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.

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.

On the Tip of My Tongue

March 22, 2008

Tonight, while trying to write the afore-promised post about D and my experience being evacuated from the movie theater, I got to thinking about writing. Actually, the thinking came after the attempt and failure to write and during the subsequent bath-time that followed.

I have mentioned before that for a long time, blogging is the only writing I’ve really been doing. And while we all love our blogs and spewing mundane daily events in the form of quippy, cute sentences, this is not real writing. Real writing is about 80% agony from the knowledge that no matter what I write and how good I feel about it, the first draft is always going to be terrible. There’s no getting around it. Real writing requires re-writing.

For a long time, I’ve been dancing around the idea of writing a novel. I may have mentioned it before… certainly to people in person, and maybe on the blog. I don’t quite remember. This idea has begun to pressure me more and more as I’m settling into my adult life and finally coming to terms with the fact that I will never be a child again, and therefore, will always have to have an adult job. Right now I am working as an assistant. A year ago, I was working as an assistant. And though I like my job now and am thankful for the work, in five years, I do not want to be working as an assistant. There’s nothing wrong with being an assistant. It takes brains and organization and hard work and stress just like any other job. But for the rest of my life? Eh. I think not.

Tonight in that subsequent bath that followed the discouraged blog failure, I believe I may have come up with the first line to my novel. At least for now. At least a starting point. And I realized something I never realized before about writing:

Writing should be like building a friendship. I don’t mean that like it sounds. A lot of writers will gush about how their characters became their best friends in the course of the book and how it was so sad to kill so and so off or do that terrible thing to such and such because man, my characters are amazing and SO REAL that THEY COULD BE MY REAL FRIENDS. Perhaps I’m being a jerk here, but that’s a little pathetic. Characters are a means to an end, the personification of a rhetorical device. Writing should be like building a friendship because one must approach it with a story rather than an agenda. If we make friends to prove something, our friendships are insincere and vacant. A real friendship begins with a story:

Hello, my name is Ann. I grew up in a small town in Minnesota. I have two parents, an older brother, a family dog, and I used to own a cat named Francis who was the coolest cat I’ve ever met. I miss her.

I’ve had such a hard time beginning my novel because I’ve forgotten the simple, lovely value of a story. I get caught up in the outline and the ending and the big picture of it all. Sure, Al Finnigan lives in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and was raised by his grandfather and has a Great Pyrenees named Muldoon who is blind in one eye and was divorced by his ex-wife Pam five years ago, BUT WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THIS STORY? WHAT DOES HE SYMBOLIZE? Tonight I realized that if I write the book the way I am thinking about it right now, it will be insincere and vacant. Instead, I have to begin with a story:

Pam spent most of her first marriage asking questions. Of course, the questions began even before the marriage did: What’s your name? Where are you from, Al? What brought you to Sheboygan? And are you still working in the lumber business? Do you like it?  Al was a man who needed questions. Even after they had vowed to love, honor, cherish, and share, Al needed the questions, or he would spend his evenings flattened against the couch, eating his cornflakes with crushed crackers and peanuts on top and watching the Discovery Channel, saying nothing about the day.

So, my question here for you all is, does this paragraph make you want to read more? It’s a first draft, so it’s rough and clunky and wordy, but are you intrigued? Be honest. For a while I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a novel blog. I’m still thinking about the implications of it, and I definitely need to get this one back up consistently before I take on any other web projects…. any thoughts on the idea of a novel blog?

It’s amazing how just seeing your best friend can fill your life with an aura of calm that you have not felt for a long, long time. That aura of calm definitely enveloped me when best friend L arrived on Thursday evening. It increased its envelopment of me when, on Friday afternoon, I received a call from my future employer, offering me a job.

Beginning Wednesday, I am employed as an assistant by a small, privately owned, organic juice company in Santa Monica. My work place is about four blocks from where Roommate J works and about a mile from the beach.

Oh, the exuberance. I am not a screamer nor a jumper, but if I were, screaming and jumping would ensue. Over the weekend, Roommates J and J and I also found a promising apartment.

I’d like to tell you a lot about all the incredible things we did this weekend, but that will have to wait until I have more time. Thanks for reading, friends and family, and thanks for praying for me. I appreciate your support and excitement.

Hugs.

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.

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On New Year’s Eve, after dropping my mom off the airport, D and I drove to Santa Monica to enjoy some of the 70-degree weather on the beach. It was amazing. Shortly after, rain fell for about three days straight. I’m glad I got that first little dose of California weather so that little surprise of rain didn’t daunt me. It was actually kind of nice.

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The City of Santa Monica from the beach

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Last week D and I drove to Los Angeles proper to meet up with G, D’s brother. We parked on a side street, and as we were walking back to the car, D stopped and said, “Whoa!”

“What?” I asked.

“Look,” he said.

I looked where he was looking, and lo and behold, three black cats sat statue-still, staring at us with their glowing yellow eyes.

“Creepy,” I said. And then I promptly pulled out my camera, hoping no drug dealers lived in the house and became suspicious about why I was snapping pictures of their cats.

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This is my new purse, the one I mentioned yesterday. I love it.

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D’s roommate JC and D sing karaoke at our local haunt, The Sunset Lounge. The Sunset Lounge is a little dive bar in Fullerton, boasting one room full of pool, darts, smoke, noise, and mostly terrible but fun karaoke-ing (karaoking??). D and the other members of the Six Men Who Rule the World From Three Bedrooms enjoy coming here to kick back and do boy things. I enjoy it as well, though my nicotine allergy sometimes prevents me from staying too long. The people are nice, no one is hitting on anyone or trying to impress anyone, and it’s so loud that I can just sit and watch without scrambling to make conversation. I tend to go on sensory overload whenever I’m in a busy place, and I like to just sit and watch and memorize the details of a place… the haphazard plaques on the wall that haven’t been dusted in years and the man in the leather jacket who reminds me of Spanky from The Little Rascals and the way that D smiles when he is having fun with his friends.

They keep trying to get me to do karaoke, but long ago I made a vow, a principle for my life, that karaoke would never spill from my lips.

“Ann, are you going to sing?” They always ask.

“Ann Clipperton and karaoke do not socialize,” I say.

Someone always pipes up with a point about how you don’t have to be able to sing to do karaoke.

Obviously.

“It’s not a question of whether or not I can sing,” I say. “It’s a question of principle and personal choice. Are you trying to compromise my ideals?”

So, nights after nights pass where Ann Clipperton refuses to socialize with karaoke, and D again suffers the embarrassment of having to sing Sonny and Cher’s “I’ve Got You Babe” with his brother.

My highlight of this past week has been D’s roommate JC singing “Blower’s Daughter” by Damien Rice for karaoke. When he first chose the song at the prompting of a new, terrific girl I met the other night, AM, I thought, “Hmm, that’s an interesting karaoke song.” But the second JC started singing, everyone at the table: B, AM, RS, D, G, and I all started singing along, with passion and flare. My favorite moment is when I started singing the tear-jerking, gentle chorus to D’s roommate B: “Can’t take my eyes off of you/Can’t take my eyes off of you…” and how we kept glancing innocently at D, who was glaring at us with his hands in the air, like, “What is this?”

Another favorite thing about this adventure in California is how much I like D’s friends. I feel so comfortable and safe and accepted with all his roommates. I love AM, the girl I met last night, and now I’ve got her digits. Our JBU friend RS flew in yesterday. D’s brother G remains an all-time favorite of mine. Spending time at G’s house in Hollywood with his roommates has also been grand. My fabulous roommate JS arrives this evening. I am so thankful to already have a solid network here on which to build. It only gets better from here, right? That would be terrific. Because here is already pretty good.

LOST and Savers

January 9, 2008

Today the job search continues.  Next week I think I will just go up to the Santa Monica area and scout and drop by a few of the places where I applied that didn’t specify “No walk-ins.”  This morning one of the relatives I am staying with told me that I don’t need to be anxious. “The right job is waiting for you,” he said.  Last night when I got home, I shared with the relatives that I’m the type of person who is very focused and likes to know what she is doing when she is doing it.

Yesterday I was feeling anxious, so I indulged in two things that always make me feel less anxious: purse shopping at a thrift store and watching several episodes of a favorite television show on DVD. The purse shopping I did in the morning, on my own, after spending about three hours at Panera searching for a job via the internet while intermittently playing Scrabble on Facebook. D took me out to Chick-Fil-A for lunch the other day (what a guy), and we drove by a giant thrift store called Savers. Yesterday I decided to return to Savers, thus widening my radius of daily activities. I tried on some clothes but found that Savers is a little expensive for a thrift store. In fact, I probably have the money-saving savvy to find similar items brand new for the same price or less by shopping end of season sales (I’m little, so I generally have good luck finding extravagantly cheap prices in my size, especially in shoes). If I would buy anything at Savers, it would have to be exceedingly unique and a perfect Ann-item. I found just such an item in a beautiful needlepoint purse. I forgot to bring my digital camera to Panera with me this morning, but I will try and remember to take a photograph of my new bag for my post tomorrow. It was made somewhere in China, which really isn’t that remarkable, except that it was probably sold in China as well. The tag brand name is written in Chinese characters. It’s super cute and very much my style.

In Savers, a woman about my age was ushering around an elderly woman (probably in her eighties) who was blind. I noticed them when I was flipping through the skirts, but didn’t overhear their conversation, so I didn’t realize that the woman was blind. When I was looking at the purses, they were behind me perusing a rack of jackets. The younger woman was enthusiastically describing a soft, cream-colored jacket to the older woman. She guided the woman’s hand to the jacket, and the woman touched it, murmuring at its softness. “This is so much fun,” the older woman told the younger woman.

After that I went to D’s house. For Christmas 2006, I bought him the first season of LOST. It has taken him this long to watch it, probably because I have scared him away a little bit through telling him all about how he’ll get addicted. I’ve never before encountered a more addicting show. Let’s not mention here how many classes I skipped that week I watched the first season a few years ago. After D and I were done with the first four episodes, three of his roommates watched the first disc, so we are all at the same point today and can watch the second disc together. I’m excited. Even though I don’t have a job yet, people have been encouraging me to savor this time of unemployment. The relatives reassured me of it yesterday evening. I’m welcome to stay there as long as I need to.

I am so very thankful for the people in my 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.