Saturday, October 25, 2014

IN THE STILLNESS

I'm a Christian.

Actually, I prefer Christ-follower. 

I'm not very good at it.  Like so many things in life, I stumble and fall.  But as a pastor of mine once said, "Doing this life is so much better than a life without hope."  In my mind, Jesus is my hope.  

Sometimes, though, pursuing Him is hard.  It's heartbreaking, too. 

Sometimes, I feel like an island weathering a really, big, ugly storm.  Isolated. Alone. Scared. 

Sometimes, it feels like a marathon.  A never-ending marathon that just keeps going and going and going.  And, see, I know that marathons are mostly a mental game, but man!  Sometimes that mental game is hard work.  And I don't like to do it.  So, I stand at the edge of trail and cry.  I watch the other runners go past me.  Me ... left in the dust and grime of life.

It's in those moments, in the most surprising ways, He finds a precious moment to remind me that in that race, I'm not running it alone.  I'm not weathering that storm alone either.  Always, He's there, those arms tightly around me.  Protecting me. 

Today, I have been having The Conversation with Him.  It's this Conversation I've been having with Him for a very long time.  Honestly, if I were Him, I'd be endlessly tired of me and The Conversation.  The thing about my God is He loves me so much.  So, when I come to Him, angry, hurt, confused, restless, fearful, He's there to listen ... to see my tears ... to love me through my rants.  

The Conversation continued for most of the day, and into the evening, when it became necessary to go mow the lawn, which, in a very bizarre way, is randomly tied to The Conversation.

There's a lot tied to The Conversation.

The tenor of The Conversation took a turn for the ugly when I discovered that I was out of gas for the dang mower, the BANE OF MY EXISTENCE, and so I headed to the gas station where getting $5 of gasoline became an exercise in testing and pushing every nerve in my body.  

Driving back home, which took all of five minutes, I asked one of the questions that I tend to repeat, ad nauseum, when pulling out the The Conversation.  Why?  Why? WHY???  This ultimately rolls into an accusation of DO YOU REALLY CARE FOR ME?  DO YOU?

Sometimes, my inner self goes there in The Conversation before I even realize it.  I'm powerless to stop it.

I'd pulled my iPod out to listen to some tunes while mowing, further blowing out my old, tired eardrums.  I suppose there was a part of me that was hoping to deaden the voice in my head that flings all these accusations at Him.  Only my iPod staged a coup, and I was forced to listen to the only soundtrack on there that I had (other than my schools/kid stuff).  This soundtrack nails me between the eyes, convicts me mercilessly, and I haven't listened to it in a very long time because of that.  

It came on.  I fired up the mower.  And I dug in for a long hour and a half battle of wills and lawn.  

As a joke, sort of, I've said to folks that I've been praying for a cute, good-looking single neighbor to move in next door, who could help me do things around the house.  I finish the joke by saying that God has a real sense of humor ... oh yeah.  My neighbor's single.  But he's OLD and a widower.  

I laugh.  My audience laughs.  We move on in a our day.  Fun at my expense. 

Only, tonight, as I was mowing the first strips of my lawn, his friend (one part of a couple that come over and help him out with stuff) walked over to my yard and said, "Hey, I've got that big riding lawn mower.  Would you like me to do this side of your lawn?"

In that moment, this song came on the iPod ... 



It's in the stillness of life ... in those moments when I least expect it that He reminds me that I belong to Him.  Sweet promises that despite the challenge of the journey He is always there next to me.  He provides ... He loves ... He cares ... He holds my life in His hands and He cares for me deeply ... and in the stillness, He breathes His promises into me. 

It wrecked me.  I stood in my driveway and cried.  

The Conversation?  It is more than likely going to be a conversation we have for a while.  I am hard to teach.  I am a difficult student.  I am stubborn.  I am impatient.  I am willful.  

But He's a gentle teacher.  He is persistent.  He is patient. He is gentle and kind.  And He loves me with a love I couldn't begin to comprehend.  

He proved that tonight.  

In an act of mowing my cursed lawn, the very thing I hate to do the most, He proved He loves me with an undying, almost incomprehensible love, and despite my lack of pursuing Him, He continues to pursue my heart with a passion that brings me to my knees. 

Always in the stillness ... 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

DEPARTING IS SUCH SWEET SORROW, FALL BREAK

I could whine and complain about the fact that my Fall Break ends tomorrow, but I won't. Truth be told, I was shocked when it rolled around to begin with!  

I know.  That sounds ridiculous.  But it's true.  I was plugging along, enjoying my quarter, and BOOM!  It was quarterly assessment time.  It is mind-boggling that this first quarter went by just as quickly as it did! 

HOLY COW!

To be honest, when Fall Break dawned bright (three days later than normal due to my having to teach an enrichment class), I didn't realize just how exhausted I was.  

I know.  That sounds ridiculous as well.  But, again, it's true.  I was so worn down that I spent the first chance I got just catching up on sleep.

I have often said that a sign of a great vacation (or in my case, a STAYcation) is when you feel like you have been off forever, and, ladies and gentlemen, I DO feel like I've been off forever.  I've traveled a little bit, walked some (it was soooooo rainy, y'all), organized a bit, cleaned and purged, laundered, scrubbed, cleaned, polished, read (A LOT!), and have just been lazy.  It's been wonderful.  

Haven't done much on the weight-loss arena.  Probably have gained.  I will have to get back to it now that the sun has come off of its vacation.

But I am relaxed.  I am well-rested.  I am ready to tackle the second quarter.

So, while departing is such sweet sorrow, moving on to the next portion of the year is exciting.  Holidays are approaching!  My favorite time of the year!  

If I'm not careful ... if I blink ... it will be all over with ... so, I need to enjoy it all.  Take it all in.

So, LET THE ROUTINES BEGIN! 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

ELLY IS ALWAYS RIGHT, AND I SHOULD ALWAYS LISTEN

I thought the title should be: REDISCOVERING ME, THE READER.   

I was instructed it should be what you see in the title line.  

Sometimes, sacrifices are made for the good of cause.

I'm going to admit this, publicly.  Yes, I can be big about these things.  I was a hold-out on this whole eReader phenomenon.  I'm not going to say I was completely bashing it.  I'm just going to say that I felt, how shall I put this, slightly snobby, shall we say, about my reading habits.  I mean, like my coffee purist tendencies, I have had a book purist mindset.  I LOVE books.  I love the smell of the pages, and the sound your fingers make when you run them across a crisp, white page.  I love the way the pages sound when you turn them, and I LOVE the interesting cover art and the ding-dang blurb on the back jacket flap, people.  I LOVE BOOKS!

This doesn't extend to wine.  I don't care what score the Wine Spectator gives a certain bottle.  If it's $7, I don't much care.  Long as it tastes good.  Most usually do.  I have a working class palate.  I do have standards though.  I won't, for instance, stoop to Boone's Farm.  I have to set the bar some where.  

So, when two friends, nagged me/bugged me incessantly/exclaimed over (the correct preposition to use here???) the virtues of their Kindles over and over and over again, I did what any red-blooded, book snob would do.  I dug in my heels.

But I recently, I've had a SUPER, SUPER hard time finding ANY of the books I want to read at the library.  And my friend, Elly, the one who is ALWAYS right, told me she reads much faster and way more books with her Kindle and has a much easier time of obtaining books through our library eBooks program.  

Oh hang it!  I took the challenge!  I sucked it up and caved to the nagging.  I sold out and crossed over the line of purist to, I don't know, sold out eReader?

On a whim, I downloaded the app, since I don't currently have a Kindle, and started the process of getting some books.  Elly, the one who is ALWAYS right, loaned me a few of her loan-able books, and, folks, I was off and running!

With this Kindle app? Dude!! My life is all rainbows and unicorns, and the skies are raining down Skittles!  I have read three books on this app in a week's time.  And I've just downloaded two more to read in the next few days.  I mean.  I am LOVING the app!

And I've come to the following conclusion ...

I NEED A KINDLE!!!!   

Dear Mom and Dad, 
Did you read that last statement? I MUST HAVE A KINDLE!!!

Dear Santa Claus, 
Seriously, dude!  I am as good as it's going to get. A Kindle, please???

Yes, I realize I have caved to the Almighty Man.  But did I mention the rainbows?  The unicorns?  The Skittles?  

I am willing to pimp out my ideals for a Kindle PaperWhite.  

Just sayin' ... 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Read Some Books Challenge 2014

So, I've read some books recently.  Not enough to be proud of, but still, I've read books.  

Two.  Books, that is. 

THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN by Garth Stein.  So, yeah, I'm going to admit something here.  I didn't READ it all.  I mean, I read it all, but I skipped some parts.  The parts about racing ... and racing in the rain, which, when you read the title might lead you to believe that, DUDE!  YOU MISSED THE WHOLE POINT!  But I didn't really ... least ways, I don't THINK I did.  The premise of the book was this dog's relationship with his Master and his Master's family, and I guess the whole racing gig, while part of this dog's Master's life, was also just a big metaphor for life and the life of a dog and the life of a Master with a dog.  It was a good read, a sweet read, and my book club and I all agreed, had we not HAD to read it for book club, probably not a one of us would have.  Two thumbs up!

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker.  I've already gushed all over this book here.  So, I won't go into another gushing fit because, honestly, it's embarrassing and weird and slightly stalkerish.  But if you find yourself walking around your house all, "DUDE! I've got too much stuff!  Where'd all this stuff come from?  And where'd my paycheck go?" then this book is for you!  It really makes you rethink how you view your riches or poverty in this world, and it will, hopefully, help you refocus your desire to spend and collective. I know it has me.

So, there you have it.  Two books.  I recently checked out four books from the library, and I have a book on loan from a friend on my Kindle app. Oh, and I go back to school on Tuesday, soooooo, apparently, I have big plans for reading.  We shall see. 

I march on with my January Resolution of READ SOME BOOKS IN 2014!

MODERN DAY SCARY

So, I just had the craziest thing happen to me. 

Actually, it was kinda scary.

After running a few errands around town, I decided to take a spin on the newly constructed, fully restored speed limit major artery leading into and out of downtown Frankfort. 

This major artery takes me to a pretty major intersection that, in turn, takes you to my subdivision and, ultimately, home sweet home.

It was getting toward the first phase of rush hour -- Frankfort has a few phases.  It's beastly, that State Traffic.  As such, it requires me sitting in my turn lane for an inordinate amount of time.  Often times, someone takes their lives into the own hands crossing that intersection on foot, and so ensues some rather interesting people-watching, which is what occurred today.  

So, there I was, people-watching.  In particular, two young males that, just based on their clothing choices this morning, were not giving the best impression about themselves, if a person was to, say, judge a book by its cover.  What interested me about these two was the fact that the one was attempting to light a cigarette, but couldn't seem to do so, severely depleting the Cool Factor I believe he was going for.  There was finally a moment that they felt safe enough to cross, and so they did.  They had just managed getting to the grassy portion of their walk when, out of nowhere, this crazy driver in a red truck takes that turn on two wheels (not even joking here) and heads right for them! 

It is at this point in the story that I must take a moment to explain that sometimes, my face doesn't necessarily do a very good job of masking my emotions.  I try, but sometimes, the Dumbfounded Look tends to bleed through in a very obvious manner.  

Such was the case this afternoon, as I was sitting there thinking, "DUDE IS GOING TO HIT THEM!"

Of course, Smoking Dude's natural reaction was to go APE-Poo-Poo Crazy, screaming expletives and threatening and ... ladies and gentlemen, I might have turned and looked at him with my mouth open wide and my head might have involuntarily shook in sheer wonder and utter shock at what I was witnessing.  

If only he hadn't seen me do that ... because all of a sudden, his rage was directed at me!  And the light hadn't turned ... and he was screaming expletives at me at least I think it was, because then I got my wits about me and decided to look away and stare straight ahead and hope for the best ... and the light still wasn't turning and I was all, "Well, this is how it's going to end ... with me dying at this BLESSED intersection all because I didn't have a poker face!"

It left me wondering ... why the rage?

I could list the reasons.  I know them by heart.  It's my job to know them for, well, my job.  

But broad daylight bullying ... I don't understand people.  First the Truck Dude and then the Cigarette Dude and ... where will it end?  This need to devalue people?  

It's a modern day scary ... or maybe it was a scary Halloween dream sequence I conjured up while waiting for that blessed light to turn.  


A BOUNTY AROUND MY TABLE

It is Fall Break, which means I am, once again, trying to get a handle on The Crazy that seems to surround my life during my work days.  

Why must Crazy follow me?  Why can't I just motor through life without having to slip in Crazy's puddle of Hot Mess?  

I spent the first week of my break being chased by Crazy, ending with a quick trip to Michigan.  The second week was all doctors' appointments and making up for the lack of sleep from the beginning part of the first week.  This week has been getting my proverbial act together.  I think I might need more than a week, y'all!  My act has been spinning out of control for a while now.

I decided I wanted to cook more ... in response to my desire to be less wasteful of my cash and the food I buy with said cash and then subsequently let rot in my refrigerator because I am lazy and end up spending more cash eating not-so-good-for-me food.  

I had friends over last night as a thank you for all their help while I was gone to Michigan, and I decided to make a family favorite meatloaf, a tossed salad, and a family favorite cake for dessert.  It was a big hit, and my kitchen was filled with warm, savory scents!  And suddenly, I remembered what it was like to come home to a balanced meal!  This is the way it should be ALL the time!

This morning, I woke up, and rather than randomly search for yummy recipes, I decided to look for a savory recipe that included chicken.  My momma didn't raise no dummy.  If you had beef last night, you need to make a white meat or fish or casserole this evening.  So, chicken it was!  And cranberries.  Because nothing says savory like some cranberries ... made into a cranberry sauce ... and throwing in some onions ... and Sweet Ray's barbecue sauce.  I mean, really!? 

At some point, I am going to get this whole organization thing down. I promise.  I mean, the Earth will probably stop spinning when I do, but I am at least giving it a valiant effort.  
In anticipation of next week's Back-to-the-Grind, I am looking at some make-ahead breakfast sandwiches, as well as easy to-put-together meals that will allow me to eat nutritiously, but also with some sort of ease and lack of stress.  

I know, I know, it's a stretch, people.  I get it.  But it's something to strive for, no?

Monday, October 13, 2014

OPERATION DECLUTTER THE KITCHEN

I don't do things just because everyone else is doing it.  I don't want to conform ... COMPLETELY.  So, when I started seeing all the HYPE about Jen Hatmaker's book 7: AN EXPERIMENTAL MUTINY AGAINST EXCESS, I dug my feet in and refused to give in to the collective peer pressure.  I. Wasn't. Going. To. Do. It.

But then I had a friend.

Well, I have more than one friend ... I think ... but I had this friend, and her husband lost his job, rather unceremoniously (not that there is EVER ceremony to such occurrences), and she was all, "YOU'VE GOT TO READ THIS BOOK IT IS AMAZING AND IT'S WRECKING ME AND OMG THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD YOU JUST MUST READ IT," and I still refused, mainly because I knew it would wreck me too.  And seriously, people, why would ANYONE want to be wrecked?  Right?

Fast-forward to a month or so ago, when I FINALLY decided to download my free Kindle app, because everyone was all, "OMG KINDLE IS DA BOMB HOW DID I LIVE MY LIFE WITHOUT MY KINDLE," and so, yeah, I kinda caved under THAT peer pressure.  I'm not impervious, folks.

So, I asked my friend, the same one that was all, "YOU'VE GOT TO READ THIS BOOK IT IS AMAZING AND IT'S WRECKING ME AND OMG THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD YOU JUST MUST READ IT," if she wouldn't mind lending me some books just to see if this free app would work.  And dag gone it, that woman lent me 7!  

The thing is, this book?  It was amazing!  It is amazing! And that's saying something because I absolutely HATE to read non-fiction. As a teacher, I am required to do a certain amount of professional reading.  I hate it.  The cat is out of the bag.  The dirty little skeleton is out of the closet.  I really, really do hate it.  So, picking up a non-fiction book that might wreck me?  NO.  WAY.  Just, no way.

But the minute I turned my digital page to PG. 1, I was hooked!  Personally, reading Jen Hatmaker's book was like talking to my friend.  It was sarcastic and funny and acerbic and slightly irreverent and well REAL in all the right places. Before I knew what was going on, when I was powerless to stop her, Jen was nailing me to the wall about my excess and the mutiny that would need to take place here.

I finished the book last night, and I hit the ground running this morning ... after copious amounts of coffee and due diligence given to the ridiculous topics on The Today Show.  The excess I tackled first?  My kitchen.  

Y'all!  There were things in my cupboard, I didn't even know I had.  Like, the pie plates got together with the cake pans and spawned more cake pans and pie plates!  I had no idea I had so much!  And muffin tins!  I could make muffins for the next two months!!  

How did I not know I had this stuff?  Because it was all tossed in various locations and covered with clutter.

So, I pulled everything out, wiped down the cupboards, and set about rearranging my kitchen so that everything is in a more logical spaces.   

I filled two bags for Goodwill. Two. Bags. That is just my kitchen.  I still have two closets, and a dresser to go through, not to mention my basement ... OY VEY, my basement!

So, yes. I was wrecked.  I am wrecked, but in a good way.  In the best possible way!  I have waaaaay too much stuff for one, single girl with a cat.  It's time to share the wealth and really think carefully about the stuff I might bring into this house in the future.  

Let the mutiny BEGIN!!! 

Thursday, October 09, 2014

ACCENT-uate-

I went home to Michigan last week. 

Or as everyone else in the world seems to think of the Mitten State ==> The Great White Northern Iceberg.

Let me just say, it FELT like the Great White Northern Iceberg when I was home.  41 degrees.  That is all it was while I was home.  Then I came home to Kentucky, and it's been c-c-c-c-cooooooold here too.  

It isn't my fault.  I swear it!

I so wasn't prepared for this trip in that while I was ready for it, mentally, I wasn't at all ready for it PHYSICALLY.  I think it's because of the PEP classes I taught the days leading up to the trip.  I spent so much time writing TO DO lists, Lists of Things To Bring, and the like for those classes, I was tapped out when it came to my THINGS TO PACK list.  Therefore, I left things here at home.  Important things.  Things like prescriptions.  And shampoo. And stuff like that. 

So, I had to call Rite Aid and beg for a refill a bit early.  They, thankfully, obliged, and I didn't have to have the emotional meltdown I was sure would come. 

And because we found ourselves in Battle Creek, where I knew there was an Aveda Salon (the Salon my parents go to, and the one I used to go to), I asked if they wouldn't mind stopping so I could buy some. 

It was there I had a rather interesting conversation ... the focus of this whole mess, believe it or not.

The receptionist, who may or may not have been a stylist, was chatting with another client, and I stood waiting with my giant container of Shampure (this stuff is the bomb-diggity, ladies and gentlemen! Aveda, please do not EVER phase your Shampure line out ... I will be forced to throw myself off of a high place ... like the Singing Bridge ... since the tower at my school no longer exists, having just been dismantled a mere week before school began).  FINALLY, she quit talking, and my mom had the opportunity to introduce me to the lady.  "This is my daughter, Megan.  She lives in Frankfort, KY."  

I was pleasant and said hi, and I told her it was nice meeting her.  I can't remember the next part of the conversation, but she had apparently asked me a question because I was in the midst of answering that question when, while I was TALKING, she turned to my mother and said, "I just think it's so cute that she has a little Southern accent."

Okay, people.  This is where you insert one of those old school needles scraping an old, vinyl record sounds.  I'm sorry.  What now????

It was, in fact, a week ago from this particular date, that I found myself, I was at a friend and colleague's wedding, being teased mercilessly about my Michigan, nasally accent.  Yet, there I was, listening to this woman tell me I had a southern accent.  And this wasn't the first person from Michigan to tell me that.  When I was home in May for my uncles' memorial services, I had someone else tell me, and I quote, "you are sooooooo Southern sounding."

I fear I am in some sort of accent no-man's land.  Unable to lose the Midwestern nasal twang, but powerless to stop that Kentucky drawl from creeping in.  I mean, when you live in a place for eight years, it's bound to happen.  I am just sayin' ... 



Monday, October 06, 2014

TAMING THE BEAST

I have just returned home from four days in the Mitten State.  It was good getting back there and having some time to hang with my family.  I love them dearly.  

When my sister and I arrived on Thursday evening after a loooooong drive north (made longer by my failure in following the KY Transportation Cabinet's alert regarding the I65 Bridge repair....shoulda ignored that one!), we were greeted by the amazing smell of a roast in the crock pot.  Roast, fresh corn, and salad.  It was a wonderful meal.  One of the most nutritious, solid meals I've eaten in a while.  

That meal was followed by Friday night's meal: Parmesan encrusted tilapia, mashed potatoes, green beans, and coleslaw.  Oh my goodness!  Food nirvana!

My mother is an amazing cook. She's honed her craft over a looooooong period of time, and there is very, rarely a meal she cooks that I don't like ... okay, I am not a fan of her chipped beef on toast or her stuffed peppers, but then, I am not a fan of those things period. 

As I wondered through my kitchen this morning, looking for something edible for breakfast and trying to find my coffee bean grinder, pushed back in the dark recesses of my cabinets, I wondered at the why  of these two things:

A.) Why do I never grind my own coffee anymore.  It tastes so much better that way, 

and 

B.) Why do I not bother to make myself a balanced meal like mom always does?

I've come to a conclusion.  I don't take the time to do that.  I am too busy, and so I fall on the sword of convenience. Y'all, I have fallen prey to the Convenience Monster [insert scary music here!].  Only convenience isn't as yummy or as satisfying or fulfilling or as healthy.

Why is it that we women don't want to take the time to do something nice for ourselves?  Listen, I get it.  We lead very, very busy lives.  And I don't even have children ... well, unless you count the 21 I hang with for 7 hours of the day for five days a week and then the furry, four-legged one I must deal with when I get home from the 21 I hung out with earlier.  

Yet, even I fall into that need to ignore myself and my body's needs over just getting through another evening without crashing headlong into a plate of precooked meat product.  It is ugly people!  Darn.  Right.  Ugly.  

I am on the second week of Fall Break.  I have a perspective that is radically different than say the second month of an academic quarter.  The perspective is called "I am cleaning and organizing" and oh, yeah, it's also called "getting a good night's sleep."  I found a photo of me during a period of time that I felt the most pretty (???), desirable (???).  I was much thinner and much more concerned with making balanced meals.  Aaahhh, life was simpler then.  If only I could have a chat with my young twenty-something self.  Warned her, perhaps about the pitfalls of my 30s ... 

But looking at that photo has provided myself with another healthy dose of perspective that I've needed to allow myself some luxuries.  Freshly ground coffee ... baths ... wine and conversation with friends ... a good book into the wee hours of the morning ... sunsets and long walks on the beach (this one might be slightly cliche, but dude!  I totally LOVE sunsets and long walks along the beach!) ... those things that really blow my dress up ... well, so to speak.

I am attempting to figure out how to release the Convenience Beast.  I have to.  There's too much living I need to do.  I need to grab life by the horns and ride it like a boss.  I mean, if I'm going to wrestle anything, it should be a life well-lived, right?