Sunday, February 27, 2011

Rice, Articles and a Song

This is not a food blog. It's not. But because it is a life blog and food is a part of life, food is making another brief appearance. I desperately want to cook well, both because I enjoy eating good food and I know you do too. And because I might want to invite you to dinner one of these days, good food is a must for us both. They say practice makes perfect. Really? Because this is the third meal I've recently tried to make with long grain brown rice, and this is the third time I've eaten crunchy rice. Enough is enough! Just you wait, Rice.

Remember last post when I was procrastinating for my critique group? Turns out I was way over-prepared. I also discovered that my writing and editing abilities will receive a nice kick in the pants, making for more interesting and well-written blog posts. Hooray! 

I talked about for women only a short while ago, and my mind has mulled. To add to the stack of thoughts, a friend sent me two articles that, combined with the book, make a girl's brain all but burst. Article One addresses why women are still single, and is interesting, abrasive and crass. Article Two is the most thorough explanation I've yet seen about men in their 20's. It is an excerpt from the book Manning Up: How the Rise of Women has Turned Men into Boys. The idea that feminism created much of this mess has fascinated me for a while, and I'm thrilled Kay Hymowitz decided to write a book on it. In many ways, feminism backfired, and I want to know what we can do about it. 

After brainstorming all week, I came up with zero solutions (this is the same reason I read the news in moderate-to-low doses). I feel I owe my generation every ounce of effort I can muster because our issues run deep and are of monstrous proportion. What can a twiggy 25-year-old who doesn't read the news possibly do to help? My best bet is to pray. And then to live my life like I believe that both men and women are irreplaceable, worthwhile and necessary to each other. When change seems unlikely and I don't know that I will make a difference, it's tempting to either despair or become indifferent. But when I consider God and His promises to redeem mankind, His infinite knowledge and grace, I can breathe again and be content to live the best way I know how in my little corner of the world -- and let the results be up to Him.

The same friend that shared the articles shared this song. It's a beautiful song, and I'm resentful to it right now because I have to admit to being a closet sap. This song is sappy and dramatic, but I love it. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rock People

I'm procrastinating like you wouldn't believe. My first-ever writer's critique group is on Saturday, and it dawned on me earlier this week that I have to bring something to the group to have critiqued. Here I sit, wondering what could possibly come out of my head that will be worthy of this critique group's time. So I've talked on the phone, sorted through the mail, eaten a burrito, made a hot cup o' tea, and pondered whether I'd rather be sitting at Agia Sophia to write this masterpiece. And now I'm blogging.

What I'm really going to write about is what I wish I was doing right now instead of procrastinating: rock climbing. More specifically, tonight I'm going to tell you about the people of rock climbing, and my favorite characteristic of theirs. All rock people seem to have one thing in common. They're obstinate. What exactly does this mean? defines it this way:

  1. firmly or stubbornly adhering to one's purpose, opinion, etc.; not yielding to argument, persuasion, or entreaty.
  2. characterized by inflexible persistence or an unyielding attitude.

That sounds about right. Most rock people come to the gym with a very specific purpose in mind. It could be an entire climb, it could be a portion of a climb, or it could even be one single move. They will climb, and more often than not, they will fail. But they'll rest, stare at the problem, talk to other climbers about it, and try it again. Climb, fail, repeat. Climb, fail, repeat. Climb, fail, ask for help, repeat. Climb, success!!!, next climb. That's how it works. And every single one of us loves it. The rock is both our rival and our teammate. 

We are people with an insatiable desire to conquer challenges. But there's one thing I don't understand about them. After crazy amounts of effort, I don't see anyone celebrate when they actually achieve what they've been working for! When I finish what I've been working (especially if it's taken me several days), I want to backflip, pop the champagne, scream, something. But no, I have to get off the wall, act unaffected and then happily move on to the next climb.  

I've never done anything else in my life with people who can be so frustrated with something yet continue to do it, and do it, and do it, until they get it. I've also never seen any of them angry about it. They are happy to be doing it, because they know it's making them better climbers. They're a peaceful, easygoing bunch. Remarkable. 

I'm now 30 minutes closer to Saturday. Time for me to practice being obstinate and write something impossibly witty, intelligent, and wise beyond my years. 


Sunday, February 20, 2011

for women only. the book.

At my small office, I am the only young single. When my good-hearted coworker handed me two relationship/dating books, I sighed, might have muttered something, and put the books on the bottom of the pile on my bookcase. After weeks of collecting dust and for reasons unbeknownst to me, I picked one up and started reading.

I couldn't put it down. 

If you are a woman, you must read for women only by Shaunti Feldhahn. It's been a long time since I've been "in love" and quite frankly, I've avoided it. All the evidence seems to point to men only wanting women around for sex, and to women only wanting men around for free food and the chance to point out all the ways they are so not like the real men in romantic comedies. Not enticing. I'd rather be on my own, thank you very much. 

 If what I just read in this book is true, I have great reason to hope that two people can be in love because they deeply enjoy each other and have willingly committed to each other for life. Yes, I said willingly. I also discovered that there is a lot more depth and goodness to men than women like to admit. And that women are more responsible for our current complaints with men than women like to admit. I don't say that to put a guilt trip on women, and the author certainly doesn't approach it that way. But I closed the book feeling an immense (but exhilarating) responsibility to the man I marry and to men in general. 

Women have the power to make or break a man, and I think we've misfired. Big time. I've decided that in my life, it's time to reboot. It's time to stop believing what other people say about men and women and start believing in men and respecting them for who they are. I need to get on my knees and ask God to help, because these preconceptions are years old and they run deep. But it is possible to change, and it must begin right here, in my own heart and mind. But by golly, it is worth every ounce of effort! I'm pumped. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pulling It Off

Style is a funny thing. Everyone has a style, because everyone has been told, "This is so you!" ...To which {through a pasted smile} we often think to ourselves, "Oh no, please no...what about that made you think of me?" But that's beside the point.

What is style, anyway? I think of it as the way someone goes about his life. Style is revealed in everything, from what a person decides to wear, to how she drives, to the way her mouth moves when she talks. And in how many times a day she decides to eat toast.

For today's post, let's stick to the most obvious form of style: our clothing. If we still lived in the Garden of Eden and didn't have clothes to worry about, what would you be known for? Would you be known for your humor, your wit, your reserved nature, your awkwardness? Would you be the drama queen, the guy who takes himself way too seriously, or the creative one? Think about your answer, then think about clothing combos that demonstrate those qualities. Fig leaves don't count.

Denslow's Animal Fair
The beauty of this approach is that you have the option to compare yourself to no one. When you offer a compliment, it can be honestly that: a compliment, with no strings attached. We must admit that most of us can't pull off any look we want. Every person has boundaries that he shouldn't cross, and when he recognizes that someone outside his boundaries has done well, he can say so without comparing himself. But this is where it's fun, because you can take something you admire and twist it so it works within your style. Creativity is, after all, a new twist on an old idea.

A small voice inside my head keeps repeating that this is really about being comfortable with how we've been created. And that small voice is right. It's not about clothing. When we're comfortable with how our Creator has made us, we don't need to worry about how we're being perceived or if people think we're "cool" or not. Because we're not. We can simply enjoy what's around us, enjoy the people right in front of us without being threatened by them.

What if Picasso had spent his whole life trying to be Van Gogh?

Or if Tolstoy decided he wanted to write just like Shakespeare?

Whoever you are, be comfortable. I don't know why it's so tempting to pretend sometimes, but let's not. Let's be restless until we've broken out of the claustrophobia-inducing walls of ourselves and seen the big, wide, beautiful world out there. And then we can laugh because of how utterly different the world is from each of us, but marvel at how we each bring something remarkable to it that is absolutely necessary. So be yourself, because we need you.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Sweater and a Beard

Steve met Dorothy when British Airways transferred him from Britain to Canada. Dorothy loved people and Steve was shy, but they fell in love. Steve returned to Britain and (*gasp*) said good-bye to Dorothy. Years and years went by, but neither of them moved on. When Steve returned to Canada, Dorothy was in her late thirties. He asked her to be his wife, and on Valentine's Day they were married. Later that year, 39-year-old Dorothy gave birth to her first child, David. 

Thirty-two years later, a full-bearded David sat in a restaurant on Valentine's Day. His friend's wife knew Lorra Beth, a woman that Dave simply had to meet. They arranged to introduce them over a Valentine's dinner. Lorra Beth walked in wearing an ivory sweater, and Dave thought, "Wow." She thought, "Beard." Over dinner, the matchmakers did most of the talking, leaving very little room for David and Lorra Beth to get to know each other. He drove her home, they agreed to keep in touch, and then they fell in love. 

Tonight, Dave and Lorra Beth are celebrating exactly thirty years since they met.

Most people think weddings and blind dates on Valentine's Day are cheesy, and they may be. But my Grandpa Steve and Grandma Dot, and my parents, Dave and Lorra Beth, may say otherwise. And for two couples who have stayed together through thick and thin and are still in love, I'd say a little bit of cheesy is allowed. 

Happy Valentine's Day, Mom and Dad. Thirty more? 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Questions from a Finger Painter

Creativity has fascinated me since I was a little girl. I never had much success creating a piece of art beyond finger painting, but I so badly wanted to know what the world looked like to an artist. I was convinced it looked different. If I thought the world was beautiful, the world through an artist's eyes must be indescribable! Were colors more vibrant in their eyes? Did they see angles I missed? Did they feel more deeply than I did? Was every artist a heartbroken one? From where did this passion come, and where could I get it?

How did they do it? How did they start with a blank canvas and paint that? How did they put those notes together when they sat at the piano? How did they think of such a brilliant screenplay, or such an unusual color scheme? I wanted to know!!

I've been privileged to become close friends with several artists or otherwise creative people, and I was right in many ways. They do see the world beautifully. Many of them see a raw, real place, and they are uninhibited with how they live in it and make it their home. They have an ability to see beauty in pain and the courage to express life's highest and lowest moments.

This painting was done by a dear friend of mine, who painted it to symbolize something we've talked about many times: there are people that smell of the sea. It's a look in their eyes or something in their stride that tells us they've been to the edge of the world and back (literally or figuratively), spent time wrestling through difficult things and have reached a place where they're comfortable being their real, authentic person. We want to be those people.

Since my eyes were opened to who Jesus Christ really is, I see creativity in a whole new light. The luster of a consumer lifestyle is swallowed by the astounding beauty and hope in this world, followed by even greater beauty and hope in the next. This is where I find the motivation and courage to create something myself, and to grow an always deepening appreciation for art and creativity.

Monday, February 7, 2011

February: the Month of Hope

Love is in the air. Several friends have changed their relationship status to "Engaged" over the last month (congrats to Jared&MC, Mike&Lexee, Eric&Kristin), and my woman's intuition tells me there are several more fellas sitting on some bling. It's fitting. Valentine's Day is Monday, the Superbowl was yesterday...

Yep. I find it ironic that America's largest sporting event is the weekend before Love Day. I suppose we had to even out the scales: sports, chips and beer for the guys... chocolate and googly-eyes for the ladies. Everyone can make it through February with full hearts, if everything works out. 

It's a month of hope. Women hope that the man of their dreams will plan the perfect date, and those who don't have the man hope he arrives...and soon. Men hope their team makes it all the way to the big game, and if not, they root for the lesser of two evils. 

I'm not stereotyping, am I?? I'm sitting in Barnes & Noble as I type this, and it's crowded. I'm nervous that people are reading over my shoulder, and that is one of my peeves. Last night I had a conversation (at a Super Bowl party, no less) that got me riled up -- a phenomenon that has not happened in a good while. There were severe generalizations made and I wasn't sure what to do except to write, including generalizations of my own. So here are my generalizations. Read, but please don't take me too seriously today. 

Whatever your February hopes are, I hope they don't define you. Neither of these things are worth basing our lives on. Enjoy all that red and pink, hug a Pittsburgh fan, and excuse today's sarcasm. I'll be back to my normal self very soon. 

Lady, I hope you made the Super Bowl fun for your Man, and Man, I hope you make Valentine's Day fun for your Lady. And if you don't have a Lady or a Man (or a winning team), then don't worry, be happy. 

*til next time...