Thursday, January 17, 2013

Adventures in Party-Going -- OR -- Don't Ever Trust A Chatty Bank Teller

The bank teller smiled and began printing out my receipts.  I smiled back and gave my normal answer to the typical and thoughtless question of, "How are you doing today?"

"Oh, I'm fine, thank you." Winsome smile.  "How are you?"

He was alright.  His feet were hurting.  He was pretty sure he fractured his finger but he decided against going to the doctor because, after all, what can they do about fingers except ice and tape?  He was having surgery next week.  Oh, it was alright, just a part of life.  He wasn't looking forward to being laid up in bed for recovery, tough.  This would be knee surgery.  Yeah, knee surgery wouldn't be too fun, you know.  But it's cool, it's alright.  No big deal.  "Oh, hey, next week we're having a little kick-off party here.  It'll be really fun: we're going to block off the parking lot, we'll set up tents and tables and have food and stuff.  It will be really low-key, like an open house.  You should stop by."

A party?  I thought it sounded great, so I said, "Sure!  I'll tell the people at my office, and we'll check it out." 

I walked back to the office and told the others about the kick-off party.

"Umm...We should go."
"There will probably be free stuff."
"I wonder who is catering..."
"Yeah, let's be sure to do it!"

The week passed and yesterday, at about 3:15, I realized it was the day of the party.  No one else in the office could make it - people were very busy - but I decided I would brave it on my own.

"Be sure to bring back stuff for us!"
"Do you want a bag?" - "A bag??  I'm not showing up with a bag to bring back goodies.  Sheesh.  Honestly."

Shaking my head at the idea of bringing a bag to put goodies in, I walked the short distance to the bank, without a second thought to my outfit: yoga pants, an Oxnard Fire t-shirt, tennis shoes, and a neon green running jacket.  After all, I was only heading to an outdoor open house.  No biggie.

I saw the Country Catering truck in the parking lot and smiled.  At least the food would be good.  I couldn't see any tents or tables, though, but that didn't concern me because I am a doofus.  I kept heading toward the bank.

As I walked closer I noticed the people around me seemed very well-dressed.

Very well-dressed.

I suddenly started thinking about my workout clothes.  Steph.  Turn around.  I ignored the little voice in my head.  No, I told myself.  This can be salvaged.  Just act like you belong and you'll be fine.  I saw people had name-tags, so I figured I would go inside, get a name-tag, make a charming little joke about being under-dressed, and then hob nob with a few people before grabbing whatever stuff they had and heading back to the office. 

I was inside the bank, which was full to overflowing with formally attired grown-ups, and had just grabbed a sandwich and was looking around to see who I should talk to about getting a name-tag when someone coughed into a microphone.

"Umm, excuse me?  Is this thing even working?  Yes, everyone.  Everyone!  EXCUSE ME!"  Alarmed laugh.  "Yes, it's time for us all to go outside for the ribbon cutting ceremony."

At first no one moved.  People shrugged and went back to their conversations.  Then I saw a cheerful-looking woman holding a Corona move to the door.  People began moving out, and before I could find a plate for my sandwich I was hustled out the door.

"So, are you here to put out a fire in case one gets started?" A woman asked me.
"Oh, no, haha my office sent me over to represent them at this little shindig."
"Oh, good for you!"

I nodded - incredibly confused by that little exchange - and walked out the door, into the parking lot.  I walked between two parked cars, and was going to keep walking away when from out of nowhere people were suddenly filling in the space around me.  There was nowhere to turn, except back toward the bank.  Stuck, still holding my sandwich, I tried to pay attention to what was being said.

The same woman who had directed us outside was saying something about the bank, how it was opening, blah blah blah, the mayor of Goleta will say a few things.  Mayor?

The mayor.  Of course.  And there I was in my lime green workout clothes.  Awesome.  I clapped by patting my free hand on the top of my sandwich holding hand and ignored the confused glances that were being sent my way.  The mayor said some things, people tittered and chuckled, and then as I thought I would be able to make my escape, more people spoke.  Just as I was in the process of imagining myself in a really lovely pencil skirt and blouse - with rocking heels, of course - the man next to me raised his hand and smiled at the people.  Every face was turned toward us.  I turned and smiled at him, barely able to hold back the laugh that was building inside me.

I leaned against the car I was standing next to so people could see him.  What, exactly, was this car I was leaning against?  It was certainly smooth...Oh!  A Lamborghini.  Neat.  Why not?  There was a Porsche on my other side.

I leaned to the guy standing beside me and whispered, "My office sent the wrong representative to this thing."  He laughed, but I could see what he was really thinking:  This is obviously some person who walked by and is here for the food.

I looked down to see the sandwich still held in my hand.

I smiled - because the newspaper was there taking pictures - and kept my chin lifted.  I laughed when people made jokes.  I nodded sympathetically as people prophesied the amazing things this bank would do in the community.  And then, just as soon as the pictures were taken, the words were spoken, and the people were ushered back inside, I walked briskly away, holding my sandwich.

I was back in my office by 4:15.

I don't know that I will ever trust that teller.  Ever.  Again.  Who knows at what fancy event I'll end up under-dressed next?

But the sandwich was good. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Just A Story Written For LOG...

A few months ago I was asked to write a story for a LOG activity.  This is what I came up with.  Figured I would share it.

The Young Boy grumbled to himself as he stomped toward the well.  This was not a man's work, gathering water.  He hunched his shoulders against both his anger and the heat of the afternoon.  His mother had sent him to the well, too caught up in caring for the Boy's crying infant sister to gather the water herself.  She had yelled at him of the importance of water.  Would he rather them all die of thirst than swallow his pride and carry one jug?  And after all, he was still just a Boy, while she was his mother.  He must listen to her.

The Boy could not deny the importance of water for survival.  It was true that every creature, every living thing needed the water.  Living in the small, Samaritan town, the Boy was well aware of this need, even at such a young age.  The weather was harsh and unforgiving, and if a person was careless or lazy he would regret it greatly.  But at eight years old the Boy chose not to consider this.  He kicked a stone out of his path, cringing when he felt the pain in his toes.

As he approached the well he stopped abruptly – Photini was walking in the direction of the well, carrying a large jug.  Everyone in town knew of Photini.  The Boy's mother would be horrified if she thought he spoke even the shortest greeting to this woman.  He was stuck, unsure of what to do, when he noticed a Man sitting at the well.  The Man greeted Photini kindly, then asked if she would give Him water.  The Boy wondered briefly if this Man knew the kind of woman he spoke to, but then realized with shock that He was a Jew!  What on Earth was he doing speaking to a Samaritan woman, especially one like Photini?

The Boy inched closer to the well, curious to hear what the Man was saying.  “If you knew Who was asking you for water, you would ask Me for water, and I should give you living water.”  Living water? The Boy thought, amazed.  He had never yet heard of living water.  He stepped closer, eager to hear more.

Photini and the Man were speaking about her life – the Boy wondered if he should cover his ears – when she suddenly ran from the well, leaving her jug behind.  As she ran past, he heard Photini calling out about the Messiah.  The Boy looked back toward the Man, who seemed to be watching a group of men walk up the hill toward the well. 

“Come see me, my Boy,” He said.  The Boy jumped; he had thought he went unnoticed.  The Man turned toward him, and beckoned him to come.  The Boy nervously walked forward.  “What is living water?” he asked the Man.  The Man smiled gently, and reached out to touch the Boy's shoulder. 

“It is the water that I give.  Whoever drinks of this water will never be thirsty again.  The water that I give will become a fountain of everlasting water, springing up into eternal life.”  The Boy simply shook his head, not understanding what the Man meant, but knowing somehow that this was important, that this Man was no ordinary man.

“I'm sorry.  I don't understand.  How could anyone not need water again?”

The Man chuckled, and reached into a pack that was resting at His feet.  He pulled out a small, clay cup and a leather strap, and began wrapping the strap around the cup even as He spoke.  “Tell me, my Boy, why you feel water is so important?”

The Boy thought this was a silly question, but he answered anyway.  “It gives life.  No one can live without drinking water.  We would die without it.” 

“This is true,” the Man answered.  “You mother, your father, your baby sister – all of you need water to live.”  He looked up and smiled at the Boy, who was staring open-mouthed at Him.  “But would you like to know a secret?”  He leaned toward the Boy, who nodded and came closer to Him.  “Your soul,” the Man touched a finger to the Boy's chest.  “Your soul needs something else to live.  Your soul needs Me, and my Father Who is in Heaven.  And I will give your soul living water.  And it is through Me that you will find eternal life – life that far surpasses your life here on this earth.  Would you like to hear something else?”  The Boy nodded again.  He had felt power in the simple touch to his chest.  He felt as though his whole body was shining.  The Man looked at him as though He knew what the Boy was feeling.  “Whoever believes in me, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water,” He said.  “I give you My living water, and you pass that along to others, who can pass it to others, and so on.”  He handed the Boy the cup, which now had the leather wrapped around it in such a way that the Boy could wear the cup around his neck.  He did so now, feeling that the cup was somehow sacred.  He knew he would never lose it, even if only because it would make him think of this Man.

The Boy turned to face the group of men who had just reached the well.  They called out to the Man cheerfully – they obviously knew Him well – and the Man acknowledged them with a wave.  He turned to the Boy and placed His hand on the Boy's head.  “Go, my child, and let the rivers of My living water flow from you.  And remember, if anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  Anyone, my child.”  The Boy nodded and ran toward home.  He was almost to his house when he realized he had forgotten to gather the water.  He looked down at the pitcher he held in his hands and almost dropped it in amazement when he realized it was full.  He walked into his home, feeling lighter and stronger than he had ever felt in his life.  He took the small cup from around his neck and poured some water into it.  With that in hand, he went to his mother and said, “Mother.  Come sit, and drink, and listen as I tell you about the Living Water.” 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

This Elevator Is Making Me Dizzy - OR - Adventures in Hotel Travel

This is it.  This is the day. 

This is the day of the WARRIOR DASH!!!!  Let us rejoice and be glad it's finally here.  Let us also keep our thoughts from the idea of what lies ahead and remember that we signed up for this so we will do it, gosh darnit.  Because our stomachs have recently been filled with banana, bagel, and coffee, and the butterflies that take flight when we think about the Dash don't exactly sit well with all that food.

But hey, it was a continental breakfast....I had to take advantage of it!  Even if that did mean eating more sub-par food than I actually wanted to.  It's one of my weaknesses.  I have a soft spot for a good continental breakfast, and by "a good continental breakfast" I really mean, "any continental breakfast."

Is it the packaged muffins?  Maybe it's the 2 types of cereal they offer - bran flakes or corn flakes - that have probably been in those containers with the plastic scoops for at least a week.  Or maybe it's the packets of hot cocoa.  I love hot cocoa.  And coffee that tastes like it was brewed in a gas station.  I love that stuff.  (Really...ask my friends.  I really love gas station coffee.)

And how could I pass up the opportunity to sit awkwardly with other hotel guests while we all watch ZzzzzNN - I mean CNN - against our inclination?  I suggested changing to the Disney Channel, but no one jumped on that idea, which is strange since half the people eating looked to be under the age of twelve.  I couldn't have been the only person there wishing we could catch a rerun of Wizards of Waverly Place.  But, unfortunately, the little soccer team either didn't hear me, or they just didn't care, and shortly after making my suggestion my mom and I went back upstairs. 

My mom is here!  Did I tell you that??

She felt sad for me that I had to come on this trip on my own (my co-warrior, Lara, got sick, and I do hope she is feeling better!), so my mama decided pretty last minute to come with me.  It's been a long time since I've had hours of one-on-one time with my mom, and it was pretty great!  The drive up definitely passed more quickly than if I had been on my own, and it was really great to have someone to laugh with.

Which is a good thing.  Because from the warning from the clerk about the bed ("Now, you do realize there is just one bed, right?") which was the first clue that the "queen size" bed was not actually a queen, to the crazy blinking wrench on the thermostat ("Mom, I think that means the AC can't turn off!!"), to watching a fully grown woman walk around the hotel in boxers and a t-shirt ("Isn't it strange how in a hotel people do all the things they would NEVER do at home?  Like walk around a public place in their underwear?"), to the conversation with one of the soccer moms in the elevator ("Yeah, our girls are headed to a costumed soccer tournament.  They're the Zombie Grass-Fairies."), there's been no lack of laughable things. 

Side note:  I want to be on that soccer team.  They sound extremely cool.

And here's to hoping that I can laugh my way through the WARRIOR DASH!!!!  Because now, just thinking about it, those butterflies are taking flight again.  So Mom and I are going to hit the town for a bit, do some sight-seeing.  (It shouldn't take too long view from the hotel window is the back of the hotel's facade.  And the freeway.  And some weeds next to the freeway.)  I promise I'll blog about the Dash.  If nothing else, you'll get to hear an awkward story of the day I decided to be a warrior.

Till then, think good thoughts and send some prayers up for me.  They will be most appreciated.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Small Enough

My heart is heavy.
Truly, I look around, and it seems that everywhere I turn I see pain.  Sorrow.  Hurt.  Anger.  Grief.  Lots and lots of grief.
It's been like this for a while, too.  I was anxious for summer to end this year, which is unusual for me.  But for some reason I told myself that if summer would just be done, all the heaviness and sadness would be done, too.
I'm tempted to say that it seems senseless, even though I have seen God moving through this time.  He is moving slowly, quietly, more like a mist than a strong force.  But, being human and oh-so-doubtful, I still find myself demanding answers of Him.  Why? I ask (not very nicely, either).  Why are people we love being taken from us?  Why can't my brother find a job?  Why are the people I love hurting so much?  Why did You give joy and anticipation only to take it away?  Why the loneliness?  Why the constant struggle just to make ends meet?  And cancer.  What the heck?  Cancer.  Cancer.  Cancer.  Why?  Why?  Why? 
I thought to myself today that I was just ready for something joyful.  And then immediately I felt ashamed of myself.  I needed to quiet myself, and to pay attention to the mist I am seeing moving, even through the sorrow.  But tonight I'm not sure I'm there.  Tonight I am not sure I can put the positive spin on it.  Tonight I want to cry out, "my God, my God!  Why have You forsaken us?
Tonight, when then only prayer that comes to mind is Lord, have mercy, I find - unsurprisingly - that a song expresses it so much better than I can.  Another night I will be able to be positive again.  I know I will.  But tonight, in this time when I look around and see so many people hurting, I pray that our great God, Who is clothed with strength and majesty, will be small enough that we can feel Him. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Warrior Dash Training - Day 1

Ouch.  That's how I feel right now.  I've only just started training today and it's already hard.  Very.  Hard. 

What's driving me to do this?  I can't really give you an answer, except that sometimes I get pushed in a random direction.  I've learned the best thing to do in these situations is to mentally shrug my shoulders and just go with it.  Only in this case "just go with it" doesn't seem to mean "float along and enjoy the ride."  No, in this case "just go with it" seems to mean "wake up early and kick your own butt, disregarding the fact that as of yet you have no idea how you're getting there, or who is going with you, or any of that stuff."

But I suppose I should back up a bit and explain myself.

A few weeks ago I read a book called The Buried Life.  It's a PostSecret sort of book, except that instead of sharing secrets it reveals hopes.  People were asked one question: What do you want to do before you die?  Some of the answers made me laugh.  Some made me shake my head.  Reading the stories behind how some were achieved made me cry.  See, a few years ago four guys felt, well, Blah.  They were all in different types and stages of Blah, but they were there.  And one day they asked what they would do if they weren't stuck in Blah.  They started throwing out ideas, and then they wrote them down, and between the four of them they came up with a list of one hundred items.  And here's where it gets really good:  They actually set out to do them.  They had one condition, though - for every item they crossed off their own list they would help someone else cross an item off their list.  (It is a really great story.  I would definitely recommend reading the book, or at least going to their website,  When I closed the book I felt inspired.  I don't want to be stuck in Blah

As soon as I got home that night I pulled out a notebook and started writing my own list.  Some of my items are silly (#36 - wear a tutu skirt, #14 - Eat a turkey leg), some are serious (#1 - Fall in love, #2 - Get out of debt, #12 - Write a novel).  Some seem outrageously far-fetched (#18 - Go on the Jimmy Fallon Show, #20 - Be the voice of a Disney character), some are a little embarrassing (#30 - Go skinny dipping, #4 - Take a food challenge - and WIN).  And some are very private, a voice to my deepest desires and insecurities, items that only I will see crossed off in the notebook.  I currently have 39 items on my list - with the expectation that more will be added.  None of them are crossed off yet, but I am actively working on it. 

Which brings us back to my "ouch."  Well, almost.  I was recently hired as a youth director and as I was searching for ways to get the students involved AND have fun I came across a link that said, "Become a St. Jude's Warrior!"  I clicked, and was taken to the website for the Warrior Dash.

Excuse me.  I mean, The WARRIOR DASH!!!!

That's what it looks like in my head, at least.  I looked through the site and learned that the WARRIOR DASH!!!! is about 3.2 miles of running with 12 obstacles to get through.  Obstacles such as crawling under barbed wire, climbing over walls, jumping over fire.  Yes.  Jumping over fire.  (Strangely, this has become my favorite of the bunch.)

I (very) quickly realized there would be no way I could take a bunch of high schoolers to do this.  (I briefly imagined myself telling parents, "And then we will swim through dirty water.  And then jump over fire."  Yeah, right.)  But my next thought honestly shocked me.  "Steph.  You can do this."

"Nope." I answered myself.

"Yeah.  Totally."

"I'm sorry...Did you miss the part where they JUMP OVER FIRE??"

"You've done it before -"


"-And it would be for a good cause."

Sigh... "True."

"Consider it."

"Fine.  I'll consider it."

When I got home that night I added to my list: #39 - Complete the Warrior Dash.

(It occurs to me now that #40 on my list should be "Stop these weird, little conversations you have with yourself," but they add so much fascination to my life that I just can't bring myself to do that.)

And #39 has a little something tacked onto it, at least in my mind.  Raise money for St. Jude's.  I have an amount I would like to strive for, but I'm still figuring out whether or not it's realistic.  Because the WARRIOR DASH!!!! that I am going to complete is October 27.  3.5 months. 

And so the training began today.  I'm embarrassed to admit that all things considered it wasn't that tough, but still I'm left thinking one thing: Ouch.

Although, let's be honest.  My "ouch" is a far cry from what would be considered "ouch" to those kids at St. Jude's. 

So I guess I kind of do know what's driving me to do this.  The Buried Life.  And these guys:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tangled in the New Groove of Imagination and Family

I have been thinking a lot about Disney lately. 

I suppose that comes as no shock, considering that I absolutely adore Disney.  I saw Beauty and the Beast recently- one of my all time favorite Disney movies - and completely forgot there were other people in the theatre.  I laughed, loudly.  I cried.  I even hummed along with the music and clapped after songs.  It's true!  And as I watched, and thought about the lessons Disney has taught me, I decided to write the next installment of lessons I have learned from Disney.  So here it is:

- Love is family.  And family is love.  And that is a big deal.
"Ohana means family; family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten." - Lilo and Stitch
"There is nowhere you can go where love can't follow." - 101 Dalmations
"This bond between us can't be broken.  I will be here, don't you cry.  You'll be in my heart.  Yes, you'll be in my heart from this day on, now and forever." - Tarzan

It's amazing how amazing and life-altering the love of a child can be.

- True friendship means that sometimes you have to tell someone something they may not want to hear; you have to hold up a mirror for them to see the truth they may not want to hear.  But you never, ever give up on them.
"And above all, you must control your temper!!" - Beauty and the Beast.  The entire household supports the Beast, even though it seems that he must not have been a very good master at all.  They tell him where he has gone wrong, but never fail to encourage and support and trust in him, that he will be able to figure it out. 
The Emperor's New Groove.  Watch it.
"Once and for all we'll be dared to defend one another.  Once and for all every kid is a friend, every friend a brother!" - Newsies

- It's okay to be tongue-in-cheek and laugh at yourself, as long as you remember that what you do is spectacular, and that it makes you special.  And as long as you appreciate yourself.
Yeah, Enchanted was Disney's way of doing this, and it was still an amazing movie. 

And of COURSE it's okay to sing and dance in the middle of Central Park. 

- Whatever you do, do it with all you've got.  It doesn't matter if other people put you down, or scoff, because all that really matters is that you are true to God and yourself.
"I have watched constantly that in our work the highest moral and spiritual standards are upheld, whether my productions deal with fable or with stories of living action." —Walt Disney

It's okay to lead a life of fiction :)
"Fantasy and reality often overlap." —Walt Disney
"What seems real to the mind can be as important as any material fact. We live by the spirit and the imagination as well as by our senses. Cartoon animation can give fantasy the same reality as those things we can touch and see and hear." —Walt Disney

Just look at what leading a life of fiction did!

- Love is self-sacrificial.  Love means you put down your life for someone else. 
"You were my new dream." ... "And you were mine."  Tangled made me cry - sob - because while Rapunzel was willing to give up her freedom in order to save Flynn, he used his last bit of strength to cut her hair off.  They each gave up their life for the other.  When I saw it I knew - knew - that this was an accurate depiction of what love should be.  Strip away the magic hair and the extreme situation and the beautiful Disney ribbon that made everything okay and you have truth: Love means being a martyr for the other person.  It means putting your life down.  Wow. 

Love is beautiful.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


It has been a long while - yet again - since I have opened this page and written a new blog post.  I have had so many things to blog about, so many experiences I've wanted to share, but somehow there hasn't been enough time to sit and write about them. 

And that's okay.  Really. 

I wanted to share about the amazing experience of Candlelight Caroling at Disneyland (sometimes referred to as "My Hometown").  Not long after I wanted to share about reuniting with my LOGgers at the LOG Christmas party (LOG stands for Love of God, by the way) and how uplifted my spirit was after seeing them.  Then I wanted to reflect on the sadness I felt recently about witnessing a family reach their breaking point.  And then I became - somehow - embroiled in a huge, disgusting drama about what is deemed to be appropriate and inappropriate for today's Orthodox Christian. 

Done.  I shared them all.  Boom.  In one, fell swoop I clued you all in on the delights and struggles of my life as of late.  Well, sure - there's always more to a story, but I don't really feel like going into any of them right now. 

Instead I want to share an experience I had while I was (finally) falling asleep last night.  I felt unsettled and frustrated, angry and hurt.  A million words were flying through my head.  Words people said in anger or in defense, to hurt or to soothe.  Words I wanted to say.  Words I knew I shouldn't say.  Words danced around, in and out of my grasp, until I became frustrated not only at the situation I found myself in, but at the words that usually came so easily.

I love words.  I think words are - truly - awesome.  I love that words can communicate, distract, enlighten, darken, heal, hurt... There is power in words.  There is play in words.  There is joy in words.  There is a certain melody and dance to the rhythm of words, and I love to play with it. 

That being said, I get very clear mental images sometimes.  They frighten me sometimes because they come from nowhere and can be so clear and vivid that I find myself distracted from reality, if only for a moment.  Usually I find words to accompany the picture - that tends to come easily enough.  A descriptor, a mood to the image comes to my mind and I find myself back in my comfort zone, the land of words. 

Last night, as I was drifting off to sleep I had a vivid picture appear in my mind.  It was a picture of me.  I picked up a piece of broken glass, the piece of a mirror, and I saw my reflection.  This reflection shocked me.  It was not me, or anything that I thought resembled me. 

My reflection was a lioness.  A lioness that gave me a smile of sorts, a homecoming, a "so glad you finally figured this out," kind of a look.

I drifted off to sleep with a smile on my lips.  I would never have assumed to be a lioness.  A bird, sure.  I can definitely be flighty at times.  Mayhap even a horse.  I enjoy a certain amount of freedom, but am a homebody and a hard worker.  But a lioness?  No.  She is fierce.  She is strong.  She is a fighter.  She may not be as delicate as some animals, nor as exotic as others, but she is a force with which to be reckoned. 

When I woke up today I could actually feel her - my - power.  As I pushed out of bed I saw in my mind's eye her shoulders as she pushed to standing.  As I went throughout my day I felt in myself a new kind of power - new but not foreign, as if it had been waiting for me to claim it, to own it.  I became glad of a new facet to my identity. 

I am a lioness. 

Look out, world.

Painting credit: