Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Kid Sister

A few anecdotes for you about a few of my experiences as a "kid sister"....

  • The day I was brought home from the hospital for the first time, my mother left me unattended and within reach of my 2 1/2 year-old sister, Ginger. When Mom re-entered the room, she found my doting older sister attempting to open my eyelids with pencils. Had she been successful, I might be writing my half of this blog on some sort of special braille-style keyboard due to the gouging of my eyeballs at a very early age. Admittedly, though, Ginger was probably expecting something a little more like this:

    (Scarily enough, that actually looks a bit like the two of us at that age.)

  • One of our favorite pasttimes was to construct elaborate houses for our Barbies. Not a Malibu Dream House, exactly-- more just creative furniture (jewelry boxes as coffee tables, etc.) and a second story that was on top of a chair. Always thinking ahead (read: conniving), Ginger would often slyly suggest that I build my house in this special area of our shared bedroom over here, see? Look how much room you have! And you can put the chair right here....yeah! Perfect! I wasn't thinking much ahead, usually, so I most likely didn't notice that my house did not have prime real estate by the end of the day. Because what I may have failed to mention is that my poor Barbie's house would inevitably end up in front of our bed-- our trundle bed. So come 8:30, Mom is having us clean up the Barbie mess, or at least the stuff in the way of sliding the extra bed out into the room. With Ginger's house safely in a corner, my poor handkerchief Barbie beds and rolled-up-socks couches were swept aside to make room for the trundle. This happened fairly often, so you'd think I would have figured out what was going on. But no, I was too swept up in my architectural blueprints and plans for the next grand Barbie mansion that I would again and again fail to build my house on solid ground.

Guess who is the one getting buried?
  • I remember a Saturday night when my parents were out that found my sister and I watching one of our very favorite shows, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. Something happened to one of Colleen's friends in that episode, but I didn't understand what they were talking about.
    Val: What does "rape" mean?
    And like a true wise older sister, she had just the right answer....

    Ginger: Go look it up in the dictionary.
    So I did just that. I pulled the heavy dictionary off of the bookshelf and flipped to the entry. After reading it, I returned to the couch, wide-eyed and silent, marginally scarred for the rest of my life by that dictionary.

    Kid sister! Kid sister! I'm gonna tell you everything I know! Kid sister and me....

Friday, April 25, 2008

Plan B

I love how life jumps in to shake up my schedule every once in a while. This week has been a prime example.

My boss was due to have her first baby by c-section in three weeks. She and her husband had toured the hospital, started making lists, and scheduled family to fly in.

On Wednesday Carey could be quoted as saying “In three weeks he will be here!!” multiple times. That evening she and I were to join some other staff members for a mission’s banquet. Carey followed me to my apartment where we dropped off my car and then piled into her Malibu. The dinner was on the opposite end of town, but we made good time and pulled into the hotel around 6:45pm. The parking lot was crazy, so we ended up walking for quite a ways. We found the rest of our staff and enjoyed dinner before the first speaker took the podium. Sometime around 8:00pm Carey walked forward to receive an award on behalf of our Children’s department. She waddled back to our table, sat down, and turned with the rest of us to watch a choir take the stage. The song was loud and robust and something about needing a miracle. Little did we know that the miracle was about to arrive.

“I think my water just broke.” What a sentence. It has the power to move people – as in get up in the middle of a banquet and flee through the kitchen to the nearest bathroom. I’m not sure what the other hundreds of people thought as the nine of us hurried out, we must have been quite a scene. A manager at the hotel kept asking if we needed a paramedic or an ambulance, but the consensus was to put Carey in the car and drive her a few miles down to the hospital. I remember grabbing her hand and holding it as we left the hotel. The weight of the moment was starting to seep in. Carey was wonderful and only a little teary-eyed until she was reassured that everything she was experiencing was normal. Her c-section had been scheduled because the baby was breech and had no room to move. Carey’s husband Eric was called and it took close to two minutes of convincing before he realized we weren’t pulling an ellaborate prank. He was to meet us as soon as possible at the hospital.

I was nominated to drive Carey’s Malibu to a hospital I had never been to. So of course I called my friend Virginia for directions, and to tell the story. The phone conversations that evening were hilarious as no one seemed to want to believe me. (I’m known as a bit of a prankster around the office). Good things to know if this same situation ever happens again: you cannot make left turns off of 7th street from 6pm-9pm. I finally found my way to the hospital but couldn’t locate the OB Triage building. A few phone calls later and I found my way to the ER parking lot. The sign in front of my spot said “FAMILY OR PATIENT PARKING ONLY.” I decided that I could qualify.

When I walked through the sliding doors Carey was in a wheelchair sipping water through a straw. We had to wait for a hospital representative to take us to our destination because we would “get lost.” As we waited Carey mentioned a long sharp pain down her side. Mikki’s reply, “That’s a real contraction Carey.” (Carey’s had contractions on and off for the past three months.) We finally made the trek up to Triage. The hospital staff pushed Carey while the 4 “family members” followed along. Daddy had still not arrived. We pulled into Triage and my phone continued to vibrate this entire journey with plenty of questions from concerned and overly excited friends. Carey checked in and eventually went back to some magical area where only one of us was selected to follow. This was not my specialty; therefore I sat and waited for Dad to show up.

Eric, the dad to be, flew through the elevator doors in a flash. He carried a camera bag and pulled a giant wheeling suitcase. His first words? “I’m like totally freaking out. I can’t stop sweating. Is there water anywhere?” I hurridly gave him a crash course in using Carey's Rebel XTI (camera) before watching him fly through another set of doors.

The good news, Eric made it in time. Renn was born one month early but managed a strong 6lb weigh in. He saw mom and dad at 11:00pm on April 23rd. I’ve been to the hospital twice since then. Renn is a looker, Carey is wonderful, and Eric will tear up every once in a while, or so I hear.

What a week. Plans went totally out the window, but what a miracle they were traded for!

Sunday, April 20, 2008


It amazes me that everything can be happening all at once. Other people are existing and living and going, even if I can’t see them. The rest of the world is there, doing things, even if I’m not there to witness it. At this moment, people are standing in line at the grocery store, are watching a movie, are walking through the woods. And in other countries, people are sleeping and getting on the subway and walking past the Louvre without looking up. It's all happening.

Sometimes walking through a crowd of people, I ponder what all these other people are doing out in about at the same moment I am. Why are they here and not at home? When I’m on a road trip and see a lot of cars out and about on the highway, I think, “Now what are they doing? Where are they going? I mean, I am traveling to the Beach House for vacation, but where on earth could they be going?” Or if I have to drive around town really late at night, I think, “Well I have an excuse, I had to run to the store, but what ever are they doing out on the road at this moment? It’s so late!” In my tiny little brain, I guess I can’t comprehend that they too had to go to the store, or they fell asleep at their friend’s house but really need to go back home to sleep because they have to leave for work in the morning, or they just happened to see a really late movie. Maybe? Something like that? What are they doing?

I do like to think about the possibilities of what others could be doing. Especially famous people. Even though for me and you people like Reese Witherspoon and Adam Sandler only exist in movies and on Extra, they are living their lives as well. Maybe right at this very second Halle Berry’s baby is spitting up on her and she has to hand the baby off to her model boyfriend because she just needs a shower! Perhaps Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck are lounging on the couch watching old episodes of Alias, because Jennifer wants Ben to at least watch the episode where she finally takes down ST6, even if he won't watch the whole series with her. Maybe Hayden Panettiere is getting into a car and she’s trying to pull the seatbelt across her but it has done that thing where it catches and it won’t let you pull it anymore, and it’s stuck, and why isn’t this working?!

Maybe at the moment I was writing this blog entry, you were brushing your teeth and thinking about what to wear to work tomorrow. Maybe you were trying to study but you kept getting distracted because your roommate was watching America’s Next Top Model. Maybe you were doing the dishes. Maybe you were having a late dinner at Taco Bell even though you’d rather be eating somewhere else but you’re there because you wanted to hang out with your friends and that’s the only place everyone could agree on. Maybe.

I am sitting here at my computer. I am a little bit tired. I am wearing shorts and a t-shirt. I am here. I am now.

Friday, April 18, 2008

I have a fever.

I have a fever and the only cure seems to be more reading.

I've always enjoyed reading. I'm not sure if the contests I entered in elementary school were national or regional, but I know that they were a wonderful incentive. Some awarded personal pan pizzas from the Hut while another gave ice cream and hamburgers from Braum's. Wouldn't it be amazing if there were reading incentives for adults? Imagine how books would fly off the shelves if Best Buy offered 30% off coupons for reading 3,000 pages. Or consider Jamba Juice stamp cards that reward a free smoothie for every other book you read. Someone should get on this, if for no other reason than the sake of my brother who reads once a year.

My friend Becca doesn't enjoy reading fiction. I don't understand and cannot comprehend what that world feels like. We went on a trip to Florida a few years ago to rest after 12 weeks of working at summer camp. I piled Garrison Keillor, J.K. Rowling, and other favorites into my crowded suitcase. Becca tried. I watched her carry a work of fiction down to the beach every morning as she tried in vain to get past the first 4 chapters. She explained to me that deep down inside she feels fiction is a waste of time. So instead, she brought out some light reading, John Piper, to enjoy our little vacation.
I on the other hand, have to add non-fiction to my diet as if it were green leafy vegetables. I enjoy a good memoir or biography, but cannot sit for hours on end in heavy theology or even philosophy. Like green beans, I eat them at the start of a meal with large doses of diet coke to bribe myself to continue. I do not find non-fiction to be a waste of time, but I do mainly crave the carbs I find in a fictional story.

So here's my real problem. I'm currently reading 4 books and listening to another on CD in the car. I'm not mixing my stories, or unable to follow along. My diet this week contains a memoir, a work of non-fiction, a light-hearted piece of fiction, and a dose of spiritual encouragement. This doesn't sound like much of an issue, until you look and see what's awaiting me in my reading chair. It's as if someone has dropped off a bag of candy and I have to continue reminding myself to eat my vegetables and wait for dessert until I've finished everything already on my plate. The desserts awaiting me were selected from the library on Sunday. I'm not entirely certain what compelled me to do so, but I left with too many books. My book selections are not like 2nd grade where I could easily see myself getting through all 15 books in the allotted check out time. When will I possibly find time to read the 5 awaiting me? (For some reason I have an aversion to renewing my books. I take this to be a form of weakness. My goal is to finish everything by the original due date.)

Going to the library is just as thrilling for me as going to a cookie and sweets shop is for most of my co-workers. I see that gleam in their eye as they suggest a quick run to Paradise Bakery, or to obtain cookie dough from the kitchen at work. I plan my library visits days in advance. I make my selections deliberately, often picking books off the shelf, walking around with them for an hour, only return them for another time. I've only one book and two dvds to return to the library this afternoon, but I'm already having to give myself a stern talking to. "No more new books until you finish these...unless you find a really good one*."

Currently Reading:
A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
In This Mountain by Jan Karon
unChristian by David Kinnaman

On Deck in the Reading Chair:
Big Cherry Holler by Adriana Trigiani
More Women Travel edited by Natania Jansz and Miranda Davies
A Year of Reading by Elisabeth Ellington and Jane Freimiller, Ph. D.

* Recommendations welcome! Maybe I need more potassium in my diet.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Mixed Bag

  • I spent most of this weekend preparing for a work event, which finally occured Sunday afternoon. I spent four hours running a bean bag toss. This activity made me a lot more sore than it really had the right to. I am still suffering. So this evening I thought a bath would soothe my wimpy aching bean bag muscles. I stopped at the drugstore on my street and bought a bubble bath product called Calgon Take Me Away! (I like to imagine that the person who came up with this particular title was just tickled to death with their creativity.) But it should be noted that even if you are sitting there and thinking to yourself how clever this product sounds, don't be fooled. It will simply turn your bathwater blue and produce no bubbles, no matter how high you turn up the water pressure or how much you attempt to swish around the water with your hand. Verdict: Calgon Take me Away! is a bust.

  • A few months ago I tripped on the stairs up to my apartment and fell on my own bags of groceries, breaking a bottle of olive oil all over the other foods and dripping all the way up the rest of the stairs, on the landing, on the carpet, on the kitchen floor. I am dumb.

  • I think I get far too much excitement from tearing the crinkly plastic off a new dvd, removing the stickers, and finding the right place for it among my carefully alphabetized movies.

  • One time when I was in the second grade I happened to pass by the third grade classroom as they were reciting their multiplication tables. I remember being very panicked about this, and worried about the fact that I didn't know multiplication, so of course I wouldn't do well in third grade-- you have to know how to multiply there! But then I felt the strangest sense of calm, and clearly thought to myself that surely someone would have to teach me that along the way; I wasn't expected to know that now. Even today when I get nervous about something like that, I think back to my little lesson on when to worry. "Don't be anxious," I tell myself. "Someone will teach you. You'll know when you get there."

  • I hope Jason Castro and David Cook are the final two contestants left on American Idol. I just love them. I am convinced that when they look into the camera, they are looking at me.

  • Veggie Wheat Thins Toasted Chips are delicious. Garden Vegetable Wheat Thins, however, are not.

  • I don't get what people mean when they say knew how Titanic would end. Well of course the boat sinks! Do you not watch any historical fiction movies because you know how they end? You already know the South loses, so why watch Gone with the Wind? Black Hawk Down was certainly well documented, what else is there to see? Heck, isn't the ending kind of given away in the title of The Assasination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford? Like I said, I don't understand this logic.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Paper Jams and Green Beans

I’m sitting in a training meeting. I feel as if this guy is speaking in a different language while discussing quantum physics. He’s been brought in to talk about the new fancy copier/scanner that can do just about anything. He has an audience of 12 of us and I was apparently the only one shocked that this meeting would require more than 10 minutes of time. I started out listening and even followed him on clearing paper jams…but now I am obviously not learning about paper weight restrictions. That’s the last three words he said and I’m now tuning this out again. I probably look like the best student in the room. I’m the only one who looks to be taking detailed notes. I nod my head from time to time and look up. I think I’m very good at looking like I’m paying attention.

I wonder, should I feel guilty for my behavior? I don’t think so. I’ve used the copier a total of 10 times in the last year and a half. I don’t copy the bulletins or coloring sheets.

I’ve decided to let go of guilt. Granted, some guilt is healthy and brings repentance…but then again some guilt is self-imposed. Therefore, I will not feel guilty for the following:

-Not exercising every day. I’m so over this. I will not become a sloth sitting on my couch, but I will not feel personal pain over working and then going to class and then coming home and crashing. OVER IT.

-Counting down the minutes left to go in my college Spanish class. 1 hour 23 minutes and 12 seconds left in this class. 1 hour 22 minutes and 58 seconds left in this class. 1 hour 22 minutes and 39 seconds left in this class.

-Not eating the frozen banana flavored waffles that have been sitting in my freezer since November. They were purchased by a guest who has to eat gluten free food…that doesn’t me I have to.

-Staying on the couch for 3 straight hours after arriving home from work on Sundays.

-Throwing everything away. I don’t save tickets, playbills, dried flowers.

-Not throwing away every letter or card ever written to me that has more than “Happy Birthday” written on the inside.

-Having a Diet Coke…whenever I feel like it, and none of my family members in the dental field will be able to convince me otherwise.

-Not liking green beans. The End.

-Lack of knowledge regarding memorabilia. I don’t know the name of the coach, the player, the team, the lead singer, the actor, the character name, the location. Don’t know and doing just fine.

-Over capitalizing words. Sometimes I just Enjoy Emphasizing things for GOOD measure.

-Having writer’s block. It’s real and ugly and rears its head as soon as I have any sort of a creative deadline.

-Wearing clothes forever. You can nominate me for “What Not to Wear.” I don’t care.

-Indulging myself in blog entries. Who really wants to read lists...and yet...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

One Song Before the Sun Sets*

The List. Things to Do Before I Die:

Build up a fabulous collection of board games.
Ride in a hot air balloon.
Visit Charleston, SC.
Own a giant, plush, comfy reading chair.
Learn how to swing a golf club and hit the ball a respectable distance.
Make a quilt.
See the Grand Canyon.
Watch all the Academy Award Best Picture winners.
Visit Pearl Harbor.
Tie a tie.
Go to an amazing movie premiere. With actors I am a FAN of.
Learn how to keep my home clean for longer than 13.5 days.
Read the whole Bible. Cover to cover.
Learn to be a good movie reviewer. And maybe get a review published somewhere/someday.
Send more snail mail.
Visit New Zealand.
Make a Harry Potter fan out of someone who thinks the books are evil/kid's books/not worth reading.
Stand in Times Square.
Find and possibly live in a town that resembles Elmwood Springs.
Be a part of a Live Studio Audience. As in "This episode of ____ was filmed before a live studio audience."
Do something proactive about anti-smoking. Attend a rally/pass a law/make a petition/put up posters of gross lungs all over town. Something.
Ice skate outside. In the snow.
Learn more about Hearst Castle and then revisit Hearst Castle.
Ride in a fancy limo.
Write a book.
Plant a tree and watch it grow to be taller than me.
Take a ride on the London Eye.
Read all of Jane Austen's novels.
Own a house with a porch swing.
Get a professional massage. Let's just make it the whole spa experience.
Make a real, person sized snowman. Not the little miniature ones us Texans are usually forced to create.
Figure out the appeal of Flavaflav.
Visit New York at Christmas and see the giant tree at Rockefeller Center.
Dance in the street.
Dance in the rain.
Learn to dance so that I do not look ridiculous.
Convince the world to stop using "ya'll." It's "y'all."
Make an interesting/special/surprising find at an antique shop.
Visit a movie studio.
Ride a horse faster than they can be ridden on trail rides. (Dani?)
Learn sign language.
Cook more dinners than I microwave.
Visit a third world country and have my world rocked.
Attend a professional magic show.
See Mount Rushmore.
Own a pair of fanstasically amazing, crazy, fabulous, eye-catching pair of shoes. Expensive ones.
Show a family member around my old neighborhood in Oxford.
Paint a mountain landscape like Bob Ross.
Be on a boat over the very spot where the Titanic sank.
Live somewhere with a ridiculously large tree where I can hang a looooong swing from a tall branch.
Learn to Rest in the Lord.


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Waiting to Explicate

Sometimes waiting is the worst. Especially in the case of: the night before the first day of school, Christmas Eve, grocery store lines, movie theatre slides before the previews, and long traffic lights with censors that don’t pick up your car so you back up and pull forward repeatedly in hopes that you will trip the sensor. I’m sure there are many other things that come to mind. I know much of it has to do with our culture. I need my microwave burrito faster and I find myself frustrated when the Internet takes too long to load. Sometimes I scream loudly on my insides about having to wait, and often times in my car, I scream on the outside.

I think I’ve been doing a little bit of screaming. I’m generally quite content and have been for a good period of time. I’ve tried to tell myself that wishing time away will result in a life not fully lived, and who wants that? I’m in a little bit of a holding pattern for the minute. I’m hoping that I’m not missing out on anything, but I really feel as if I have been holding my breath for too long and fear that I may just faint before I’m giving the OK to come up for some water. Breathe.

Last week I walked into my photography class full of anticipation. We would be presenting our goals and desires to the whole class and then a sample of some of our work. I had typed out my answer and even brought along some pieces by other photographers to illustrate the style of photography that I admire. I kept waiting for my name to be called. I was called second to last out of the whole class. I really felt sick to my stomach and kept stacking my papers in various orders. I wasn’t nervous to present, I just couldn’t concentrate on anyone else while I was waiting. Please God don’t let me be like this in real life! As I wait to hear about an opportunity for adventure this fall, I’m reminded of my inner response in photography class. Am I so wrapped up in presenting/living my story, that I’m ignoring the stories all around me?

I learned a lot by going last in my class…well, second to last. I couldn’t believe the emotional response I had by the time it was my turn. I began to ramble, didn’t even pull out my typed goals, and showed only one example of photography I admire. My whole plan went down the drain. Instead, I sat on the front of the desk and started at a slow pace and ended up high pitched and teary-eyed speaking about the LRA and Night Commuting in Uganda. When I finally finished and sat down at my desk I felt flushed and a little foolish. Class was eventually dismissed around 9:15pm and I shrinked out of the room wanting to transport to my car. I’m by far the youngest in my class and the only one who had been so emotional in their explanation. I walked across the parking lot speaking out loud, “Stupid! Just stick to your paper!”

In retrospect, I’m fine with my emotional presentation. I’m also fine with this waiting period. I just like to be prepared and this portion of time between decision and action is challenging me and reminding me to take deep breaths and just wait, for Pete’s sake.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Leading Lady

"The Holiday" is not a perfect movie. It is, at best, a good movie. A movie that could be vastly improved upon doing the following:

1. Remove Cameron Diaz from the film.

Aaaaaand.... Yep. I think that about does it. "The Holiday" would have been an infinitely better movie if the entire story had centered on the Kate Winslet character of Iris. I specifically love the relationship between her and her elderly writer neighbor, Arthur Abbott. He is such a charming old man, and I find his (fictional) stories of old Hollywood utterly fascinating.

One of my favorite parts in the movie occurs when Iris and Arthur go out to dinner. Iris is lamenting about the status of her love life to Arthur when he gently admonishes her in movie speak:

"Iris, in the movies we have leading ladies and we have the best friend. You, I can tell, are a leading lady, but for some reason you are behaving like the best friend."

This line resonated with me, though even now I can't pinpoint why. How does this apply to me? And ultimately-- what is a leading lady, anyway?

Oh sure, the leading lady is supposed to be the Elizabeth Taylors and the Lauren Bacalls of the world. The best friends are the Celeste Holms and the Debbie Reynolds of the world. But really, what does that even mean?

In my mind, Leading Lady is a tall, gorgeous woman who is always dressed fashionably, wears amazing high heels, and maybe even smokes using a cigarette holder. The action happens around her. She is the center of attention. She makes things happen.

Best Friend seems to be the one who is a little shorter and who pops in and out of the scene as the story calls for her. She is at the disposal of the leading lady and gives whitty one liners that makes the men laugh. And even though they're laughing with Best Friend, the men still end up leaving with Leading Lady.

But seriously, is that even real?

Within the confines of a movie, yes. Within my own life...sometimes.

In college I lived with three gorgeous, hilarious, God-fearing women who always had fascinating and interesting things going on in their lives. They were constantly being sung to in the cafeteria, picked up by military men, and overbooked for Valentine's Day. They were Stars. And there were times, I must admit, I consciously saw myself as "the friend" in each of their stories. Does this mean I will always be Best Friend? Well, sometimes I might say yes. But hopefully it's not forever.

I think being Leading Lady in your own life must entail knowing where you're going and what you're doing. Taking no prisoners. Saving the day. Being fabulous. Living with excitement. Taking control.

That, I think, is the key. You're in control of your own life and you are leading your life. You are the Leading Lady.

I'm still learning to be Leading Lady. I don't always know how to be her. But it's a process. And I'm excited to get there. Just don't make me smoke a cigarette.