Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My Nightmares - Public Healthcare

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been having an apple with some peanut butter for a when I get hungry again around 10am. Today, however, I decided I need to lay-off the peanut butter – so I came up with something else and it turned out pretty good.

I ended up cutting the core out of the apple, sprinkling Splenda® and cinnamon inside, stuffing it with raisins, and pouring pineapple juice over the whole thing. Popped it in the microwave for 5 minutes – and it was actually pretty good! Yes, I randomly had all those things at work. Don’t ask.

The reason I wanted to give up on the peanut butter for a while was that I kinda think it may be a sometimes culprit in my migraines. Right before I get one, I often have vivid dreams – and I had a crazy one last night. Then again, I had given my over-active imagination more than liquefied legumes as fuel.

Around 7pm last night, my brain boiling under a sunburned scalp and forehead, I decided I need to watch one of the Netflix movies that have been sitting on my DVD player for several weeks. It just so happened to be Saw III … I wasn’t sure if I had seen it or not. My sister-in-law said that if I didn’t remember the pigs, I hadn’t … (boy was she ever right, DI-SGUST-ING).

It takes a lot to scare me, and oddly enough I kinda enjoy the heebie-jeebies. So I turned off all the lights and had a nice glass of warm milk (I heard once that milk will make you dream – but perhaps they just meant sleep) while watching a horror movie all by myself. It helped that one of the main characters is named “Amanda” … though I really don’t think I’m much of anything like her, other than being a little on the emotional side from time to time.

A side note – and I’ll preface this by saying I often find God in places some would accuse me of being a blasphemer for seeing Him in – something about the movie reminded me a little of how we treat God. If you haven’t seen it – this won’t make sense. If you haven’t seen it and plan to – you might want to skip this. And if you haven’t seen it, but never plan to – well, don’t send me nasty-grams – I don’t respond well to that kind of admonition. Towards the end of the movie, John, or Jigsaw, or whatever you want to call him, tells Amanda not to do something. She does it anyways, only to find she was being tested. At some point in one of the flashbacks she had promised him “every cell in her body.” How often do we make such promises to God – then not wait on His will? We hear Him and know what we should do – but we look at the situation and decide that we know better. Yes, it is a weak parallel – God is good and that guy in the movie – well, it’s a horror movie folks. Any route …

So I go to bed after the movie is over, more confused than scared really. I might have had one dream related to the movie because I remember something about some “task” I had to do, but it wasn’t a particularly memorable or scary dream. Then I had a nightmare. In the second dream, Obama had been elected and had come and gone (apparently I was fairly far into the future). I was in a house I didn’t recognize, on the phone with my sister-in-law. Apparently my brother had been diagnosed with something pretty simple, but that the public health policy did not consider an “illness” so he was unable to get medication for it. On the other hand, the public health policy considered it a pre-existing condition and he was now no longer covered for other health issues that may arise. Go figure.

The silver lining is that there was some sort of blueberry cheesecake concoction in the fridge that I was looking into while on the phone. Maybe I was getting ready for a party? Or perhaps my body was just asking me to please eat something besides apples, peanut butter, or soup.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Joys of Singlehood

While I hope not to always be single, I want to take advantage of the time that I have as one. Rather than bemoaning being single, I want to celebrate the good things about being single. I guess a lot of them apply to “single” in the “not-married” sense … rather than to “dating.” I’m sure you’ll get the idea.

Singing and Dancing

As a single with no roommates … I do a lot of singing and dancing I’m not sure anyone wants to see or hear, other than perhaps for its comedy factor. I start my morning belting out alternative rock in the shower … and almost anytime I’m driving – I’m singing. Sometimes I don’t sound half bad – and sometimes I am singing opera falsetto style to songs that definitely are not. My playlist has enough randomness on it to annoy almost anyone. Usually when someone is annoyed they refer to it as either “that loud punk stuff” (which it isn’t, by the way) or that “death metal crap” (ok, I might have one or two that would qualify). In case you are thinking that doesn’t sound like a strange playlist … throw in a couple of movie tunes, and 80s song, and a dash of Cash (as in, Johnny), and I’ll even own up to a theme from a video game. I can annoy anyone.

If I’m playing Rock Band II and get a little into it, as long as I have the patio door closed … nothing to be embarrassed about.

Then there is the dancing. I used to be on drill team, and I can’t hold a broom without twirling it. Cleaning is choreographed around my house – with the local flashback channel playing some old-school happy rap or a little Madonna … you can’t help but dust with panache. Vacuuming is like a waltz, mopping is a little jazzy, and the chrome in my bathroom just flashes.

Accountability

My responsibility is pretty much to God, and me. That’s it. If I want to work overtime – I just stay late. No rearranging dinner (dinner itself is a whole ‘nother story by the way), no making sure someone else hasn’t already made plans for me, and no one’s feelings get hurt.

My schedule is wide open to let God pour himself out through me. Ten years ago if you asked how I’d feel about not having kids at 30 and not planning on having any – I’d say that couldn’t possibly be me. But here I am – and ever so thankful for it. Don’t get me wrong – I love kids. And I honestly love the fact that this way I can impact more than 2 or 3. I can be the awesome aunt, or the cool (if not slightly weird) adult that isn’t someone’s parent, I have the freedom to be open to God touching so many more lives than if I were raising a family of my own. Sure … kids will keep you young … but nobody ever said they had to be my own. And frankly – not feeding anyone, being woken up 10 times every night, not putting them to bed, or arguing with them about their text messaging habits – rocks. God will take care of the nursing home issue I’m sure.

I’ve heard your time described as a pie – and that you have to decide how you are going to divide it up. Without “family” (husband, kids, etc) I can go to God with the whole thing and ask how He’d like to see it sliced.

Emotional Volcano

As a single woman – I get to be emotional almost anytime the mood hits me. If I’m having a quiet day, nobody really bugs me about what is wrong. If I want to spend the evening having a pity party in the bathtub until my fingers and toes are raisins … nobody is going to talk me out of it. And when the mood strikes me laugh uncontrollably at something that just struck me funny – nobody is around to tell me I’m crazy.

I don’t have to talk to anyone before that first cup of coffee when I get up on the wrong side of the bed … and if I wake up exuberant … I’m not bothering anyone.

Meals

I get to eat when I feel like it. I don’t have to worry about someone else being hungry, or wanting an actual meal rather than a bowl of soup. Granted – I also eat leftovers for about two weeks if I decide to cook something. If I want to have a picnic sandwich outside somewhere for dinner – nobody is going to think that is a weird idea. And if I’m not hungry – I just don’t worry about it.

Control

The remote control. It is mine. If I want to watch a week’s worth of The Daily Show and Colbert Report … alternating, starting with Thursday and going back to Monday … I get to. I don’t bother paying for cable. I have Netflix, and if I want to watch a documentary, an independent film, or a crappy horror movie – nobody is gonna question my selection. If I want to give myself an at home facial while watching Formula 1 racing and reading a book – I’m the only one that laughs at me.
The air conditioner … I get to pick the temperature. If I decide I don’t care if it is going to raise my bill to make it cold at night when I sleep – I just do it. If I decide that I don’t care that it is hot, I don’t want the A/C blowing on me – I can turn it off.

And this is when it hits me. A lot of these things … if I’m not compromising or settling … I’m not going to have to give them up even if/when my single status changes. Sure, I’ll have to be more considerate, and being in a relationship takes work … but that doesn’t mean I can’t do a little step-vault-change across the kitchen as I wipe down the countertop while singing Metallica to the sink, or that I have to stop sleeping with a nameless stuffed octopus under one arm.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Torch to Carry

In my spiritual walk, there have been a couple of women who really stand out to me as being instrumental in who I am. My grandmother Jensen - a prayer warrior and a true Lady of God. She prayed for each of us individually every day, and her life shone with a radiance that only comes from one whose face is turned to God 24/7. She passed away in January of 2007, but I know she is with God and take comfort in that. Of course I miss her terribly. Sometimes the smallest thing will bring reality crashing back - like when I think about baking a cake and want to call her for her Divinity Icing recipe (which I always call her for, and write down, and lose) and realize that I can't.

The loss of her prayers is something the entire family shares. But - when I realized that God had brought some of his light home to Him ... that responsibility falls to us. I may never achieve it - but I want to be a Lady like my grandmother.

When I moved back to Austin, I had made a pact with God that I could not do "this" on my own like I had tried to for so long. I grew up going to church, but was at best a hypocrite and at worst a stumbling block. After college, I stopped attending church altogether. I wouldn't say I was angry at God or doubted His existence ... but I was very angry with His church, His people, and really felt He didn't understand what life is like now.

The holy Spirit within me wouldn't let me continue like that. On December 29, 2007 I made a tenuous peace with God while visiting my parents for Christmas break. I was about to graduate from Boston University and had no idea what I was going to do. A year and a half truly on my own had hollowed me out. I had perhaps one close friend in Boston, no church home, but kept myself from getting down by remaining insanely busy. Don't get me wrong - I love the city ... but I was very lonely. And that's when I realized that God wanted me either in or out. My prayers were ineffective because I was picking and choosing what I wanted to believe. My scripture study was misguided and sporadic. And I denied that "iron sharpens iron" and had run from the very people God says we need to prop one another up. So I promised Him that I was turning over a new leaf ... once I knew where I was going, I was going to find a church and get involved - join groups, volunteer, whatever He asked - I would do.

Blessed assurance fell in my lap the next morning, when I got the call offering me my dream job - back home in Texas - that I thought was already out of my reach. In a whirlwind, I packed up my things and moved to Austin.

Behind my apartment, which I picked for its location on a winding road that avoids any interaction with IH-35, there was a church. My gut reaction was that it must be some kind of cult, that surely wouldn't be where I would end up going. I had a different church in mind, where several of my friends had previously gone. But curiosity got the better of me, and I looked up their website.

What I found was a church that loves this town, and that is based on seeking the truth. A church that is accepting - but that isn't afraid to step on toes. A church that values volunteerism and service and isn't pious and judgmental. This was absolutely where God wanted me - and it was practically steps from my front door.

True to my word ... I immediately looked for opportunities to get involved. The first group I joined was a women's Bible study. I wasn't ready for mixed company, and felt that there would be some great wisdom in a mixed-age group. I was already a couple of weeks behind - but the leader, Rita, welcomed me and in no time I felt like family with the group of women. Our fellowship was so sweet that we decided to continue as a book-club during the summer months, before the fall study began.

Rita is an amazing woman of God. I attribute much of my growth and healing in the past 8 months to her and this group of women.

Last night, Rita suddenly passed away due to a stroke. I still feel in shock. My heart is aching for her family and our group, and all whose lives she has touched. At the same time, I feel a joy that she is now face to face with our Saviour. And as with my grandmother, I feel that part of her torch, her light, now falls to me. God's work for her is done ... but I'm still here, so He still has things for me to do.

Rita's encouragement, her loving spirit, her drawn out "Buuuuuuuuut" - keeping us on track and pointing out truths we may have missed, and her wisdom will be missed. Just last week, in our study of the sermon on the mount, a sense of urgency for the lost was brought up. Rita lovingly explained that sometimes that comes with age, with the realization that at any moment any one of us could be gone. In my youth, I still feel invincible and think my friends are too ... these kinds of things don't happen. But they do - and I pray God will teach me the urgency that Rita felt.

Praise God that Rita is truly home now - she will be missed here until we are all reunited someday. Until then, I pray that all of us she touched can sew that seed anew ... Rita you have many treasures in heaven.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Itsy Bitsy Spider

For some reason, unless they are poisonous or making a mess of my house, I don't really mind spiders. Which is kinda big, considering that below waking up in a burning building - roaches and crickets are my phobias.

When I was little, I remember watching jumping spiders climb on the curtains at my grandmother's house in the mornings. They seemed so brave - lurching at anything that moved despite the fact that they were about 1000th its size. They even have little faces - albeit angry faces.

During the earliest years of my life as a driver, I remember always having a "car-spider." It would leave little strips of silk across flat surfaces, but despite my desire that my car be mirror-clean at all times - I didn't really mind. I doubt it was always the same spider, but I'll never forget the little crab spider that lived in and on my Celica. It turns out - I have a car-spider in my Civic too ... though I don't see it very often.

At work, there has been a tiny spider living at my desk. It had to have been a baby at some point. I know that one day I opened a box of paper under our printer and saw teensie little spiders go running everywhere (much to my boss's chagrin, as he is horribly afraid of any spider). It wasn't long after that I started seeing one about the same size around my computer.

Over the last few months, he's slowly been getting bigger. I don't see him daily, but when I do I try to give him a wide berth to run away from any looming notebooks, pens, etc. The past couple of weeks, I haven't really been at my desk as I was doing some work in another building. So today when I went back to do a few things I had nearly forgotten about Tiny.

I decided to clean my desk, and that's when I saw him take off ... up and over the mouse, pausing at the edge of the mousepad, and a mad dash towards the CPU tower. I went about my cleaning and then got to work, assuming he was safe somewhere in the tangle of wires.

At lunch, I decided to check my email and dragged the keyboard toward me. When I picked it up to put it back, there was Tiny's crumpled little body. For some reason it made me profoundly sad to see him like that and know that I just brought his existence to what was probably, for him, a terrifying halt.

Granted, I've been a little touchy and sad today anyways. I know he's just a spider ... but God made that little spider too. Speaking of my uncharacteristically somber mood - I just love my devotional guide. After a rough night and starting the day on the wrong side of the bed, I opened my Bible to the prescribed chapter and verse, Isaiah 45:7 ... "I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.

So while I started the day feeling I was lost in darkness, God says that even that can be used to grow me in Him. What a terrific reminder. I know His light is coming, and that alone helps diffuse the edginess.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Fear of Deer

If you've read anything else I've written, or if you know me, you know that I love to go running in the morning. Believe it or not, I think I may even be addicted!

Part of the allure is the fact that it is so peaceful. I find it easiest to have a really close, open talk with God when I'm up before everyone else. It is much easier for me to focus, and I think nothing makes me feel closer to God than looking up at the star-filled richness of a sky so thickly blue-black that I feel like I can reach up and touch it.

Being Texas - it is also nice that the sun hasn't risen to bake everything to a crispy oven-like warmth. Even the concrete has cooled to a reasonable temperature after 8 or more hours out of its punishing rays.

But I think a small part of the exhilaration is the heebie-jeebies I sometimes get from things unknown and unseen in the dark. I absolutely love to be just a little be scared (and the adrenaline certainly doesn't hamper my running ability). Horror movies rarely can do it for me anymore, even if I watch them alone and in the dark. Granted - Backdraft can scare me to death anytime, but it is a different kind of fear ... not the pulse rushing flood of excitement I'm thinking of.

One of the first mornings I was out running, I saw a coyote. Truth be told, they are a little smaller than your average Labrador retriever, but they have that wild look. At first, my mind responded by offering me places to hide ... "Tree, fence, rock!!" Against the plea of my pounding heart, I instead yelled a tentative "Hey!" to see if coyotes are scared of people or not.

Turns out - he was much more frightened than I was.

What I'm most afraid of those mornings may surprise you. Deer. Yes, I'm a little afraid of Bambi. When I see a decent sized buck, I'm not thinking how gracious and beautiful they are (honestly - I think they are a little skittish and none-too-bright). I'm thinking they are something that makes some nice sausage or chili. I'm thinking that they carry ticks. Especially in the fall ... rutting season ... I'm thinking that they have horns made for tussling and pointy little hooves ... and that my belly is rather soft and unarmored.

Many years ago, back when I was forcing myself to run rather than enjoying it, I remember something that was so surreal it almost seems like it didn't happen. I'm chugging along, dragging my rear through the streets of a small community north of Austin, when eight young bucks cross the road about 50 yards ahead of me. A cacophony of sharp hoofs clattered against the pavement - I almost expected to see a sleigh and a man in a red suit behind them. While I realize that the fact they were traveling together means that they were not, in fact, rutting ... I couldn't help but remember a shredded tree the previous year in my front yard. Gored on the antlers of a deer much like them.

This week, Wednesday I think it was, I was running down the middle of the road (something you shouldn't usually do) and in the woods adjacent I hear something crashing alongside me. I can only assume it is a deer, and with the recent cooler temperatures my mind turns to worry that it could very well be starting to feel the flood of hormones that turns Bambi from a gangly, cute helpless little creature to an armed wildlife creature bent on one purpose.

I never saw what was making the sound, but it must have been haunting me. Thursday morning, sometime early, in that strange period that can't be called waking or sleeping, I had a vivid dream.

In the dream, I am running down the same road, when a deer leaps into the center and skids sideways, turning its head toward me. It lets out an baleful sound - something like a screech and a bellow, the white showing in a ring around its dilated pupils.

All I can do is shake my head, slowly, muttering "I'm not a deer, I'm not a deer!" Thinking somehow that I can persuade him that I am neither his enemy nor his goal. All the while, the stories of people attacked by deer - even killed - flip through my mind old newsreel headlines ... abdomens torn open, ribs bruised and broken, soft human flesh no match for horn and hoof ...

Of course it was only a dream, but I had to swallow panic this morning when I couldn't get the gate open on my way home, sweating and tired. Had a deer happened upon me in that moment - I would have been trapped and virtually helpless!