Saturday, December 31, 2005


I'm sitting in C & J's kitchen this morning, gazing out the window at the mountains, and my heart is full with the beauty of God's creation and the beauty of friends--the joy of being heard and understood and loved and hugged and comforted and affirmed and able to be absolutely ridiculous without fear of censure.

Thank you, Lord, for this moment.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The End of My Traveling Pants

It is an unbelievably beautiful day here in Evans, CO. Sunny, probably about 65, with a slight breeze and nary a cloud in the sky. Incredibly grateful for this retreat from the harsh Chicago winter I left behind yesterday, I headed out this afternoon for a walk around the neighborhood.

After a circuit around the empty park in the middle of the square, I felt the swings beckoning me. After a few minutes of pumping my legs with vigor, I allowed myself to slow to a leisurely pace, enjoying the gentle rush of air on each upswing and the steady warmth of the sun on my back. I was then mildly startled by a voice behind me, informing me that I wasn't doing it right. "You have to pump your legs if you want to go fast," a little boy of maybe 5 told me as he strode up. Admittedly out of practice when it comes to conversing with kids, I opened my mouth to defend my slowed pace by explaining the joys of calm introspection accompanied by ingrained kinesthetic movements. He cut me off within seconds, instructing me to give him a good push on the next swing over so that he could show me how it's done. Okay, fine.

When my new (but very bossy) friend named Russell became bored with the swings, he compelled me to spin him on the merry-go-round. (His cries of "Faster! Faster!" were not deterred by my explanation that a good dose of WD-40 would be the only way that thing would go any faster.) Next he instructed me to join him on the 4-way plastic seat bouncy thing (undoubtedly there is a better name for it, but I find my playground vocabulary limited). After some pretending that wood chips served as the gas for his motorcycle shaped seat as well as the food needed to make my plastic stallion really gallop (it took me a while to catch on to this, much to Russell's exasperation; in my defense, the kid does not enunciate) I made the fatal decision to switch to the frog.

I approached the frog from the left and swung my right leg around to the other side; it was then that I heard that sound you really hope to never hear in public: rrrrrrrrrrrrriiiiipppp! I don't think Russell even heard it (mercifully he was making motorcycle revving noises at the time) but I knew in an instant that the tiny hole in my jeans that I had noticed at some point during our 13 hour drive yesterday had just become a rather substantial tear, dangerously close to exposing my bright yellow briefs to the world (or at least a stranger kid on a plastic motorcycle, which is not at all appropriate).

And that was the end of my traveling pants. Based on precedent, I knew that the kid was not game for lengthy explanations, so I said simply, "Uh, Russell, I've got a hole now, and I need to go home and change my pants." He was remarkably nonplussed by this, and made me promise to come back and play some more, which in my mortification I numbly agreed to, and I made a beeline back to C & J's. Feeling bad about breaking a promise, even to a stranger kid, I headed back out to the playground about 10 minutes later only to find that I had been replaced as his partner in play by a group of kids that had arrived in my absence. Not wanting to stick around to be dubbed "the lady with the hole in her pants" (even though it seemed Russell had already forgotten all about me) I made another circuit around the neighborhood and went back inside.

Monday, December 26, 2005

A "Leisurely" Time with Family

Christmas with the fam turned out to be pretty laid back this year, which after a typically whirlwind December was rather welcome. We sprung Grandpa from the nursing home on Christmas Eve (thus avoiding another round with "the entertainment--see previous post) and enjoyed a meal in the back room of a restaurant down the road, where we could yell to Grandpa without too much fear of grieving the other patrons. We returned him to his room later where he pretended to be upset that we'd gotten him gifts, though underneath I think he was really quite pleased with his new slippers and eager to show them off to his wrinkled community. I think I also caught him smirking with satisfaction upon learning that my brother's attempt to replicate my Grandpa's family famous Swedish limpa bread (up until last year a staple at the family smorgasbord) was, basically, a disaster, producing bricks, er, loaves more suited to masonry than digestion. Grandpa's not ready to give up his baking champion title just yet.

The rest of the relatives then retired to my aunt's house for dessert, where the highlight of the evening was sifting through a shoebox of old photographs. Turns out my brother was quite the cutie as a kid. My favorite photographic find is below--taken a few years before my arrival on the planet, here's my bro and Dad show off their stylin' leisure suits.


Thursday, December 22, 2005


I feel like yesterday's post begs, or at least suggests, a brief addendum to partially explain my surprise at the events recorded: Let it be known that in the year and a half I've lived in my apartment, Miguel is actually the first neighbor with whom I've conversed beyond a passing hello (aside from Lonely Cat Man, who doesn't count since he doesn't live in my building--I've just happened upon him a few times when he's been out walking his Siamese cat named Frodo) because it really is true that I'm hardly ever home, and I'm usually coming and going at odd hours, and so I encounter people's bags of trash sitting on the landing far more often than I encounter the people who generate the trash. This is sad but true.

The rest of my surprise, of course, stems from the fact that I was asked out by a man who, but for being my neighbor, is pretty much a complete stranger, and that just doesn't happen to me very often...or really, ever. ("GroooovyGlen" from PA does not count because although he was very strange, by the end of the bus ride from Tarifa to Sevilla we were not complete strangers).

And, in a stroke of grand irony, just this morning I had my third ever neighbor conversation with Marvin, a California transplant I found in the parking lot two cars over from mine attemping to scrape his car windows with a license plate. I lent him my scraper and we conversed, predictably, about the weather.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Trouble With Neighbors

The trouble with neighbors is that they live next door. And the trouble with me is that I don't see things coming.

I got home late last night from my small group's Christmas party, and met my neighbor, Miguel, on the way upstairs. He started to make conversation, asking questions about my life, which I answered quite freely because I only realized after I had said goodnight and let myself into my place that it's one thing to introduce yourself to someone, say, on a plane whom you'll never see again, but it probably isn't the best idea to be telling this guy, nice as he seems, where I work, why I'm hardly ever home, that I'll be out of town next week, and that I live very much alone. I've heard that being on friendly terms with one's neighbors is supposed to contribute to a safer community, but I suspect the experts on neighborly conduct would suggest you build up a little rapport (or at least collect basic facts) before letting your affairs be made known.

So, I have to say I'm now feeling a little vulnerable, since Miguel now knows quite enough to rob me if he were so inclined (as I laid in bed last night trying to fall asleep my overactive imagination supplied a montage of Miguel hurtling himself from his balcony to mine by means of a grappling hook, cutting a hole in my patio door with a diamond, letting himself in, and helping himself to my meager collection of electronics and perhaps the bottle of wine I've been saving for a dinner party), while the number of things I know about him is the same as the times I've talked to him: 2. His name is Miguel, and he lives across the hall.

Now, all of that alone would be enough to stress me out a little, but there's more. I think he asked me out last night, and I think I inadvertantly said yes. Perhaps if these exchanges played themselves out more often in my life I might get better at seeing them coming, and dealing with them appropriately when they arrive, but last night's conversation unfortunately followed precendent, in that I completely missed the warning signs (really, "So, do you have a boyfriend?" should have been a dead giveaway) and then in all of my well-intentioned friendliness I stepped right into a coffee date. I actually had the presence of mind to decline his request for my number, but then feeling bad tried to compensate for my rebuff with "But hey, you know where I live" which in hindsight did not make me feel any better, only a little creeped out. As soon as I realized what I had done I tried to downgrade the coffee date to simply an opportunity for me to practice my Spanish, but later I was disgusted with myself for being so self-serving.

And so, today I am feeling tormented, and perhaps a little neurotic, with a side of dread.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Sasquatch on the Roof

I would like to take this opportunity to make a post in honor of roofers. Right this moment, there are two men on the roof above my office, making a ruckus that sounds like Sasquatch doing the jitterbug. They are here in response to my appeals to the landlord (which finally seem to have been taken seriously) that something be done, as each day this week the spots on my ceiling tiles have become larger and darker.

And so, here's to roofers, who traverse icy roofs in 20 degree weather to discover the source of a leak and bring patches and justice to all. Roofers, I salute you.

Monday, December 12, 2005

A Quintessentially Wisconsin Weekend (or) Some Thoughts on Cheese

1. Wisconsin seems to operate by the mantra, "Choose to do just a few things, and do them well." Here is an incredibly large statue to illustrate that point.

2. Traveling through the snow-covered tundra put me into hibernation-prep mode, and by the end of the trip I kind of felt like I was Brad Pitt in Ocean's Eleven--eating in every shot. Munchins, gummy worms, cookies, wedding cake, and (obligatory when one travels through Wisconsin) CHEESE. Here's a scary pic of me gnawing off a hunk of "beer cheese" we picked up at one of the many cheese chalets advertised along 94. (We had lost our plastic Wendy's knife hours before, and, well, I was inexplicably hungry again.)

3. Bad things can happen if you mistake cheese for something else (and have poor judgement and a low regard for human life). Read all about it!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I Love a Road Trip

Even when the destination is only as exciting as Minneapolis, there's something about road trips that I just love. Sure, flying is often easier and faster, but I love the reward of finally reaching your destination after having done the work of driving (or navigating) and having watched everything in between that destination and your point of origin pass by in a sustained blur, to the soundtrack of whatever mood you happen to be in that day, and the pleasure of extended conversation, if one is so fortunate as to travel with a friend.

And so, in my love of road trips, and a curiosity at just how many weddings a girl can attend in a single calendar year (knocked off another last weekend--congrats Evan & Karyn!), I'm embarking on another trip to Minnesota tomorrow morning with Christina, a dear friend who mentioned awhile back that she wouldn't mind some company on her journey to attend a friend's wedding in the Twin Cities, and am looking forward to lively discussions of the literary conventions used by Lewis in LWW and its prequel, which we're reading for this month's book club. A lovely friend, enchanting books, yet another couple pledging their lasting love and commitment, and a winter wonderland road trip.

Okay, so maybe I'm romanticizing things just a bit...and I do realize the wisdom of praying ferverently that we don't end up spinning out into a ditch somewhere in rural Wisconsin (feel free to pray too)...but nevertheless I think I'm just inclined to rose-colored glasses this afternoon. Hoorah!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Small Town Capers

In an earlier post I mentioned that I'd discovered that small town New England police reports are refreshingly inane and amusing compared to the grim stuff we usually hear about in the news. So, here are my favorites from this week's Gorham-Westbrook Gazette Police Notes.

WHOOPS A woman called police to report a burglary in progress after she heard sounds coming from her basement. Police responded and searched the house with a K-9 unit but did not find an intruder. Instead, they determined that some bottles had fallen over when the washing machine was running.

NOT ILLEGAL A man called to report a suspicious vehicle that was illegally parked in front of his house. Police investigated and found the car was not illegally parked and that the owner of the car was visiting someone across the street. Police determined that the caller has a problem with cars parking in front of his house.

GOOD AIM, BAD TARGET A patrol officer reported that his police cruiser was hit with a snowball. He and another officer checked the area.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Behold the Spectacle

I might not be brimming with the "Christmas spirit" (whatever that is) quite yet, but I can't help but smile every evening when I come home to this.

I would like to nominate my neighbors for the "Best Utilization of a Balcony" Award. Sadly I can't capture all of the blinking and flashing action in a photgraph, so you'll have to trust me on that. It really is quite the spectacle.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Surround Sound

Now that Thanksgiving is past, Christmas music has once again been unleashed. Retail stores tune their Muzak to the holiday channel. Every recording artist with a nugget of spare time has thrown together a mediocre Christmas album. Rudolph hunts you down in the produce section, and Frosty stalks you while you fill your gas tank. As I walk the streets around my office, speakers hidden somewhere among the rooftops warble carols into the frosty air. It's the surround sound of the season, but I'm afraid I'm just not in the mood yet for jingle bells and sleigh rides, or even Joy to the World.

While I was working at B&N this week, I found myself humming amidst the shelves, attempting to drown out the insipid holiday music mandated by Corporate with my own playlist of rather mournful carols. I've been in a bit of a funk lately, disgusted with myself for obstinately standing in my own way on the long road to real and lasting change, and somehow I feel like that's the soundtrack I need to start with if I'm ever going to step forward into the joy of the season; that perhaps if I associate my weary expectancy with that of a world that had yet to receive the Messiah, a world weary of its own humanity and desperate for a Savior, I might then understand anew what a wonder it is that He has come to be Emmanuel, God with us. The fourth stanza is my prayer today.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

[Refrain] Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.


O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.


O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.


O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.


O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai's height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.


O come, Thou Root of Jesse's tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.


O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.