January, 2008

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Live together, die alone

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

There is a humongous benefit to living in the Central Time Zone. People in Seattle have more than 3 hours to go. For me, “Lost” is starting in 20 minutes.


In fact, I haven’t been able to blog today because I just haven’t known what to say. I have no words to give shape and voice to the excitement I am feeling right now. Good gracious, have I ever been so obsessed with a television show? I guess that I was pretty dedicated to “Full House” back in elementary school, but this is a whole new animal.

I’ll see you on the flip side, when we all know a little bit more and a little bit less.

All about Laura

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

When I was in 6th grade, I took an after-school dance class. On the first day of class, I met a girl named Laura. She was homeschooled, which was weird and AWESOME, because who gets to stay home from school all day? She was blonde and bubbly and totally at ease with herself, which, come to find out, is an anomaly when it comes to homeschoolers.

No offense – I was a homeschooler myself for a time.

That very first day, we found out that we had the same birthday (“Shut UP – MY birthday is August 4!”).

She became my very best friend.

We did everything together – sleepovers every weekend, family vacations, dance classes, singing for church, talking about boys. She was 2 years older, and so when she was 16, she taught me to drive in church parking lots and on dirt roads. We experienced joy and pain and drama and silliness side by side. I honestly believe that I would not have survived junior high if it hadn’t been for Laura.

In 2000, I moved to Seattle to go to college, and Laura got engaged to a Canadian. Our lives have taken us in very different directions, both literally and figuratively. We have lived thousands of miles apart, me pursuing a degree and a big-city life in Seattle and now in Nashville, and she living in small towns in Canada and Colorado. As a result of our circumstances, our priorities have been different. All signs point to the fact that we should not be friends. The discrepancies in our lives are vast.

But we are friends. We are wonderful, close friends. Despite the distance of miles and dreams and priorities, we remain cheerleaders for each other.

Yesterday, Laura had her third baby. Their first boy, Wyatt Jackson, joined big sisters Annabelle and Kate. An hour after the birth, Laura was on the phone to me, holding Wyatt on her chest and asking me how Nashville is, wanting to know about my love life.

She is selfless and patient and smart and supportive. She is an amazing mother to her three kids, and a loving wife to her husband.  She is capable and kind and beautiful. She is steadfast. She is living a life so different from my own, and yet, I deeply respect her life, and watch in wonder.

I love you, Laura. You are so heroic. I am amazed by your outlook on life, and the way that you are raising your kids to be excellent humans. I am impressed by your ability to keep everything spinning, even with Jack gone for work so much of the time. I am proud of the woman that you have become. I am grateful for your continued presence in my life.

And I am jealous of how good you look after birthing an 8 lb. 8 oz child.

A good story – a true story

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Yesterday morning, I got a phone call from a girl saying that she worked down the street at Bongo Java. “We have a surprise here waiting for you – come in anytime this morning and it will be waiting for you.” A SURPRISE?? I never get surprises!

I walked down to the coffee shop, and introduced myself at the counter. The girl reached behind the counter and pulled out a paper coffee cup with a lid on it; written on the cup was a note: “Annie, everyone needs a place to get away, reflect, and people watch. Enjoy!” and was signed from someone who lives out of town, someone who is becoming strangely important to me. Inside the cup was a gift card to Bongo Java.

It was the nicest, most thoughtful gesture I’ve experienced in ages. Simple, but creative. It made me feel like I mattered to someone, and really, isn’t that what we all want? Just to matter to someone?

I beamed all day. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: thank you.

Sparks in my ears and hope in my heart

Monday, January 28th, 2008

The other day, I was walking to the bus, listening to my iPod. All of a sudden, I felt a shock. IN MY EAR. And then, another shock, IN MY OTHER EAR. All at once, I was experiencing pain, and when I ripped the earbuds out of my ears, THEY WERE SPARKING. As I am not willing to put flame initiators anywhere on my body, especially in my ear canal, I headed for the Apple store.

I walked in the door, and a very hip, very trendy, very hot-jeaned girl with an electronic clipboard enthusiastically said, “How can I help you?”

“My earbuds are sparking. I know, I know – bizarre. Can I get new ones?”

The girl looked at me and asked, “Like, Apple ones?”

Stop it, sister. You did not just ask that.

“Yes. Yes, Apple earbuds.” From the Apple store that we are standing in.

“Sure – they’re over there.” She pointed me in the direction of the (yes, Apple) earbuds.

I walked over and took a look: $29. But shouldn’t my earbuds be covered under AppleCare? Especially if they are shooting explosive volts into my very sensitive ears?

No. No, they are not.

Now, let’s review. I have not had income since September 10. I have not been shopping since I left Seattle; I have spent money on gas and experiences, but have basically given up the acquisition of “new things.” For a girl who loves expensive clothes and good wine and all sorts of pretty things, this has been a great challenge. But I am learning to be content, and realizing that I have plenty of clothes to choose from already, and trying to be creative and resourceful. I make coffee at home. I have created a window valance out of a shawl. I am cutting back on my washcloth usage so I don’t have to do laundry as often.

But when things that I already have are being taken away from me? That is not at all a part of the plan.

I no longer have earbuds.

I dropped my camera on Friday night, and now it’s a lost cause. The camera repairman said that I might as well just buy a new camera, as it would cost just as much to repair it as it would to start afresh. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t take pictures. I am suddenly camera-less.

I returned from Seattle to Nashville, and found my suitcase zipper broken (aaaand it sliced open my hand).

I’m almost out of my favorite perfume.

And of course, the Honda remains one breakdown away from ultimate extinction. The muffler is hanging pretty low these days.

Which is why I am desperately curious to know: is this rumor of an extra $600 on my tax return true? Can anyone tell me? Am I getting an extra $600 back? Are we ALL? I don’t speak financial words. Just tell me, yes or no: is God choosing to bail me out via George W. Bush?

I believe in miracles.

Back to the adventure

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

This weekend in Seattle has been one of revelations for me.

First of all, I realized that this was the first time in 4 months that I’ve had any idea where in the hell I am. I have spent months glued to MapQuest for directions from point A to point B to point C, back to point A – and this is surprisingly exhausting. It was an unexpected luxury to not have to think when I drove.

Secondly, I am the luckiest girl in the universe to have the friends that I do. I know that everyone likes their friends, but I really, really deeply love my friends. They are diverse and creative and smart. They are passionate and hilarious and kind. They are different ages, from different backgrounds, and amazingly different life situations. But all of them have supported and sustained and loved me for so long and through so many different twists-and-turns, and make me feel unthinkably welcome and wanted and adored. I don’t know what I ever did to deserve such an amazing cheering squad.

Thirdly (or… tertiary), as much as I love Seattle and miss it with my entire being, I am glad that I am doing what I’m doing. It would have been incredibly easy and attractive to have stayed in Seattle forever, but something big is happening in my life right now. I can’t even put words to what it is, but I know that I am following the tug on my spirit, and that it is important and essential that I keep going. I arrived back in Nashville tonight, and while transition is hard, and the unknown is scary, and I have had some deeply lonely and confusing times since I left Seattle, I am confident that this is good. It’s good.

Once again, I leave my life in Seattle, and summoning all of the courage I can, I walk forward into the uncomfortable, terrifying, exhilarating unknown. May we all remember to embrace our adventure, wherever it may lead.

The most rulingest gift ever

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

Greta gave me the world’s greatest gift. Of all time. Of the universe of life.

She designed it – one for me, one for her. Sorry, ladies – this is not available in stores.

How did I ever manage to wrangle such amazingly rad friends?

Suddenly gaggled

Friday, January 25th, 2008

There’s this fantastic thing that happens whenever I fly into Seattle at night.

The approach is always from the southeast, and I start watching for the city about 25 minutes before landing, as soon as the captain announces “our initial descent.” Pretty soon, the orange lights begin to twinkle in the distance. We fly over the mountains and the rivers and the black, lightless voids that are the big lakes, until finally, the city is below. I find Wallingford. I find my old college. I find Lake Union and the 520 bridge and the big orange cranes by the piers, and the black, spindly Columbia Tower in miniature.

And my heart sings. I love Seattle.
When I landed, I had no less than SIX messages from my Seattle family, wondering if I was here yet. You know that feeling of being wanted? Being known? Being loved? While I have always known that I am loved by my friends and family, I have spent the past 4 months in relative anonymity, moving every couple of days, never staying in one place for too long. So to have SIX messages from those who love me was extra, extra special.

I have never been one to love a big gaggle of girls. I was not in a sorority, I’ve never lived “in community” with a bunch of other women – and thank God, really. Who wants to synchronize menstrual cycles?

However, I have always had some close, amazing, individual girl friends. Last night, I found myself in a room with four of my best.

And I realized: I am a member of a gaggle of girls.

The fabulous Ms. Mary Hiemstra (my style and etiquette guru) and me:

Me, Ms. Greta Weisman (life support in adorable gift wrap), and Ms. Meridith Dandridge (my favorite sassy/hysterical/badass Alabaman):

Me, and the life partner (hotness personified) Ms. Miranda Drost:

I felt loved and happy. Seattle does that to me.

Music City

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

I have scarcely lived here for 3 weeks, and I have already won something.

I never win anything! But through a local tapas restaurant, I won two tickets to the opera. My new friend Erika came with me, and we saw Gilbert & Sullivan’s “H.M.S. Pinafore,” which was incredibly silly and enjoyable, as it was blessedly in English. However, there were still supertitles, since these people sang so fast. They were very crisp and very British – so much so that I left craving tea and dance mixes of Celine Dion.

Erika is such a beautiful person, and an amazing singer. If you love Alison Krauss, check out her songs. It’s the old-timey, Americana, bluegrassy stuff that makes you wish for days gone by – and her voice is just exquisite.

I love the panoply of music here in Nashville. A lot of people assume that Nashville is all twang and fringe and Jim Beam. Although you can find that here, there is also plenty of rock and roots and blues and classical and – oh yes – Contemporary Christian Music. Alive and well. I’m still looking for Point of Grace everywhere I go. You KNOW I’ll geek out when I finally see one of them – my 7th grade dream brought full circle…

And just to keep you up to date on the bumper of my Honda, I now proudly sport a very loud bumper sticker that declares: “VIVA! NASHVEGAS! EAT MORE RHINESTONES!”

Underwires: Overrated

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

Everyone has a most embarrassing moment. Right?

I didn’t. Every time that the question, “What’s your most embarrassing moment?” would come up, I would shrug and say, “I don’t really do anything embarrassing.” I realize that the very act of me typing these words opens me up to my siblings recollecting every mortifying event in my dark and awkward past, and then posting them for the world to read about. But that is a risk that I’m willing to take, because I don’t think that any of them will outweigh THIS most embarrassing moment that I’m about to post on the internet for everyone, including pastors and strangers and future employers, to read.

I now have a most embarrassing moment.

It has to do with bras.

I don’t like to spend a lot of money on bras. They can be ridiculously expensive, but I’m a Target girl, myself. $12 should do the trick. I should probably invest $60 in one that gets the job done right, but that just doesn’t make sense in my life right now. My cheap bras make sense.

Except for when the underwire somehow makes it way through the lining, and gets pushed up out of the bra, and, unbeknownst to me, winds up encircling the TOP of the boob, in plain sight of the checker at the grocery store, who, for some reason, couldn’t stop staring at my chest.

You know that foggy moment of realization, where you think, “I have no idea how to get myself out of this one”? That moment is all the more awkward when the only solution involves publicly reaching your hand down your cleavage.

Beauty and emptiness

Monday, January 21st, 2008

A friend of mine recently filled out one of those survey things on her blog. You know, all sorts of questions about life. One of the questions was, “When was the last time you felt beautiful?”

It hit me like a cannon ball in the chest: I cannot recall the last time I felt beautiful. I honestly cannot recollect when that might have been.

Please hear me when I say that I write this not for sympathy, or for compliments, or for any kind of validation. I write this because I have been struck anew with this awful truth, one that continues to crop up in my life: time and time again, I look to the world for confirmation, for acceptance, for value. And it is never, ever enough.

This is important. It is never enough.

In whatever situation in life – whether it be physical beauty, success, popularity, acceptance, intelligence, humor, power, possessions – whatever positive validation I seek, and whatever positive validation I receive, it always falls short.

Right now, Henri Nouwen’s Life of the Beloved is speaking powerfully to me. He writes:

Don’t you often hope: “May this book, idea, course, trip, job, country, or relationship fulfill my deepest desire.” But as long as you are waiting for that mysterious moment you will go on running helter-skelter, always anxious and restless, always lustful and angry, never fully satisfied. You know that this is the compulsiveness that keeps us going and busy, but at the same time makes us wonder whether we are getting anywhere in the long run.

There’s a tiny (huge) part of me that has had the unspoken expectation that if I just followed my dreams, if I just moved to Nashville, if I just pursued the things that have been placed on my heart since an early age (beauty in all forms, music, creativity, knowledge, a good man, kids of my own), then I would be happy. And here I am, running after these things… and feeling so empty and discouraged and alone.

I have spent the past several weeks thinking, “I just need to get a job, then I’ll feel better. I just need to find a place to live, and then things will be great. I just need to spend some time convincing people that I’m great and they should be friends with me, and then I’ll be happy. I just need to get back on a workout routine to lose a few pounds, and then I’ll seriously be able to do anything in the world. I just need to feel pretty. I just need to find a desk. I just need to write a good song. I just need to make some money. I just need to figure it out.”

My very wise and compassionate friend Greta recently told me, “Annie, you seem to be looking for a quick fix to make you feel better – and maybe this time, God just isn’t going to let you have a quick fix.” What a scary thought: the possibility that nothing that I can do will make me feel better.

But maybe it’s the best, most liberating truth that there is. I don’t have to do anything. I can stop spiraling and running and toiling for acceptance. The God of the universe calls me “beloved.” Maybe that is enough.

It’s worth a shot. Because so far, nothing else has worked.