. It showed up in my stats, and I felt this amazing breadth of anxiety fall from my weary shoulders BECAUSE IT’S ABOUT TIME. IT’S ABOUT TIME SOMEONE ACKNOWLEDGED THAT MY BOYFRIEND IS A MODEL.

(thank you)

And also speaking of D, I am going to be single this weekend. D is going to a retreat for a class at school, and that means plenty of margaritas and inviting the pool boy up to my bedroom to fan me with palm leaves. It also means that I am going to spend the whole weekend sleeping, eating ice cream, and looking very, very closely at my cuticles. Oh, and I’m hoping to go to the one and only Newport Beach community garage sale to see if I can find, among other things, a bicycle built for D. That, and a Free Box full of Gucci bags. Oh wait. I am not really looking for that. That was just what I dreamt about last night. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure if I actually have a pool boy.

A few weeks ago, an after-work few hours spent at the Gap, Borders, and Anthropologie at the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica led to my first parking ticket. I even dodged the Koreans witnessing on the corner to save time, arriving back at my car not five minutes after the meter expired, only to find that typed out envelope with a little receipt inside. You owe the State of California $35 for your presence, here, in this parking space. You’ve stayed far too long, Minnesota. Go home.

The other day on the drive home, I glanced over into the passenger side rearview mirror on my car only to find it hanging by a wire. Someone was so kind as to knock the mirror off my car while it was parked in my work parking lot and didn’t even care to leave an “I’m sorry!” note. Thievery! Treachery!

But what I am really writing this post about is this: That despite those things, despite those drip, drip, drip details that can add up to a gargantuan level of torture from living in the second largest city in the United States, there is lobster ravioli.

Yes, friends, I have a Trader Joe’s not even a mile from my apartment, and today I discovered that they carry lobster ravioli. Just drop it in a pot of boiling water for five minutes, and voila: gourmet dinner. Goodbye, Skinniness. I am selling you for a plate of pasta encased crustacean.

Also, I’ve had a long string of good hair days.

And even though I haven’t really been working on it, I’m actually getting a tan, just from living in California. I’m convinced that it is the state of mind more than the sunshine. I work in an office with no windows, and yet I, sickly pale Minnesota girl, am getting a tan just from breathing the air and drinking the water. Maybe I will start selling Pure Los Angeles Tap Water, Straight From Our Sewers to the land-locked states of our fair union. And all those fools told me I probably shouldn’t drink the water. Bah. I’ll show them.

But maybe the best thing so far this week as that this evening I walked into my bedroom after leaving my balcony door open to release the stuffiness, and my room actually smelled like the ocean. Now, I live about five miles from the ocean, so it surprised me, but perhaps tonight the wind is just right to bring that lovely, salty, fresh, sandy smell right into my sleeping-space. Hopefully masked gangster gun-men, bent on stealing my 1960s sewing machine and 2004 Macbook (it’s nearly obsolete!), will not follow. Will lock screen door. Most thieves do not carry scissors.

Friend AA came to visit from Arkansas last week, and oh, what joys we had. I have pictures. But for now, you cannot see them. I can’t find the cord for my camera. And anyway, I should wait until AA sends me copies of her photographs because they will be much better than mine.

Sunday night AA, G, and I went down to La Mirada to have dinner with D and his roommate B. We like to call our dinners together Family Dinner. We consumed the usual inexpensive and easy spaghetti with meatsauce and garlic bread, and our dinner conversation was as entertaining as it was humorous. At one point during the meal, D mentioned that he and B had earlier discussed a prank B had played on some girls while he was getting his undergraduate degree. They never mentioned what the prank was, but apparently it involved the girls moving a bookshelf.

“Then we started talking about what would have to fall behind a bookshelf in order for a girl to move it,” D said.

“Like an Anthropologie catalog,” B said.

“A designer shoe,” D said.

“A copy of a celebrity gossip magazine or Vogue,” B said.

“I wouldn’t move it for that,” AA said.

“I’d move it for Vogue,” I said.

“A girl would move it for a rich man,” B said. “Oh, I think I dropped my rich man behind my bookshelf–”

And then G said the thing that has had me laughing all week: “And then she moves it, and out walks a family of Jews.”

Later I admitted to D that I have a Pre-Celebrity Crush on this starving actor I know who happens to be British. I told D because it doesn’t mean anything — I just think the guy is highly date-able, and my crush on him is mostly accent-related. Heck, I barely even know the guy. But those shy Brits, descended from the line of Hugh Grant and Jude Law… men whose whole faces smile when they smile… Gah. Who could resist wrinkles at the corners of the eyes at the moment of smiling?

After I told D about the Pre-Celebrity Crush, G said, “Now you should talk in an accent to her.”

D turned to me with a mouthful of spaghetti and said, “A-llo, Ay-an,” in the worst cockney accent I’ve ever heard. And then I remembered why I’m with D and not some Celebrity Crush… D makes me laugh until I cry, as he did at that moment, at the dinner table, and I nearly choked on my spaghetti. Indeed, D nearly killed us all.

Speaking of G, the other night while conversing with the same group of people sans G (he was on a date with a lady-friend), I made the assertion that no matter what I say, G could say the same thing and be funnier. G is just a funny, funny guy. So, at the dinner table, we tested my theory. B said, “Ann, say, ‘G sucks.'” I was giggling when I said it, and my declaration was met with mild to moderate laughter. Then G had to say it. And indeed, what is funnier than hearing a funny guy say that he sucks in the third person?

Probably only the image of a family of Jews walking out from behind some sorority girl’s bookshelf after hiding for 60 years.