Yeah, yeah—I would love to be more fit, financially savvy, fun, and focused in 2014. As much as I may relate to these common new year’s sentiments, however, I have nothing novel or particularly witty to add to the annual dialogue. So this post is not anything remotely to-do with a yearly challenge, or a 365-day plan, or a renewal of dieting vows. As we close the door on 2013 and open the door to a new-and-totally-awesome 2014, I thought I’d lead us on a short jaunt down memory lane:
- Remember back when I said that we should all get more comfortable telling each other about our shortcomings, and that I was going to make an effort to do that more often? Well, this post has a dash of “confession” in it.
- Remember back when I said that I worked three jobs? Well, this post has a pinch of “two-weeks-notice.”
- Remember back when World War II…yeah, okay, I wasn’t alive yet either. But there are a couple of Germans in this post as well.
So my Winter break has been lovely. I suppose it can’t be ALL that exciting, seeing as I am sitting here on my computer on new year’s eve, but I’ve had much worse holidays. After all, I had my front door wide open all day yesterday so that the lovely crisp air could come in (until the neighbors’ puppy wanted in too, that is). I spent the first half of the break working at the good ole security job (where I put in my notice—I’ve decided to stop working there in the spring). The holiday schedule of 8:00 to 5:00 left me exhausted and short-tempered. Add to that the fact that I have been trying to wean myself off of caffeine while I am test and paper free, and you have the perfect storm. That’s probably why, when one of my housemates stopped me (on my trip from my car to my bed) to share some news with me, I wasn’t exactly thrilled to hear what she had to say. Our conversation was brief, and as she smiled, thanked me, and ran up the stairs, I remained thoroughly confused. Here’s what I got out of our discussion:
- An unknown number of her tennis-playing friends were coming to stay at our house for a couple of nights while they played in a tournament.
- They were from Germany.
- I “wouldn’t even see them, they would just be here to sleep.”
- Aforementioned housemate would be leaving for Mexico before they arrived.
I don’t know about you, but Grouchy Emma was a little creeped out at the idea of some number of German strangers coming into my house while I slept (If you are reading this and you are one of the Germans that this post is about, no offense). Soon the morning came when I rushed down the stairs and found our living room occupied. I surmised that there were two of them, and that they were of indeterminable gender, although I was 87% sure at least one of them was male (they were sleeping, it’s not like I could gather any more data than that without being thoroughly creepy). I was in a rush that morning, so I got my car started and in reverse before I realized that it was garbage day. As I wrestled the cans in the direction of the curb, I realized that my visitors had left the side door wide open! The nerve. I made sure to message my housemate a very curt request that her friends keep that door closed in the future, thank-you-very-much.
At least 24 hours passed without a chance meeting of they-who-come-at-night and myself. After all, I went to bed early so that I could wake up at an ungodly hour for work, at which time the gender-ambiguous-athletes were still sleeping on the sofas.
The next evening, I took the precaution of locking my bedroom door as I showered and got ready to go out. Honestly, I didn’t even realize that my door had locking capabilities until that night—I had never felt the need before. But who wants strangers wandering into the wrong room on accident? I just wanted to be on the safe side. I went and ran some errands, and got home around 11:00, already feeling the need to hop into bed. Unfortunately, it turned out that my bed was on the wrong side of a locked door. My locked door. My first-time-in-a-year locked door. Somehow, the simple push-lock had not become un-pushed when I had left for my errands, and now I was locked out of my own room. All of my housemates were out-of-state (or country), and there was no key. I commenced planning mode:
- Plan A—Pick the lock—Who was I kidding? I wasn’t Nancy Drew. I’d never successfully picked a lock in my life. What’s more, all of my small tools and tool-like-items were on the other side of the locked door. The butter knife was useless. The screwdriver was MIA.
- Plan B—Brute force—Do I even need to explain the many reasons why this plan didn’t work?
- Plan C—Become Karre—I was tempted to just crash in Karre’s room, which is right next to mine. After all, she has a nice bed, and some articles of clothing left in the closet that I could probably make work for my office shift the next day. As I crept about her room, however, a little voice poked holes in Plan C. Emma, how long could you live out of Karre’s room? Karre’s room doesn’t have your box set of Gilmore Girls: Season 2. Karre’s room doesn’t have a phone charger. Besides, you might need to change your underwear, eventually. I cursed the voice of reason inside my head, and I cursed not having spare GG, chargers, and underwear in my backpack. Then I filed Plan C as the emergency back-up plan. Wait, did you mention GG? Sorry, I got a little carried away…
- Plan D—Phone a friend—I texted one of my on-duty security guard compatriots, but he wouldn’t be leaving HQ for some time. All I could do at that point was wait.
When they found me at midnight, I was doing the dishes, laughing internally at the rotten luck that seemed to follow my every move. They took the opportunity to apologize personally for the open-door situation, which I graciously forgave them for. Somehow, one door-themed conversation led to another, and pretty soon I had some Germans helping me to break in to my own bedroom.
- Plan E—German break in—After about 14.5 minutes of small talk and the ruination of my Howdy’s coupon card, I slept in my own bed that night. I’m not sure where he learned to pick locks, but that isn’t really the point.
Where I slept that night isn’t really the point either. The point is that despite my best efforts to avoid the inconveniences of dealing with strangers in my life, in my house, I was forced into talking to them. And despite my best efforts at avoiding shining my light—in fact, what would seem like efforts to spread indifference and rudeness—I was thrown in the way of these two strangers who actually turned out to be a huge blessing.
During our 15 minute break-in chat, Christianity came up. During our week long house sharing (yes, it turned out to be more than a couple nights), Christianity came up often. As did English Breakfast tea, omelet sharing, SoCal sight-seeing, immigration issues, social differences between the countries, and Harry Potter. Ironically, I was sad to see my new housemates leave. They were cleaner than the girls that I actually live with, that’s for sure (If you live with me and you are reading this, no offense) (But really, it’s probably your turn to do the dishes).
I’d always thought of myself as hospitable. Whenever I had friends stay with me, I did my best to accommodate them and make them feel at home. I did grow up in the semi-South, after all, and what do they teach you there except to drink sweet tea and serve Southern hospitality? In reality, though, I feel like I have been missing the mark.
“Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, ”Go and do likewise.”
Yeah. I have been missing the mark. It’s more than my friends who come to visit. Actually, it’s even more than those who I am literally forced to provide shelter for. The hospitality that I am called to show is a love for strangers that should cause me to act with love. for others. for strangers. for the forgotten. It isn’t about having a beautiful guest room (although that’s always lovely), it’s about making room for people in your life wherever and whenever you see needs. It isn’t about making yourself look or feel good, it’s about serving and loving everyone, even the people you’ve never seen before in your life, and even when you’d rather not be bothered with any pesky company. God knows I’ve only made it this far due to the hospitality of countless people, strangers as well as acquaintances (and ex-girlfriends of my dad) (that’s a long story).
So I guess this is my first lesson-list of 2014 (I’m sure the year has plenty more lessons in store for me after this):
- It’s better to have an open door than a locked one.
- Picking a lock is much easier than I originally thought.
- Maybe don’t suggest the Historic Nazi Stronghold as a good day hike for German guests (seriously, what was I thinking? But really, the hike looks pretty stinking cool).
- I have a long ways to go on the hospitality spectrum.
- It’s pretty hard to spread the good news when you can’t be bothered to meet the people staying in your own house.
- College in Germany is a whole lot cheaper than college in the U.S.
- Russians celebrate Christmas in January? What a bunch of hipsters.
- Not all Europeans hate Americans.
- It’s much harder to see God’s will when I’m so caught up in my own.
- Harry Potter is the universal language of the millennial generation.
So yeah, it turned out to be more than a couple days. If I had known that at the beginning of the week, I would have been irate. As it turns out, I’m inexplicably grateful. or dankbar.
So go be more gastfreundlich. I’m gonna do my best. Now, here are some snapshots of December for you:
Unless you happen to live under a rock, I assume you have heard of my friend Adam, and his “untimely” death. I put “untimely” in quotes because he was only 25 years old, and if we were going by my timetable, he would not be dead for some time. In fact, if we were going by anybody’s timetable, he would still be selling camping equipment, planning his research project, leaving baked goods on peoples doorsteps, serving his God, and occasionally writing me letters asking me about all my surfer boyfriends and complaining about how much he hates it when people eat with their mouths open. But, as it turns out, we are operating on God’s timetable, so to say that this was “untimely” might be a bit presumptuous.
Anyway, if you have more questions about all that, I suggest you go stalk some facebooks or something, because this post is more about the aftermath. You see, my biggest fear, following Adam’s passing, is that I will not learn anything from him, from all this. No matter what, his death is a tragedy that has affected my life. It is up to me to learn from it, and allow his life and death to also be a blessing. Other people have also acted as blessings to me in all this. Four people sent me money to help me buy a plane ticket to the funeral, and countless people have commented and messaged and generally expressed compassion and prayers. I can’t really do justice in this paragraph to the love that I have seen displayed since Adam’s death.
So, thanks to a bunch of people, I found myself with a plane ticket to Phoenix. Sarah and I had a grand time bearding people out, while driving to the Ontario airport.
From Phoenix, I would fly from Atlanta, where I would drive with Caroline to Gettysburg for the funeral. Or so I thought. I suppose it was quite naive of me, to think that I could have a perfectly boring trip to any event involving Adam Smelser. Long story short: after 24 hours of cumulative airport/plane time and four flights, I made it. I flew from Ontario to Phoenix to Philadelphia to Atlanta to Washington D.C., where Andrea and I had lots of shenanigans before Caroline picked us up. It didn’t matter how many flights or how much money it took, I just cared about getting there.
Our time in Gettysburg was a whirlwind of talking, praying, exploring, crying, laughing, and drinking coffee. The funeral was so good, despite the fact that our row was full of embarrassingly loud criers, and my nose felt like I’d been using sandpaper kleenex the entire evening. Let’s just say we used a few tissues.
Our drive back to Atlanta took longer than intended, partially because we took a long nap/lunch break before starting, partially because the weather was plague-like in temperament. Anyway, we ended up taking some back roads, and taking a pit stop at a thrift store in rural Virginia. I bought a hideous sweater, and Caroline bought some 1950s-era diaries of a 18-year-old girl named Patty Kluttz.
The diaries turned out to be a wonderful diversion for the two-day trek back to ATL. We learned all about Patty, which isn’t saying much once you realize that she seemed to think that diary meant “date record.” I can say with confidence that Patty Kluttz went on more dates in one week than I have been on in my entire lifetime. Sometimes she mentioned some church related stuff she was participating in, but mostly it was comments like, “If I don’t find someone soon, I think I’ll die,” “I didn’t go on any dates today, I feel like an old maid,” and my favorite, “Today we couldn’t go to church, because Herb didn’t have a belt.” Right. Anyway, we were so enthralled with her story, we tried to look her up that night. Unfortunately, right now she seems to have disappeared, and the only traces we have of her existence are two old and dusty diaries.
The rest of my time on the East coast was seasoned with snow, sleeping, singing, and seeing old friends. Also, I may or may not have witnessed Caroline’s American Girl Doll collection. That, my friends, was a thing that is some stuff. I made it to all of my flights for the return trip, and managed to make it to my uncle’s house just in time to make the stuffing for Thanksgiving dinner (just kidding, we do dressing. Ain’t no way I’m sticking my hand inside a Turkey carcass). I learned a lot at my uncle’s including some facts about a thumb eating eel named Emma, and…
From my uncle’s, my mom and I drove to 50 year anniversary party for a couple from my church. 50 years. yeah. My favorite part of the evening wasn’t the fact that the food was good, or that I got to see people I hadn’t seen in forever, or that it was a novelty to see dancing at a COC event, or even that it was so inspirational to hear about the life they had built together. No, my favorite part was the fact that there had been a mix-up in the place settings, so mine read “Mrs. Emma Angelo,” and my mom’s read, “Mr. Shay Angelo.”
Revel in that for a minute.
Pretty great, right? I mean, wow. Adam would have done one of his head-back, deep laughs about that one.
Anyway, that’s been my week. So much has happened in it, it’s kind of overwhelming. But like I said, my biggest fear is that time will pass, and I will forget the things I learned or could have learned from all this. So, I am bound to fight against that possibility. What have I learned from Adam? Mrs. Smelser said he was content without being complacent. I think that’s a pretty good way of putting it. Sadly, I’m not quite so succinct as that. So here are some things I have learned from this week:
1. Care for others
Not only have I realized how much Adam cared for others on a constant basis, but I have been overwhelmed with the amount of care that has been poured out on those who are grieving. Both of these things have made me want to do better for others in turn. Typically, I tell myself, “You don’t know what to say to that person who is hurting,” or “There is no way that you can help that person who is hurting.” When, in fact, just the attempt to comfort or help will probably do more harm than good, and there is really no way for me to get better at caring for others without trying. The small acts of kindness shown to me (through money, napping places, and meals) during this have made an impact on my heart, and made me realize how many hurting people I have avoided reaching out to in the past.
Another way I have been complacent is by procrastinating in my everyday relationships. Too often, I put off having that difficult conversation, or even just telling people how much they mean to me, because I operate under the false belief that I have all the time in the world. In reality, no amount of time here is guaranteed me, and I am a steward of whatever time I am given.
Maxine and Larry built a family with their 50 years. Not only did they raise their own children to love and serve the Lord, but they opened their home to four other children as well. The room was full of people who had been touched by them at some point during those 50 years, and it was beautiful to hear about the ways they had served others with what they had been given.
And then there’s Patty. I don’t know much about Patty, other than the fact that she went on a lot of dates, and she was an active member in the Lutheran church. Don’t get me wrong, she had standards and morals, but she was, like one preacher she met, “twitter-pated.” She “loved love,” and her main goal in life was to find it. Her diary could also have been called 365 first dates. It wasn’t that she wasn’t doing good things with her life, but those good things were all of secondary importance to her pursuit of a husband.
Adam was a prime example of contentment. I mean, sleeping in a tent in Alaska? Sharing a bunkhouse at a fishery? Sleeping on homemade furniture in a shed in West Texas? Eating rice while cooking for others? It’s crazy to think about being that content. Does he regret it now? yeah right. He’s finished his race. All of us benefitted from his example, and none of that even matters to him anymore. The shed, the tent, the way he died—I don’t think any of it is of the smallest importance, because it all seems so small in comparison to what he is now experiencing. And even then, it was worth it to him, because he knew where he was going. He had plans, and so the little things didn’t really matter.
I get that when it comes to my travels—taking four flights to PA, driving through rain and snow to Atlanta—the ends totally make the means irrelevant. But somehow I get sidetracked in life, and I forget about the importance of my destination. I complain about the bumps in the road, as if they actually mattered.
This is from a letter from Adam right before his Alaska trip, postmarked June 19, 2012. I was initially avoiding sharing this excerpt, because it’s kind of eerie to me:
“Everyone here is…vaguely bemused, I suppose, by my plans. Many of them are convinced that I’ll die, but there are some that are under the impression that I have such intense survival skills that I can’t be drowned. Well, that’s nice, I suppose. Frankly, dying is not quite at the top of my agenda for this year.”
Adam had a lot on his agenda for the year. He got a lot done in the year and a half between the time he wrote this letter and when he was taken from this world. He grew a lot on his own, he encouraged people all over the country, he worked and saved money, he spread the gospel, and he had tons of grand adventures. None of us can say why God chose to give him that year, and to not leave him here for any more, but he sure got a lot done with the short amount of time he had.
I knew I had a short amount of time in PA (thanks to a gift from others) in order to cry and laugh with those I loved, but soon I would have to leave again. There wasn’t much time, so I took advantage of those opportunities every chance I got. I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore, and I laughed without reserve. I wasn’t like, “You know, really I would rather do homework than spend time with you.” I want to treat life more like that; living boldly and using every moment like it is a limited gift from God. Because it is.
Frankly, dying is not quite at the top of my agenda for this year, but I’ll tell you what is:
- Doing more, bragging less
- Giving more, spending less
- Thanking more, complaining less
- Praying more, blabbing less
- Laughing more, worrying less
- Serving more, self less
Maybe if more of us are more silly, serving, giving, thanking, praying, and doing, then the void that Adam left behind wont be quite so big and gaping. Maybe if we tell more strangers Happy Birthday, and look out for each other more often, and quit complaining so much, it’ll turn out to God’s glory. I sure hope so, because right now the world is facing a severe shortage of ugly sweaters and awkward moments. I share this with you, not so that you will be like:
“Oh, what an awesome person that Emma is.” “I know, too bad she’s named after a thumb-eating eel.” “I know, right? And I heard a rumor that she’s married to her own mother?”
Woah, that hypothetical conversation deteriorated quickly. Anyway, I tell you this because I want to be held accountable. Because I don’t want my days to be measured in the number of dates I went on, or the money I made, or the grades I got. I want to leave a mark like Adam, like the Ashtons. I want to conceptualize my time gifted to me, and when my time is a gift, it’s easier to be grateful for it and share it with others.
Peace, Love, and Ugly Sweaters.
Oh! I almost forgot—I also learned not to feed finger-shaped food to vicious sea creatures, even if they do have incredibly lovely names.
I have three jobs.
How many times is she going to mention that. Seriously, we get it, you work hard. Man.
I have three very different jobs. I am a DPS Student Service Division Leader 12 hours per week (but really it’s 24/7). I am a HR Professional Development intern 8 hours per week. I am a Brainrush Learning content intern 8 hours per week. Oh, and then I’m a student with all my free time. Lately I have been shocked by the different environments of the different places.
At DPS, there’s a wall-sized, plasma screen TV in the briefing room, and it seems like the only channels it is capable of showing are ESPN, Comedy Central, and some weird old movies. There’s always free food and free coffee and free rides to and from anywhere on campus. We have a jar of sour patch kids in the office that is emptied every night by the graveyard shift. Aside from all of the shenanigans, confidentiality is a huge thing. Whenever I screw up (I know, you are surprised, but it happens), it’s kind of a big deal, because I’ve broken policy, or let someone die, or something like that. Our lunchtime conversations frequently consist of heated debates over the best way to enter a room where an active shooter is located (and that’s actually completely relevant). Other times, everyone enjoys berating my lack of culture because I have missed out on so many Will Ferrell movies (that’s actually not so relevant).
At HR, I have a cubicle. It’s a nice cubicle. I have a huge mac to work on, and I don’t have middle aged men interrupting my silence with their lunch breaks or reports. I sit there at that cubicle and I do research. For eight hours. I don’t really interact with the other interns, or with the full-time employees, except for my boss. They’re all really wonderful, but we all have work to do. And it’s a bit more disruptive and off-topic to discuss active shooter scenarios in a cubicle. Sure, we have a breakroom, but there’s no TV, and we share the room with other departments. In fact, if I’m careless, I could accidentally lock myself out of HR if I don’t prop the door open as I enter the breakroom. Let’s just say that I’m often careless. Also, it is a major sin to use the wrong department’s coffee pot. Seriously, office foul.
At Brainrush, we share a big open space. Throughout the course of a day, I may switch between the fatboy, the regular chair, standing, the couch, the exercise ball, and the new stair stepper-desk combo.
I made the mistake of wearing a pencil skirt to work on my first day, and then I realized that my two supervisors were both wearing yoga pants. We have a kitchen, but we don’t have a break room, because the whole place is an open area meant for creativity. Apparently we have a ping-pong table and a meditation area too, but I haven’t ventured into those sections of the suite yet. Last week, I took two hours off and went and got a haircut and then came back. In contrast to DPS, this job is virtually all female. I love our morning coffee breaks where we all leave and walk to the hipster coffee shop. The walk there is a miscellaneous conversation about what happened over the weekend and how everyone’s dogs are doing, the way back consists of soul searching dialogue, along with a general expression of grief that the GOOD barista wasn’t on staff, and agreement that the lattes would be much better this morning if he had been, and that we didn’t even get pretty hearts on the tops of our coffees.
At DPS, I wear business casual clothes, or my DPS uniform. At HR, I wear pencil skirts and blouses. At Brainrush, I wear pretty much anything but a DPS uniform or a business outfit. My role—from my attitude, to my volume, to my outfit—varies from job to job. I can’t be the same person in every job. Throwing delineations, writing tickets, and training new SSOs isn’t a job for a follower, but my other jobs require a lot of following and question asking. In one role I am teaching, in the others, I am learning. Some jobs are more creativity focused, some are more confidentiality focused.
I may be different at the different jobs, but I am hard working in all of them. Maybe hard working means literally sweating, if I have to walk up and down the hills of Malibu. Maybe it means doing research until my brain goes numb, or cutting audio files for eight hours. No matter the clothes I am in, I clothe myself in the same character at each place. I conform to the company culture while maintaining my core values and essence.
Paul said he was, “all things to all men.” I want to be all things to all men. I think I know how to be that way when it comes to jobs; I know how to be malleable to new norms, while keeping what matters constant. But on a broader scale, I think it’s hard to do. It’s hard for me to separate my culture from my core beliefs. It’s like when you take your Beaver Nuggets to the beach (yes, I have done this before). Inevitably, You set your brand new bag of Beaver Nuggets on your towel, and the instant the seal is broken, the sand migrates in and mingles with the Nuggets of Beaver, and you have a new crunch in your snack. You aren’t ever getting that sand out of the Beaver Nuggets now. You’re gonna end up eating a bag full of sand. Nice going. That’s how I feel about my socialization. I feel like it will be virtually impossible for me to separate my socialization, my cultural upbringing, from the truth. My mom made sure to teach me a lot of truth growing up. She tried her best to ground me in God’s word. But along the way, she probably taught me some of her own thoughts and fears too. And despite her best efforts, I watched some TV. I went to school. You get the picture.
I think college makes you realize just how much you were brainwashed as a kid. But that’s where I think a lot of college students get it wrong. Yeah, it’d be easy to get the sand out of the bag if I were to just dump all of those lustrous Beaver Nuggets out onto the ground and feed them to the seagulls. But that would be a waste of a perfectly good bag of Beaver Nuggets. Have you figured out yet that I am just really enjoying writing the phrase Beaver Nugget? Anyway. That’s not what I want to do. There is no sense in throwing all the good things I have learned away, so that instead of having some biased beliefs and some good beliefs, I can just have no beliefs. That’s a waste. But it’s so hard to get the sand out of the bag.
Why worry about the sand? you ask. Well, for one, if the FDA were a thing that was in existence right now (shutdown, LAWL), I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be letting Beaver Nuggets with Sand: Limited Edition pass. No, I don’t want to eat sand, I want to eat food. Eating sand is like eating beach dirt. Beach dirt that a bunch of fish and birds pooped and died in. But more importantly than that, I don’t want to be bogged down by these beliefs that don’t matter because they could limit me from seeing everyone that Jesus would have me touch with His love. That happened a lot with his apostles at first: they didn’t want to let children bother Jesus, they couldn’t understand what he meant about dying, and they certainly didn’t intend on sharing the Kingdom of Heaven with those dirty gentiles. And I don’t want that. Christ is supposed to live in me, and there isn’t room for Him if I am holding on to prejudices, preferences, or biases. And hey, I’m always going to have some personal beliefs. I’m always going to know that the Beavers (not the Nugget variety) are better than the Ducks, despite what the record might say. But I shouldn’t let those beliefs get in between myself and someone else. None of it matters, except Christ’s truth. And I shouldn’t let any of my personal beliefs get in between other people and Christ’s truth. So currently, I’m a Security Development Learning Content employee. I’m am Oregonian Floridian Californian Christian. And I hope some day to be much more open than that.
Sorry, this was wordy. I feel like I just barfed up a bunch of words. Or Beaver Nuggets.
Peace, Love, and Shoes, y’all.
I could tell you how I live with more girls than I have nuclear family members.
Or about how my nuclear family members are all over these United States (or did the government shutdown the “united” part, too?).
I could tell you about how I lost my license and my debit card.
I could tell you about how I found out about Caleb Bunting’s twin, who’s from Tampa.
But I think I’ll tell you that yesterday I officially named my car the Hogwarts Express. She’s great. The whole fact that I have her is a huge blessing. That being said, Tequila was a blessing too, and we went through a lot together. From softball games, to cross country moves, she’s had everything from hoodrat baseball boys to 100 year old rocking chairs stuffed into the backseat. This is a gem from my old Pleonast, and I felt like this was the perfect time to share it:
Today I was walking to my car and was struck with an idea. My car is me. Well, not really, my car is Tequila, and she is named after an IHOP waitress I had several years ago. But in many ways, my car is an expression of who I am right now and how I feel right now. My car is relatively average looking. Silver. Covered in pollen. The front bumper has a big gash. or hole. or whatever. But that one is my fault, not Tequila’s. Maybe I’ll get it fixed someday. But I think it gives her character. One window is broken. I don’t really know how it happened. I just heard a noise one day, looked back, and realized the window wouldn’t roll up. At least it is a back window and it doesn’t matter all that much. Really, the window’s motor is broken and it’ll be fixed in a week or two, once I come up with the money. So at least there’s no broken glass or anything. I have, in the meantime, covered it with a garbage bag and yellow duct tape. Duct tape that andrea stole from tia. in the middle of a thunderstorm. While I was marooned at the business building wondering how to keep the water out of my car. Like I said though, As soon as I get the money it’ll be all better. I think that Tequila also needs new brakes. I mean, she’ll stop, but when I break really hard, the steering wheel shakes and it is scary. She is always running on empty. Well, not quite empty, but always very low. But she always has enough to get by. Her o2 filter is broken. For those of you who don’t know, apparently an o2 filter monitors the oxygen that is going into the engine. I guess it needs replaced or something, because that is what my mechanic said. Maybe she’ll run better once that is taken care of. I got my car from my grandma. Actually I bought her from my grandma. With the help of my parents. I wasn’t grateful enough for her at the time. I mean, I was grateful, but also felt entitled. Now I see her more as a responsibility, but she is also a huge blessing. And she isn’t like the van I used to drive: she is dependable. She never randomly dies on me, even when she’s having problems. Lastly, I want to tell you about Tequila’s markings. On the UN-broken back window, she has a smiley face drawn in blue faded window paint. And on the back window, there is a “Jesus Fish” and the word “Jesus” written in equally faded blue paint. I am not responsible for these markings. I can take no credit for them. They just magically appeared on my car one day a long time ago and I do not know how they got there. But I appreciate them. Because even when my car is looking her utmost ghetto and pitiful, she still is looking optimistic. When I glance up and see the garbage bag, yellow duct tape, and puncture wound, I also see the fish and smiley face. and I know I’m taken care of.
Sorry. I’m really random. Hope you didnt read all that. Imma go eat some breakfast for dinner now….
Wow, who knew I had emotions, even as a wee Sophomore? Anyway, most of that is true. But I want to make one amendment: It already is better, I don’t need to wait till I get the money. I am taken care of, and I hope that some day soon, I will remember that. You’d think that when I see THIS every day, I’d be better at remembering. But, whatever.
Why do I love the Hogwarts Express enough to name my Subaru after it? Well, for one, I think it will be simply lovely to proclaim, “all aboard the Hogwarts Express!” when it’s time to depart. But aside from that VERY important reason, I think the Hogwarts Express is a symbol of new beginnings. It’s the first tangible aspect of Hogwarts that new students witness. And yeah, the n00bs have an idea of where they are going, and they are excited and all that, but they don’t really have a clue what is in store for them. They don’t have a clue what the castle will look like. Or what their teachers will be like. Or what house they’ll be in. For that matter, they don’t have any idea what the rest of their lives will hold.
A friend of mine shared this article with me recently, and I thought it was pretty awesome. I know that people can serve God without being happy. I think Elijah is an example of that. But I think it’s pretty amazing when “studies” show that God is good for you. I feel like too often I act like the first type of joy-seeker: I look for it in pleasantness, in material comfort. And then it’s embarrassing how often those comforts seem insufficient, and I complain about stupid stuff, and get stressed over stupid things. Yeah, cool, the God of the universe gave his son to die for me so that I could eternally live in relationship with Him, but this wind is TOTALLY throwing off my tennis game, and my housemates are so ridiculous sometimes. (Yeah, so I tried not to complain at all today, and those were the two things I complained about). I mean, I’m supposed to be in relationship with Him now, so it’s kind of ridiculous for me to be upset about whatever it is that is going on enough to forget the bigger picture. It’s kind of cheapening the gospel. Who wants to hear the good news from someone who is constantly upset? Obviously the news isn’t THAT good.
In other news, I found the most wonderful thing in the world. It’s so wonderful, in fact, that I probably already told you about it.
Isn’t that great? It’s Harry Potter AND Psychology. The bad news is that Matt and I are BOTH INTJ (Malfoy), and Sarah is ENFJ (Dumbledore). So instead of being Harry, Ron, and Hermione, we’re two Malfoys and a Dumbledore. Great team there. Really, though, I am thankful every day for the wonderful friends God has blessed me with here. No one understands my nerdiness as much as Matt, and no one makes me try new things as much as Sarah. I couldn’t have planned things better if I had gotten the opportunity. Which makes me think that maybe it would be a good thing if none of my plans work out.
I have a vague idea of what this year, this decade, this life will hold, but I really don’t have any clue. I pray that it will be full of joy and peace and love, but aside from that, how can I plan it? Who cares if my compartment has two Malfoys and a Dumbledore? It’s pretty awesome. And I may not know for sure what’s awaiting me at the end of the train tracks, but I can enjoy the ride. I can enjoy the crazy schedule of juggling jobs and classes. I can relish the oddities my housemates hold. I can love the one family member I have left in CA. I can trust that the Lord will provide for me while I wait for my debit card to come. And I can listen to hours of Matt Hires and creep out Law School students in Starbucks parking lots…Oh, wait, I already did that tonight. It doesn’t matter that the train is cold, or that the ride is bumpy, or that I don’t have enough money for the trolley: all that matter is that I am with people I love, and that I am excited about where the train is taking me.
Peace, love, and [sensible] shoes.
I’m writing this from the best cabin on the west coast—my aunt’s place in the Portland woods. Cooper and I drove up here, through hazardous smoke from surrounding forest fires. Finally, after driving through smoke for an hour, and passing a trucker wearing a breathing mask, I decided to look it up and find out where all the smoke was coming from. The answer was, everywhere. There were several different fires, and the air quality for the region we were driving through was at the “hazardous” level. In case you are unlearned in air quality denomination system, “hazardous” is the worst it can be. Needless to say, Cooper wanted to forego stopping for lunch until we found some clean air. We came through it fine though, and I’m enjoying some very fresh Oregon air, along with cards with cousins, chats with grandma, and antics of the food carts/donut shops/farmers markets/getting lost in the woods nature. I’m a long way from my old life in Florida, but somehow I see FC people everywhere. It’s nice—it makes this big world feel so much smaller. I got to surprise the Oregon camp friends, which was just lovely.
Speaking of FC friends, one of my overly conservative friends at FC once told me that he disapproved of those popular “Jesus fish” bumper stickers that people put on their cars. I was expecting him to say that they were liberal or something. No, he was worried that if a Christian had one, they would eventually sell the car. Then, the car would probably belong to a non-Christian, who would either drive badly and make people think it was a hypocritical Christian, or take the sticker off, leaving residue, and making people think that the car belonged to someone who had lost their faith. I found this thought process to be mind-boggling, but mildly entertaining.
At this point, you might be a little confused, since this post is so very unlike my last post. After all, it was a big heap of crying and driving. A little ironic, considering this lovely bit of advice my traffic school gave me recently:
No, I didn’t get pulled over by the waaaambulance, that isn’t why I got stuck doing traffic school. It was a bright Sunday morning, my car packed with clan members, when I got pulled over for speeding like a fiend down the PCH. I guess that means that this paragraph was meant for me:
Easy for the condescending, mighty traffic school gurus to say—they don’t know what it’s like to be late to church! It’s not that I am, “preoccupied with myself,” as they accuse. I just want to show that I actually care about being there by being punctual. I’m not trying to, “get there first,” I’m just trying to get there on time. Being late is not really a part of my plan.
So I learned some valuable lessons from traffic school, and got some other fun facts thrown in just for fun.
Yes, I learned a thing or two from traffic school. But it wasn’t always an easy process. Last week, after a week of living in a cabin with a gaggle of 7th grade girls, I sat in my Malibu Starbucks for hours, staring at the traffic school text on my computer screen. One can only stare at traffic school for so long before they inevitably fall headfirst onto their keyboard in what my mom refers to as “sleep of depression.” There I was, defeated, keyboard making a brand on my forehead, dreaming in the middle of the Malibu Starbucks, when I was interrupted by a tap on my shoulder. Dazedly looking around for the culprit, I was distressed to see the Starbucks employee standing over me. Surely he would tell me to stop snoring in his establishment. My embarrassment quickly turned into some form of lifelong indebtedness, when he instead said, “Hey, we are throwing away our pastries in an hour. So, would you like one?” Let me tell you. That free pastry had magical powers. I went into beast mode, and my traffic school quizzes were completed within the hour.
I guess I learned a lot about driving this past few months. Better to leave early or arrive late, than to pay several hundred dollars, sit through hours of traffic school, or die. But even the concepts that we grasp when it comes to driving are lost when it comes to applying them to our real lives:
- If you’re driving through fire, don’t stop.
- Too often (young people in particular) make important life decisions based off of emotion, and end up steering their lives in wrong directions or getting into collisions with others.
- Christians regularly navigate their lives offensively, rather than defensively. “That’s my right!” “I earned this!” When we maneuver our lives with worldly mindsets, what makes us any different? Claiming to be a Christian, but having the “get there first” mentality is like driving recklessly with a Jesus fish bumper sticker on your car.
- If there is one thing that is consistent about LA traffic flow, it’s that it is bad. Accidents, bad weather, and construction are just part of the deal. You just have to turn up the radio and take what comes. But for some reason, when it comes to our lives, we act so surprised when there is a hold up or hang up or rerouting.
- If you are following someone else so closely that they are blocking your view of the big picture, then you are following them too closely.
- It is much better to avoid a collision with others than to try to correct your course the moment before impact.
- Having the “right-of-way” doesn’t give you license to be a jerk. Just because you have the right to do something doesn’t mean it is always the correct thing to do.
- Drive the road less traveled—it’s less congested.
- Whenever possible, offer people pastries—it can do more for them than you would expect.
Peace, Love, Shoes.
Oh, and P.S.
What were they thinking?
This afternoon, with the Pacific Ocean splashing up on my right, the cliffs towering on my left, traffic smothering me on all sides, and tears streaming down my face, I sang “Blest Be The Tie” alone, and tried not to add another tally to the ridiculous statistic of PCH crashes. I don’t tell you this to garner sympathy. I tell you because, a. It’s a funny picture. I felt ridiculous, even as it was happening. b. To remind everyone that I am, in fact, a girl, and that I do, in fact, miss you all very, very much.
Now, in case I haven’t humiliated myself enough on the internet, I’d like to share another story from this weekend—one that will hopefully have more applicability than a 20-year-old woman bawling like a 20-month-old. Last night, my family sat around debating whether or not to go see The Great Gatsby.
Somehow, Cooper prevailed upon me to play video games with them instead. Right up there with my inability to dance, whistle, and display appropriate emotion is my inability to play video games. I just pray thanks that I was born a female. Anyway, I got suckered into about four rounds of some awful superhero-fight-club style game. I am pretty sure I lost all of them (except one against my mom…). That’s not the embarrassing part. The embarrassing part is that after those four rounds (about 2:00 minutes each), my left thumb had formed a significant blister. This is not a joke. I have photographic proof. I was not only pathetic enough to lose video games to my mom, I actually had a blister from playing 10:00 minutes of the ps3. I am sure you can imagine the humor that this little stunt provided the rest of my family.
This episode was reminiscent of The Time I Learned To Ride A Bike. This is not to be confused with The Time I Taught Andrea To Ride A Bike At Age Eighteen, although that was a blog-worthy story too.
No, I learned to ride a bike way back in Olympia, Washington, at the age of Seven. The blip was that I learned to ride at the same time as Cooper. Now, Cooper had been chasing me since before he could walk. Literally. Seriously, though: for some reason, mom put him in a walker at the tender age of a couple months, and he would wobble all over the house chasing me around. So, I am sure that you can imagine the implications of Cooper on a bike. Whether intentionally or not, he ran into me countless times on that first harrowing bike day. Honestly, I am not sure how I made it through that day without having a heart attack. We have home video footage of it (as we do of all the episodes of my Especially Awkward Days) (Let’s be honest, all of the days are pretty awkward). In this video, you can tell by my posture that I felt similar anxiety to a Nascar Driver. When I finally went inside that day, I could barely move my hands, I had been holding the handlebars so tightly. Whether or not I had blisters from my day of bike riding, it sure felt like it.
That’s kind of my default, though: holding on as tight as I can and hoping I don’t fall down, or get thrown through a wall by the villain, or whatever. But that’s not healthy. Or beneficial. Or fun. And in reality, Cooper probably will run me over, the Joker will probably set me on fire, regardless of whether or not I am worrying about it. But that’s part of life. Falling. Having people run into you. Being thrown through walls (uh…). So why not enjoy the rest of it? So here’s to the next 20 years being blister free, even if I do get a few more scrapes.
You’ve all seen that meme, Bad Luck Brian, right? Well, my friends and I like to say “Bad Luck Emma.” Basically, if something can go wrong for me, it usually does. And if something cannot go wrong, it sometimes does so anyhow. I’m not complaining- a lot of things go very right, and without my assistance.
Working the graduation means one thing to an SSO: Mario Cart. They gave us all keys and said, “Go pick out your golf cart!” I felt like I was on Oprah of something. There were carts of all sizes and brands, but I made the wise choice and made a b-line for the largest gas-powered vehicle I could find. I guess it was the Southerner in me. My rarely-expressive face cracked a gleeful smirk, envisioning my victorious vehicle lapping all the puny electric carts as we circled the parking lot. However, contrary to popular belief, the main objective of the carts during graduation is to taxi elderly and handicapped visitors from the parking lot to the graduation field. If I had kept that in mind, I might have picked out more reasonable auto. As it was, my clientele did not seem to appreciate the ride’s power as much as I did- and it turned out that power did not really imply safety. You see, the passage between the lot and the field is at about a 15% incline (at least, I think I am describing that correctly). It’s steep- that’s one of the reasons we were chauffeuring people to begin with. This incline, it turned out, was a bit much for my new wheels: the gas pedal took a good moment to get a response, so if I became stopped on the slope, I invariably lurched back a bit before taking off. And once I took off, I really took off. Add to this predicament the hordes of graduation-goers (literally thousands of people) who swarmed the crosswalk, and you have quite the obstacle course. There I was, on a cart laden with 7 elderly people (+walkers), stuck on a sloped crosswalk, swimming upstream against the crowd of apparently unsympathetic pedestrians. I tried not to appear terrified, but my supervisor later informed me that she could see terror painted across my face ( I suppose I am more expressive than I sometimes think). I was not the only one feeling uncertain: I heard one of my passengers exclaim, “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride!” as I excited the crosswalk. Now, for the sake of the department and everyone’s peace of mind, I want to make the point: it was actually a safe situation, no one was hurt, no one fell out of the buggy. It was probably worse in my head than it was in real life.
Another issue with driving the gas-powered version: when I had to drive a nurse up to the front of the crowd in the middle of the ceremony, it would have been nice to drive something that sounded less like a lawn mower. So, that’s that on that. What did I learn from all this? Next graduation, I’m taking an electric cart. Also, I realized that it would be much better to keep from coming to a complete stop.
I think that’s true spiritually, too. I think when we come to a stop, it is harder to move forward again. Naturally, we will be inclined to roll backwards down the crosswalk. And rolling back down the crosswalk doesn’t just negatively affect me-it affects the people who I am steering, and it affects the people who I roll back onto and squash. What about those pedestrians in front of me, who were disinclined to move? Even causing someone to slow or halt their spiritual growth may be just as detrimental to them as pushing them backwards, because it may have the same effect. And yeah, my Christian life might be disruptive to this world. It might be loud and awkward and all that. But if it’s a choice between helping save lives or keeping quiet in the background, I hope I drive up to the front row every time. Is that how we look at it though? I don’t think it is. I don’t I don’t think I make it that black and white. It’s easier to see the importance of things like that when they are physical and tangible, and easier to minimize them when they take spiritual perception.
So that’s all of my pontification for now. Update on life in general? It’s coming up on a year since I moved to Cali. I feel like a lot has happened since then. I am working at DPS this summer, as well as taking summer classes. I get to live in the classy apartments, and it is nice to have a kitchen for a change. I got a free surfboard from some freshman I don’t even know the name of, and I am hoping Sarah teaches me how to surf. We’re missing Matt already and enjoying our last month with Kiah for a while. Maggie is moving and Cooper and Maris are spending their last summer at home before ventur(a)ing into the world (see what I did there?). So here’s to SoCal summers with ocean views. Here’s to desk jobs and booth jobs and walking around outside jobs. Here’s to making my own food for the first time. Here’s to being in a better place this year than I was last year. Here’s to rolling right over Satan in my spirit-powered chariot. Or cart. Or whatever. Because if I stop, I know the incline is steep.
Well, I’m gonna finish eating dinner by myself now. When does Sarah get back again?
There are a lot of things that I could tell you about. I could tell you about the “ancient history” of this semester—about the Chick-fil-a camp-out with the clan, the homeless woman who couldn’t bear to give up smoking weed for 24 hours so that she could camp out with us, about Chinese New Year in Chinatown, and how my computer crashed. I could tell you about my spring break–about the massive number of Benadryl that I begged, borrowed, stole, and consumed, about the wonderful friends that I was able to see for a painfully short amount of time, about the Chick-fil-a football and karaoke funtimes, about freshman-style slumber parties, successful SWSOTCOs, awkward bible classes, 3rd wheeling all over town, hoodtrat times with old friends, getting in trouble with Shirley, and a precious country music night. I could tell you about this coming week—about how Tiffany and Laney are spending the entire week with us, and how we’re calling it Spring Break Part 2, about how we went to a DPS dinner last night and followed it up with trying to get into Justin Beiber’s neighborhood, about how it’s 1:40pm and we are finally getting ready for the day.
But who has time for that? Honestly, I don’t have any cleverly devised, plotted post to share with you. I guess I’ll just share a story, ramble, and then throw some pictures at the end so y’all will be appeased.
One of my classes (psychopharmacology) is all about drugs. Sure, the class with the narc was pretty intense: he brought in a diverse and plentiful array of drugs for us to try…I mean…study. That, however, was nothing compared to our out of class assignment. Long story short, I found myself at an AA meeting with one of my friends, desperately hoping that I would not get called on by the group leader. The whole thing was really interesting, and it broke a lot of my prior stereotypes about substance abuse. They passed around a collection basket, read a passage (from their handbook), and said the serenity prayer. There were people from all walks of life there–but they shared a key thing in common: they were all struggling, at varying levels, to keep this new life and leave the slavery of substance in the past. Many of them emphasized over the course of the evening that in order for them to stay free from alcohol they needed to stay totally committed and involved in AA. They said that life was so much more worth living now, but that it was still hard. They went to meetings more than once a week, even though they were kind of a drive.
It was like they were playing church, and that made it kind of sad. But sometimes I think we can learn from copies: we can see key aspects of our purpose that we are overlooking, and areas where knock-offs are doing good. They were all so open about their struggles, how many days they were clean and what they were still having trouble with. They shared with each other, served each other, and all openly recognized their flaws (“Hi, I’m John, and I’m an alcoholic”). They were committed to the group and viewed each other as family, because, no matter their other differences, they had the same goal: staying sober. I want us to be more like that. A group of people with the same goal: staying free from the slavery of sin, helping each other towards that goal, serving each other in that, and, where I think we fail most, honestly, openly, admitting and living the transparency of humility:
Hi, I’m Emma, and I’m a sinaholic. Right now I am struggling with putting God first in my life, and with trusting Him enough to not worry about the next day, or where my food or shelter or clothing will come from. I have too much hatred in my heart, but I’m improving. I’m learning to value relationships with God and with others over all the distracting stuff going on down here. And I’m learning a whole lot about drugs this semester, too.
Now here are some pictures (sorry for the quality):
I don’t have time to edit this, because we’re going to Santa Monica, so I’m sorry for that too (William) (Emma).
As Minerva Mcgonagall says to Professor Umbridge, “Oh, there are plenty of things I would like to say.” Unfortunately, however, I do not have the time or patience to say them all, and I am quite positive that nobody would read them all. So, I will give you a brief update, and some long overdue pictures.
This weekend was lovely. Yesterday, the clan made a whirlwind tour of LA, including Olvera St., K-Town, the Griffith Observatory, the Hollywood Stars, Whimsic Alley, and a yummy greek restaurant in our lovely Santa Monica. It was all great, but if you want to see pictures, you’ll have to wait for Sarah to get around to putting them on FB. I am busy with work and school, counting down the days until our CFA camp-out, and then until my FL SB! To sum it up, there are plenty of things to keep me busy, plenty of things to look forward to, plenty of things to pray for, and plenty of things to thank God for. Now, for a few pictures.
Does that sound like hyperbole? Here’s the proof:
Peace, Love, and Shoes.