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.

This post was supposed to be about my own abyss of staggering, suctioning desolation. It was supposed to be about my struggle with anxiety, including dripping references to Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath and how all great writers eventually asphyxiate themselves.

This post was supposed to be gushing and emotive and altogether moving; a post in which everything the heroine says or does resonates within the reader, until the reader bursts out shouting: “Yes, dear writer, your plight has been my plight, and your life, my life! I love you for brilliantly expressing what I, as a mere reader, cannot express! You are the voice of humanity and all that is poetry!”

While writing said post, I had a fit of writing-hating: hating myself via hating my writing. I called Best Friend L in San Francisco and gushed to her about all my irrational fears and my struggle with anxiety these past few days and how I have no idea what I’m doing with my life, and (sob) I miss Francis the Cat.

Then L told me that when she was in Peru a few weeks ago, she got sick one day and vomited, and right after she vomited there was an 6.5 earthquake while she was naked.

And lo, I laughed. L laughed too; she said, “I’m so glad you reacted that way. No one laughs when I tell them.”

“What, do they say, ‘Oh no, you threw up, I’m so sorry?’”

“Yes, but I wish they would laugh. It’s really funny.”

And lo, lo, I laughed, heartily.

And then I told her… I told her all the irrational things I’ve been anxious about… virgin pregnancy being the forerunner.

“See?! See how irrational it is?” I asked. “I’ve never even had sex, but suddenly I gain weight and my breasts get swollen from PMS, and I’m all panicked that I’m giving birth to a deity and asking D if he’s had any prophetic dreams lately.” I didn’t tell her about the fears that the bank is stealing all my money (“This girl has $2000 in her checking account and $30,000 in school debt… she looks like she wouldn’t notice if we took a grand here and there…”); or my fears about my feet growing really, really wide; or my fears about my eyelashes falling out. You laugh. You just go ahead and laugh, but seriously, guys…

What if this happened?

And then I told her about how D and I were kissing the other day, glorious, healthy kissing in the purest way possible, and I actually started crying. Not because the moment was so romantic and emotive and meaningful that I couldn’t help myself. I started crying because I imagined what it would be like if we broke up. And suddenly, that Worst Case Scenario became my reality instead of the real reality – the attractive young man beside me who likes me so much that he lets me place my mushy, saliva-covered lips on his.

And then L said, “Give yourself a break!” She named off all the tough things I’ve done lately, dating all the way back to the moment of the big move to California in December. “Seriously,” she said. “Give yourself a break. We need to start making this our mantra whenever anything is scary: ‘At least I’m not pregnant.’”

And that was just what I needed to hear, just what writing a million gushing posts could not cure. Well, it was what L said AND D’s earlier affirmation that the bank is not stealing my money, and even if they were stealing my money, I would not die.

That’s the nice thing about having so little money. There isn’t a whole lot to lose. And really, the best thing about all of it is that even if the bank were stealing my money, the bank could not make me pregnant…

…right?

How amazing would it have been to live in Hollywood during its golden age, back when it was all about fur coats and glamor and long cigarettes and coifs, before people acknowledged that Frank Sinatra was a jerk and Bing Crosby beat his children, before Marilyn Monroe committed suicide (or did the Kennedys kill her to prevent the scandal of her involvement with their sons?) and before Lucy and Desi split? Now it seems odd to think of this place as the setting of what went before it. It is about dollars and producers and shallow connections, connections you could later shove downward to elevate yourself. The street cleaners don’t really clean the streets anymore. They just give the city an excuse to hand out tickets.

This morning the street sweepers came between 8 and 10, so I got up early to move my car from its parking spot on the left side of the street to the right side. A tree had dumped woody gunk all over my windshield. It rained last night. I looked in the back seat of my car to pull out my planner – I have to call the Director of Human Resources at that museum today to see what the next step is in the job process – and had to dig through a bag of stuff. Yesterday roommate J and I became nomads.

Though living in suburbia was quiet and calm and clean, it wasn’t the Los Angeles that J and I sought. Now that Hollywood Boulevard is just a block away (I had to park about a half mile away from the apartment where we’re staying) the city has emerged all around us. We’ve already been advised to purchase safety clubs for our cars. We will take the advice.

The area we are in is residential and full of well-kept houses with middle- to upper-class cars out front, so it doesn’t appear to be dangerous. Still, we adhere to the street smarts we know: try not to go out alone at night, call to check in, lock your car doors while you’re driving, bring a boy. D encouraged me to get some pepper spray to carry in my purse, just as a precaution. Perhaps I will go on a safety shopping spree and get the club, the pepper spray, steel knuckles, chaps, protective glasses, a gas mask, a flame thrower, and a helmet all in one trip. You can never be too safe.

Today is a holiday for many workplaces, so plans are on hold. I spoke to the landlord of the apartment we are dying to have, and I negotiated a little. I’m a good tenant, I told her. Just call my references. I have plenty of money in my checking account. I will soon have a job. I have never paid rent late. I have excellent credit. I can give you additional rental references and even character references if you need them.

Last night before J and I left my relatives’ home, where we were previously staying, they told us that if we really wanted the apartment, we should pray over it when we handed in our paperwork and claim it. “Have faith that God will give it to you,” they said. “You have his favor.”

They made the distinction between faith and hope as if hope is a fleeting, ungodly thing, and faith is complete trust in God. I could’ve prayed over that apartment when I was there. I could’ve claimed it. But what if God has something else? I am not putting my faith in that apartment. I am putting my faith in God, and I will not set up limitations for him in my mind. It seems like the perfect place, but in the past, many things have seemed perfect that weren’t: that guy I hoped to someday marry, that make and model of car I really wanted, those plans I had in college. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. I hope that we will get this apartment. I have faith that God will take care of us, even if we don’t get this apartment.

And the same goes for this job. This museum job would be amazing. Every time I’ve mentioned to someone that I had a phone interview there, they blink a few times. “Seriously?” I was shaking with excitement when I got a call to initially schedule an interview. There? You’re calling me from that place? Seriously? Roommate J’s mouth dropped when I told her. “Ann,” she said, “that’s prestigious!”

I hope for this job. I repeat, it would be uh.may.zing. But my faith doesn’t lie in a job. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.

Yesterday J, her friend A, and I went to First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. This is the fourth church I’ve been to since my arrival here. Each church has been distinct. First there was the sparkly, white-toothed, high-fashioned church that I will not go back to. I left disheartened that a church could focus more on the accumulation of things, on judging God’s love according to his bestowal of material wealth, than on the sacrifice of Christ.

The church of yesterday was a complete 180. Amid Hollywood’s moral crumbling, all the drunkenness and prostitution and dishonesty and violations and selfishness rests a church that is dynamic because it has to be. The homeless use its steps to sleep. This church is attractive because yesterday we applauded a woman who had attended a Martin Luther King, Jr. march in 1965 and helped one of the first African American families find a home in the area. It’s about doing more than talking. It’s about building a future that exemplifies the innate dignity of all people, home or no home, wealth or no wealth, and it builds that future in the name of Christ.

In every church that I have attended so far, in some form or another, a lyric has shown up on that big screen, a lyric that became part of my legacy back in high school, back when I was deciding if I was going to really pursue this belief in God or turn the other way: This is my story, this is my song. At this time in my life, when I am untangling all these unknowns, it is good to know that all this is my story, and all this is my song, and I am praising my Savior all the day long.

Today the post was going to be about blogetiquette: my definition of what should not appear on a blog, for reasons of gentility and just plain Not Embarrassing Yourself Later. I’m sure that I have broken some of these rules, and I am probably about to break more of them. This morning I realized that I need to do a little honest writing here, a little something that shows what’s really going on.

This transition to California has been hard. I’m not going to go into all the little details of it because I don’t believe in writing things that I wouldn’t tell people to their faces. Especially on the internet. (This would be one important rule of blogetiquette that many, many people violate.) I might make exceptions in a journal, but journals are meant to be private outlets of thoughts and feelings.

But I can talk about myself and some of the things that I have been going through. Most writers tend to be inward people. We are the shy ones, the introverts, the ones who don’t really want fame but have to write anyway because it possesses us, and the fame sometimes just comes with it. It is hard to write anything worthwhile without an audience.

I made an important discovery about myself a few months ago when a Myers/Briggs expert came to my workplace and went through the Myers/Briggs test with each of us. My personality type (INFP) came up as a person who has high ideals for herself — so high that she often can’t reach them. And when she doesn’t reach them, rather than realizing that she’s putting too much pressure on herself, she gets upset at herself and begins a downward spiral. It is so easy to get sucked into that spiral and have a difficult time getting out. It’s happened before, in a life-altering way, so I feel better equipped to deal with it through talking to friends or positive self-talk or even therapy. It’s infinitely more easy to deal with something when you realize that it’s happening.

This Myers/Briggs expert warned me that when I went to California, I’d have to be careful. “I have such a soft spot in my heart for INFPs,” he said. “You need to surround yourself with people who you trust who are going to encourage you and support you when you move. Moving to a new place can be incredibly discouraging.”

This move has been especially hard because I had such a wonderful time with my family while I was home in Minnesota for those few months. I am very homesick this week, not because I necessarily want to go back to Minnesota, but because I miss my family so much that I get tears in my eyes every time I think about them. I know that coming to California was the right decision, and I’m going to fight through this because I can’t live my whole life in the circle of their safety. I’ve got to get out and do my own thing for a while. It’s just that with them I am always home, and here I am not.

Yesterday I acknowledged for the first time that this move has turned my whole world completely upside-down. Just before this, I was in the safest place possible. Now I am living with people I barely know, far away from my closest friends, in the second largest city in the United States, without a job. D is the only person I have known long enough to trust, even though I know many people who are trustworthy, and I even feel bad about depending on him so fully — not because he has made me feel that way but because my over-idealistic personality type tells me that I should be independent all the freaking time.

Plus it’s just difficult to transition from living on your own for the past six years and never having a real curfew in your life, to living under the roof of kind and generous people who raised their children a lot differently than how you were raised.

Also, even though I am overjoyed to finally be in the same city as my boyfriend, moving from a long-distance relationship to a close-distance one is harder then you might think. Roommate J had a similar experience with a guy she used to date, and she told me that finally becoming close-distance almost broke them. I know D on a very deep, communicative level because of the long-distance part of our relationship. As far as the detailed, every-day planning, interacting side of things, I’ve never really experienced that with him except for the few times we’ve seen one another in person. And those times were always with the starry-eyed attitude of, “We’d better savor this while we can because it’s going to be over soon.”

We’ve had a lot to talk through. I’m invading his turf. I’m adopting his friends. I’m expecting him to make adjustments in his life to fit me into the every-day-ness of this. My whole life has been one giant adjustment for the past several weeks. Yesterday D and I had a very good talk about one important thing that was bothering me. It was good. Through all of this, it’s good to know that I have strong allies in Roommate J and D.

And my best friend L is coming down from San Francisco this weekend. She has a habit of swooping in and saving the day at the exact moment that I need her, and I’m getting all teary-eyed right now just thinking about her. It will be nice to have a bit of home for a few days. Also, my friend LR lives in Irvine, and I need to get together with her this week. She is another strong ally who I haven’t seen in a very long time and miss considerably.

I just pray that God leads Roommate J and I to the right jobs and the right apartment. And that whatever He’s developing in me right now will develop quickly and help me later on.

Yesterday D’s roommate B returned to The Astounding House of Six Men Who Rule the World From Three Bedrooms, so I decided to go home early for the first night in a week. D, B, and I were playing Boggle at the table when I realized that D and I have been spending time together every day and evening this past week, and geez, I hadn’t had any significant alone time in over two weeks, and man, D must need some guy-time now that his roommates are coming back from the break. So, I says, “D, I’m going home,” and he says, “What for? Are you okay?” and I says, “I’m fine, but you need to spend some time with your friends.”

I went to bed at 9:30.

I can’t wait to actually have my own friends here. I mean, I love D’s friends, but I also need my own. You know, like, girls.

Perhaps I will sign up for a church small group at Mosaic. It’s nice that some church services meet in the evening, so even if I find a morning church somewhere else, I can be involved in both.

What else can I really say today? I’ve been applying for more jobs. I updated my resume on Monster today. I’ve been searching Craigslist daily. The newspaper has been the subject of my consistent perusal, and I’m keeping my ears and eyes open. I’m almost afraid to get excited about finally being in California because I don’t have a job yet; therefore, I don’t know how long I’ll be staying. I like a sense of permanence just as Emily Dickinson likes “a look of agony/ because I know ‘tis true.” Yesterday it finally stopped raining, raining, raining, and while it is still chilly for Southern California, my goodness, this weather is fantastic.

And then there is the boy. Yesterday we were driving to the train station to pick up B, and I admitted to D that I’ve been mad at him for the past day or so. Well, first I admitted that I was mad at him right then because of something he did. He said, “I’m sorry,” and I said, “Well, you should be. Apology accepted,” and then we both started laughing. If it had been a sitcom, our laughing faces would have freeze framed at that moment, only to be the background for the scrolling credits.

And then, amid our laughter, I told him the dark and sickly truth: “Actually, I think I’ve been mad at you for the past several days.”

“Really? Why?”

“Yes, really. But I don’t think I realized it until last night. I’ve been mad at you because I don’t have a job yet.”

It’s funny how my attitude about seeing D has changed now that we are seeing one another on a regular basis. I don’t have the sense of gratefulness that I had on vacations of seeing him, or the sense of urgency to spend loads of meaningful time with him. We’ve watched a bunch of movies. We’ve sat at Barnes and Noble and done literary things. We’ve hung out with his brother and friends. We’ve gone to church. I taught him and his brother how to air up the tire of his car. We’ve played with kittens.

Yesterday I realized that I have already gotten so comfortable with him that I’m taking him for granted in a way that I never did when we were long-distance. Before, I missed him, all the time, every day. It wasn’t a pathetic sort of pining way of missing him. It was just constantly with me as I lived my life and did the daily things. It wasn’t really pining, but wishing: I wish D could come out with me and my friends tonight. If D were here, I wouldn’t have to go to church alone. It would be nice to go out to lunch with D today. One great thing that we both acknowledged about our long-distance relationship was that we never took one another for granted.

For the past week, his roommates have been either gone or out of the house most of the time, and my future roommate has yet to arrive. I don’t have many friends yet, and I’ve been depending on D quite a bit to learn where I’m going. My world has a pretty small radius right now: my house, D’s house, Panera, Starbucks, and the real stretch is the Chick-Fil-A (Top 5 Quick Service Restaurants: 1. Chick-Fil-A, 2. In and Out Burger, 3. Subway, 4. Jack In the Box, 5. Wendy’s) in La Habra that I hunted down my first day here. I have driven to Hollywood a few times but have yet to do it on my own. This is a new feeling for me – the sense of dependency that I have not really experienced since I left for college in 2001. And it annoys the shins out of me.

That is why I have been mad at D. My sense of dependence on him has robbed me of my independence. So, while he is all helping me adapt and taking care of me and being so wonderfully protective (do you know just how romantic it is to have a strong, sexy boy usher you through a crowd of crazy Hollywood people? Whew. It’s hot.), I am resenting him because of my own failure to take steps of my own. Or because none of the places of employment that I have applied to have responded yet. In a few ways, I have been taking steps. I just need patience… and trust that God has me here for a purpose.

Yesterday D asked me if we’d been spending too much time together. I was hesitant to answer even though I know the answer is, “Yes.” The hesitancy comes from how comfortable it is to depend on him. While the dependency is aggravating because it’s not really how I operate, it’s also safe. I am the kind of girl who has a few close friends rather than a network of distant ones. Those close friendships are hard to build. They take time and effort and a dollop of vulnerability. At the same time, I know that missing D has always been a vital component to our relationship, and now, even though I’m currently living just a few blocks from him, I need to let myself miss him again, so I can come to him at the end of the day excited to tell him about all the great or discouraging things that happened to me, on my own, in this new life.

The weekend cruised by so quickly. Of course, right now every day could be a weekend day for me because I have yet to find a job. I found one job I really, really want at the Art Institute of California — Los Angeles. I just sent my resume on Friday, so I’ll give it a couple of days. Also, this is the first day of classes for their winter term, so I’m sure that whoever is doing the hiring is very busy.

Anyway, yesterday I went to two different church services. The relatives I’m staying with invited me to join them for church, so I went with them in the morning, and in the evening I went with D and his brother G. I knew that the first church experience would not be like the church I grew up in. In fact, I found that I disagreed with the majority of what the speakers said. I’m not going to go into detail… let’s just say that the sermon focused on the Prosperity Gospel — something with which I fundamentally disagree. I also got a little nauseous when the pastor’s wife interpreted James 1 as being about wealth when it’s really about perseverance and wisdom. And I struggled with how she used herself and her family as examples of how we all should live. Preaching on Christ was sadly missing. The relatives love their church, and I did meet many kind people. After the service, the hospitality couple who were greeting new people prayed for me about finding a job. It was very kind of them.

In the evening, D and I headed up to Los Angeles proper to attend Mosaic, a church that meets in several different locations in the Los Angeles area.  D and G have been attending the church off-and-on for the past few months. We went to the location that meets in a nightclub building called the Mayan. I have to admit that when I first walked in, the music had me a little skeptical. It was hip. VERY hip. And all the people there looked my age or younger. Now, I have no problem with hip and stylish kids playing their hip and stylish music, but I am often a little too judgmental when it comes to music. I am constantly left wondering if we are truly worshiping God or just jivving to hip music with the hip kids.

I turned to D and said (I had to kind of shout it because it was so loud), “I think this might be a little too hip for me.” It didn’t feel like church at all. It felt like a youth group concert. Now, this might be a good quality for someone who hasn’t grown up in the church and is a little wary of the idea of sitting in a pew and singing hymns. I, however, like my pews and hymns and church choirs and old time religion. D said, “Remember that this church is made up of artists.” Okay. I could buy that. Artists are hip by nature. They have to be to introduce the next new thing.

After the music came the dancers. And man, oh man, was their presentation lovely and worshipful. That morning I had been in a place that was showy and disheartening — not because it was staged but because of the motivation. The dancers presented a rehearsed, choreographed show that was anything but staged. It was perfect and amazing. It was lovely to experience a group of people using their talents in worship. At that moment, hip music or no hip music, I realized that this is a church where I could fit. I’ve always wondered why churches in America depend so strongly on their music ministries rather than pulling in their writers, dancers, illustrators, etc., to make worship more whole. It was exciting to experience a church that does just this.

And the sermon was incredible. The pastor reminded me a little bit of Alan Alda, and as a girl who grew up watching M*A*S*H, this comparison was quite endearing to me. Hawkeye Pierce sat on stage telling me about having a servant’s heart and making it my goal in 2008 to befriend someone who needs a friend. The second church experience was so refreshing. I will go back. And I’m excited.

Today, while going through a box of old college papers and pitching about 75% of them, I ran across my folder of poetry. Now, this folder is generally something I don’t know what to do with. It is where I stash all types of pieces of paper on which I have written anything even vaguely poetic in case it might some day inspire a great American masterpiece. So far all it has done is grow. In fact, I don’t think I have actually ever looked through and read all of this gobble-de-gook. I just keep adding to it. I must be saving up for something big.

When I opened the folder, I did feel a certain pang from those days when I wrote prolifically and had all types of friends nearby to be excited about it. They didn’t even have to read what I was writing — they were just excited that I was writing, the same type of excitement that my boyfriend expresses when I tell him I’m working on something, which isn’t too often these days.

As 2007 is drawing to a close, I’m thinking about doing some sort of 2007 wrap-up on le blog, which will be a synopsis of my top 5 greatest movies, books, TV shows, etc. to see if they’ve changed at all through the course of the year. When I started thinking about the books, I had to smack myself. I’ve been such a bad reader this year, and, consequently, a bad writer. This blog conflicts me a little. While it is good that I am practicing the discipline of writing every day (and believe me, having an audience helps, so thanks! I appreciate you all!), I am not practicing the discipline of re-writing. I sort of just type what I’m thinking and hit publish, only going back in to clarify or fix the punctuation. That, my friends, is not writing. It is drivel. Now, it may be enjoyable drivel, but it is still drivel.

Which brings me to a funny story. About three years ago, I had the honor of living with a house full of awesome girls during our senior year of college (and HK was a grad student). We were all sitting around the living room one afternoon working on homework, but HK was looking at a book her sister had left at our house after we threw the sister a Book Shower for her birthday. Book Showers are very popular birthday parties in my camp of things. Each guest that comes to the party must bring the birthday girl/boy a book as a gift. It can be used, new, whatever. It just has to be a book. I think we had three or four Book Showers in that house for various people the year that we lived there. Anyway, the book was given as a joke to HK’s sister, and the title was something like, How to Be a Good Christian. Now, I am a Christian and have nothing against Christianity as a religion. But I hate, hate, hate it when supposed Christian big-shots pretend like you can have a step-by-step guidebook on how to live a successful Christian life. It’s so trite and cliche and revolting. But all that is a post for another day.

I had the good fortune of living with other Christian women who believe the same as I do about how sad it is that these Christian big-shots shoot up their fellow believers with a bunch of jargon that has nothing to do with making the tough decisions. HK was looking at the book when I walked in, and all I heard was my other roommate A saying, “…why are you reading that Christian drivel?”

“What Christian drivel?” I asked.

A looked at me, smirked, and said, “Your diary.”

That was just another highlight of 616 Maple Street. We got our kicks at 616.

Anyway, back on the topic of my poetry folder… I found a sheet of paper full of lists. At the time that I wrote the lists, I’m pretty sure I was reading a chapter from The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, which is quite the brilliant little manuscript. In it, Shonagon writes these fantastic, concrete descriptions. Amazon.com’s summary of the book says, “The Pillow Book is a collection of anecdotes, memories of court and religious ceremonies, character sketches, lists of things the author enjoyed or loathed, places that interested her, diary entries, descriptions of nature, pilgrimages, conversations, poetry exchanges–indeed, almost everything that made up daily life for the upper classes in Japan during the Heian period. Her style is so eloquent, her observations so skillfully chosen, and her wit so sharp that even the smallest detail she records can attract and hold the attention of any modern reader.” Some of the lines will make you laugh out loud. Others will strike you in such a way that you will never forget them. The description is that precise.

When I was reading this book, I attempted to write lists of things similar to Shonogans’. Mine are certainly not as poignant as hers, but just the same, here they are:

Things the people with whom I grew up consider scandalous:

Theft
– Lashing out at other people
– Spending large amounts of money on frivolous things
– Pornography
– Murder
– Abuse
– Racial prejudice
– Benny Hinn

Pathetic Things:

The way a woman opens her mouth when she is putting on mascara
– A dead fish floating in a tank
– The accidental sight of a stranger’s naked body
– The uncontrol of what one eats
– Vomiting

Things of which I am afraid:

Dead things
– Grasshoppers and centipedes
– Being attacked by a crocodile
– Suffocation (in the forms of drowning or being buried alive)
– Heights
– Organized sports
– My own indifference and apathy
– The deaths of those close to me
– Leering men
– Small talk

Things I dislike but will endure to be polite:

Naughty children
– Eating tomatoes
– Hunger
– Bad poetry
– Gossip
– Bad coffee
– Teenage enthusiasm
– Discussions on politics
– Overt flirtatiousness
– Phone calls from acquaintances (I only like talking on the phone with people I know and trust. Otherwise, I loathe it. I’m one of those awkward phone people.)
– Exclamation point rampancy

Things I embrace:

– A good pen
– Hot baths
– A movie as a study break
– A good book on a rainy day (how trite)
– A creative project
– A deep conversation
– New shoes
– Old jeans
– Hard work
– 8 hours of sleep
– Physical affection
– Having friends over for dinner
– Theme parties
– Smiles from kind strangers
– A long email about nonsense
– Bare feet
– Mutts
– Old houses
– The smell of an extinguished candle

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.