Monday, March 31, 2014

A Soapy Sliver of Gratitude (with implied Nudity)

"Hi mom, I wanted you to know I'm okay."


Moms, future moms, and really friends of any gender, when you answer a phone call and these words just tumble out, it is code for:

Be worried.


You should have been worried, but I spared you the worst parts.  And also, continue to be concerned because I'm not quite out of the woods yet.

A week and a half ago, I picked up the phone and told my mom I was okay.  Or I was closer to okay than I had been.

Overwhelmed, too busy, unable to say no to activities, and trying to fit in friends because relationships can't be cryogenically frozen in time I was at my limit.

After a few moments talking, I saw mine was a veiled call for help.  The revelation came when my mom said, "Oh.  I wasn't worried about you."

Isn't it funny when your script falls apart?  It's so unearths my desires and upends my plans.
Rather than say, "Oh but you should have been very concerned, in fact you should be actively fretting right now about me.  I want to hear your hands wringing."
I stuck to my original, now revealed, bold faced lie:

I am fine.

As we continued chatting, I started drawing a bath.  I was boiling water in the electric kettle and running the water to fill it.  Because of it's size and age, I can never fill my porcelain tub without running out of hot water when it's 1/4th full.  I was determined this time.  I was in need.
The stress that I was "okay" with managing was in fact pulling my vertebrae into pinchy places that resulted in finger tingling.  (Yes.  Not good, I know.  Seriously, don't worry about me, okay?)

About the time I had boiled 2 kettles of water and filled the tub 1/4 full my plan hit a hitch.  Still on the phone I discovered, "I don't have soap.  How do I not have soap?"  I was quick to add I do have the expensive bath bar with exfoliants and oatmeal my mom got me, but I needed something strong.  Something that kills microbes.

After hanging up, because how can a mother help you find soap? I recalled seeing a sliver of soap somewhere in an unlikely spot, likely batted there by my cat.  I found it in the kitchen.  2 inches long a few millimeters thick, better than nothing, and really was what I needed; I was grateful for this fragment.

I was able to get in the tub.  Mom recommended I stretch out in it, but that reveals the difference in our height.  I can never fit well in a tub.  So while I recognize it is conventionally seen as relaxing, I reject it.  If one body part is always jutting out of the water, how relaxing is that?

Furthermore, I am not good at soaking.  I am a 5 minutes in the shower and that's plenty kind of woman.  Lingering while bathing is not my thing.   Maybe if I still had my My Little Pony Seahorses set this would go better.

But that day I decided a bath was what I needed.  I was soaking.  I tried to clear my head.  I would for a few seconds and then have to clear it again.  It was like playing thought whack-a-mole.
I just wanted to get out, but I also wanted full feeling in my fingers and toes at all times, which meant soaking some more.

Then, when I thought I couldn't be in the tub any longer, the light went out.
The light in my bathroom has a secret timer or a wiring problem.  At any rate, it goes out when it is left on for about 13 minutes.
This darkness felt creepy.  I was juggling which part of me was out of the water, trying to soak and free myself of thoughts and now, on top of it all, ghosts were about to attack.  That would teach me to take a bath.  I bet they would electrocute me.

But after about a minute of unrealistic paranormal fear, I challenged myself.  Or ordered myself.

"You will not get out of this tub until you are pruney."

If you have ever read Once Upon a Potty (it's one of my childhood favorites), my tub time was similar.
I sat and sat and sat and sat and sat and sat and sat and sat and sat and sat and sat and sat and sat and sat get the idea.  [Or maybe you don't.  For clarity's sake I didn't go to the bathroom in the tub. How could you think such a thing?]

It was not enjoyable.  And I could not see my fingers to assess if I was or wasn't done pruning up.

I kept thinking very solid thoughts.

This is life now.
You have just enough soap.
I wonder if I have enough soap for another bath.
The lights are out.
I don't like this.
Do not get out of the tub.
Be still.
You have to stop moving.
It's really dark.
My knee caps are cold.
Why do people like this?
They probably think to light candles.
Candles prevent creepiness.
I should get candles.
Ah!  Stop thinking about what you should do right now.
You do need soap.  Don't forget that.

This continued for what I thought was a long time.  Finally I decided I had to have gotten wrinkles on my digits.  I climbed out, turned on my more reliable light and discovered no raisins.

But my back felt significantly better, and I had, to the degree that I could, not written out a long to do list, save one thing:

Buy soap.

I now I have soap.  And don't worry, I'm okay.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Why am I Still Single? The Answer.

Why are you still single?
A bold question if ever there was one.

You would be surprised how very many times I have been asked this.  I believed and assumed (until writing this) that the question was born from a person's deep courage that (unfortunately) overflowed into words. But since finishing writing this post (on paper), I have circled back and concluded that maybe it isn't a surplus of courage but a deficit of tact.
Whatever attribute that is present or absent when asking something so personal, my response is fairly standard.  I reel.
I can't manage to say, "Oh that's private" or "How dare you."   Instead, I typically am so taken aback and startled that I generally give an honest, though halting, answer, not because my audience deserves to know, but because the only thing that comes to the surface is the truth.
But, if I weren't taken aback this is the sort of real-life moment I could relate as my answer.

Because I am a grown woman who leaves work after a hard day to go buy a chocolate chip cookie and coffee.  But I can't simply buy a cookie and coffee.  Life makes it much more complex than a simple money for goods transaction.

While in line, a person managed to sidle up behind me in my blind spot and stand questionably close- so close that his musky cologne wafted over alerting me.  The scent said "There is a man nearby," so I can only assume the cologne was doing it's job announcing an aura of male-ness.
As I stepped  up in line to order a chocolate chip cookie, I caught sight of him in the corner of my eye and it caused me to jump a little. (He was in fact standing that close.  Had he been a ninja, I would be dead.)
And this is how I recovered after jumping.

Me: Oh!  I'm sorry.
I looked at the man and noticed he is very attractive.  This observation typically ends all chances of a coherent conversation.

Me: I smelled you before I saw you there.

Let that sentence that I really said out-loud hover in the air and 
sink in. 

A feeling of horror passed over my body.  Yes, I said what I heard myself say.

Him: (weak smile) Ah ha.

I stepped forward and started to order.

Me to the barista: I'd like a chocolate chip cookie.

I noticed now that the barista is also attractive and realized how juvenile I sounded at this very moment in time.

Me turning to the smelly man: But that's a good thing.  I mean, it's a good smell.

Me turning to the barista: And I'd like a cup of coffee

Barista: What size would you like? 12 oz.... 14 oz?

Me: Of cookie?

Barista: (silence)
Me: Oh.  I'd like a 12 oz coffee and a 16 oz cookie (joking).

I paid.
I apologized to the man behind me a second or third time.
I gave the barista another "help me" and "did that really happen?" look.
Barista said telepathically: Yes, that really did happen. Walk away now.

I and slink away to find a seat.

Yes world, I say whatever comes to mind instead of mindfully flirting.
I eat cookies after work and lick the chocolate from my fingers in public.
I attempt to be complimentary but instead tell men they smell and forget to tack on the oh-so-important word "good" until it is essentially too late.

You may find that adorable.  That's fine.  It is a true representation of my daily life.  I can say my personality and ability to stumble over words when ruffled gives me plenty of reasons to laugh.  It's good that I am able to laugh at myself while keeping my dignity.

But if you are asking me why I am still single, then that, the above story, is now "The Answer."
I'm going to rehearse it so it comes out smoothly.

Thank you so much for taking such a keen interest in my life, but really, stop asking.
The people who need to know why, know already.  And if you have to ask instead of me telling you voluntarily, then you aren't on my emotional life VIP list.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

An Adopted Family that Stays Together

I would like to preface this post by saying, I love my family.  My mom, my dad, my brother and I are very close in all senses of that word.  I turn to them in times of trouble and times of joy,
but this post is not about them.

Not everyone has the benefit and blessing that is a close biological family,
and that is a shame.

But I have another family that I'd like to tell you about today.

I have friends that I consider to be family.  We have been there for each other over the years and have survived a lot of joys, sorrows and have remained intact.

When we are all together, I often sit back and pull out of the moment and start trying to figure out how this came to be.  I have no idea how my face looks in these moments, quizzical no doubt.
Especially lately I wonder, even aloud, how did I get these people?

And I mean this not as a criticism to myself or to them.  It's a compliment.
This is an astounding bunch of people.

Such a wide span of knowledge and interests.
So many dreams, aspirations, talents, adventures, and accomplishments.
So many different employers and specialties:
The St. Louis Zoo, Boeing, The Covering House, NISA, the VA Hospital, Wash U, Juniper, etc.

One way that this particular branch of my family tree came to be was at one point in time we all were part of the same Community Group, which is similar to a Bible Study.  A lot of us have gone our different ways, but to keep in touch we've started having Family Dinner every 2 weeks.

It doesn't matter if I am sweaty with no makeup, had a horrible or great day, or am running early or late.  By the time I get to dinner, it doesn't disappear, but I am in a safe place.  It's like declaring sanctuary against the world, which feels so good.  Don't we all long to do that?

This week at the table we discussed All the Things as usual.
From Indian food, to Zoo stories (one of my favorite parts of any dinner), to travel, to the Old Testament linking it to the gospel, the St. Louis Beard and Mustache Club, fermentation, raising chickens, where to get nutritional yeast, and the highlight of our friend's year, since it was her birthday.  It's deeply inspiring to hear how they spend their days and live life.

And as I said before, not everyone is blessed with a wonderful biological family.  And not everyone has the benefit of a vibrant support of an adopted geographic family.
But you can get one.

It took work though, and it takes time.  Now it takes planning, because as much as I love my friends, our interests and schedules are so diverse that we don't bump into each other without mapping it out.  (Or maybe it would intersect for me if I would start indoor rock climbing...but, NO.)

I do know that the first step to getting friends is to have the courage to say, "Hey, we should be friends."
I have had the best relationships sprout from this simple sentence.

And the another tip is to have the presence of mind to notice when you miss them and to reject that.  It seems so simple to say and mean, "Hey, I miss you.  Let's fix that," and then make a time right then to see each other; it takes watchfulness to identify and rectify.

I can share more about how to cultivate and be open to friendships, because it has taken so much time and tries and failures and successes over years and years to better get a handle on what it is to have and be a friend, but I won't do that here now.

Instead, for today, in the middle of Spring Break, I am glad to say:
I have a family of friends in the city I love, and I am ever so grateful.

*It is also extremely important to mention that there are even more family members to speak of outside of this branch that shares meals together.  It's just easier to speak of one group rather than the many individuals I love.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Fashion Challenge: Pretzel and Mustard

When I need a change (and who doesn't need a change in a "Lion-esque March") I crave new stimulation.
One thing I have found to shake things up a bit without really changing anything is turning my wardrobe into a game.

I pick a color, pattern, or item for inspiration, and then using only the clothes I already own, I construct 4-5 work appropriate outfits.

This week, I decided to dress like a Pretzel with Mustard.
Weird right?  Perhaps I'm craving starches.
I loved the color combo of brown, cream, and mustard.  And my closet did not disappoint.  It had many options for me to choose from.

What does that look like?  Here's some of what I came up with:


brown vintage 2-piece suit (jacket + skirt) given to me by Erin from Kat's closet


bow necklace from a yard sale (reminds me of the twist in a pretzel)

Oxford-ish shoes with mustard tights (Sholarshop + Target) 

high waisted pants with lace cropped top (both thrifted) 

dotted flats (reminds me of salt) from Target

                             mustard chunky scarf with lace top      button earrings in a rodent shape
                                made by my lovely friend, Kelsey       made my my lovely friend, Erin

            thick corduroy (it takes courage to wear these!)                 amber brown earrings
                                                                                          The Covering House's clothes exchange

It was so fun getting dressed, using what I had, and tapping into my creativity!
There are practical benefits beyond "playing" with my look.
For starters, the rule "don't buy anything" helps me check my impulse to buy things I don't need and seek shopping as an outlet for  ____(boredom, dissatisfaction, etc.)
Another is, it is eye opening to how much I have.  When I have "nothing to wear" and yet 5 different outfits designated to 3 random colors.  Clearly, I have a lot.  And instead of wanting more, I need to be grateful.
This is, at it's heart, an exercise in satisfaction and gratitude.

So those are the practical heart-matter sides.
Now I want to know, do you ever play with your wardrobe like this?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Carpe Clichè! a Snow Day Observed

That's right, it's yet another snow day in St. Louis.  Not quite a "called off of work" snow day, but one that kept me snowed in from attending services (all were canceled at my church).
And yes, if you are keeping tabs, I had to stay in anyway as I am contagious to society due to my strep throat.

However, that did not prevent me from having a wonderfully clichè day indoors.  
I will write about it as if I did not take multiple naps and breaks to rest from my activity.

I kicked off the day by reading for hours.  I have 2 books on my night stand/ coffee table.  They rotate between the two locations because when I am sick (for whatever reason) I sleep on the couch.

a timely read
because I'm stir crazy
The reason is I like to feel like I'm snug and since my cat won't spoon me, and my bed is too big, the couch steps up.

Then there was following the nurse practitioner's orders like: sanitize everything and throw out toothbrush. This was followed by folding laundry and rediscovering my socks.

And for my last ubiquitous snowy day act, I intend to make French Toast for the very first time.
You read correctly I have not made French Toast before.  

Which meant I needed to round up some recipes.
(Or it really meant I wanted an excuse to indulge my food photography craving.)

These are in my top 5...which expanded into 6 or 7:

1.) A Beautiful Mess: Peaches and Cream Stuffed French Toast
Peaches and Cream Stuffed French Toast Recipe via A Beautiful Mess
Credit: A Beautiful Mess
2.) Smitten Kitchen: Cinnamon Toast French Toast

cinnamon toast french toast, a smitten kitchen cookbook preview
Credit: Smitten Kitchen

3.) Smitten Kitchen: Boozy Baked French Toast

alex is sick
Credit: Smitten Kitchen
4.) Sprouted Kitchen: Buttermilk French Toast

Credit: Sprouted Kitchen
5.) Spoon Fork Bacon: Banana Bread French Toast
Banana Bread French Toast
Credit: Spoon Fork Bacon
6.) Spoon Fork Bacon: Baked Apple Cinnamon French Toast

Baked Apple Cinnamon French Toast

Credit: Spoon Fork Bacon 

Credit: Tartine Bakery & Cafe

I am enjoying being completely content and unoriginal.  I hope the same for you.  
Now may your clichè day be seized!