Thursday, December 29, 2005

There is Never a Dull Moment...

My parents got roped into going to the Christmas service with me. For folks who haven't been to church in YEARS, it went pretty well. Except for one small thing... They served communion on Christmas Day. Seeing the sheer panic on my parents' faces, I assured them that no one would notice if they didn't go up front to take communion. Really. There isn't some sort of communion gestapo. Really.

I walk to the front of the church, receive the sacrament and come back to sit next to my parents, who are looking somewhat relieved at this point. At that exact moment, one of the ushers walks by. Uh oh. With a concerned look, he asks my parents if they received the sacrament. My dad responds in the negative. To which the nice usher asks if my parents would like someone to come to their pew to offer them communion. My dad, in his deep Southern drawl, says, "Nah, nah. We're good."

WE'RE GOOD?!? Daddy, he just offered you Holy Communion, not another beer! Heh. I should have known that all three of us couldn't enter a church without SOMEHOW making a spectacle of ourselves. Good times. Good times.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Focus on the Family

Sometimes, on long car rides, I enjoy listening to talk radio. If I can get caught up in something, it makes the time go by much faster. Last night, on the way back from my Christmas vacation, I decided to listen to Focus on the Family. If you don't know anything about that group, they are ultra-conservative. And the STRONGLY disapprove of the gay "lifestyle." So strongly, in fact, that the host a conference called Love Won Out. Because if you love Jesus enough, you won't be gay. Too bad I didn't receive that memo.

Last night there was an ex-gay man on the radio sharing his testimony. That's right. Ex-gay. Rehabilitated, don't you know. In love with a woman now. Through the never-ending grace of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Despite my mocking tone, I am not bitter with this man. If he is happy (and who am I to say he is not?), then all of the best to him. It just frightens me (and fills me with rage) to think that there is someone out there struggling with the knowledge that they are gay... and that these Focus on the Family folks are telling them that if they are, in fact, gay they can't have a relationship with God. And that, if they love Jesus, they can walk away from homosexuality. Oh. my. God. The absolute torment that those two thoughts could conflict upon an already stuggling individual is heart-wrenching.

I checked out some of the testimonials from Exodus International, the umbrella ex-gay , Christian ministry. The over-whelming amount of testimony reflected what the reparative therapy advocates preach: that being gay has a root cause. It is abuse. Or emotional distance from the same-sex parent. Or something that must have HAPPENED to you ... because God did not create anyone to live a life of sin. Good Lord. Enough people commit suicide because they simply cannot accept their own sexuality. I doubt spouting completely unproven theories that are NOT endorsed by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) helps.

Focus on the Family was a huge part of my upbringing. And, almost single-handedly, Dr. James Dobson convinced me that gay people cannot be Christians. And I walked away from my faith (which had always been a cornerstone in my life) because I refused to worship a God that wouldn't love me the way He created me. It took me twelve years --and a lot of pain-- to return to the God who never stopped loving me in the first place.

Somehow, I doubt they would want to use my testimonial.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Sometimes the Title is the Hardest Part (like today. Which is why the title is lame. Geez. Cut a girl some slack)

First things first: my cookies were a big hit yesterday. And it turns out they call them Babe Ruth Bars for a reason. Sweet like a candy bar, they are. Very tasty. But I wouldn't want two dozen of them hanging around my house. Now, chocolate chip cookies... now THAT is a different story.

While basking in my cookie glory last night, I cleaned the house. Boy, that will kill a cookie buzz right there. I swear, Jed & Milo bring in a truckload of dirt every day. It took me almost 45 minutes to mop JUST THE KITCHEN. I had to change the water three times... because I would look down & I would realize I was mopping with muddy water. And don't even get me started on the dog paw prints on the carpet. Aye, aye, aye.

Fortunately for the dogs, I hopped on my bike part way through the cleaning venture to pick up the ingredients for spinach lasagna, which I am making for the Kelloggs (Amy's folks) this evening. The brisk evening air allowed me to reassess my situation and decide that I DID NOT, in fact, wish to turn the dogs into slippers. This journey was also my first in which I retrieved a substantial amount of groceries (including a bottle of wine) to make dinner. I was rather proud of myself (and I hope it isn't true that pride goes before a fall or I am in DEEP trouble on my ride home!).

This morning I woke up just rarin' to go... even though I had been up until 12:30 a.m. preparing the lasagna so it could be popped in the oven at 5 p.m. today. (Trust me on this one: Amy's dad is MUCH more charming when fed in a timely manner). But I digress... this morning I hopped out of bed in time for Bible study and coffee. And then...and then, and then, and then....

Off on the bike to run an errand and go to work. The weather this morning was spectacular. It was a bit on the chilly side, but the sun was shining, the birds were chirping... and, well folks, it was just a wonderful world. I know that the road crew I rode by this morning thought I was obscenely chipper... but others seemed to enjoy me. I even got honked (in greeting) by a woman that MUST have been 80 years old, who was driving an RV the size of a tour bus, which had an entire winter village scene set up on the dashboard. Now, do you think I would have had that privilege if I had been in my car this morning? I think not.

All of this is to say that I am really geared up about this biking thing (get it?!? GEARED up?!?). I am blessed to live in a climate where I CAN bike to work at Christmastime and not lose a toe to frostbite. AND, I am saving gas & exercising AT THE SAME TIME. BRILLIANT!

So now... and I am sure you could see this coming... there is a distance bike trek in my future, benefiting the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.* 75 miles from Miami to Key Largo... and then overnight camping. Go ahead. Check out the link. You know you want to.

Anyone from Florida up for the challenge? Amy said that she would make shirts for our team....

* This event was brought to my attention by Lindsay Curlee.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Me Want COOKIE!

Normally I hate the office gatherings to celebrate holidays, birthdays, etc. But this time... COOKIES! That makes the emotional torment of trying to make small talk with people I don't know SO much more palatable.

I made these no-bake cookies with peanut butter, chocolate chips, peanuts, and cornflakes. I swear, I almost broke the wooden spoon trying to stir those dang cornflakes in. SIX cups of cornflakes! The cookies look good. No, I have not tried them (which tweaks Amy out to no end). But the dogs got their fill of cornflakes off the floor while I was trying to make the little buggers. Unruly, those cornflakes.

And, in case you were concerned, today I am ardently sticking to ignoring my weight until after the holidays. There are COOKIES at stake here, people. COOKIES.

I knew you would understand.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Monday Musings

Sorry, loyal readers, about the lack of a post on Friday. I was sick. I had a cold. I was resting at home (which meant that, while I wasn't posting, I WAS doing a crap ton of laundry). But I did get to start reading The Orchid Thief, which I highly recommend. It is a delectable book. Truly. I am in the process of devouring it. And that is not, in the slightest, an exaggeration. It has been four months since I have been able to read ANYTHING other than my assignments for Bible study, so this is really a treat. A good read. Check it out.

The church service on Sunday was exceptional. I am rather ashamed to admit that this is the first time I have made it to church during Advent. But I can't imagine a service speaking to my heart more than this one. The overarching theme was that, regardless of personal flaws or reasons that I can find to condemn myself, I am a loved, chosen child of God. I am precious and valued. I am loved by a God that knows even the most minute details of my existence. The sheer joy of being loved like that has stuck closely with me. It is the feeling of being inexplicably blessed. It is peace... constant, abiding peace.

So.. after my soul-altering moments in church, I came home to an empty house. Little Amy was off visiting with her mom and dad. So I hoped on my new bike and headed to Chili's for a bite to eat.

Now, for those of you who know me in person... Yes, I already had a bike. A lovely Trek mountain bike. However, you may know that there are no mountains in Florida. Heck, there are barely any hills. So, my poor mountain bike was living a farce. Poor thing. Being the kind of girl who only wants the best for others, even inanimate objects, I will be helping the Trek find a new home where she can live out her days riding on trails and living dangerously.

The new bike is a hybrid type affair that is much more suited to riding to work, or to the store, or to dinner... The type of riding I actually do. AND, the new bike is an odd size made for short people, like myself. Which makes me feel as though I have complete command over the bicycle and its wily ways.

So, I am buying said bike from Michelle for a nominal fee. Don't worry, I have not caught Amy's fever for owning multiple bikes. One is enough for me.

I enjoyed riding my bike to lunch SO MUCH yesterday, I decided I would ride to work today. It is only five miles, so it is definitely manageable. On my bike ride to work this morning I did, however, learn that I am woefully out of shape. I ALSO learned that motorists on Fowler Avenue suck donkey butt and have NO idea what to do with a bicyclist on the road. I usually ride on the sidewalk, but there is a treacherous area on the way to work where it is actually beneficial to be on the road--that way drivers can see you, then they can DECIDE whether to hit you or not. But REALLY, I do have a right to be on the road. Trying to run me off the road because you hate the fact that I am on a bike isn't really going to do anyone any good. DONKEY BUTT SUCKER!

I felt good after my ride in. Amy is going to check the brakes for me (they are making some awful sound like a dying iguana), and I think I may ride to work AND home again tomorrow. Unfortunately, riding home today with the dying iguana brakes is not something I am really into. So Amy is going to give me a tow into town after work. Sweet!

And tonight... cookie baking for the cookie exchange tomorrow! (Do you see now why my mountain bike might want to go live with someone else? Geez.)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

New Leaves....

Note: It is not in one's best interest to turn over a new leaf during the girlfriend's birthday week. She may, just MAY, want to go out on a school night. And one may find oneself eating chicken wings at midnight. These factors are not conducive to fragile new leaves.

Now back to regularly scheduled programming.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Good Day, Sunshine!

This morning, I actually got up early enough to:
1) Call my baby sister who had a VERY important job interview today and wish her luck
2) Have TWO cups of coffee, and
3) Read my Bible.

Why, oh why are my covers so warm & my girlfriend so snuggly? It makes it so much more difficult to drag my sleepyhead self out of bed. But, once I am actually up & about, I LOVE my morning time alone....

So, I will begin trying to get up early enough to do the things I love BEFORE work. Wish me luck, ya'll!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

This Here...

Amy and I got to see my grandparents yesterday. Haskle and Geneva. Or Hash and Neva. Or Butch and Snoot. Take your pick.

They are Southern folk, born and raised in South Georgia. Good Southern Baptists, they are. And, yes, they are MORTIFIED that I am a Methodist.

So, the grandparents decided to swing through Tampa on their way home from my parents' house. We decided to meet for lunch. Now, I love my grandparents dearly.... but I should have known better. When I agreed to lunch, I assumed they would be here around noon or so. But they called at 10:30 and had just left (it is a four hour drive). Okay, so lunch at 2 p.m. isn't ideal. But they are my grandparents. And I wanted to see them. I can wait to have lunch.

Well... 2 p.m. crept by... no word. 3 p.m. comes around and I am starving. Ravenous. And I still haven't heard from them. They FINALLY call.... THEY RAN OUT OF GAS. Um... apparently this is something that my grandfather has done several times. And don't get all sappy and tell me that it is because he is old. No it isn't. It is because he is the most STUBBORN man to draw a breath. The gas gauge can say the tank is empty, but by God, he will only believe it when he feels the car sputter to prove it.

They FINALLY arrived to meet Amy & I for dinner (we were supposed to have lunch, remember) at 4 p.m. They came in chattering up a storm. They talk right over each other and never seem to notice. After 30 years, it still makes me laugh.

After dinner, the waiter came by with the check. He asked if we were separate or together. I told him to separate mine and Amy's....

My grandfather put his hand on my head, looked at the waiter, and said: This here, this here is my oldest grandbaby. And this here is her good friend. So, I reckon I'll be paying for their dinner today.

He may be stubborn, but he is charming. Every time.

Monday, December 12, 2005

In Which I Challenge My Mother's Sanity

On the way home last night, I decided to call my mom. Excited beyond belief about The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, which Amy and I saw yesterday afternoon, I simply had to share my glee with my mother. Right then. And tell her that I wanted to take her to see it when I come home for Christmas. Relaying this message to her AT THAT EXACT MOMENT was crucial. It was a matter of life or soul-crushing death. So I called.

Unfortunately for Mama, that exact moment was the moment I also NEEDED to ask her if she would go to church with me on Christmas morning. I had to know RIGHT THEN. It was important to me. Again, unfortunately, Mom had no idea HOW important.

We all used to go to church together, my family and I. Then, due to various happenings, none of us went for a long time. Now I am the only one that attends church regularly. And I am usually fine with that. I go by myself. It is my quiet, soul-searching time. But it seems UNBEARABLY sad to me to sit in church on Christmas morning alone. And, since Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ, I want to be surrounded by Christmas hymns. And joy. And the hope that the birth of Christ brings. And I want to be with my family. But my mom knew nothing of this.

So, when I asked her, she said no. My mom, when it comes to her children, is one of the most giving people in the world. I am not sure she has EVER, in thirty years, told me no about something that meant anything at all to me. So, her saying no to something that means this much to me crushed me. But, poor Mom, she didn't KNOW it meant that much to me.

So, all the sudden, I am sobbing. I tried to choke it back. I really did. I said it was okay (through a torrent of tears & gasping for air). I told her I could go by myself. The whole time, she is asking me if something happened this weekend, where Amy was, if I had taken my medicine. Note to self: this is what happens when you blindside someone you love--who loves you dearly--with a request that you feel as if your whole world hinges on... and yet you present the request in the same cavalier manner in which you would ask them to pass the butter. Disaster is bound to ensue.
It took me a while to convince Mama that, in fact, I was literally crying because what I wanted for Christmas was for her to go to church with me.

So, because she loves me, my mom agreed to go to church with me on Christmas morning. And when she called today, she told me Daddy said he would go too. Simply because it is important to me. I couldn't ask for a more beautiful Christmas present.

Thanks Mom & Dad. I love you.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Stealthily She Creeps...

I know the airwaves from this neck of the woods have been silent. My work climate experienced a severe meltdown. I was in stealth mode. Now... I think it is safe to peek back out.

Let's catch up, shall we...?

Tuesday, I played hooky (or hooker, as my sister kept saying). I woke up with that same, gross, nagging blueness. I stayed home, did some things for my boss, caught up on my Bible study... and lo and behold--I have been FINE since then. Never underestimate the power of a mental health day.

Tuesday night was Bible study. Proverbs. The book of pithy remarks. Some of the proverbs were downright hysterical, once we all started talking about them and reading them out loud. This is one of my favorites: Better to inhabit the corner of your roof than live with a quarrelsome wife. That's right.

Then we began to ponder whether or not it is realistic to expect Christians to remain chaste while single and practice fidelity in marriage.* Of course, I bust out with the sentiment that it was fine to remain chaste while single in Biblical times... SINCE PEOPLE GOT MARRIED WHEN THEY WERE 12! The general consensus was that it is asinine to equate the decision to abstain from sex while single to fidelity in a relationship. If fidelity isn't realistic, I know a LOT of people who are in for a huge disappointment. I was surprised that this was such an open conversation among our little group. I don't know what I expected... maybe coals to be heaped on my head because I don't believe that abstaining from sex until marriage is necessary to be committed to one's faith... But no heaping coals were found. WHEW!

Yesterday, things at work imploded. Can't talk about it here (remember Dooce????). All you need to know is that I still have a job. And that's how I knew today that Jesus loves me.

Tonight, it looks as though I will be having tea, reading and all that jazz. Sounds soothing, doesn't it? I thought so too.



*Before anyone flips out, chastity while single and fidelity in marriage were grouped into one question by our workbook. Not by our Bible study group.

Love

"It is not love in the abstract that counts. Men have loved a cause as they have loved a woman. They have loved the brotherhood, the workers, the poor, the oppressed - but they have not loved [humanity]; they have not loved the least of these. They have not loved "personally." It is hard to love. It is the hardest thing in the world, naturally speaking. Have you ever read Tolstoy's Resurrection? He tells of political prisoners in a long prison train, enduring chains and persecution for the love of their brothers, ignoring those same brothers on the long trek to Siberia. It is never the brothers right next to us, but the brothers in the abstract that are easy to love."

- Dorothy Day, social activist and founder of the Catholic Worker movement.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Moods

I have been in a mood lately. Which is not to say I have been moody. Nope. This has been a single mood. And it has not been particularly pleasant. Okay, it is downright depressing. Kind of. Okay, not really at all. See? It is one of those things that you just can't quite put your finger on. And if you can't put your finger on it, how the heck are you supposed to FIX it.

This particular mood is characterized by a general tiredness. And a desire to stay in bed all day. This usually means I am depressed. But I don't really FEEL depressed. Just a bit withdrawn. And I have been taking my medication with stunning regularity. So, what gives?

This has been my general mood for about a week. What is funny is that I am not sure anyone has really noticed. I think we are going to call this little phase a funk. Not depression. Because I KNOW depression. I have lived it for many, many years. No, this is just funky. And not the good kind of funky.

I want to wake up chipper and excited. I am tired of dragging myself out of bed. I am tired of seeing the world as a funky shade of gray. That is so UNLIKE me now; it feels foreign, yet frighteningly familiar. It reminds me vaguely of a place I NEVER want to go again.

The weather is overcast today. The weather matches my mood. That may be enough to pull me out of my funk. It makes me feel like the universe is commiserating with me. Like I have the empathy of the sky itself. It is a comforting sense of being understood.

Friday, December 02, 2005

All Quiet on the Kiker Front

Last night was gloriously ... quiet. And domestic. Ahhh. Tilapia, spinach and rice for dinner. Chai and hot tea (chamomile and peppermint) followed. There was reading. And laundry. And fiddling with bicycles (that was Amester, not me). And straightening the house. And, best of all, there was NO tv until 10:00 p.m. I will admit it... I am a sucker for a crime drama. Cold Case sucked me in. Sue me.

In other news, our Bible study group has successfully navigated most of the Old Testament. This week we are reading Proverbs and some other bits and pieces of scripture. Proverbs is fascinating. There is some incredible imagery, mixed with some things that read like a fortune cookie.

How about this one from Proverbs 5:15-17 about sexual fidelity in marriage:
15 Drink water from your own cistern,
running water from your own well.

16 Should your springs overflow in the streets,
your streams of water in the public squares?

17 Let them be yours alone,
never to be shared with strangers.

Ahh, the innuendo. That, folks, is some good stuff.

The week after Proverbs & Co., we will be discussing Job. At our Bible study CHRISTMAS party. The ultimate devastation, test of faith, cosmic chess game* ... And we are discussing it over good food and festive company. Suffering juxtaposed with blessing and abundance. Interesting, no?

Stay tuned, faithful readers, for the trials of Job (coming to a blog near you on December 14th).

On a completely different note, I spent part of last night studying the first and second chakras. The first chakra is the root chakra. The survival chakra. The second chakra is the pursuit of pleasure chakra. If what you are reading seems like a foreign language, you may want to look into the chakras and their functions. It is interesting study. Many people believe that balancing the energies in the chakras can lead to healing of a multitude of ailments. In fact, they are using energy balancing as part of pain relief at hospitals across the nation. Fascinating.

How is that for some dorky Friday babbling for you?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Some Things Just Ain't Right

It sings! It dances! It's Frosty the Snowman! AND IT IS IN MY OFFICE.

My boss made me put Frosty up again this year. On December 1st. That is THREE WEEKS of suffering through Frosty singing Christmas carols EVERY TIME someone walks by. EVERY time.

I know you are thinking that it can't possibly be that bad. Oh. But it is. Mutant Frosty isn't some cute desk toy. He stands FIVE FEET tall. That means he is almost eye level with me. And if that weren't freaky enough, his mouth opens and closes while he is singing.

THIS THING IS NOT NATURAL. I bet he scares small children. Crap, he scares me! I jump every time I walk by and he starts singing. And moving his arms toward me, like he is going to grab me. *shudder*

You would be scared, too. No. Really. You would.

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