Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fill her up.

I started off Thursday with good intentions. I was going to eat my fruits and vegetables, walk during my lunch break, and ward off temptation. I’m not sure if your office is similar to mine, but it seems we are constantly getting e-mails informing us of “goodies” in the conference room or birthday cake in the work room. I try to be strong. I stay away from store bought cake. I take my own healthy snack into staff meetings. But this week I was blind-sided. Not only did someone make an amazing homemade caramel cheesecake, but our local Rubio’s called and delivered chips and salsa to every department. By noon I had already had my fill of chips and salsa and cheesecake. The truth is, I never ate lunch on Thursday. I filled up on carbs and didn’t have room for any of the things my body actually needs.

Jeremiah 2:13 says “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

Jeremiah laments with the Lord that the Israelites have made faulty cisterns. They have spun their wheels and worked to an end that simply will not satisfy. How often do I fill up on the chips and salsa, forgetting what will actually satisfy my every need?

Isaiah 55:2 reads, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fair.”

This world is full of some amazing diversions, but we know in our hearts that there must be more than simply drinking coffee and following celebrity gossip. Jesus said in John 10:10 that he has come to bring the abundant life. Without him there is no life. I choose everyday whether to exist or to really live. May we learn to eat what is good and satisfying and not simply filling.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

He's a Little Boy, Daddy!*

In reading this blog, you might think that Ginger and I are the only siblings in our family. False. I know we've mentioned him in passing before, but there is a very special someone I think we need to tell you about: our brother.

Clay is four years younger than me, six and a half years younger than Ginger. It’s true: I am a middle child. This was great for me growing up, because I could play Barbie’s with my sister, and when she got too old and cool for that, I could play GI Joes and Micro Machines with Clay. It’s also great for me now. Ginger and I went to the same college and then lived in the same city for a short while before she moved to Arizona. Now Clay goes to college in the same city in which I live. Lucky me!

Clay is quite different than my sister and I. Neither Ginger nor I went the sorority route in college. But Clay chose a different path, and is very involved with his fraternity. For some reason it tickles me to no end to hear Clay talk about his "brothers.” (WHY is that so funny to me??) My sister and I went to a Christian college. My parents literally couldn't pay Clay to go there. Ginger and I like a variety of foods. Clay....well, we'd better not even go down that road. Ginger and I don't care if we look goofy in public or in pictures, but we find this frequently mortifies Clay (and I'm not gonna lie...we kind of love embarassing him).

Here’s an example of something that Clay finds hysterical, starring his comedy idol Andy Samberg:

The dynamic between Clay and I and Ginger and I is very different. When we’re together, Ginger and I love to go walking and we talk and laugh a lot and go to church. When we’re together, Clay and I love to watch funny YouTube videos and we make fun of each other a lot and watch multiple episodes of a TV show. A text message from Ginger is an inside joke or a picture of her doing something weird. A text message from Clay is one word (or more often, one letter—“K”). Of course, Clay and Ginger have a different dynamic with each other than they do with me. Both of them enjoy sports and me? Not so much. They both keep up with current music, while I generally don't know about a new artist unless I get a mix cd from Ginger or Julie. Also, it should be noted that Clay and Ginger only see each other on Christmas Eve.

Of course, for as different as Clay and I are, we really have a lot of similarities. We both love television and movies, and Clay has an impressive amount of knowledge about old films. How many college-age guys have you met that have seen “Bringing Up Baby” or “To Be or Not To Be?” Exactly. We like a lot of the same TV shows-- I was delighted when I got him addicted to "Heroes," and even more so when I hooked him on “Freaks and Geeks.” You couldn’t call either of us “neat” people (an area where we differ greatly from Ginger). We can both be pretty nostalgic, and are very protective of family traditions, just because that's how we always do it!

In closing, Clay has graciously agreed (after only some berating) to add some thoughts of his own to this blog, so I’ll leave you with a few tidbits directly from the mind of my brother. And if we’re lucky, this could become a semi-regular feature. Keep your fingers crossed!

If you don’t like the Cowboys, there’s something wrong with you. And your team sucks.
Noodles rule.
I love fish even though I can’t eat it.
George Lopez is not funny.
Yes, I know I look young. Please don’t tell me it’s a good thing.
I can beat you at laser tag.

*A very old inside joke. You would not find it as hilarious as we do, trust me.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Child in the hood.

And by hood I mean suburbia. I was recently taken down memory lane after discovering a disturbing article from EW. One of my childhood friends, Samantha Parkington, of American Girls fame is being murdered. The brand has just announce that they will be discontinuing all of their products related to Samantha.

For the uninitiated, American Girls is a mega book series that has caused thousands of young women across the world to desire an $80 doll. I began reading the books in first grade and fell in love with the likes of Samantha, Molly, Kirsten, Addy, and Felicity. Well, not really Molly. She was the ugly one. Set in a different time periods and full of colorful photos, these were great first reader books.

Samantha was my absolute favorite. Her clothes, the 1900’s, her fight to end child labor, it was as if someone had written these books just for me. So when the first catalogue came out announcing the dolls for purchase, I just about fainted from expectancy. I received my very own Samantha doll for my 8th birthday. (You know, now that I think about it - I'm pretty sure my parents made me pay $40 towards my doll. Ma and Pa were always teaching us to be responsible with money.)

Since receiving (or buying) Samantha, I’ve learned many important lessons.

1. When your mother offers to sew Samantha a dress instead of purchasing a $45 doll dress, accept the gift graciously. Even if you come home after school and discover that she has used a different pattern and fabric than agreed upon, just smile and hug your doll. Do not look your mother in the eye after she has been sewing for six hours and say, “This isn’t what I picked out.” You deserve all the screaming you have brought upon yourself.

2. Samantha’s lovely brown hair will not curl with a curling iron.

3. If you melt Samantha’s hair with a curling iron, cutting the hair will not help her to look better.

4. If you cut Samantha’s hair and enjoy doing so, do not cut the hair of your sister’s doll for fun, even if you think she looks way better.

5. Do not proceed to cut the hair off of almost every single Barbie that you and your sister own. It is not real hair. Plastic doesn’t take kindly to your scissors.

6. Even if you wish your Barbies looked different from each other, coloring their hair with a black magic marker is not the way to solve the problem. You will probably miss around the scalp and end up putting black dots on her face.

7. Don’t pay $80 for a doll.

Au revoir, dearest Samantha. I'll miss you and your orphanage escapes, near fatal boating accidents, and birthday shenanigans.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Don't even talk to me about that NEBRASKA

Hummingbird thermometers, youth group presidents, and a secret loathing of Nebraska. If any of these sound intriguing, join me for another peek at a couple of old "stories" of mine as well as a special bonus feature!

Story #1 (7th grade? 8th?)

I was going to hate it. I just knew I wouldn't make any new friends at all. They would all think I was a snob. I just knew it. It was easy to think I was, but really I wasn't. If you had just met me, though, you'd think I was. A snob, I mean. Let me tell you why:
My name is Charlotte Amanda Jones. I have soft blue eyes and curly blonde hair.

Perhaps this is what Past Valerie wished she looked like?

At school I'm the captain of my basketball team, head cheerleader, captain of the drill team, class president, editor of the school newspaper, I play the percussion in band, I rank #1 in class, I'm president of my youth group at church,


and I my boyfriend is the quarterback of the football team. My father is a reporter for the most watched TV channel [Of course.] and my mother is a psychyatrist. I live in a, well, a mansion and a limosene. [She lives in a limo?] My much older sister is a fashion designer. I am a sophomore at Sunnyside Christian Academy in California.

I just want to slap this girl, I really do. Fortunately the "story" ends there. I think Miss Perfect was going to move to another state not quite as glamorous as California and learn to make new friends or something. Hopefully there would also be an incident involving a new friend's fist. But probably not.

Story #2 (Again, probably either 7th or 8th)

It was a warm day, and I am really stretching it to simply call it “warm.” It was so incredibly hot and humid that staying inside was the only real solution for such a day as this was. [Are we quoting Esther here? What is this?] As I woke up that morning, I was only semi-surprised after looking out my window to find my younger sister Julia outside. I was surprised since my hummingbird thermometer read 93 degrees at 9 o’clock in the morning and she was out there. [93 degrees! We’re talking Fahrenheit, you guys! I don’t know how Julia is still alive in that boiling heat. And apparently the narrator is 87 years old, what with her hummingbird thermometer and all.] On the other hand, I was not all that astonished because my sister is in love with anything and everything that has leaves.

Also known as….nature?

All of nature you could say.

Oh, well there you go!

On this particular morning she was planting some new flowers in her miniature garden in the front lawn. Daddy always says, “As long as she keeps the yard nice, that’s one less thing I have to do.” [Daddy sounds like kind of a bum!] I stumbled out of bed and made my way to the kitchen.
“Good morning, Samantha dear. I’m glad you woke up so I could see you before I left,” said my mother.
"Left?" I asked. "Where are you going?"
"Oh, Samantha. Just because you have summer vacation from school doesn't mean that I have vacation from the studio."
Oh yeah. Mom works for advertisement agency.

Are you guys ready for my idea of what someone who works for an ad agency does?

She thinks up ideas and makes primitive sketches on paper. [Caveman sketches???] She doesn't like to say "the office" because she thinks it says stiff and boring. So she calls it "the studio" which is perfectly fine with me.

I'm sure Mom is glad she has Samantha's approval on this one!

Unfortunately, that is where this little "story" ends. I have no idea where it was headed. Most likely Samantha and Julia were going to get into some crazy hot weather shenanigans in the miniature garden.

BONUS! Valerie's favorites! I know it's a huge surprise that I would have made a list, but here's a list of my favorite things from when I was probably about...12? Yeah, we'll go with 12.

Valerie Morby
Color- green - 2nd purple
Number- 13
Day- Fri.
animal- panther (...Why?)
car- mustang
B.ball team- Rockets & Bulls
state- Texas
book- And Condors Danced & Gone w/ the Wind
TV show- Step by Step (Wow.)
movie- Newsies & Grease & That T. Y. Do (Too cumbersome to actually write out the words "That Thing You Do?")
song- That Thing Y. Do & We go Together & Holy Cow (aka King of New York) & 409
LEAST Favorites-
color- Pink
number- 7 (Again....why?)
Day- Wed
animal- chicken
B.ball team- Mavericks (I know! Such a traitor.)
state- Nebraska (I find this hilarious because I have no idea why I would have said this.)
TV show- Power Rangers
movie- The Secret of Rone Inish (Horrible movie my grandma rented for me once.)
song- It's all coming back to me (Lol! Oh, Celine....)
group- Beatles

Maybe someday I'll get down to the bottom of my deep seated hatred for chickens and the number 7.... If I ever figure it out, I'll let you know!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Flight Plan

Did you know that water on a United Airlines flight will set you back $2.00? All I wanted was a cup of tap water, something to wet my parched throat. What a bunch of Scrooges. And no, I don’t carry cash on me. I made this lovely discovery on my most recent trek back to Texas.

Thankfully I was able to enjoy the window seat without having to worry about my elbows being crushed by my neighbors. By the time I boarded for the flight home I was ready to enjoy a relaxing few hours reading “Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life.” But of course, I can’t relax on a flight – and not because of fear of flying. The whole experience is just dreadful for me. I hate having to lift my carry-on suitcase above my head and heave it into a bin, especially when I have to walk 15 rows back from my seat to do so, thus insuring that I will have to sit on the plane until most of the passengers have disembarked from the aircraft. I find my seat and then spend the next half hour hoping that the seat next to mine will somehow be empty. This was of course not the case on this most recent flight.

Let me set the scene for you. I was in row 6. Row 5 was the first row past first class. The woman in front of me had nowhere to store her carry-on bag, so she placed it below her seat – leaving me with nowhere to place my laptop bag. The mature response would have been to try and get her attention and simply ask her to move her bag. I also considered addressing the flight attendant, but she was clearly occupied elsewhere. So – wonderful person that I am – I place my laptop bag under the seat and ever so slowly begin to push with my legs hoping that either her bag would allow for the addition of my bag, or that she would my subtle message. But I realize this isn’t working. So I push harder. I’m even starting to get winded, but I’m trying not to let the people in my row notice. I’m starting to panic. I do not want to be parted with another of my bags. The last time someone took my bag it ended up in Indianapolis.

Finally the flight attendant comes by and suggests I put my bag in an overhead bin. No way. No in the heck way. I need my things next to me, I have rights. I begin my explanation calmly enough, but soon discover the pitch in my voice rising, the volume as well. Suddenly I’m 12 years old.

“It’s just that her bag is under the chair where my bag is supposed to fit and so I don’t have any leg room and I need to be able to do some work and I would try to get it to fit, but it won’t work and…”

Just then the woman in front of me apologizes profusely in a kind manner, removes her bag and quickly hands her possession to be packaged in the upper realm.

Whew. All good. Until an hour later I find myself calmly reading about the quirks of Amy Krouse Rosenthal when the gum I’ve been chewing drops from my mouth straight down my shirt – a la Nashvegas style. I begin going over my options to retrieve the foreign object. Do I ride the rest of the flight conscious of the problem? Do I make my way to the smallest lavatory in the world, hoping along the way that the gum does not lodge itself further and become stuck to my clothing? Or do I try and pull a Sydney Bristow, pull off the impossible while everyone else sits casually around me? I decide to take action, knowing all the while that this might one day make great material for a blog post…if I am brave enough to actually follow through with this. I slowly turn to gaze out the window at the passing clouds and pull my book up close to me. Perhaps I looked deep in thought, hopefully no one was watching.

Good news – I retrieved the gum – and of course I instinctively put it back in my mouth and begin chewing. Eat it, Sydney Bristow.

Photos by Booknero and Sierraromeo

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Waiting for my Pulitzer!

Y'all in for quite a treat today. I have delved deep into the folders and boxes of my past just for you. And Memory Lane has been pretty much hilarious for me to walk down. Won't you come along with me? All spelling and grammatical errors have been kept in tact....

First, let's start with a heartfelt letter from Ginger. This is a note I got from my dear sister while I was away at camp one summer.

Val- Hope you are having a great week at camp. enjoy all of the funnies. Oh and by the way you have a 7:00 VBS meeting Tuesday that is mandatory -G

Aww..... Isn't that sweet? And before you excuse her for being too young to write more, please know that she was a SENIOR in HIGH SCHOOL. Yeah. Oh, the love we have for each other....

Okay, enough sisterly nostalgia. Time for a story!

This is a story that I wrote for a school contest. In seventh grade. The theme of the contest was "Ready for Action." Apparently I took the idea of a theme and drove it into the ground. No, through the ground. The story is quite long and very boring, so I'll just give you a small sample.

Gladys Kanger --

Wait, WHAT? Gladys KANGER?? And the oddest name award goes to....

Gladys Kanger was always prepared. She wasn't a Boy Scout or anything. No, no of course not. One couldn't imagine the inconvenience of being a Boy Scout.

No, one couldn't, could one?

Or even a Girl Scout at that matter. The bugs, the flies, the tromping around to just nowhere in particular was out of the question. And above all, the uncleanliness. Yes, it was a fact. Gladys [really? Gladys?] absolutely hated camping, and especially, in a group such as with Boy or Girl Scouts.

This sentence makes no sense to me, not only because I am crazy comma happy, but also because I used to go camping ALL the TIME! I love camping! Also, it should be noted that I had quit the Girl Scouts the year before I wrote this. Coincidence?

She knew though also, that they did not just go camping. She knew that. Several years ago a flier had come in the mail about Girl Scouts.
"How about it Gladys?" her mother had asked. "You want to try it?"
Gladys, who loved her mother dearly and wanted to please her, replied sweetly, "Of course Mother. I'd love to. Sign me up right away!"

Mother dear, I think something's wrong with Gladys. Can we say BAD SEED? Creepy!

Two meetings later, she quit. It was terribly unorganized, she disliked the monotonous songs and recitations, and she hated the way they wasted their time on stupid little crafts only to be thrown away, or used as dust collectors by the unorganized that stubbornly refused to get rid of them.

Wow. Apparently I had a lot of Girl Scout aggression to take out! Let's skip ahead a bit....

Gladys loved oragnization, convenience, and structure. She had such qualities, and because of them many people said she was ready for action. Ready for a war, or kidnapping, or something of the sort to come along. She was ready.

Ready for WAR and KIDNAPPING??? My gosh, where does this child LIVE?

She never verbalized any unnatural or unkind feelings, never voiced them. That's why people liked her. She was organized, well kept, and always said nice and charming things.

Gladys is scaring me. Skipping ahead again....

Gladys had once almost fallen off a bridge in Connecticut [???], but she had been thinking, ready for action in her mind. [OF COURSE SHE WAS!] So when she tipped to one side in a split second she had the hard metal railing gripped in her hand.

You think this story is odd and insane? No. It is not. Keep reading.

When her younger brother was little she had ground this theory into his head. She'd pass by his door and whisper, 'ready for action!' into his bedroom [Creeptacular!!] and it was henceforth imbedded [Someone's been using their thesaurus!] on his little mind. On one occasion he was at the zoo running this saying through his mind [OF COURSE HE WAS!]. He stood in the rail by the gorilla cage, which is a good 10 feet down, and nearly fell in, but since ready for action was continually ringing around in his little head--

Time out! Why are there TWO references to how small the brother's head is? Is it abnormally small? Does he have a regular sized body and a tiny little skull? That's what I'm picturing here. Time in!

--he was prepared enough to throw himself backwards [oh whatEVer!] onto a grassy slope behind him which he had noticed before. [I hope that conveniently grassy slope was enough to cushion his little baby head!]

The rest of the story just as ridiculous and insane, and the climax of the "action" comes when Gladys suddenly comes to the realization that she has no life because all she does is think about being ready, but has nothing to be ready for. Last paragraph: Gladys discovered she loved sports. She still didn't think Girl Scouts was for her, but she became less critical of it and other things. Throughout her busy life, her motto stayed the same. I am ready for action!

Bet you never knew how much pleasure you could derive from gorillas and Girl Scouts and tiny heads and Connecticut, did you? You're amazed to hear I did NOT win the writing contest, I can tell.

Finally, let's take a look at an old writing exercise.

8th grade. The assignment was to write where we thought everyone in the class (there were only 16 of us) would end up in 20 years. I'll spare you the details of what happened to everyone else in the 8th grade, although it does involve an incident at a Hanson concert, a person missing in Africa, and a band called "The Horses." And yes, I came up with that name all by myself! If you need a band name, just get in touch with me. I have HUNDREDS of ideas like this. Anyway, I thought you might enjoy reading about where I saw myself in the year 2028! I'm halfway there, so let's see how I'm doing on my life goals.

I live in Galveston, Texas, and am married.

Strikes one and two. Also: Galveston? Really? Let's aim high in our future fantasies, shall we?

I have two children, twins.

Strike three!

9 years ago I began as a junior high school theatre teacher for 1 year.

Apparently this will happen next year! Score!

Since then, I have been directing.

One year of teaching middle school drama totally prepares you for being a director. Didn't you know?

I am working on my 4th movie. 2 of them I won best director Oscars for, and all three were nominated for best picture and 2 won.

Way to stay humble, Val! Can't win every award, now can we? Better leave some for the other junior high drama teachers!

I have a few more gems that I can't wait to share with you, but those will just have to wait for another day. Be sure to come back and read all about the most full-of-it character in the history of ever, Snobby McSnobberson, from Snobsville, California!

Until then, I am.... READY FOR ACTION!

[PS-- Check out my new favorite blog 30 is the new 13 for some hilarious stories of another former preteen "author." She's the inspiration for this entry, and her blog is amazing- you'll love it.]