April, 2007

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Old textbook brought to fruition

Monday, April 30th, 2007

I was reading through an old music theory textbook tonight (you know, as one does), and came across the following sentence, boldly underlined: “Indeed, music does border on the infinite, for it is intangible, invisible, and fleeting, existing only in time.” Compelled, I went back and read it again, and then again.

Traces of music have been found in the most ancient civilizations and the most primitive tribal cultures. Scientists even claim that it exists in space. It has been around for as long as anyone has been keeping track.

What is it about music that is so universally important? Music draws our emotions out, often to the point of wringing us dry. Everyone loves music. And if someone is an anomaly who does not love music, at least they don’t hate music. That would be simply inconceivable – an impossibility on par with someone watching this and not feeling their heart smile, even just a little bit.

When one is listening to music that they really love, the same “pleasure centers” in the brain light up as are associated with sex, drugs, and chocolate. My friend John Medina tells me that music recognition and comprehension are stored in many areas throughout the brain, and that this is an evolutionary response to strokes; the more areas of the brain that store a certain subject, the better chance of retaining an ability in the event that part of the brain is lost. The more areas of the brain that a subject is stored, the longer it has been around (i.e. had the chance to develop in different regions of the brain).

The fascinating thing: music is found in more areas of the brain than language. Therefore, it is safe to say that music preceded language. This is why stroke victims often lose their verbal skills, but retain musical comprehension.

I think about the verse in the bible that says, “The Lord will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). It baffles me to think that music is part of God’s language toward us. He uses music as a communication tool, a way to interact that goes beyond just words, hence the emotional response that people often have in worship at church – or, for that matter, at a U2 concert.

Last night was a rare night for me: I remembered how much I love to sing. For all of the singing that I do, I often forget that I love it. But sometimes – sometimes – I remember, and I feel the power and freedom, the infinity of music. I love to sing. I really do.

And as I recently read, everyone simply must do what they love.

Things I loathe

Saturday, April 28th, 2007

There are certain things that, frankly, I just cannot stand.

Disclaimer: Just because I am choosing to focus on the negative this morning does not mean that I am always a negative person. I happen to have a panoply of things that I love, too (one of which being the asparagus bruschetta that I ate at the Sitting Room last night – an explosion of flavor so delicious, it was almost painful), but now is simply not the time nor place for cheer.

So without further ado, THINGS I LOATHE:

* Fleece. The idea of fleece is nice – soft, warm, cozy – but in reality, to me, the fabric has an affect akin to nails on a chalkboard. Who knows why, but when I touch it, I am afraid that my fingernails are going to crack apart. The 2006 Parsons’ family Christmas picture involved us all wearing our new matching LL Bean fleeces (I know… you wish your family was as cool…), and my mom practically having to forcefully pull mine down over my head. Fleece is always covered in dog hair and long strands of Tahitian Dawn, which brings me to my next topic…

* Hair that’s detached from the head. I don’t mind touching hair, as long as it is still firmly rooted in the scalp. Once it’s loosened, a free agent falling to wherever it might land (MAYBE ON ME, MAYBE ON ME, EWWWWW), it takes on a disgusting, alien persona, and there is nothing grosser than hair on the bathroom floor.

* “King Kong.” I found this to be the worst movie ever. I distinctly remember sitting in the theater on Christmas night 2005, and every 10 minutes or so exchanging glances with my mom and my sisters, like, “This must be what it feels like to die.” The ape doesn’t even show up for the first hour and a half… and even at that point, you’re only half-way through. I mean, come on… dinosaurs? aboriginals? Jack Black? I felt nothing for the poor beast – I was too distracted by Naomi Watts’s vacant stare accompanied by a half-open mouth.

* The awful way that my hands feel after peeling an orange: contaminated and dry. I normally have at least one cut on one of my fingers, made altogether evident by the excruciating sting of citrus juice. How is it that so much pain can be caused by one tiny paper-cut? You might as well skin me and douse me in lemon juice.

* Christian awkwardness in the form of promise rings, unity candles, and foot-washing. Promise rings are for couples who are too young, broke, and unprepared for marriage (i.e. should not even be considering marriage in the first place). The unity candle is the gratuitous tradition that no one is really moved by, but somehow the bride and groom feel compelled to include in their ceremony anyway. And foot-washing? I’m sure that there’s a time and place – I’m sure, right? Maybe? I can’t think of one right now. I’m a Christian girl who sees a time and a place for biblical tradition – and yet, foot-washing? I cannot handle it. Just try to change my mind on this one – just try.

* Comic Sans font. I read something in Comic Sans, and I imagine Goofy’s voice reading it – it’s just a silly, nonsensical print. Me? I’m an Arial girl, and I live in an Arial world.

This list is far from complete. But I feel confident in saying that I would rather be forced to memorize the book of Leviticus than experience anything mentioned here.

Percolation

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

Lately, I’ve been on a personal finance kick. As a part of my life-goal of becoming “Coolest Woman Ever,” I am learning a little bit about how to make my money work for me, and the different high-interest accounts that will earn me cash without requiring me to do anything.

In a similar vein, every day, I break my own record of “most consecutive days lived.” It’s awesome. Like an HSBC Direct account, I don’t have to do anything, and I’m reaching new heights every second! Money in the bank, just by being.

But for all of the living that I am racking up, how many of my days are filled with really “living”? Generally, I feel like my life is a series of unsurprising events: wake up, call my mom, go to work, consume calories, burn calories, do my dishes, go to bed. (Alright, okay, I know – this list should also include other predictable day-to-day activities, like lip-sync to Queen’s “Somebody to Love,” email with strangers on the internet, and compulsively color-code my closet… but who’s really counting?) I am a creature of habit, thriving on routine and predictability. What is written in my calendar is what I do, rarely with any deviance. I am steady, stable, and secure.

And a little bit restless.

These days, I am trying to open myself up to the possibilities that life has to offer. So far, this is proving to be a very extraordinary decision, and most of the time, I feel happy when I have allowed myself to get sidetracked from “the Plan.” I find myself saying “yes” to social engagements more often these days, even when my initial reaction is, “No thanks, I’d rather stay home and blog.” And I am usually pleasantly surprised at the interactions that I have as a result. Today, when I unexpectedly ran into my friend Zach at Caffe Ladro, I spent an unplanned hour and a half hearing about his life, and then sitting in his Volvo to listen to two songs that he’d written. It was a sweet time, and I feel like I know him better now as a result. I don’t really know what I’m doing tomorrow night, and I don’t feel frantic to figure it out. Because I’m pretty sure that when the time comes, I’ll find myself doing something.

In the fall, I will quit my job and hit the road for 4 unprogrammed months. For some odd reason, I am not freaking out about this. In fact, it sounds blissful and adventuresome – to be on the road with only what the Honda will carry, a vagabond in a red dress, funded in part by the money that is miraculously percolating in my savings account.

Seriously. HSBC Direct. Do yourself a favor and check. it. out.

The Annie-Bo-Bannie-Mobile

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

It hit me today: my car is old.

Roughly 50% of girls born the same year as my car have already lost their virginity.

1990 doesn’t sound like it was all that long ago, but then I remember that in 1990, Phil Collins’ “Another Day in Paradise” was at the top of the charts. I’m pretty sure that it’s the year that Nicky and Alex were born to Uncle Jesse and Becky on “Full House.” And Kevin Costner made women swoon as Dances with Wolves… although I was far too young for those hot teepee love scenes until, well, this year.

The past 17 years have been very full for my Honda Accord. My friend Lisa bought it brand new in 1990, and then sold it to me in 2000 after it had been stolen, missing for long enough that she got a new car, and then recovered. It had been stolen by a drug dealer and involved in a HIGH SPEED POLICE SHOOT OUT; the bad assery of the situation screamed my name, and I knew that the car had to be mine.

For 7 years, the Honda has been my trusty transportation to life. I have spent thousands of hours driving around Seattle, down the Pacific coast, east across the mountains, to Kansas and back multiple times, through snowstorms, fog, rain, and scorching heat. Fast, smooth, and quiet, it shifts easily and can be parked anywhere (which is also due to the fact that I am the self-proclaimed champion of the hypothetical Parallel Parking Olympics). It assisted me in getting a $480 speeding ticket, and a $190 parking ticket. It’s an icon of my college experience, my becoming a grown up, my beloved Seattle and the years I have spent here.

But one day, it started: it lost a hubcap. And consequently, officially looked dumpy. I am too lazy and broke to order a new one, not to mention how do you put on a new hubcap? It just looks old. I could never pull up to a valet with these wheels… not that I ever have the opportunity… but still. THEORETICALLY.

Little things have started to break, and my patch-work repairs cannot keep up. Bungee cords can only take you so far, and now is probably the time to mention that you should never super-glue the headlight casing into place, even if it looks less conspicuous than duct tape. I am down to half a working speaker, which crackles in and out of functionality in the middle of good songs, leading me to cuss, and cuss loudly. It has been broken into multiple times, and was stolen twice in a month this past winter. I am on last name basis with my car repair guys (not to mention the cops), which is WAY cooler than first name basis.

Oh, I have had my little victories. When the speedometer stopped working, I did my research and ordered and installed the part myself. When a knob broke off the dashboard and I spent a good 4 months with perpetual scalding heat coming out of the heater, I eventually figured out how to fix that, too.

But yeah, mostly? The Honda is circling the drain.

As I look ahead to The Big Trip beginning in September, I realize that this will probably be the last hurrah for me with my treasured vehicle. It’s been creaking and groaning. The gas mileage is getting progressively worse and worse. I await the day when it bursts into flames on the freeway, and no amount of money will be able to resurrect it from the dead. Or maybe, I’ll just drive it and drive it and drive it until one day, I know that I cannot take it any further.

When that fateful day comes, I will take it out for a nice long drive, stroke the steering wheel, and tell it how much I love it, that it kills me to let it go, but we both know it’s for the best. Then I’ll wash it, polish it up, and drive it to Canlis. I’ll hand the keys to the valet, and with a swirl of my dress and a flick of my heel, smile and say, “Don’t forget to put the Club on!”

honda

On loneliness

Sunday, April 22nd, 2007

I feel lonely, kind of all the time.

I am learning to look at this as not a bad thing – but it’s taken a long time for me to reach this perspective. As a little girl, I always had a best friend – that one major person to whom I had undying loyalty, and who had the unspoken and understood privilege of access to every area of my life. No secrets kept, no socializing without the other, and the same was expected from the other person. Utter devotion.

There is safety that comes along with a best friend; you never have to go it alone.

This best friend figure has shifted several times throughout my life – sometimes a girl, sometimes a woman twice my age, sometimes a boyfriend – but as I’ve gotten older, the role has changed. I have several very close friends, and yet none of them fill the role that I became accustomed to as a child; in short, several people are “best” and no one is “best.” I do not have that constant companion, the person that I share every secret of my soul with.

But I think that’s okay.

The more humans that I come into contact with, I realize more and more that everyone just wants to belong – it is our greatest need, our greatest desire. Everyone longs to be known, to be loved and appreciated, and for a place called “home.” I feel it so acutely, and often ask the same question that I would wager that we all ask: “Does anyone really see me?”

Currently, I am in a very interesting, uncertain time in my life. I am asking some major questions about who I am, what I want, where I belong, what I am meant to do, what I am good at, what I love, and where I am headed. I don’t know. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know. I just don’t know. I have never felt simultaneously more certain and uncertain about my worth, my gifting, and my direction. I wish someone could come along and just tell me, just say, “This is who you are and this is what you’re good at – and this is what you were meant for. Now go do it.”

I feel lonely.

But maybe loneliness isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe it isn’t something to be avoided. We are so quick to numb ourselves these days – avoid bad, scary feelings at all costs by “fixing” the problem. Feel sad? Go shopping. Eat a bunch of food. Drink away the pain. Seek thrills. Hook up with some stranger. Run the other way. Slam the door in the face of whatever ails you.

But maybe we are wrong. Maybe when we feel sad and lonely, we are supposed to just go ahead and feel sad and lonely.

If I had a “best friend,” I’m pretty sure that I would still get lonely. If I was dating someone, or married, or had babies, or had the perfect career, or drove an Audi, or was famous, or had a ton of money, or was insanely smart… I would still get lonely. There is a place inside each of us that will never be reached by anyone or anything else, no matter how much these things resonate with our souls. This is the place that keeps us seeking God; I think we were designed this way on purpose.

Maybe loneliness is simply an indication of our uniqueness. Maybe loneliness acts as a catalyst to lead us to change the world. Maybe loneliness drives us to change, and to seek out adventure. Maybe loneliness makes us free.

Cross my heart, hope to dye

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

The best thing about living alone is that there’s no one around. The worst thing about living alone is that there’s no one around. Allow me to explain.

I left the gym at about 9:45 tonight, and was overwhelmed with the need – the NEED – to dye my hair. Not tomorrow, not next week – right this very second. I dye my hair from a box, which inevitably leads to deflating moments at the salon. I am due for a haircut, and mark my words, my stylist will pick at my hair, comment on how dry it is (yeah right, lady), and say, “So do you, like, dye it yourself?”

Yes, cupcake, I sure do, because in order to afford your foiling services, I would have to do this.

So I ran across the street to Walgreens, picked out a box, and came home. This is the part where a roommate or a sister or a mom would be helpful – because I have a major head of hair. I can’t see the back. I can’t keep the dye from running in black ribbons down my face. I can’t tell if every strand of hair has been fully saturated with dye. These obstacles did not stop me, though – ooooh no.

Before I knew it, I had dye everywhere. E-VERY-WHERE. The bathroom looked like a crime scene. Black blood-like pigment all over the bathroom floor, my shower curtain, in my eyes, my face, ears, collarbone, shoulders, legs, back… and what didn’t rot my flesh away with its savage chemicals simply left my body looking as if I had been bludgeoned with a Sally rod.

As I combed the color through my hair, I removed what only can be described as a large hamster of a hairball from my scalp. Not my plain brown hair, but Medium Amber Copper Brown hair. This brings me to a few tangents.

Tangent #1
Medium Amber Copper Brown is an incredibly overt, obvious name for hair dye. It reminds me of one of my biggest pet peeves: Menu-Dishes-that-List-Every-Ingredient-in-their-Title. Escargot-under-puff-pastry-with-whole-roasted-garlic-and-lemon-butter. Mango-salad-with-pomengranate-glaze-and-chive-oil. You know what I’m saying? Don’t get me wrong – I’m happy to know what’s in it – but that still doesn’t convince me that it’s worth $16. Menus should come up with snappy, merrymaking names, as should hair dye companies. Instead of Medium Amber Copper Brown, how about Papaya of the Sea? Or Tahitian Dawn? Which brings me to…

Tangent #2
When I was in 4th grade, I believed “Dawn” to be the most beautiful name of all time, largely due to Ann M. Martin. But what could a 10-year old name “Dawn” that wouldn’t be altogether ridiculous?

I submit to you: a hermit crab.

When I was in 4th grade, I was given the honor of naming our class pet, an ugly little hermit crab. I named her Dawn. She lived for 4 days before she died. Not dyed.

AND THAT, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, IS HOW YOU BRING THE TANGENTS FULL CIRCLE.

I am now out of the shower, having scrubbed the top 2 layers of skin off with a loofah, in order to remove the bruise-like stains. The bathroom floor and counter have been scrubbed, and I’ve disposed of the chemicals in a way that I can only hope does not lead to spontaneous combustion. My hair is now dyed Tahitian Dawn, which is code for “basically the exact same color it was before.”

A good life

Saturday, April 14th, 2007

When I was in college, I couldn’t wait to graduate. I was positive that life was going to improve in a major way once I stepped away from academia, homework, and the pressure of being a student; life had to get better. I had some serious nay-sayers in my life telling me that “real-life” is actually 100 times worse than college, and that the days spent in a university setting are as good as it gets, and that I would be sorry when it was all over.

Those people were so wrong.

I love being NOT a student. It’s not that I don’t enjoy learning – on the contrary, I love feeding my mind and learning new things – but I like doing it on my own terms. I love the freedom that comes with simply living life – the ability to set my own schedule, working but not slaving… To me, “being a grown up” is, for the most part, exciting and fun. I feel like I’m at a point where I am able to embrace the good and deal with the lame.

Somedays, I think, “Life is so great.” Today is one of those days, for the following reasons:

1) For the second day in a row, I am wearing a dress and boots. I’m pretty sure that when God created me, this was what he intended me to wear – because I feel oddly satisfied and triumphant when wearing a dress and boots.

2) I spent a couple of hours at Cafe Ladro in Fremont today, and brought along my home office (laptop, iPod, camera, phone, Annie Dillard) in order to make the time productive and soul-filling. I feel incredibly spoiled, simply because I own all of that stuff. I also brought left-over sushi for lunch, so honestly? Could life get any better?

Oh yes. It could.

3) As I was walking through Wallingford today, I remembered that Bella Cosa has free tastings on Saturday afternoons. So I popped in and was treated to 3 different wines, delicious olives, and DUCK SALAMI. Be still my fluttering heart.

4) I vacuumed my apartment. With my own vacuum. I own a vacuum! That’s so cool! I also dusted, did my dishes, made my bed, hung up all of the clothes on my floor, wiped the bathroom counter, and rearranged the fresh tulips from a friend in a new vase. I’m pretty sure that housewifery will become me… you know, someday. After I’ve toured with Shania, written a book, and been on Oprah.

5) I have really awesome friends, and am seeing a lot of them in the next 2 weeks. Happy hours, walks, late-night drinks, lunch dates, coffee engagements, and general malarkey.

All in all, life seems to be burgeoning with possibilities and options. And now that the sun is peeking out, I’m going to go on an adventure and experiment with a 1980 Olympus that uses an archaic material called “film.”

Faith, doubt, and certainty

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

My friend Scott recently told me, “The opposite of faith is not doubt – the opposite of faith is certainty.” He says that Mike Gaffney told him that. Anne Lamott writes the same words, only she says that her priest, Father Tom, enlightened her. I don’t know who came up with this idea originally, but whoever he/she was is totally on to something.

I don’t like living in the tension between two extremes. The grey area freaks me out. I don’t even wear the color grey – it’s too indecisive and vague. Choose black or choose white, but for the love of all that is indubitable, DON’T WEAR GREY.

But I am learning that life is lived in the in-between. Rarely is anything certain, for sure, cut-and-dry, or beyond question.

HOWEVER, I certainly hold the following truths to be self-evident:

1) When in doubt, err on the side of generosity.

2) Buy lemonade from every lemonade stand you see, even if you have to pull over your car – and always pay double the price.

3) That very car that you pull over for lemonade should always be a stick shift.

No second-guessing those.

I am uncomfortable in the in-between, but it’s in this place of uncertainty that our faith is tested and grown. Muscles are developed. Our beliefs are stretched and strengthened, and we wind up stronger because of it all. And I am determined to grow my tiny faith muscles as much as I can.

If you haven’t figured it out already, I, like Anne of Green Gables, vacillate between “the wings of enchantment” and “the depths of despair.” Today, I feel strangely optimistic about the world, and what’s in store for me. The Big Trip is calling my name, loud and clear. For all that is unknown in what lies ahead, I am certain that there will be good. I am certain that I will smile. I am certain that I will be surprised and delighted and taught and stretched. I am certain that amazing times will be had.

Why?

Because I am certain that today I bought the perfect red dress. [cue the balloons]

INFJ joy (or: "No Apologies")

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

It’s Wednesday, which some abominable person decided to dub “hump day.” For some unfathomable reason, this phrase caught on. This expression horrifies me to my core, and makes me throw up a little bit in my mouth.

Well then. Carry on.

I am an INFJ. Again, if you do not know what that means, go here and take the test. I’m just going to go ahead and get it out there: I love being a J. And when I am perfectly honest… honestly honest… there’s a tiny part of me that is convinced that J’s are superior to P’s. Sorry. I just know that we get more done. We have the follow-through that P’s lack. We are reliable and responsible. Which obviously equates to “better.” :)

My favorite people are ENFP’s. I don’t know why, because ENFP’s drive me nuts – but I can’t help but be drawn toward them like a moth to the flame. I admire a lot of things about ENFP’s: their spontaneity, their ability to develop an instant rapport with whoever they come into contact with, their enthusiasm and optimism and exuberance – generally, their passion for life. All things that I struggle at. But could an ENFP create a food system like the one I have created? I think not.

I work at a church, and therefore, I pinch my pennies. Life is hand-to-mouth… literally. I usually have just enough money to get me from paycheck to paycheck. But one huge perk to the job is the free food. Tons of free food. So much free food that there is no way that I could eat it all before it goes bad. Church people love to eat, man. I take home left-over chicken, left-over soup, left-over muffins, left-over lunch meat, left-over cheese… One night, I trudged up the 3 flights of stairs to my apartment lugging a HUGE GARBAGE BAG of grapes. And if you are picturing me Santa-style, with the enormous sack slung over my shoulder, then oh yes, you’ve got the picture.

I hate letting things go to waste – it makes me feel like a lousy excuse of a human. So the J in me has figured out exactly what I can and cannot freeze (basically… you can freeze anything – even cheese!), and I have created all sorts of uses for every ingredient that I bring home. I am innovative and creative, and draw from all sorts of recipes to create new recipes using the food that I have in my freezer. Every single night, I stand in front of my freezer and carefully choose just enough for what I will eat the next day. I love being organized!

I make no apologies for being a J. It’s just easier to color-code your closet… and your sock drawer… and your washcloths. I am not ashamed of the fact that I rejoiced over the purchase of a new shoe organizer rack. I make my to-do list on my monthly magnetic notepad (yes, I have one for each month), and then number it, and then execute it in order, and then destroy it. I label my freezer bags, file my bank statements, and flip my mattress every 6 months.

And in case you were wondering, yes, it’s so awesome to be so awesome.

Shackle-free and fulfilled?

Monday, April 9th, 2007

I am convinced that the loss of hope is the worst feeling in the universe.

I’m not saying that I have hit that rock-bottom hopelessness, but I feel like I’m tripping at every turn these days. I keep pulling myself back up, and giving myself a pep talk, and convincing myself that tomorrow is going to be better, that something’s gotta give, and then the next day, I wind up in the exact same loss-of-hope spot.

Will things ever change? Am I ever going to feel fulfilled?

During the Easter services yesterday, I sang the triumphant words that I have sung hundreds of times before: “As he stands in victory, sin’s curse has lost its grip on me.” That is a truth that is ready to be claimed – and yet I rarely live into that actuality. I don’t know how. Sin has no grip on me, and yet I can’t walk away from it. I don’t know how to let go of the expectations that I have placed on myself, I don’t know how to accept grace, and I definitely don’t know how to trust God.

It’s been this way for years. And truthfully, at this point, it feels like some things are never going to change.

My friend George keeps telling me that there are good things, big things, in store for me in the coming months. I need to hear these words. So he says them – sometimes I believe him, and sometimes I think he’s smoking crack.

I read something tonight that really hit a deep, dark place in me. In Plan B: Further Thoughts On Faith, Anne Lamott writes, “When God is going to do something wonderful, He always starts with a hardship; when God is going to do something amazing, He starts with an impossibility.” Not to canonize Anne Lamott as being the Gospel, but I do think that her words hold a huge deal of truth. God shows his strength through our weakness – and when we view something as being impossible, what better time for him to prove us wrong?

I’ll keep you posted.