Monday, October 31, 2011

Movie Review Monday #24: 50/50

And now, a guest movie review from a woman who reads this blog faithfully and gave birth to me: Mama! You can call her Robyn. (And you can read more of her thoughts at her blog,

Hello, Lobsters! I’m filling in as your Monday Movie Reviewer due to my daughter Emily’s lack of viewing new movie releases (do you think she might be just a smidge busy lately?). You will find that my criteria is a bit different for indicating my approval/disapproval. When you’re married to an entertainment narcoleptic, the greatest indicator of an intriguing movie is staying awake; hence, we go with “eyelids up.” Just be advised.

50/50 is a dramedy in the vein of Steel Magnolias or Terms of Endearment, with clever, realistic writing. In this film, we can attribute the realism to its writer actually being the subject of this “based on a true story” script. The story centers around a manly friendship cemented by warm, unexpressed feelings, profanity and the overwhelming desire to have multiple intimacies with the opposite sex (and how cancer can be used to make these conquests much simpler). But be aware, Lobsters, this is not a chick flick or soggy tissue cinematic event. There are ample opportunities for deep emotions to not be expressed and heartfelt words to not be said. Instead, they are replaced by some actions that speak rather subtly though there is no need for decoding.

Joseph's days of shoulder length locks are gone.

Adam is played by the multi-talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who can take a single thought and, with the tiniest glint in his eye, convey a clear message. He's a 27 year-old boy/man with a quiet, meticulous existence whose life has been interrupted by the inconvenience of a rare form of cancer. The story unfolds and settles itself around Adam’s incongruous best friend since childhood, Kyle, played with dry profanity and inappropriate commentary and suggestions by Seth Rogen. No spoiler alert here, because if you can wade through the language and a brief but awkward and completely honest scene with Adam and a bar conquest you will recognize the sparkles and gems that twinkle out in this delightful film.

·        Bryce Dallas Howard as Adam’s self-centered girlfriend. Pitch perfect.
·        Anna Kendricks as the young therapist who tugs at your heart. We  love her!
·        Angelica Huston as Adam’s overbearing mother who is caretaker to his father who has Alzheimer’s (by the way, big thumbs up for the guy who plays Adam’s father. Just watch him - you’ll be amazed).

All in all, Lobsters, I would recommend this movie. And for myself and Mr. Boyd, we give it two eyelids up!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sabbath Sunday #24

Today we plan to go to church and then attend a math department pumpkin carving party. I am quite excited to have yet another opportunity to dress Sofia up for this holiday. This is a weekend fairly free of responsibilities weighing us down. Instead, I am enjoying a time to wallow in gratitude for friends, for my family, for the unexpected ways God surrounds me with His provision. How are you wallowing in gratitude today, Lobsters?

Friday, October 28, 2011

ridiculous(ly awesome) parties

I have had the honor of hosting several parties in my time ("my time" being the last five years or so). Here are my top five favorites:

1. 24 themed Bridal Shower: My roommate, Kate, and I were usually such calm ladies in our peaceful Summerland loft, but once Jack Bauer came on the screen, we'd unabashedly yell at the screen for a shameful four episodes a night. So when it came time to celebrate Kate, I thought a surprise 24 themed party would be appropriate. Somehow, her maid of honor agreed. Basically, we gave Kate a video of her fiance being held hostage by an evil puppetmaster, and she had a limited amount of time to collect clues around Santa Barbara to save him. We had people waiting at the post office, our old dorms, by the freeway, etc. There was even a (squirt) gun fight. It was epic. And it all ended in a rather classy fondue party. Yeah. (This was partially inspired by an Alias themed surprise party that Zoe threw for me and two other friends. So cool!)
2. Stick Party: For Jeff's 25th birthday, I threw him a stick party. We had food on sticks (kebabs!), food that was sticks (pretzels! carrots!), straws (they look like sticks!), and a pinata (we hit it with a stick!). One guy even came with a plastic gun and said it was a stick up. Har.
Guests came dressed either as if they had a stick up 
their butt or distinctly did not have a stick up their butt.
3. Hunt for the Strange and Awkward: To celebrate nothing, I held an annual hunt for the strange and awkward at the Orange County Fair. And by "annual," I mean one year a big group of people went and the next year Mikkele and I went and the year after that I lived in Virginia and the tradition died. This celebration was inspired by the summers I spent in a ticket booth at that fair, getting paid (poorly) to read Harry Potter and people watch, two of my favorite things in the world. Basically, we tried to find the strangest things and people possible at the fair. There was an abundance of material for this.
Strange thing example: Krispy Kreme Chicken Sandwich.
Kind of makes you want to curl up in a ball and die, doesn't it?
Strange person example: This is also a cute person example.
4. Cookie Party: For Jeff's 27th birthday, I threw him a cookie party. I asked guests to bring different kinds of cookies for him to sample. We also had a Cookie Monster coloring contest. This was my most simple concept, but was rather successful.
C is for Cookie, obviously.
5. Snobby Bad Art and Fundue Party: For Mikkele's 23rd (I think) birthday, we put bad art that we found at thrift stores and in people's front yard trash on the walls and guests competed to come up with the best name for each piece. We also drank champagne and ate fondue. But mostly it was about the art. This was my favorite party concept to date.
Mikkele called this "Five Flowers and a Funeral." 
I encourage you to steal these ideas if you get the chance. And invite me.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Where I Am

I am in Hanna's living room, softly lit, harmonizing Christmas hymns of hope feeling eternally knit to my neighbors surrounding me, lifting their voices into that vaulted ceiling alongside the trill of Stephen's piano notes. 

I am sitting on the floor of a candle lit chapel in Tennessee, squeezing my bisep up against a tattooed, overweight, knife carrying creature of God's making who sheds tears for lives that have been taken and his own life that is being taken up in redemption. 

I am swaying in the breeze that whips around me from every direction, elevated on a slim walking bridge over a canyon, huddled next to friends who become like kin as Jeff strikes chords and all but my soul falls silent. 

I am splayed out on my back on top of a picnic table, disregarding the dust from the grapefruit orchards that swell around me or the frizz of my hair that grows bushier upon my head and I know, perhaps for the first time in my life, that the Spirit is present in the vocal intonations that fill the open air of this hot, humid night. 

I am in Elise's stark, sterile hospital room, half of one of three clumps that are married-One's clinging to each other in the awkwardness that is staring a terrifying moment in the face, holding each other as tightly as we hold our breath, hoping that little Henry will find his and breath on his own, but in praying, learning that truth is God working through history, through doctors, through technicians, through the very machines that sustain his premature life, that even too soon gives him breath. 

I am at the top of the Nadlers' driveway, with cool air whirling around my body, brushing my face with my long hair - "I have never seen the wind, but I have seen the effects of the wind" - as fear falls from me like scales from my eyes I know my weakness is acceptable in light of His strength and in the hand that is His Sabbath rest. 

I am the place where He makes me know that I Am.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

anything once: starring in a film

This week, Regent University Cinema/Television students created the Fall Endowed Film. Jeff was cast in it, and they needed a wife and child for Jeff's character, so they got very creative and cast me as his wife and Eiley as his child. Mary, the director, is obviously a genius and knows potential talent when she sees it. In my role, I was asleep in bed, and Jeff kissed me on his way to work. It was a stretch, but I thought I could do it. 

Observations about this experience:

1. The talent is treated like royalty. People were asking if I needed anything every few minutes, and the crew quieted down and parted as we approached (which would have offended me or made me paranoid if Jeff hadn't informed me that this is how things always go down). 
2. I enjoyed getting make up. Jeff said the brush felt like teddy bear kisses. I thought it felt like a teensy face massage of loveliness. 
3. In order to prepare myself for my film debut, I rehearsed. A lot. And I think it paid off. Viewers will totally believe I was sleeping.
4. When my work was done, the crew clapped for me. What an ego boost. I mean, I knew I was good at sleeping, but it's just nice to be recognized for it sometimes, you know?
5. Seriously though, there is a ton of work that goes into making a quality film. The lighting must be perfect, and any little change can convey completely different emotions. The sound looked wildly complicated, and the  cameras looked like they weighed more than me. I was impressed by the professionalism on this set, and the passion that the students brought to their individual crew positions. Amazing.
6. Jeff is even hot when he's playing a terrible vacuum salesman and is dressed kind of Mormony.
The actual star of the film.
7. Eiley is a natural actress. Would you like her to smile, gurgle, or just be cute in general? Because she can do it all. 

This is a first that would be fun to repeat, though I'm not sure I'd want to try real acting and I don't know how often I could get cast as "sleeping wife." Maybe I can find a gig as "woman in coma" or "fully clothed cadaver" in the future. Fingers crossed. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

All the Single Ladies (and Gentlemen)

A while back, Emily responded to a reader request and wrote this fun, funny post about her thoughts on why guys today don't commit. Her light hearted post seemed to generate some really intriguing thoughts and dialogue, and it's kept me mulling over some of the propositions and problems posed. More recently, I've read some other articles about marriage and the current state of men's and women's attitudes around marital commitment. One was posted on a friends Facebook page, asking if any women had any thoughts on it. I just had too many thoughts for a Facebook comment, so I'm writing a post about it. I am hoping to prod him into writing a parallel post, so you can get two sides of a response to this single woman - a married woman, and a single man's thoughts on what she has to say.

Here is the article from The Atlantic he was asking about: All The Single Ladies by Kate Bolick. It is rather long, but provides some fascinating history and psychology and personal anecdotes around trends in fidelity and thoughts on the supply and demand of marriageable men or women. And here are a few of my reactions to it:

1) The One. I think one nugget of truth she puts out there is that the idea: "one human being can fulfill all your emotional/social/physical/financial desires/hopes/dreams" is false and also dangerous. But while she uses this as support for a choice to remain single, I think it is also something that married people would do well to come to grips with in order to enhance the health of their marriages. I can be a better wife to Manny when I stay connected to my other family members [and his too - I love his family!], and I work on my friendships [even when they're long distance, hence this blog]. When I isolate myself (and I do do that sometimes), our marriage suffers from bearing too much weight of my breadth of needs. 

2) Where have all the Husbands gone? Kate Bolick illustrates how the imbalance of successful women compared to the number of marriageable male prospects leads men and women to be more promiscuous, because the men have plenty of good options and little need to commit to one if the next best thing might be just around the corner. [as an aside, I also recently watched a documentary about how China is having an inverse problem of too many men. Check out "China's Lost Girls," to see the negative unintended consequences they are struggling with] Maybe this is the key answer to the reader's original question that Emily was addressing. But having attended a college where the ratio of women to men was 3 to 1, I got to see a microcosm of this imbalance at work, and I think there is a segment of the male population getting overlooked in this observation. At Westmont, each guy had, in theory, three women to himself. Some of the guys used this as an opportunity to date around, like Bolick observes. But other guys had higher esteem for women or commitment to a fidelity ethic. These other guys might be a significant minority of the population, but I believe they are out there. I saw these guys suffer from intense pressure of three women lining outside their door demanding they pick one of them and put them out of their single-misery (somewhat metaphorically, only on occasion did this literally happen ;)  ). I think a lot of these guys didn't like being pushed into rejecting two girls in order to assuage one, and so they just didn't ask anyone out. It was also a small Christian community, so when the guy picked that one out of three, there was tons of pressure for him to make it work out well. Lots of eyes evaluating whether he made the right choice, if he was honorable in their relationship, when was he going to give her a ring?? It is no wonder there were tons of articles in the campus newspaper addressing the question of why no one dated outside of the dorm initiated "NCTO's" [Non-committal take outs, where a whole dorm floor of men or women set each other up on dates and went out as a big group under the strict understanding that it was non-committal, no one was allowed to expect exclusive relationships after that night, or you know, diamond rings or anything]. This pressure concept really is just a theory in my own head. I'd be very interested to hear from guys whether there is any truth to it. 

3) Redefine worth. Bolick wants us to open our minds to a broader concept of acceptable life styles. For example, she speaks against "Singlism" (marginalizing people in our society who are single as if they are lesser or nothing but crazy-cat-ladies), and broadening our ideas of acceptability in mates. Part of the problem she is pointing out is that our population is still fairly balanced in quantity of men to women, but the quality of women is up (higher rates of bachelors/graduate degrees, increasing salaries, less job loss during the Great Recession, ability to successfully manage single-parenting, etc.) and out pacing men. It seems as though there was a period of time (shorter than we might think, apparently) where men told women we could not earn money outside the home for whatever reasons. And women rose up and responded, "anything you can do, I can do better." Now we are proving our point, but often looking down on men who can't seem to keep up with us anymore. This has long been a sore point for me. I think it may be a minority of women who hold this superiority and scorn, but for those that do, how are we doing anything better than the men who oppressed us with sexism and patriarchy? Healthy feminism does something more to "lift as we rise" as many minority groups advocate. Yes. We can do well in school, yes we can be amazing CEO's, yes we can juggle seemingly insurmountable tasks. There are a lot of superwomen out there! But how can we use that new found power and voice to establish a new measuring stick of success? A new rubric for respect? Instead of climbing to the top and looking around to find no acceptable mates, could we instead re-determine the top as a list of valuable character traits other than net worth, degree attainment, social status. Every woman in my maternal line for about five generations back has married a man that was the first in his family to graduate from college. We committed to character and potential rather than attainment. And it is surprising how well that keeps working out for us. With great power comes great responsibility.

4) No Woman is an Island. Bolick seems to conclude with a proposition that single women start living in closer proximity - almost dorm-like - so that they can maintain their single independence, but have that extra human being(s) around to care for you when independence doesn't cover all of the bases. Interesting idea, and perhaps our society is arriving at a point where this is really possible. But from my personal observations, we're not quite there yet. Too many of my single female friends enjoy this perpetual girls-night-out life style only until the other girls find husbands, gradually leaving the group to dwindle. Is there something about that formal marriage commitment that ensures that other person will be around to support you? In theory - plenty of spouses don't quite live up to this expectation and obviously there is the possibility of divorce. So I guess married or not, we can't totally count on others to be there for us no matter what. Humans flake. 

I have a crazy proposition in response. What if we abolished this unspoken law that married and single people can not be friends?!? I guess this is a bit duplicatory of point one - but in a more tangible form. I have yet to make and single female friends since moving to Maine, and I'm realizing there is a whole in my social world. I miss my single friends from previous chapters of my life. They keep my world view in a more balanced perspective, they can be available to me in ways that my other married/mom friends can not. Just the other night, I was thinking longingly of the days when we regularly enjoyed game nights with friends, because now all our friends are similarly strapped to their homes after bed time and can not come over and play. If I had more unencumbered friends, this part of my life I used to enjoy wouldn't have to die for this season of Sofia's baby-hood. That's a very small and selfish piece. More importantly, this could mean that is my single friend needs a ride to and from the hospital, I could give it to her. Or when my husband is out of town, maybe she could come over and help me out with my baby. I truly believe we can be more well rounded when we diversify the life stages our friends are in, so that we don't get so lost in the tunnel vision of what matters in our own day to day. So let's call an end to this arbitrary divide and make the effort to overcome life style barriers to stay friends with people in different seasons of life. 

5) Marriage is hard. I have been realizing that the sort of discontent I perceive women of the previous generations suffering from having no other option than staying home seems to be present with plenty of women stuck in careers they are discontent with. Stuck is stuck. Women who are frustrated in being single are often experiencing some of the very same core emotions as women who are married (happily or otherwise). Lonely is lonely. Life is hard. Relationships are hard. Commitment is hard. Etc. But we can't let hard keep us from good. Becoming a parent is the hardest, most painful thing I've ever done, but I would never trade Sofia in for anything. This is the beauty of pain. So for those of you avoiding marriage because it's hard, it might fail, the sacrifice for something better that might be waiting in the future (key word = might) doesn't seem worth it, please consider that the hardest things are also often the sweetest things. Marriage really is not something you should choose just for social conformity, it really has to be something you are willing to devote a lot of personal sacrifice to without expecting a perfect, blissful, fairy-tale ending. I love marriage immensely, but my position is to avoid it unless you find someone you are really willing to lay down your life for, and vice versa, in more ways than you can anticipate. But I also propose that we get less stingy with our own lives, giving them up is the best way to live. I think Laura A. Munson's article in the New York Times captures this beautifully (and is much shorter than the first article, so you should totally check it out): 

Those Aren't Fighting Words, Dear by Laura A. Munson 

I think the core opportunity illuminated here is for us to identify the barriers that are keeping us from loving each other more fully and figure out how to get over them. But I would really love to hear your thoughts and reactions. I am looking at this from one specific angle and would appreciate others who could help round out my perspective. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Movie Review Monday #23: Sequels

I really need to get to the movies to give you people some fresh insight, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen any time soon. Instead, this week I give you my favorite sequels:

1. Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. Lauryn Hill's version of "His Eye is on the Sparrow" and that one kid's performance of "O Happy Day" still give me chills. And I definitely wore out my VHS copy repeatedly watching that joyful and triumphant final scene. This film is like Glee in the ghetto, and I enjoyed it even more than the original.
2. Scream 2. My parents let me watch Rated R horror films when I was young. The good news is that I didn't turn out psychotic or anything. Holler. Anyway, Scream 2 is amazing. It's scary, it's witty, it's a good time for all (except, of course, the nine characters in it who die). 2 is my favorite out of the Scream trilogyplusone.
3. Toy Story 3. Incredible. I am still in awe of the good folks at Pixar for creating such a heartwarming, funny, emotional animated sequel. Though I do still want to know what ever happened between Woody and Bo Peep. I mean, did they break up? Did she die? Did she cheat on him with a G.I. Joe? What's the deal?
4. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. My favorite Indy, hands down, though all of them are good. (Except the most recent one, but that hardly even counts as a real Indy film. What were you thinking, Steve?) Anyway, I still remember seeing this one twice in the theaters. It had adventure, humor, and oodles of lovely sermon illustrations.
5. The Dark Knight. Look, I'm not really into comic movies. In fact, I didn't even want to watch The Dark Knight because I was afraid the Joker stuff would give me nightmares given my fear of clowns. I've only seen one of the other Batman films, but even without seeing them all I know that this was the best one. Never before or since have I raised my arms in triumph and shouted "That was awesome!" when a film ended. At my apartment. By myself.

I would also like to use this platform to mention that I used to love all things Pirates until their sequels got out of control. They are so bad that I question whether I even really liked the first one. Seriously, I saw the second and third Pirates and felt insulted when they came out with a fourth. I picture a bald, besuited evil puppetmaster of a producer sitting in shadows, drumming his fingertips together as he thinks about the fact that his Pirates films don't have to be at all interesting - he can simply recycle the same rum jokes and let Johnny Depp do improv for all he cares. People will still pay to see them. Please join me in boycotting future Pirates films.

Thank you. That is all.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sabbath Sunday #23

Today I observed the Sabbath by going to church, then out to lunch, and then to see The Three Musketeers, a play at Regent. 

I kind of wish I'd had a nap, but it was a delightful day nonetheless.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ramping up for Halloween

I love Halloween. Honestly, it is one of my favorite holidays. I think it makes the top five even. I am pretty nervous in admitting this, because it probably sounds completely anti-Christian, but it is true. I gave into that pressure for a few years by making my halloween costume a t-shirt from a Christian radio station, and have since pretty much given up dressing up myself, but other than my own costume issues, I've moved passed that pressure and the day is still something I get so excited for.

Halloween was always the day in Houston when the weather would have changed from hot and muggy to crisp and thrilling. It was also in the middle of "Kinkaid Week" - my school's equivalent of a homecoming. So that doubled the festivities and fun. And my parents went all out. Crowds of families would fill our tiny bungalow, my mother hand-made all my costumes and I always loved them (I know it is supposed to be lame for your mom to make your costume, but seriously - she made me an alien costume I loved so much I wore it three years in a row!), and the pinnacle of excitement for me was the pinata she would hang at the bottom of our stair case. I start getting hyper just thinking about it.

Exhibit A: mom-made costume for wee-little-me
I loved trick-or-treating. We had several neighbors who put a great deal of dramatic effort into creating spooky houses. It gave me the same emotional experience as working up the guts to ride a terrifying roller coaster, walking into those houses. Somehow, the lure of that candy, and conquering the overwhelming fear, made it worth all the effort.

In the past few years, especially while I had the baby bug, I looked forward to being on the other side of Halloween - being the neighbor handing out the candy. I've never had the creativity or effort to do the whole haunted house thing, but I love having the kids come to my door looking all cute and greedy and striking up little-people-sized conversations, feeding off their excitement, nervousness, and wonder.  I have also enjoyed this tradition of following this photography blog by Warren Harold as he counts down the days to Halloween with spooky images - he gets better every year!

And now I have my own little one the dress up. While she's not quite ready for a bucket full of candy, we're already having fun with little Halloween parties and activities. I have no bandwidth to be making her costumes myself [how did my mother do that?!?!], but I did get carried away and buy her not one, but two costumes for her first Halloween. Here's the first one she's already put to use:

Would you confess that you also enjoy this holiday? What are your favorite Halloween memories? What do you do to get ready? What costume are you planning for yourself or your little one this year? If you have a good enough idea, I am not past buying Sofia costume number three ;)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Four Years Ago Today...

Four years ago today, Jeff proposed! Spoiler alert: I said yes. Almost four years ago me wants to tell you how he proposed because it was crazy romantic and creative:

My boss, Drake, called me on my cell phone sounding extremely sheepish. Spouting apologies for his foolishness, he explained that he had left his lava lamp on in his office, and he feared that it would burn the place down. He claimed to be out of town, or else he'd do it himself. I told him that I was on my way to a movie in Orange, so it was right on the way and absolutely no problem (even though I was thinking that was silly - if the place was going to burn down, it would have burned down already).
My roommate Hilary drove, so when we reached Vanguard, I told her just to wait in the car and I would be right back. I literally ran from the car to the office door, which I discovered was open. I thought that was strange, but I proceeded to Drake's office anyway. I unlocked his door and saw that the lava lamp had already been turned off (ya know, probably on Friday. By Drake. Before he left work. Because he was lying). I then noticed that the light was on by my desk, so I decided to investigate. Red Gerbera daisies (my favorite!) covered my desk, and with them was a note that said "This is where it all began" and my heart started beating really fast and I thought "Ooo! It's happening now!!!"
I followed the trail of what I later learned was just under 60 red Gerbera daisies (they're the happiest flower, in my opinion) with 31 (my favorite number) notes attached with reasons why Jeff wants to marry me (from sentimental "because you believe in me and I in you" or "because you love God more than you love me" to funny "because I want to see how fat you get when we have triplets" or "because my lease is up in June"), and they led me to Needham, Vanguard's beautiful little chapel in the middle of campus. As I opened the doors, Bethany Dillon's "For My Love" started playing. I walked down an aisle lined with hundreds of twinkly lights, holding my bouquet, staring at Jeff wearing a tux and eight cardboard cutouts (the people that will be in our wedding), trying not to think about how surreal the moment was (and also trying not to trip).

I just noticed that our wedding party is not wearing pants.
On stage in the chapel, Jeff got down on one knee and gave a beautiful speech and asked me to be his wife. I said yes, and we kissed as the first rockin' strains of "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" echoed through the chapel.
This was staged. Jeff's camera died during the actual moment.
When we got to my apartment that night, Jeff and our friend Kaytie had set up a surprise engagement party - there was a big group of family and close friends there to celebrate with us! Amazing. This guy is amazing. If you haven't met him yet, please come visit me and marvel at my catch.

The end.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

my love/hate relationship with camping.

I can't decide if I like camping or not, and for some reason that ambiguity is bothering me. I went camping last weekend for my friend Shep's birthday, so I'm prepared to make a pro/con list while the experience is fresh in my mind.  

Why I dislike camping
1. Bugs. I could probably soak myself in bug spray and the suckers would still attack me. I came away from this weekend with approximately 15 bites, two of which were on my face, which surprised me for some reason. Like those mosquitoes had violated the unwritten code that the face is off limits. And if someone comments that they like me because I'm so sweet, please know that I will hunt you down, jab you with something small and painful, and ask how sweet you think I am now.
2. The supplies. Perhaps this wouldn't bother me if I went camping for more than a couple of days at a time, but I always feel stressed out and irked when we have to take an entire car full of supplies to go somewhere overnight. It makes it feel like more of a hassle than it should be.
3. Cooking. It's messy, it takes ages, and the food doesn't taste that great.
4. The dirt. Nature can really just get all over you. I am a complete wuss when it comes to being dirty. I can't handle it.
5. The cold. I am always ill-prepared for the cold. I end up awake half the night, curled in a ball, freezing and loathing life. Or, in last weekend's case, awake half the night, curled around my baby in the sleeping bag, praying that I won't fall asleep and suffocate her.
Proof of survival.
Why I like camping:
1. The time warp. What time is it? Who cares! Time simultaneously flies and stands still. I can't explain camping time, but I do love it.
Heidi was an excellent camper.
2. The fire. There's something magical about sitting by a camp fire with friends, talking about nothing and laughing about everything until wee hours.
3. The wine. It's always delicious, and it's extra relaxing to drink by that fire. 
4. Cooking. It's messy, it takes ages, and the food doesn't taste that great in reality, but since it takes ages to make and I'm generally starving by the time it's ready, it kind of tastes amazing. And there's a sense of accomplishment when one makes a real meal over a rustic fire.
Chefs Shep and Chris.
5. Tents. Hanging out in a tent is super relaxing and also makes me feel like I'm five and playing in a fort I've created or something. Plus I love the way the breeze sounds in there. Lovely.
6. Games. We didn't get a chance to play any games at last weekend's camping trip, but games are usually a camping staple. Dominoes or cards for hours on end. 
7. The dirt. All that dirt makes for the most incredible shower experience when I get home. Oh man. So great. 

And camping wins by a nose! 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Playing the Justice Card

Crowds occupy Wall Street crying out for justice. I am excited for this energy, accountability, and cooperation. I think the groups that keep joining the effort are wise to combine their energies instead of competing against one another to have their lone voice heard above the competition. And who can argue against justice? I heard a journalist say yesterday that the "99%" are actually the "100%" because even the investment bankers and corporate tycoons sympathize with this cause. 

Right now, Justice is a big buzz word, and it is also a powerful trump card. The ace of spades, if you will. And yet, I recently came the understand through some reading, that playing that ace is trickier than it seems. I think these groups may experience more trouble than they anticipate in spelling out just what they mean by "justice." I recently finished two books that speak to this theme in interesting ways. 


First off, Generous Justice by Tim Keller. Keller gets quite a bit of praise, bordering on idolatry, in certain circles. So I  avoided reading him for as long as I could. Thing is, he is good and really worth reading. The other thing is, he doesn't necessarily have all that many original ideas, but he is great at synthesizing key philosophers/thinkers/theologians/etc. Therefore, for a good, current day relevant synthesis on how to be challenged to consider why justice matters, and how to start figuring out what justice actually is, you really should check this out. 

I considered myself someone who had the right ideas and right behavior with regards to justice before reading it, and was both encouraged and challenged to consider things more carefully and figure out how to act more consistently. In case you don't have a chance to read it yourself [it's a nice quick read, so stop making excuses ;) ], one key point he makes that I think is particularly relevant to Occupy Wall Street, is that the roots of our ideas of what justice is are necessarily moral [and therefore religious in at least some sense]. We can not throw around the term "justice" like a sledge hammer or an ace card that lets us win any argument. Justice means differing and often conflicting things to different people. And in a secular society that outlaws public discourse on religious ideas, we can not have a real, resolvable conversation about justice until we start admitting our moral/religious beliefs. I should stop trying to say what he has already spelled out more clearly, so just go read it.

The second book is slightly less direct than Kellers, but I was surprised by how relevant I found it to be. It presents some challenging questions about justice, morality, and integrity in the form of a story. Have you read Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beacher Stowe? It is a classic I had obviously heard of, and pretended to know about more than once, but I had never read it and I've never heard of it being part of any standard curriculums. But when I found out that Harriet moved to the town I live in because her husband was a professor at the college where my husband is now a professor, I felt an affinity with her and wanted to know more about her and her work. 

Wow. While it may have taken me a little while to get into, it really caught me up once I did. Turns out, it is a collection of real stories Stowe had either witnessed or heard about slaves, slave owners, and northerners who refused to dirty their hands with slave ownership on moral grounds. And while it may not really make for a terribly cohesive overall narrative, the stories are compelling and engaging, and at times tear provoking. While the character development pulls your heart in, these people who come to life before you hold these fascinating conversations. 

It doesn't seem like we need to read a book today to convince us that American plantation slavery is bad (though I realize that modern day slavery is a serious and pervasive problem), but Stowe gets into these subtle particularities of humans engaging with this old problem. She does this in such a way as to challenge my morality today, making me realize that while slavery isn't a moral issue I feel any ambiguity about (perhaps thanks to her - Lincoln credited her as the "the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war."), I have some important questions to consider about what justice really is and how I am living that out. For any christians reading this post, you might be interested to realize how Christ centered the book is. She has some challenging points regarding foreign missions. She also points out that moral issues can not be so simply resolved by deferring to the opinion of your local church, or by playing a trump card like, "the bible says . . . " as there can really be so much division even underneath these seemingly authoritative claims. [watching the God in America documentary series while I read this really enhanced both experiences by the way!] Also, the incredible love for scripture that is woven throughout the book is really beautifully displayed. 

If you have to pick only one of these books, I might actually steer you towards Uncle Tom's Cabin. I think it will get into your heart in a way that might hopefully spur you towards positive change (if you are willing to use some imagination to consider how to apply old points to modern day) in a way that Keller's smart, rational, well articulated arguments won't necessarily do the trick. Also, classics like that are easy to find for free or for cheap, so that's cool. But both are certainly worthwhile if you have the bandwidth. 

Have you read either of these books, Lobsters? What have you thought?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Movie Review Monday #22: My childhood

My family always loved watching movies together, and we'd watch some so many times that the VHS would get worn out. My husband almost never rewatches films, but I'm all about it. It makes them familiar, like hanging out with old friends. It's comforting. There are many that I associate with my childhood, and here's a top ten:

2. Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken. When Sonora, that southern spitfire, tells the dreamy dude from Sixteen Candles to raise his arms while he's wearing the fringe jacket so she can trick him into a hug, my 8 year old heart just melted. This story was inspiring for horse high divers around the world.
3. The Goonies. You know, it only has the Truffle Shuffle, Data's faulty gadgets, Martha Plimpton yelling "Rabies!" at a cloud of bats, an eventually adorable misshapen man child with a "Hey you guys"catchphrase, and a group of misfits discovering new friendships as they join together to find some ancient booty. No big deal.
4. The Cutting Edge. Never before or since has there been a more entertaining montage of two people ice skating while one continuously says "toe pick." A delightful romantic comedy.
5. Muppet Christmas Carol. For the holidays.
6. Better Off Dead. This film is technically about a teenage John Cusack who gets dumped by his girlfriend and decides he'd like to off himself. In reality, it's so. much. more. My favorite character is his daffy mother who gives TV dinners as Christmas gifts and makes a dessert so disgusting that it literally creeps across the dinner table. This is 80s camp at its finest.
7. Newsies. Oh boys.
8. The Princess Bride. Why, yes, I have seen this film approximately 139 times and nearly have it memorized. Don't all children of the 90s? 
9. Tremors. I'm trying to remember if I ever found this film scary. I don't think so. It's just so silly, and I still love it even though they had to go and overdo things by making three sequels. (And a TV show?! I just saw that on imdb. Crazy. What were they thinking?!
10. Undercover Blues. If you had told 10 year old me that I would someday think Stanley Tucci was a skilled actor, I would have chuckled in disbelief and said "Morty? The guy who squeals like a girl and falls into the alligator pit?!" I'm certain those would have been my exact words. This film is a campy family spy show, in the same genre as Psych or Chuck. Hilarious and highly recommended.

Journey of Natty Gann didn't make it in my list because the only thing I can remember about it was an emotional scene where she yells at her wolf friend to "JUST GO!" from a train station. But I'm pretty sure that was on repeat at my house for a long while when I was very young too.

How about you, Lobsters? What was on repeat in your family's house?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sabbath Sunday #22

Choosing Sabbath rest has become more important and more fruitful for me than ever before, since Sofia has come into my life. Perhaps it is more complex, in that my work is caring for her, and it is not something I can ever take a day off from. But choosing not to heap chores or expectations on top of that, accepting the breaks Manny provides by caring for her on that day for a couple hours, is perhaps one of the most important things that gets me through the week [as evidenced by the weeks I fail and how miserably I fall apart as a result]. So I am hoping I can be faithful in resting today. We will return to a church for a third time [yay!] in hopes that we might be finding a home in this faith community. And other than that, I do not know what the day will hold, but I pray for the blessing (for myself, and for you, Lobsters) of resting in the trust that God is the One who provides for me, not me for myself.

How are you resting in that trust today, Lobsters?

Friday, October 14, 2011

fall fun fun fun

I decided yesterday that fall is my favorite season on the east coast. It's the right temperature to be outside (a rarity here, as it's generally too hot and humid or too freezing), and the trees are lovely. And I suppose I love fall on the better coast too, though summer is my favorite over there. Last weekend, we had a perfect fall day.

We triumphed over a corn maze.
And we only freaked out a little.
We relaxed on a hayride.
On my left is a sliver of the stranger who thought he was my BFF.
We tried to socialize with goats.
This goat was totally giving Aunt Tab the cold shoulder. We later discovered that if you sing "The Lonely Goatherd" from Sound of Music to him, he will find you engaging for approximately one verse.
We shot corn out of a corn gun.
That's a normal fall activity, right? Right.
We picked a pumpkin.
We picked that purple one. And they let us take it home for free!
And we went home, good and tuckered out.

The end.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Long distance family

Kayla and Sofia at the San Diego Zoo

My husband could not begin to attempt naming each of his first cousins. I'm sure he hasn't even met all of them once. He just has so many [I think close to 100]. So I guess it is hard to blame him. But whenever I feel shocked about that, I think about this beautiful family: 

Sorry - I'm not trying to be vain by calling the people in a photo beautiful when I'm in the photo. I mean all the beautiful blonds. The man on the far left is Bryce. He is my father's cousin. Second from the left is Jolene, his wife. On the far right is Aimee, their youngest daughter. I think that makes Aimee my second cousin, once removed. I've known her since she was a little baby when she already had gorgeous blond hair, but back then, it stuck up in spikes. 

I was the flower girl in Bryce and Jolene's wedding. I recently unpacked this from a box from home:

This was the thank you gift I got for being their flower girl. It was one of my most "precious" ;) treasures when I was little. They've always felt like an important part of my family and life, even though we're not even first cousins. But this year they were more important to me than ever. While I might actually recommend that young married couples live in a city away from their family ["leave and cleave!"], I think I feel like it's best to live close to family for the long term. After five years on our own in the Bay Area, and an indefinite future on our own in Maine, it was a true blessing to live in the same city as my second cousins and second cousins once removed!

Age wise, I'm roughly in the middle between the parents and the kids in this family, which presents a great inter-generational opportunity in two directions. I was blessed by my elders' wisdom and discipleship, and could also attempt to be a blessing and encouragement in a similar way to their kids. I think things work in the inverse direction as well. But half way through the year, we got to see that trade off trickle down to a fourth level, as the kids started to take care of and bless on my baby too. 

I know many people who live a transient life style like ours make family members out of the strangers they meet, and I feel like we've done a bit of that too. But I am particularly grateful for this clan, because amongst all of the other things they could offer, they were able to share memories and history that belonged to me that I didn't even know. They were able to tell me about my great-grandparents [Bryce's grandparents], they were able tell me things I didn't know about my grand-parents and great aunt/uncle, they were even able to tell me about myself before I had a sufficiently conscious mind to form my own memories. Family is special like that. 

It doesn't hurt that this family is particularly gifted at blessing people and showing hospitality [Bryce is a pastor - so his gifting is literally spiritual!]. They welcomed us into their home, the showed us around the city, they took us to fun events, they visited us in the hospital. But most of all, I was just so invigorated every time we got together because of all of the great conversations we were able to have with each other. Each member of this family has passionate visions for how they want to bless people and God with their lives, and it was always exciting to listen and discuss those dreams with them. 

I thank God for the opportunity to share this year with Bryce, Jolene, Chris, Kayla, Lanae, and Aimee. For the chance to have some short-distance family for a bit. I hope that longer distance won't make us too much of strangers as we move into the future!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Guest Post: Practical Tips on Long Distance Friendship-ing

Howdy, Lobsters. We're back again with a follow up guest post from my dear long distance friend, Libby. For her first post, click here. These are such great, practical tips. I hope you'll contribute some of your own as well!

Hello! Libby here again. So great to be back on Long Distance Lobsters to chat with you. We’re back with the second half of a mini-series about long distance friendships! Last time I posed some questions about why we form certain long distance friendships and why these are important. Good theoretical questions, but I am ALL about the practical, so today I want us to look at some tips for growing those friendships across the miles—and I’d love to hear your ideas, too!

One of the best things I’ve found to do is to keep a list of key things that are going on in my friends’ lives. Can anyone relate to the scatterbrained feeling? I might get off the phone from a great conversation only to jump into something around the house and realize the next day that I’ve forgotten just what it was that my friend was sharing. I absolutely cringe if that happens because it means I can’t follow up very well the next time we chat and it means I can’t pray too effectively for them either. I’ve found that jotting a few key things down after that phone call can really help to keep those details in the forefront of my mind. I know it always feels great to hear from a friend a month later and realize that they remember exactly what we had talked about before.

Another great thing that can help others feel connected to you is to start a blog like this one! Your personality, interests, joys, and concerns can all come through so well on a blog. It is not nearly as relational as a phone call, email, or visit, but it does a great job of filling in the gaps and helping people far away know the ups and downs in your life. One of my favorite things to do in my spare time is to flip through my friends’ blogs who I no longer live near and get to see life through their eyes again.

I have a few people that I love to email back and forth with as well. I have heard recently that many people think that email is becoming obsolete. No way! I love a good email! I hope it sticks around, because I have way more to say most days than I can fit into a tiny text message or facebook comment. Email is a great way to really share some deeper things with good friends, to get into the details, and also to keep a written memory of shared thoughts and questions you’ve had. Now that I have a busy 15 month old who sleeps less than most kiddos her age, phone calls are hard to come by. It is easier many times to write a long email bit by bit as I have time than  to block off that prized hour of phone time I really want with a friend. And it gives my friend flexibility on the reply end as well.

Pictures, pictures, pictures! I am terrible about staying on top of this one, but when I see updated pictures of where friends have traveled, a new haircut, what their kids look like now, it helps me to feel like I am passing time with them somehow and not always seeing them in the past. So take those pictures and get them uploaded in a place where friends can see them! For some that is on Facebook, others it is through programs like Flicker, Shutterfly, or Picassa. Find out what is easiest for you to use and go at it!

Finally, I think that praying for our friends we miss is a great way to stay connected as well. I am so thankful for the reality that those of us who are saved by grace through faith are looking forward to an eternity in Heaven with our brothers and sisters in Christ. For Christian friends, there is never a goodbye. It is always an “I’ll see you later.” And praying for each other helps us to continue that relationship on earth that we will have in Heaven one day, all pointed toward the Lord together. For friends we love who don’t call Jesus their Savior and Lord, it can be our heart’s desire to pray for opportunities for them to encounter the Lord and come to faith. It can also be a platform that spurs us on to continue remaining active in their lives even when we see sinful choices being made.

Those are my top ways to continue friendships with my loved ones far away. How about you? Anything I missed that has helped you??