Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wit & Wisdom Wednesday

Time for Wit & Wisdom Wednesday, where I post a quote from a well-known (or not so well-known) person. Please feel free to comment with quotes that have touched your soul.
"Be silent as to services you have rendered, but speak of favours you have received."

(5BC - 65AD)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Love and Attention

My poor cat. He spends most of his days alone because I've got stuff after work 3-4 nights out of the week and I can't take the time to go home after work (hooray for eating lunch AND dinner at the office).

This is Mau-be, my precious.

So when I come home and sit down at the computer he gets really annoyed. I guess I would too, if I'd been waiting all day for my favorite person to come home, and when they finally did they gave me a hug, rubbed my belly, then promptly gave the computer all their attention.

This generally means that he will meow pitiously insistantly at me until I pay him some attention. And for some reason today while I was cuddling with him I thought about the word "attention." Now, I'm not a master mistress of linguistics, but I do know that attention derives from the word attend, which in French (and probably Latin) means to wait. So if I'm supposed to be paying attention to my cat or my best friend or my boss, I'm supposed to be waiting on them, listening for what they have to say, watching them to see what they're going to do.

Paying attention isn't just looking in someone's general direction or waving a hand towards them and murmering "yeah I'm watching, honey. You're doing great." No, paying attention is actually looking, listening, watching and waiting. Being focused solely on the other person because you cannot react until they first act, and you don't know what they're going to do.

Think of the phrase we use too... paying attention. I am not giving you my attention, I'm not deigning to honor you with my presence but in actuality I am paying you for yours by tuning my eyes and ears towards you and waiting for what you have to give to me. I'm not doing you any favors because anything you have to do or say will enrich me in some way.

So pay attention to your kids today, watch them do those cartwheels. Pet the kitty, and play fetch with the dog. The computer/book/term paper will be there in 5 minutes. And not because it's paying attention to you. It doesn't care who uses it or even if it's being used. You can pay attention to someone by using the computer (Skype, anyone?) but you'll never get a thank you, a hug, or a piece of advice from that amalgam of parts sitting there in front of you.

If you're going to pay your attention to something or someone today, make sure it's someone who will make it worth your while. And for me, a warm fuzzy purring kitty is well worth my while.

Look... Listen...Love.

Monday, September 28, 2009

It was the Best of Times... It was the Worst of Times.

Have you ever had one of those days that's your best day? I mean, your absolute best day. You look good, the weather is beautiful, your friends take you out for dinner...

And then have you ever had a "worst day?" You know, the kind of day when someone gives you the sort of news that just drops the floor out from under you and you realize you've been standing in a 10-story building. Or more like the Ledge at the Sears Tower.

And have those days ever been the same day?

I guess on the plus side there was a balance, there was laughter to end a day that started in tears. But to look forward to a good day and have it turn sour before it had barely even started... that sucks, it really does.

But I can't focus on the negative, I won't. Because my God is bigger than all the problems in my life, and He's better than even my very best days. So whether you feel that you're flying above the mountain-top, or languishing in the valleys, remember that you are always, have always been, and will always be, in the palm of His hand.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Happy National Punctu...ation Day!

And 10 points for anyone who knows what movie the title of this post alludes to. :)

So yeah, National Punctuation Day. Tell me, when is the last time you thanked an ellipses? Or hugged a colon? Ok wait, that one doesn't sound quite right.

I admit I'm a bit late in the day so unless you're on the West coast and reading this, well, now, you've already missed it. Such a shame. Now you'll never be able to celebrate punctuation again... at least not until next year.

Seriously though, it's hysterical the number of National Holidays there are. And those have to be sanctioned. Then there's even MORE "days" that just kinda, well, happened.

Like Elephant Appreciation Day. Or Talk Like a Pirate Day (arrr). Or Take Your Pants For a Walk Day. These days exist, my friend. National Be Late For Something Day is the day before National Stop Procrastinating Day.

Do we really need to set aside a day to stop procrastinating? Really. Because if you miss it, that gets you off the hook for a whole 'nother year!

I don't know about you, but I think if there's tons of random Days out there, then we should Seinfeld up our lives and create our own Festivuses (Festivi?)

So leave me a comment with your ideas. Here are some of mine:
  • National Free Jamba Juice Day Mmmmmm... Jamba Juice
  • National Walk Like an Egyptian Day Actually I think they have this one...
  • National Everybody Gets $600 Day (oh wait...)
  • National Say What You Really Want to Say Day this might need to be on a weekend
  • National Matching Outfits Day you know you've got the same outfit as someone else. Avoid the embarrassment and just plan to wear it on the same day!
  • National Barefoot at Work Day as long as you don't work on like, lava.
Happy Day, everyone!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

God Is Like The Internet

So I was walking home from the train station today, checking my Facebook on my BlackBerry. I know what you're saying. You're saying "Janet, you only live 4 blocks from the train! Why couldn't you wait?"

Well to be honest, I was checking my Facebook because I had to pee so badly I needed the distraction. I know, I know, overshare. But it's true.

The point, however, is that the last time I checked fb on my BB (I would do this whole thing in shorthand if I could) was last night. And yet, when I clicked on the button for "internet" and it moved a millisecond later to the web site, I had a notice that I had updated my status (which I had, before I left the office) and that I had 7 notifications.

So what was happening, apparently, is that the internet light waves or electrons or whatever they are, were constantly in touch with my BB, informing it of my fb updates, even when I wasn't willing it to happen. It's like the internet is just all around us, every day, everywhere. I mean, I remember learning about radio waves way back in high school, and yeah it's pretty much the same concept... this stuff is just transmitting all over the world and even through us. How creepy is that? But it's also pretty cool, isn't it?

And it hit me, as I was walking home and trying desperately to think of anything but my bladder, that this generation now has a new way to think about God. Really. The Bible says the Holy Spirit is in us, right? It's a kinda weird concept. But what about the internet? The BlackBerry wouldn't work if there wasn't internet all over and around me, aware of what's going on, familiar with photos I've uploaded, status updates, emails, etc. So take the next step. Think about God like that. He's in us, around us, he sees everything, he knows and catalogs everything we say and do (although if you have accepted Christ thank the Lord He doesn't hold it against us!)... I mean come on, it's like God is the servers which hold everything, Jesus is the conduit to this "everything" (like the BB) and the Holy Spirit is that energy which connects it all together.

OK, anyone who thinks this is hokey or blasphemous, raise your hand. Ok. I hear ya. But think about it--I'm not trying to say that the Internet replaces God. I'm just using imagery that this generation understands to describe in some tiny small part That which we cannot understand but ardently desire to.

Does that make sense? Please leave your thoughts.

Wit & Wisdom Wednesday

Time for Wit & Wisdom Wednesday, where I post a quote from a well-known (or not so well-known) person. Please feel free to comment with quotes that have touched your soul.
"The word that God speaks to us is always an incarnate word--a word spelled out to us not alphabetially, in syllables, but enigmatically, in events, even in the books we read and the movies we see."

~Frederick Buechner~

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Green-Eyed Monster

A friend of one of my friends is an amazing photographer. I know this because when he posts photos of her on Facebook and tags her in them, I can see them even though I'm not friends with this guy.

And they're absolutely beautiful photos. And I hate them.

I hate that I can't take photos like that. I hate that I don't have a nice enough camera or enough time/skills to use Photoshop to the best of its abilities and make great shots like that and NO ONE should be able to take better pictures than me because if I'm not the best then what am I?

It's not the green-eyed monster for me... it's the green-eyed ulcer. Sometimes my stomach just clenches when I see someone who can write/draw/photograph/dance/look better than me. It seizes up to the point that I can almost taste what I had for dinner.

Please tell me I'm not the only person who feels like this sometimes.

And tell me what you do to unclench. Because I'm not going to let jealousy give me an ulcer. I have enough other things that I worry about and when it comes down to it why on earth do I worry about things?

Who among us can add one hour to their lives by worrying? If God created us (which I believe) and he also created the sparrow in the field, how can I look at that lovely creature for whom God provides utterly (how could it live if God hadn't created worms and trees and air currents?) and then wonder why He doesn't do the same for me?

Do birds envy other birds? No. Why? Because they're too busy doing what God put them on this earth to do. And maybe it's just to eat worms. But maybe it's to proclaim the majesty of His creation to those poor, petty, small-minded hairless creatures called humans.

If God knit me together in my mother's womb (which I believe, as God created ovaries, eggs, sperm and DNA) then how can I question the manner in which he created me? Better instead to ask what I am called to do, for as a great writer once said, "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet." (Frederick Buechner)

So instead of sitting around and growing an ulcer because I don't have what someone else has, perhaps it's high time I look around myself at what I've got, and what makes me most happy. Because if I can give a little bit of that to someone in need, why, there I have found my purpose, there I have found my place in this world. And there I can join the sparrow in her song.

Will you sing with me?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Why I Stopped Watching The Biggest Loser

Ok, well to be up front I don't have TV at all any more so I don't watch any shows live. When we went digital I bought the box and the antenna but just haven't set them up because I realize there's a whole world out there I can be a part of if I don't just sit in front of the TV all night.

More full disclosure: I'm all about the movies now. :) So it's not like I don't watch anything. In fact, I'm going through all my movies, A-Z (ish) and blogging about them. Not like movie reviews so much as how I feel about them, what memories they bring up, etc. This is an attempt to A) decide which VHS movies must be purchased in DVD, and B) have another reason to have to write every day (or every few days). So if you're interested, click here.

But the real reason for my post: Why I stopped watching The Biggest Loser. I watched the first couple of seasons religiously. Why? Because I myself, like most of the US, am overweight. And I thought hey I can watch this show and get pointers. Or maybe someday I could go on the show and lose tons of weight.

Or I can sit on the couch and eat ice cream while I watch those poor fat people trying to enjoy salads. Yeah, I said it. Ice cream. And seriously, it wasn't just a one-time thing. The Biggest Loser happened to coincide with my ice cream night on occasion.

I would always tell myself "hey this show is a good incentive! Look at how well they're doing--if you get out there and work out you can look like them!" Do you know how many times I laced up my tennis shoes immediately after the show and went for a nice healthy walk? Once. I was so proud of myself. But then I never did it again. Why? Probably because I wasn't done with my ice cream yet, and then a new show came on.

The really odd thing, however, is I'd be sitting there watching these people work out, thinking about how I should work out, and I kid you not, sometimes I actually felt like I had in fact worked out. Not because I did, and not because I was mentally deranged. But really truly honestly I somehow managed to trick myself into thinking I had actually done what I'd been thinking about. Ok, maybe I was mentally deranged.

But it was so sad, because here I am, sitting on the couch, eating ice cream--wait not even sitting on the couch but reclining on it--and somehow by the end of the night I figured the ice cream was worth it because of all the exercise I'd magically gotten.

So in conclusion... watching a show about other people getting healthy actually contributed (in some small part) to my weight gain.

So now... now I take a fitness class. (Zumba, a latin-dance-based class). And I don't watch TV.

22 pounds lost so far.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Please Don't Sue Me

"This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental."

Historical fiction is a favorite of mine, partly because I sometimes wish I lived in an age of long, flowy skirts and chivalry, but also because historical fiction is how I learn about what life used to be like. I hated history class. Like seriously, detested it. I think it may even have eked out beyond math, and that's saying a lot. Why did I hate it? Because it was booooo-riiiiing. I don't care that French Protestants in England were called Huegenots or that the Romans had a better road system in London of Cesaeric control than the city did afterwards until about the 1800s.

But--what I do like is a good story, and if you read London: the Novel by Edward Rutherfurd you will get a series of stories, following a few family lines through the centuries of life on the island. And you might just pick up a fact or two about the different eras.

I'm not trying to write a book report here, or sell you anything. But I just bought The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway, and before I even started reading it I was hit with another disclaimer, much like the one in London: the Novel. Essentially it's saying "yes I'm putting this book in a real place and using real historical events, but I'm going to add a fictional story to it and possibly put words into people's mouths without having historical fact to back it up so please oh please do not sue me for libel or defamation of character because I'm just trying to tell a story of something that could have happened at a particular time and place but didn't."

It's so very sad that we have to add these disclaimers. But what I do love is the positive aspect of historical fiction, because really I would NOT have cared to know about the Roman road system until I read a story about a family whose life was affected by it. Real or not, the story engaged me, and that's what helps me to remember details. That's why high schools are often combining their English and History classes, so you can read books that were written in the time about which you are learning. Genious! I wish more people wrote quality historical fiction because I would be sooo full of knowledge!

Now it does help that I was in London earlier this year, so when I read about the Marble Arch (or as Heather and I called it, the Mable Arch--mooooooooo) I could picture it. When they described the workings of the new London Bridge I can say oh yes, I know what that looks like!

But believe me, even if you've never been there, you can get pulled into a story so well that the details imbed themselves in your brain and you are transported there--enough that if you were to go to the places listed in the book you'd know why they're named what they are. Just take some of the tube station names. Their histories are amazing! (Now as a warning, London: the Novel is over 1000 pages long. Just so you know before you think you can just "flip through it" for the details. But it's a pretty easy read.)

What tickles me to no end about the disclaimers that all historical fiction books must have, however, is the acknowledgement that if people see something in print, and it concerns a place or time they know to exist (or have once existed), they will assume that whatever you write about it is true, and they will remember it far longer than they will remember some paragraph in a history book about it.

So authors, beware! People are going to believe what you write. This is a boon and a curse, all depending on how much research you do. But just think... if you manage to write an engaging book about a time/place/person who actually existed, you will manage to do more than entertain the masses, you will teach them as well! Americans, at least, are badly in need of some more learning on the history of the world. So please, write those stories and share them! Stories are how we learn, how we grow and progress as a people. Be a part of the movement and carve out your own place in history.

Just please, please, put a disclaimer in front of everything you write.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wit & Wisdom Wednesday

Time for Wit & Wisdom Wednesday, where I post a quote from a well-known (or not so well-known) person. Please feel free to comment with quotes that have struck into the heart of your soul.
"Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude."

~Thomas Jefferson~

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Friend of My Friend is My--Wait...

I was just reading my wonderful friend Heather's blog (or my friend Heather's wonderful blog) when I saw, in the list of blogs she follows, a blog of my friend Liann's.

My first thought was Wait, how on EARTH does my friend in Oxford, England know my friend in Denver, Colorado???

Well, I'll tell you. I don't know.

No really. Perhaps Heather can comment on this post to verify but I'm absolutely positive pretty sure somewhat leaning towards the idea that we three all attended the same church at the same time. Now, that's not really too far out there. I have been attending the Urban Vineyard in Chicago since early 2002. Heather only just moved to England at the beginning of 2009 and lived in Chicago for a few years before leaving. Liann's the one I can't quite place. It could be we all overlapped and I'm just a terrible person a bit fuzzy on the details because I've more important things on my mind a bit confused because it's late at night darnit and I should be in bed.

The thing is, I've already connected Liann to my friend Megen, who after attending two years of college in Grand Rapids (where we met and became friends), moved to Billings, Montana, then South Dakota, and now resides in Denver, the city to which Liann moved shortly before she got married and decided, with her husband, to travel the continent in search of Christ, community, and a down-home good time. So you may forgive me for being a bit confused when I see my Denver-located college friend post a comment on my ex-Chicagoan church friend's Facebook page (even though I'm the one who introduced them), and for being completely lost when I see that two people who live on opposite ends of the side of the earth on which I have friends are, themselves, connected.

This world we live in, I tell ya. It's crazy. The ability we have to befriend our friends' friends despite place of birth, place of residence, college affiliation or social status just astounds me. If networking is the name of the game, then I know people who're winning, that's for sure.

Just please bear with me when I get lost on how you know my other friends. One of these days I'll have to draw up a "friendly" tree just to keep track.

Of course, if Heather tells me she's only following Liann's blog because she saw that I do... well I guess that either blows my whole post out of the water or proves emperically that everything I said is true.

Or maybe it's just late at night, darnit, and I should be in bed.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Stressed to Kill

Do you ever get invited to a meeting at work and think "that's it, this time I'm getting fired for sure." Well that's what happened to me Thursday night when I saw, right before I went to bed, a meeting request for the afternoon of the next day. Wouldn't you know it, I was suddenly plagued with all the worst sorts of thoughts. I couldn't sleep, I had a huge knot in my stomach, and it was just absolutely a wretched night. I kept dredging up every little thing I'd done in the last 3 years that clearly was grounds for immediate dismissal, and mentally went through every drawer in my office so if I wasn't even allowed back to pack up I'd be able to tell someone where all my personal stuff was.

And, of course, it was a completely innocent meeting having nothing whatsoever to do with me besides the fact that I needed to be there to hear what was being discussed.

Does anyone else out there suffer from random insane bouts of paranoia? I took today off of work and got another meeting request for tomorrow, and now I'm "sure" that I'm about to be yelled at for something. What is this that's happening?

When I'm in a somewhat lucid state and my stomach muscles manage to unclench, I realize that God doesn't need or want me worried, and that even should I be sent packing tomorrow, He knows what's going on and must have something better in mind for me.

The initial title of this post was Topsy Turvey, because there is so much about to be happening in my life that I feel everything is getting flipped upside-down. And not in a bad way, but in a way that makes me realize that I absolutely must take control of my life, govern myself, and be disciplined in all that I do.

I think that's one of the reasons that I'm so freaked out about my job. It's supposed to be the one thing that doesn't change. It's supposed to be the one place where, more or less, I'm doing things right. But I'm realizing lately it's the one place where everything I learn in life is being played out. And that kinda sucks. Because the stress is really getting to me.

But as I am attempting to recreate myself into a more responsible person, I'm recognizing that complaining (even in a funny/witty way) doesn't do me any good. Instead I must find constructive ways to fight the stress and move past it.

So how does one combat stress? Drink lots of water. Avoid processed foods. Go to bed on time (and make that time include 7-8 hours of sleep) and don't get caught up in reading/Facebook/watching movies if there are better things you can do with your day. Oh yes, and pray, and read the Bible. Really truly. Those are a must.

Ok. Looks like I have a to-do list. Here goes.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wit & Wisdom Wednesday

Something new I'm trying... the World Wide Web is all about sharing porn knowlege, right? So my "www" is Wit & Wisdom Wednesdays, when I will share inspirational, wise, and witty quotes. Some will be well-known authors, some will not. Guess when I'm going to post them.

(Please feel free to leave your own Wit & Wisdom quotes as comments. If you do this on your page, please link back to mine as I'm fairly sure I'm the first blogger to use this specific name.)
"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined."

~Henry David Thoreau~

Saturday, September 5, 2009

But It Hurts...

I would be a better person, except it's too hard. I would change myself, except it hurts.

Why does it have to hurt?

The original title of this post was "Stand Tall." It was going to be "Walk Tall" but I believe that's being used elsewhere.

The content is essentially the same:

One morning a few weeks ago I was walking towards the elevators in my building and decided to throw my shoulders back, into "proper posture." It was very eye-opening. First I realized that with my shoulders back and my chest up (a natural by-product of the shoulder move) there was absolutely zero chance of me ever seeing my feet again past my ample bosom. But if there was no chance of me looking down, then the only option left was for me to lift my chin, meet the world eye-to-eye, and just make darned sure I knew where I was going.

But I didn't account for one thing: the slight ache that began in my shoulder blades. Now I can guarantee that this was not a post-workout ache, because I've rotated my shoulders back to where they're supposed to be a few times since then and it's amazing how quickly they begin to hurt.

And it made me think about how we live, and the habits we need to break in order to move to that next step in our lives. That step of surety, of knowing where you're going well enough ahead of time that you don't have to sweat the small stuff underneath your feet. But you don't get there until you train yourself to stand tall, and that, dear friends, may require some getting used to, and no small amount of pain.

When I was in grade school my best friend and I used to sit with perfect posture. We prided ourselves on it. And yet I wonder now when that stopped. When did I not care, when did I start to schlump my way through the day? What other bad habits have I acquired, things that I never used to do?

It's easy to get into something, like slouching. It's generally a gradual process that you don't even have to think about. Getting out of that same something, however, is a lot harder, and requires constant attention. It's annoying, that's for sure. But you know what, the more you do anything the easier it becomes, the more second-nature it is. So maybe if I keep throwing back those shoulders I'll learn to keep them back. And maybe it won't hurt any more to change that bad habit into a good one.

All I know is I'd better get started, for as the great Debbie Reynolds said: "Chins up, boobs out, it's showtime!"