About Me

I'm creamy and flavorful. I go well with raspberries. I plan to keep getting more delightful with age, so stick around! I like to travel, both physically and in my own head. I buy a lot of books just because I like the way they look and smell. If "old paper" was a glade scent, I'd plug them in all over my house. Ummm... I can lick my elbow. If you're reading this, you've probably already had the pleasure of witnessing it. Also, I love dishwashers.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pilgrim's Progress

I have an old copy of Pilgrim's Progress on my desk. The cover is a dark reddish brown with flowers embossed on it.  Sadly, it's not in good condition. The pages are turning yellow, and the binding is in pieces. Something inspired me to look for a publication date tonight, but there is none listed. The title page says that the notes are by Rev. Robert Maguire. It names the illustrators and a publisher. But no date. I've had it for a long time, and until today, I'd never tried to find out anything about it.  I looked up Rev. Maguire and learned that he died in 1890 in Ireland. I was also able to find record of my book under the publisher and illustrator. Various sources date it between 1850 and 1880. This is one of the original illustrations:


I've never paid much attention to Pilgrim's Progress, in any edition. I read it (or had it read to me) when I was very young, and I somehow got it into my head that the story is boring. At that age, anything written a long time ago was boring by default, but I have since come to believe that one should not ignore an old book any more than an old person. There is just so much goodness in an old book, with it's rich, hard-to-understand language. I am always more eager to read a book that looks and smells old than one with a shiny new cover.  I love books, and I love anything old or that has history. Note: if you're ever in the mood to spoil me, keep an eye out for very old history books ;)

Ironically, this particular very old book is all about leaving behind the old and traveling forward. I read a few pages tonight, from the chapter that contains Christian's combat with Apollyon, and I found things I would not have noticed or understood before. First, it is pointed out that Christian has no armor on his back, so only by facing the enemy head on does he stand a chance of victory. To turn back would have been suicide. I realized that in the description of the armor of God in Ephesians, there is no mention of any protection for the back, either.  It's when we turn our backs on the assignments God gives us and run away from the battle that we are in the gravest danger. Ugly though he is in the drawing, Apollyon is not the real enemy in this chapter or in the book as a whole. It's the past that threatens Christian. Apollyon first tries to entice Christian to return to his old country, and when that doesn't work, he uses a guilt-trip to keep him from moving forward. Either he would miss his old life, or he'd stumble on the things in his past that make him feel unworthy of God's love. Either way, his past is deadly.

Sometimes I wonder about my love of the past. I become more nostalgic than usual this time of year.  As the New Year approaches, a small part of me longs for the way things were this time last year. I am constantly looking back over my shoulder, loving and admiring the shadow of things I once enjoyed. There is no reason for it - at least no good or healthy reason. We're told that those who trust God do not lack any good thing.  When God removes a person, possession or circumstance from our lives, then, it cannot have been truly good for us. They are not bad things that I look back on and miss - I don't desire a time before God changed my heart, nor do spend a lot of time feeling guilty. Still, by refusing to let go of things past, I think I often miss out on the excitement of moving forward. I was not expecting to be reminded of that truth tonight by a 150 year old book.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Portrait of an Awkward Child

Warning: This post contains several less-than-dependable memories and just a pinch of exaggeration.

Among the many school portraits of my sister and I that line our hallway, is a particularly awkward photograph of me at eleven or twelve years old.  I have it on good authority that I look like a duck in that picture. People have been known to take one look at it and burst out laughing.  There is a distinctly duck-like expression on my face, the result of trying to smile for the camera without showing my crooked teeth.  I’m dressed in a powder blue dress that brings out the olive tones in my skin and makes me look slightly gray -  the portrait was probably taken in December when my complexion is at my palest.   A broad lace collar extends from the base of my very puffed sleeves and comes to a point in the center of my chest. My eyes are puffy and half-closed. I don’t even know why.  Perhaps I spent the drive to the studio in tears because of that dress.  But the worst part is the haircut, full-bodied and short on top, with a longer, tapered layer falling halfway down my neck. Like a mullet, but one that hasn't been trimmed in a year.

My problems all started with a lake.  We all swam in this lake - my parents, my sister, the friends we were visiting, and I - but I was the only one who emerged with fungi on my scalp.  It started with a flaky patch the size of a pea at the base of my neck and started to spread.  My mother took me to one dermatologist after another, but none of the salves they put on my head made it go away.  They finally agreed that my hair was just too thick, and if my scalp could breath, the fungus would clear up.

They took me to a hairdresser with curly red hair. I really have no idea who she was. I vaguely remember a house with moss on it, and that he kitchen had one of those doors that splits horizontally in the middle.  It is only after the haircut was complete that my memory starts to fill in the details. The lady held a mirror up in front of my face so that I could assess the damage for myself.  I gulped and clutched the edge of the sheet she’d draped over me.

“Do you like it?” the lady asked. What could I say?  I was eleven years old, the age at which a bad haircut really can ruin your life.  I clenched my jaw and nodded. The tears now pushed hard against the inside of my face, as though they might burst out, not just through my eyes, but through my nose, mouth and ears as well.

I held my anguish in until my mom and I were safely inside our car and on our way home.  My mother said, “You don’t like it, do you?” and that did it.  Two seconds later, I was sobbing and spitting and blowing my nose on the roll of toilet paper we kept in the back seat of our red suburban.  For the first time, I held in my mind the image of myself as a monster.  I had become something barely human and certainly not female - something awkward and pimply and covered in snot.

The school picture was taken a few months after the haircut, which continued to affect my self-image for years.   That picture on my wall is like a bogart (had to get the Harry Potter reference in there somewhere!) – It can’t hurt you if you can laugh at it.  And so I keep it around now just to show it off to guests and get the first laugh, thus disarming it.  Besides, it has become something of a comfort to me when other people poke fun at it – I know they wouldn’t do so if I still looked like that.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Traveling Minds

Given a choice, this is where I would be today... 

... with or without all the Greek Orthodox monks.  I'm drawn to the sheer isolation of this place, though I generally hate being alone.  I feel there's a very great difference between solitude and being alone.  I dislike being at home by myself for long periods of time or surrounded by people who don't know me... but solitude is something altogether different.  I'll drive half an hour to find solitude. True solitude is hard to come by, and when do I find it, I'm more sure than ever that I will never be alone.

Every time I see a picture of a place I wish I could travel to, it brings to mind a quote from the movie Gattaca: "I have my books. I go places in my head." The character speaking is Jerome Morrow, one of the most embittered and truly alone characters ever to be befriended by a writer. That being said, I empathize with him in some ways.  Like me, he uses his knowledge, his imagination and the pages of his books to escape - to be anywhere but where he actually is. I don't do it often - I am neither alone nor embittered, and so I don't share Jerome's motive to escape.  Still, the desire has always been there, when I've allowed myself time to stop and acknowledge it.  A nerd by nature, I have never been able to leave an atlas or travel book alone. I want to go everywhere and learn everything. It's very possible to go places in your head with only good word pictures and a healthy dose of imagination, but photographs help. 

When I was a little girl, I put my innate nerdiness to good use.  One of my favorite childhood games involved traveling to distant lands. We didn't needs books to travel. The swing set was our magic teleporter (J.K. Rowling had yet to invent apparition as we now know it). By leaping off of our swings, we could travel through both space and time. Most of the game was spent in preparation for our trip. We were detailed and methodical about it. Our mental suitcases were packed and then reexamined, down to the last pair of wool socks, umbrella or extra bottle of sunscreen.  I remember arguing over whether one pair of gloves would be enough when we got to Greenland. I also remember that when we got there, I found that it wasn't. 

When everyone was packed, and the exact time and location of our arrival established, we had only to work up enough height and then jump. The higher you went on the swings, the further away you could get.  To be sure we'd end up together in the earliest dynasties of ancient Egypt, for example, we had to first be in danger of looping all the way over the top of the swing set.  

We went all over: 



I sometimes wish someone would still play that game with me... I don't often think of it, but it's on my mind now because I had a recurring dream last night that I haven't had since I was ten or twelve years old. In the dream, I have the use of a sort of recreational holodeck like the ones in Star Trek. I always ask to go to the same place. It's a vast slope on one side and a terrifying cliff on the other. I'm sitting on a rock, looking out over miles and miles of translucent blue, green and purple mountains and valleys. I don't know whether they're made of ice, sand or rock. The sun is low in the sky and turning the outlines of the mountains orange.  There is a body of turquoise blue water far, far below me.  The breeze is cold, but not uncomfortably so.  Always in the dream, I want very badly to be there, and then when I am, it frightens me. The height and solitude are so overwhelming that I have trouble breathing. I sit and soak it in, determined to stay, but after only a few minutes, I'm too afraid. I'm relieved when the illusion is interrupted.

When I woke this morning, I had trouble focusing for a few minutes. I felt like I'd just revisited a place that was once very dear to me.  The emotion was powerful. But no matter how hard I try, I can't feel that place in all it's splendor while awake, so I content myself with image searches on my laptop. Gotta love Google Images. 

Monday, December 6, 2010


 A little girl has come into my life quite unexpectedly. Her name is Jasmine. She has big, dark eyes, just like her Disney namesake.  She’s very fond of pigs, sunflowers, and fairies.

I met Jasmine a couple of months ago when her grandparents came to my front door asking if they could do some yard work for me. They had come once before, and I gave them $5 and told them to come back that weekend when I had more time. They did. This time, I listened to their story – how they’d lost their home and most of their belongings and needed $45 to stay in their hotel room.

Jasmine sat on top of her coat in my driveway while I chatted with her family about their situation. I had no reason not to believe them, but it was Jasmine who changed everything. I couldn’t let her go hungry or sleep on the streets. I reminded myself that I would be provided for no matter what, and I emptied my wallet to pay them to trim the shrubs in my yard and clear a flower bed. Jasmine must have felt left out, because before long, I felt a tug at my sleeve.

“Hi,” she said. “Want to see my pig?”

I responded that I love pigs and would like nothing more than to see hers, which seemed to make her very happy.  She grinned, showing off dark metal caps on her front teeth, and scampered off to get her stuffed pig out of her backpack.  After a brief introduction, she drew me a picture of the pig. That picture wasn’t any good, so she crumpled it up and drew another.  And another after that. Her grandma came by and suggested that she draw me a pig. Jasmine was pleased to oblige. Twice. 

Minutes later, she was building a castle out of the carefully-placed river rocks that line my flower beds. I was introduced to her fairy, Tinker Bell, who had lost all of her clothes and was therefore grounded from leaving the backpack. I played along with her games until she produced a long piece of dirt-caked rope out of nowhere and announced her intention to tie me up.  She would not be dissuaded – that is, until I asked her to draw me another pig. She had books, too. When I asked if she could read, she said that she had been learning, but that she couldn’t see well enough anymore.

When the sun was setting, and the family was nearly done working for the day, I found myself driving Jasmine and her grandma to Sunflower Market. We picked up a sack of potatoes, fresh chicken, butter and, as a special treat, sour cream.  Jasmine held my hand the whole time. At the check-out, I handed the cashier my Sunflower gift card and asked her to check the balance on it. The answer? Exactly enough for a sack of potatoes, chicken breasts, butter and sour cream.

Watching the looks on the faces of this family as they looked forward to a hot, filling meal made me want to cry. But even then, I was a little bit relieved when my neighbor offered to drive them back to their hotel. Part of me wanted to get back to my busy night of folding laundry and staring at my Facebook page. I wasn’t ready to invest quite yet.

I saw them a few times after that, usually just in passing. I thought about them on Thanksgiving, but I didn’t have any way to get in contact with them.  After several weeks, I’d begun to worry about them, but I hoped that they’d found steadier work and moved on.

Tonight, Jessica and I set out to do our short but surprisingly painful Bun & Thigh Pilates video.  We only tortured one cheek, however. Our doorbell rang halfway through the workout.  I knew who it was, and I was almost surprised to feel a twinge of excitement. It was just the grandparents tonight, as Jasmine and her mother were sick. We took the opportunity to rid our cupboards of all the Mac n’ Cheese, cereals, and canned soups we weren’t going to eat before we gave them a ride back to their hotel room. Once there, we stayed for about an hour. We watched cartoons, shared the hot chili that the Salvation Army food truck brought by, and tried not to inhale whatever the family is sick with.

We were getting into Jess’s car to return home when Jasmine’s grandpa came outside one more time. He told us that he’d hoped to make Christmas special for Jasmine that year – that she would at least have a tree. He could not provide any of it, and you could see in his eyes how much it hurt him. “She needs a Christmas,” he said. “I never went without a Christmas.” His idea, which he asked us only to consider, is to have a Christmas celebration at our house sometime before Christmas. They would use their food stamps to provide a turkey or ham, and we’d all gather around our little Christmas tree.

I'm beginning to make plans to do a whole lot more than that.

Each year, I warm up to Christmas just a little bit more than the year before. About a month ago, I told Jess that I want to go all out and “do Christmas” this year. At the time, I was just talking about filling stockings and stringing some lights. Maybe a batch or two of gingersnaps.  I thought I had only my own seasonal apathy to overcome. It seems God had a better idea.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Try a thing you haven't done three times. Once, to get over the fear of doing it. Twice, to learn how to do it. And a third time to figure out whether you like it or not. 
-Virgil Thomson

Welcome to my first blog post. I might as well come right out and tell you all that I suffer from metathesiophobia. It means "fear of changes." All changes, really. For example, I discovered earlier this week that two familiar restaurants have closed and been replaced by something else. This was briefly disturbing to me. I hardly ate at either of them, but I appreciated that they were there. It was a difficult minute and a half.

There have been a lot of changes in my life recently - big and small; welcome and unwelcome. Even the more pleasant changes are hard for me to get used to.  An associate of mine at The New Mexico Breeze used the above quote in his column, and it made an impression on me. I'm trying to apply it to my fear of change. I believe I'm somewhere between the first and second steps. I am getting over my fear of change, and perhaps someday, I'll even learn to do it gracefully. As to the third stage... well, the jury is still out on that one.

Today is a big day for me. First because, as you may have noticed, I am writing my very first blog entry, after years of toying with the idea. Starting a blog can be a frightening ordeal. What if no one reads it? Or worse - what if lots of people read it?! Some will judge me based on.... my passion for saturated fats and dishwashers, perhaps? Others will scoff at me for blogging at all, because it seems to have become a trend. And yet a third party may simply find me boring. Then again, maybe boring is a nice change from the constant pressure of their fast-paced, adventure-filled lives?

The real reason today was a big day was that I joined a church. I am officially a covenant member at Desert Springs Church. This decision has been in the works for a very, very long time. There are too many fears to count, all wrapped up in this one decision. For 2 years, I've been a shadow there, sneaking in and out through the side door. I was in what my pastor calls a "hide and heal season."  Now, I'm expected to get involved somehow, meet people and speak to them in complete sentences, and be accountable to a group of people... generally act like a human being. And I must do all of this without the comfort of my family by my side.  There is a voice in my head that is still terrified, but she's the one who hates us and doesn't want us to be happy. We're trying not to talk to her anymore.  The rest of me knows that this is exactly where I'm supposed to be, and I'm excited to see where these changes will bring me.