Sunday, August 29, 2010
One of the things that frequently surfaces is my interest in psychology. A number of people have suggested I go into counselling. And on one level that does appeal to me. I enjoy in-depth one-on-one "therapy sessions" with friends (both when I'm the counselor and when I'm the counsellee). But my introverted nature (read "needs time alone" not "socially awkward") would keep me from setting up more than 1-2 sessions a day if I were a professional counselor and, well, you can't make a living that way.
And then there's the whole "back to school" thing. While I have interest in learning more on a number of topics, I have no interest in obtaining another degree for the purpose of changing careers. (It's funny to me how many people suggest this. Why do I have to get a graduate degree to pursue personal interests? It's not about career. It's about engaging in things that interest me. Do I have to get a master's in gardening to learn more about gardening?) (Speaking of gardening, I went to a fall planting seminar yesterday and it's time to dig up the old and put in the new!! Hooray for roots and leafy greens!)
Ok, where was I? Psychology. My interest in psychology extends beyond therapy sessions to the study of neuroplasticity (remapping the brain) as it relates to treating depression, and a whole host of other depression-related treatments including positive psychology, the role of gratitude and optimism, biofeedback, ect (electroconvulsion therapy), mindfulness, the concept of "flow," light therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and, yes, spiritual warfare.
Wow, I'm kind of impressed with myself just as I list all of that. For someone with no formal psychology education, I've read quite a bit. And that leads to another question I have that I should ask my counselor friends sometime. If you go to school for psychology, does the school zero in on one or two fields of treatment, or do they cover the full spectrum? My guess is that you'd pick your interest and then choose a school based on that. And if I'm correct, that's another reason I'd be hesitant to go back to school. Every single angle I've listed above has merit (and I didn't even mention prescription medication), and if I were to give advice to a person who is depressed, I'd tell them to look into everything. When I was struggling with severe depression, I wish I'd had professionals who were in a position to counsel me on all of these options, rather than the one or two they handed me.
Yeah, there's something here. I just have to figure out what to do with it.
Friday, August 20, 2010
Dad had a different take on it. After joking that I've been that way my whole life, he came to another conclusion. Perhaps the reason I think can't concentrate as much as I'd like is that I just haven't found something that I'm all that interested in. And if I did, I might suddenly find myself "cured" of my disorder.
Hmmm ... Could he be right? Am I just not interested in anything? For years I attributed my lack of focus to depression, which is valid enough, but I'm not depressed anymore. As I gave it more thought, I had to admit he might be onto something. If he was, surely there would be examples from my past of periods of acute interest and focus.
Last year, when I first read Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover, I became intensely interested in personal finance. I spent hours developing and tweaking my first budget spreadsheet. I became hyper-focused on maintaining a debt-free lifestyle and developed a plan to create an emergency fund of six months worth of expences. It took a year to achieve that goal, but I did it. That's focus, right?
The problem is that the intensity of focus eventually faded. When I began my community garden, I was focused. When I lost 40 pounds with Body for Life I was focused. And now I'm laughing about my two months of cycling. For a few weeks I thought I might turn into one of those bike-across-America people. But over time, those interests became, well, less interesting.
So. What do I do with this information? For now, I investigate. Is the key to continually find new interests? Is there a long-term interest for which I've barely tapped the surface? Is thinking about interests an interest in an of itself?
More to come. But first a shout-out to Dad. Sometimes you know what you're talking about after all.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
I was completely broke. I'd just lost my job and was desperate enought that I had to go to my church to ask for money to pay my rent. I had already been buried under the weight of seemingly never-ending depression and my financial struggles just added to that. I had one car die, and then another with no money for even moderate repairs. I was also struggling with being a single woman and the fear that God would never intervene.
It's interesting to me to kind of look through how God has brought me to where I am now--a place of mental health and financial stability with amazing friends, a new career, and a bushel of hope. How did God do it? One little step at a time. The change didn't happen overnight, and it's still ongoing. I'm not yet on completely solid footing, but I'm a far cry from where I used to be.
First, I was given a car. Then one freelance writing job. Then another more permanent communications job. Then a dramatic move (as the result of an uprooted 100-year-old oak tree crashing through the roof) that put me in an emotionally healthier and more affordable living situation. Then a more challenging, better paying writing job. Then a financial awakening via Dave Ramsey that led to being debt free and putting away six-months worth of expenses in an emergency fund. (Oh the freedom!) Then God set me free from depression--which is a topic for a thousand more blog posts. And then a surprising nine-month relationship that would further destroy countless numbers of long-held false beliefs.
God has redeemed my life from the pit. And as I continue to pray for Pauline's friend, I pray with confidence knowing that though the road is long, God can do it for her too.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
I’m not a gardener. In fact I’ve killed many a house plant because it does not occur to me that they need water. Until it does, which is often too late. People tell me this means I shouldn’t have children, but at least children cry when they need something. The plants just sit there and expect to be noticed. I have a green plant on my desk at work that I maintain because it is self-watering, meaning I just fill the water to the line and a wick gives the plant the precise amount of water it needs. In my opinion, all plants should have this feature.
So, you may ask, why embark on a community garden? Maybe just because it’s there. And the idea sounds really cool. And since Lisa is doing it with me, I kinda figure she might remember that they need water when I don’t.
We haven’t started yet. In fact, I think they’re still cultivating the land. The plot is on Henderson Road in Tucker next to the soccer fields. The garden has a number of individual plots, a center plot that everybody is encouraged to help with where the fruits of labor go to the community food bank, and a row of corn and blueberries that all members can harvest from.
The community aspect appeals to me. Plus I need a project. Plus it’s an opportunity for additional bonding with Lisa. Plus free corn and blueberries. Plus I might actually learn a thing or two about gardening.
Lisa admits to being as green as I am, which I’m just now realizing is a completely inappropriate word to describe a lack of gardening skills. But we both want to learn. She has some friends available to provide guidance, and my Dad has an amazing garden he and Anne have cultivated over the past year so he’ll lend some counsel as well. Although he wants me to get into composting. Which is one thing when the garden is in your own yard, but quite another when it isn’t. The last thing I want to do is cart banana peels and rotten salad scraps to the park on a regular basis. Mom has donated her fertilizer, but I don’t think it meets the organic requirements. So it might be a fertilizer free plot, but then again, it might not even get watered. First things first.
We haven’t decided what to plant. Lisa wants herbs. I want some manner of vegetables, but I don’t do tomatoes. All that’s coming to mind right now is carrots and bell peppers. But research has yet to be done. And as Lisa keeps reminding me … if all else fails, we can always plant flowers. And hope it rains.
Saturday, May 08, 2010
It’s not like my mind is blank when I sit down to write, rather, it’s full of stuff that I just can’t write about publically. And so I have to take out the colander, strain, and set aside the good stuff.
What's left, then? Fatty drippings that are either tossed out (never poured down the drain!), or the makings of gravy. Now I have been known to refer to gravy as one of my favorite foods, and it instantly conjures up images of Grandma in the kitchen, mixing chicken stock with rue, flour, and a dose of her misguided attempts at singing opera. (I had to write the word "opera" three times before I could stop from typing "oprah.")
So the point I'm trying to make here is that the drippings ain't such a bad thing, if you mix 'em up just right. And who hasn't, at least once in their life, bypassed the sausage for a plate of biscuits and gravy? Exactly. You know what I'm talking about.
And now with gravy back at the top of my list, why don't I just dive in and talk about a few things that make me happy. Does that work for you? (By the way, suggested blog topics are always welcome.)
Things that make Melanie happy:
2. Country Music - Extremely underrated music that will be an entire blog topic another day
3. Dark chocolate
4. Bulldogs - Very Important Note: NOT the UGA kind. Okay, well it that kind of dog, but I cannot mentally make the leap to accep that a dog I like is a mascot for a team I don't. There was a bulldog at Tucker Day today and I just fell in love with her. And my uncle has a bulldog named Roscoe who's pretty darn cool.
5. Pink dogwoods
6. Peppermint Mochas
7. Laying down to go to sleep when I'm very very tired
8. Hot showers
9. Long emails from a good friend
10. Facebook - another thing I can get on a soapbox about. Facebook is Not Evil, people!
11. I could put a whole bunch of ooey gooey romantic stuff here, but I won't. But those things do make me oretty happy.
12. When people comment on my blog, like Nathan. Thanks Nathan!
13. my Dad's weird noises
14. the prospect of new adventures
15. in-depth conversations with friends about the meaty stuff I can't talk about here
That's enough gravy for today. Thanks for eating.
Friday, May 07, 2010
Does anybody remember me? Wow, how bizarre is it that I don't blog anymore? And how bizarre is it that I kinda sorta want to now, even though I don't really have a topic nailed down.
I think part of why I don't blog much anymore is that I work as a writer now. So it's kinda like the last thing I want to do at the end of the day is write more. But the odd thing is, I still write emails that could rival War and Peace, and I still do an immense amount of personal journalling, so how do you explain that?
So, what do we want to talk about, people?
I'm sitting out on the back deck, and it's finally late enough in the day where it's cool enough to do so. I just heard some geese squawking and wish I could squawk back enough to say "Come land over here. There's some nice long green grass you might like." But I don't know how to say that. I really like geese. From a distance. Actually I did have a traumatic childhood experience involving an attacking goose, but now I just know that it's wise to admire them from a distance, and that feeding them can be dangerous.
I remember hearing on the news one year about a dozen or so geese that took up residence in a woman's back yard pool. She liked having them around for the couple weeks they were there, and took to feeding them. Exactly a year later, 100+ geese took up residence in her pool! Guess word had spread!
Lately I feel like I'm being reminded to listen to God as He speaks in nature. I'm not going to share any big revelations here because I don't have any. But sitting here in the breeze, in a lush green yard, listening to some birds who sound insanely happy, I'm realizing that I do want to listen.
Oh, and here's a question. Why are chipmunks so darn adorable and squirrels are just large furry rats? Hmmm? Is it because of Chip and Dale? (the chipmunks, not the dancers.) I mean I want to grab one of these little chipmunks and stuff him in my pocket.
Wow, maybe this is why I don't blog--because it comes out as complete stream of consciousness nonsense. No topic. No poignancy. No lesson to be learned or story to tell.
But it does feel good to test the waters out again, just the same.
Sunday, January 03, 2010
I suppose first you need a subject and some semblance of rational thought. Maybe that's my problem. A lack of rational thought. But, I mean, how do you remedy that?
How did I used to have swarms of thoughts that demanded blog posts?
Because now all I am is sleepy.
Saturday, August 08, 2009
Last night I saw the movie Julie & Julia, which though it may appear to be about Julia Child and mastering the art of french cooking in modern day Brooklyn, is really about being lost and what it takes to find your way. The cooking and the writing and the incomparable talent of Meryl Streep are a great hook, but the meat of the story is more than just Beef Bourguignon.
But this isn't a review. What struck me is how much we (and by we, I mean me) are so often in need of a project, a goal, a specific purpose to compel us onward and give us a measure of joy. It's true that the times I feel most prone to depression are the times I feel I'm not moving forward. I, like Julie Powell and Julia Child, need something to DO.
There are, of course, aspects of life I can't fully control. I can't move forward in the realm of marriage and family simply because I'd like to. But it's amazing what taking hold of the little things I can control helps me feel a little less lost. When I can find them.
Last winter I jumped back on the Body for Life bandwagon and lost 20 pounds. This summer I've tackled Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover and have saved more than $3,000. But what's next? One friend of mine is having a baby. Another is going to grad school at Harvard. Another recently married and bought a house. And then there's me. What's my thing going to be for the next little while?
I wish I were the type to be passionate about a hobby. I tried to get into biking, but it didn't take. Blogging had it's rise and fall. Writing is exhausting. Could I try cooking, like Julie and Julia? Maybe, but is there enough motivation to sustain me? And would it conflict with my financial and weight control goals?
I'd love to adopt travel as a hobby, but that will probably have to wait until the money makeover is into its second or third year. I have a friend who's into crochet, another who builds boats and furniture for fun, and several who love photography. There's also a potter, and a couple amateur chefs. I find myself wanting to jump into one or all of these hobbies with my friends, but that feels like cheating, not to mention the fact that they're all at step 10 while I'm at step 1.
What to do, what to do? Talk to me Julia.
Friday, April 03, 2009
Last night was the season finale of ER, a show that ran for 15 seasons from 1994 - 2009. Why is that significant? Maybe because 1994 was the year I moved to California. I remember the start of the series when I first worked with Campus Crusade at Cal Poly, and a few years later while working in Hollywood, I spent a good deal of time praying for the cast and crew during weekly prayer walks on the Warner Brothers lot.
But this isn't about ER. It's about remembering the seasons of my life over these last 15 years. First, a list: Season 1, Move to CA - Cal Poly Pomona; Season 2, Hollywood; Season 3, Atlanta - Grizzard; Season 4, Florida - Dad's illness; Season 5, Atlanta - slow recovery; Season 6, unemployment to career change; Season 7, writer.
It's bizarre for me to think back, each season carrying unique friendships and experiences that were not duplicated elsewhere. I'm amazed to think about how much I've been through, both good and bad.
How many times have I been in crisis, not knowing a way out, begging God for resolution? Too many to count. It's weird to look back from this distance and see that the ways that God answered were not the ways I expected. Very rarely did I get instant relief. Even with the life-changing miracle of my dad, it seemed to come about so slowly that I didn't even notice God was answering until much later.
That's not to say there were never instant, dramatic answers to prayers. There have been many, particularly regarding money and cars, where solutions just appeared at the last moment. But the bigger life crises, what to do when I was thinking about leaving Crusade staff in California for example, resolved over several years in small increments rather than with one big clear "answer from God."
I know God works differently with different people. Sometimes He moves powerfully and very fast, as was the case when I made the decision to move to Florida in two days and physically moved a week later. But that was a very rare exception for me, in fact I can't think of one other time that's happened.
It's helpful for me to think through the seasons and how God's moved me forward, particularly right now as I struggle with faith once again. While I still feel wrestle with some of the same angst I had two years ago, I don't feel the same angst I did 10 years ago. Maybe my problem is just that I want God to move faster. He may be very slow in some areas, but that doesn't mean there is no movement.
Watching ER last night I was struck by the fact that this season's cast was completely different from the cast of the first season. I haven't actively watched the show in almost 10 years, so I didn't know any of the characters. Until some of the old cast came back last and reminded me that this is the same ER. What I realize though is that the cast changes happened gradually; one character leaves, one new guy comes, but never all at once. I think God works the same way a lot of times. Slow, less disruptive change.
Not that I like it slow--I'm ready for big change, now (I think)--but it helps to see that God can be moving when we don't necessarily see it.
So now that ER is off the air, I wonder if that means a 15 year chapter of my life is closed? Will I have a new drama series to chart my seasons by? What's the next (positive) change coming down the pike?
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Okay, well I'd thought that The Amazing Race was coming on but Obama is on some show called 60 Minutes but seems like it must be 90 Minutes instead. So all that to say, I've got a few minutes to kill.
What do you guys want me to blog about? I mean why do you want me to blog? Do you want to know things about me? Or are you just kinda bored? It may take me a while before I figure out what kinds of things to write about.
Hmm... I'm thinking. But, I got nothin'.
Who do y'all like for The Amazing Race? Obviously the mother-deaf son team are appealing. I like the father-son team where the son is the screenwriter for ... is it School of Rock? I like them but I feel a little guilty rooting for them because come on, does he really need $1 million? But the dad's a sweetheart who is having trouble physically with some of the challenges so I want to root for him as an underdog. I also like the 4-foot-tall stunt men brothers, even though they're good at everything.
Okay, Obama is still on. Nothing against Obama, but I want less news--more entertainment at the moment. Plus, he's like everywhere, all the stinkin' time.
What else? I don't know. I guess I figure those who read this know what's going on in my life, at least in a big picture way. Keith writes about particular subjects. I don't have a subject. (You couldn't tell that, could you?)
Oh my gosh, Obama's gone, but they're starting another story! Only this story looks interesting so I'm going to go check it out. I may write a more coherent post another day. Or I may not.
That's what makes me interesting. You just never can tell.
Friday, December 05, 2008
Which reminds me of a magazine article I read that was about how to boost your self-esteem. It said to get rid of your 10x magnification mirror. Totally made me laugh because it's SO TRUE. I borrow my mom's super-magnified mirror from time to time for superior brow-plucking, but the depression factor from the sudden appearance of a billion flaws far outweighs the precision eyebrows.
Oh! And I recently heard the greatest advice from my stepmother, Anne. (Hope you don't mind my sharing this, Anne, but it was so empowering!) Did you know that you can refuse to step on the scale when you go to the doctor? You know how they always make you weigh in and take your blood pressure before you see the doctor? You can actually say "No, I don't do that" when the nurse asks you to step on the scale. I didn't realize until Anne pointed it out how depressing it is to step on the scale at the doctor and hear an unexpected number. It clouds my head and depresses me for hours. Next time, they're getting a polite "No, thanks."
Switching topics, this morning after having mostly gotten over the anxiety of speaking yesterday, I got an email requesting me to speak again, this time just for 20 minutes in a Sunday school class. I feel a mixture of feeling honored at the request and simultaneously feel extremely nauseous. This one would be much lower pressure, but still, do I want to put myself through that again? The jury is still out.
Oh, I meant to ask this yesterday, but can I persuade anybody out there to do Body for Life with me? Twelve weeks to a fantastic body. Anyone? I'm three weeks in, but I know there is a high level of risk that I may quit before I reach my goal if I don't find some partners. Go get the book, and then give me a call. It's hard to work out and eat well when everybody around you is gobbling up all the Christmas party goodies. Think about it. Whether you have 5 pounds to lose or 100, let's help each other get there! Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? do you realize that reference is 22 years old?? yikes. no, don't think about it. This is about feeling better about yourself. (I plucked a gray hair this morning. I know, I know. I'm not in denial, but it was screaming at me.)
Oh, and people keep asking me about whether I'm still biking. Let's just say it's on hold. I mean it's freakin' cold out there and I'm somewhat of a wimp. (Those who know me are saying "Somewhat?") Anyway, I'll get back to it. They should make heaters for bikes. Don't laugh. They should. For real. I should look into that.
That's all for now. Got any esteem-boosting advice? Send it right on along. (Or simple esteem-boosting words of affirmation are welcome too.)
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Okay, I know. I know. I need to jump back into the blog loop. And since I don't have just one thing to talk about, I'm going to try out this cool bullet feature. (Who knows why it's cool on blogger when I use it daily in Word.)
- I did this big scary thing today. I gave a 40 minute talk to a women's brunch at church. And I kinda thought that afterwards I would have this great rush. You know, like after you do something scary you feel great and proud of your accomplishment and stuff. Or at least pleased that it went well. Only I didn't feel any of that. All I felt was intense relief and a desire to never think about it again. Is that weird?
- Is it weird that I'm jealous of Izzy on Grey's Anatomy for having a hunky ghost follow her around everywhere? So what that he's not real? Isn't imaginary love better than no love at all? (don't answer that.)
- While we're on the subject of TV shows, I cried tonight watching Survivor:Gabon. I know, weird, right? But all these survivor people saw video clips from home and got all weepy and I just love that kind of stuff. But then, then Bowtie Bob who won a challenge got to watch his entire video from home, only it was a trick of sorts because in the video his wife said "wait just a minute" and then she came around the corner FOR REAL and was right there in Gabon hugging him. And I'm crying. And THEN Bob took his wife back to the camp to introduce her to all the other survivors, and they all look so shocked ... and disappointed that their family members had probably come but they wouldn't get to see them. Only then, THEN, Bob whistled and over the hill walks everybody's family members! And everybody is crying, so of course I'm crying. Like snot runny crying. And THEN Matty, who cannot get over himself with how much he loves his girlfriend proposes to her right then and there, and gives her a handmade jungle necklace he'd made since he couldn't give her a ring. And I'm totally reaching for the tissues (because not only was it romantic that he proposed on the spot, but he made her something). I'm a SUCKER for stuff like that. (Did I overshare?)
- I'm doing so great with Body for Life. After a million false starts over the last two years, I am finally committed to getting back in shape--I mean really committed! I've lost seven pounds so far and am gaining muscle and eating so much better. Yay for me! It feels great to be doing it over the winter months, when it runs completely contrary to my natural inclinations, and the inclinations of most people. Did you know people crave more carbs in the winter? And even moreso for people with Seasonal Affective Disorder, which I have. And to further promote my emotional health I finally got a Sunbox--a full spectrum therapy light that I've been wanting for years. Is it weird that I'm excited about it? It just came today so I haven't really tried it out yet.
- Did I ever talk about my Thanksgiving? I didn't, did I? I went to a farm. A freakin' farm, with sheep and donkeys and goats and roosters, okay maybe just one rooster and it was so cool! Can you tell I'm totally a city girl? The trip to the farm was a Journey Daybook outing so we took our painted journals. I ended up painting this cool old rusted out pickup truck. There were a million cool things to paint. But the coolest thing, I couldn't paint. In fact I didn't even get a picture of it. There was a one-day-old baby lamb! It was the cutest thing ever. Barely standing with these wobbly legs and just looking up at me so sweetly! I'm using too many exclamation points. Real writers don't use exclamation points. But I hardly think of what I do here on this blog as real writing anyway. I loved the animals and I want to exclaim it! Is that weird?
Well, I guess I should get back to whatever--the end of Grey's Anatomy I guess. Is Izzy going to get rid of Denny? No, Izzy! Or if she does she should totally send him to me, even if he is a ghost. So what? It's just my silly little indulgence. And if that makes me weird, then so be it!!!!
Saturday, November 15, 2008
The cat, Smokey Grey, is sitting next to me in a chair I pulled up for him to discourage him from continually trying to sit in my lap and step all over my keyboard. And I just installed Internet Explorer 7. As it was installing Anne said she'd been told to use anything but Explorer 7, and I'm trying not to be worried about how my life is going to be more difficult now.
There's still a mess over by the door. It seems we have a racoon that has decided to visit the last two nights to wash some nuts, and then some cat food in the cat's water. Racoons are compelled to wash their food before eating it. I want to tell him the cat food is already clean, but I haven't had the privlege of a face to face meeting.
Yesterday when I exited the boat on North Key (an unexpected treat, as this is an island I knew nothing about), I hiked a bit back into the brush. I noticed tiny animal footprints as I crossed the sand, but when I hiked up to the top of a large sand dune, I noticed dozens and dozens of tiny footprints that were made by what seems to be quite a large colony of racoons. I didn't see them, but it seemed I'd happened upon the very path they take daily down to the water's edge to wash their food. I marvelled at all that goes on here on these tiny deserted islands when people like us are not invading their shore.
Tomorrow I head back to the big city, and back to a faster (and colder) life. But I'll be back here for Thanksgiving. Maybe I'll give you another update from the back porch then.
Friday, November 14, 2008
I hesitate to call it a city--the population is somewhere around 800--but technically it is a city with it's own mayor and city counsel. Some here refer to it as the Republic of Cedar Key, emphasizing the fact that it is a world unto itself. And indeed it is.
I got into town yesterday around noon. After checking in with work and getting my island legs, Dad invited me on a ride. A ride means a golf-cart ride around town, with no particular agenda. Anne had the golf cart down at George's where she was feverishly working to put up George's enormous Christmas tree (Christmas decorating is like a religion with George--I used to spend days helping him decorate when I lived here, and always before Thanksgiving), so we had to walk down the road to pick it up. I think Anne took the golf cart merely to give me an excuse to come see George's new puppy, Guy.
I had to change clothes before Dad and I left the house. I'd left Atlanta at 57 degrees and arrived here to find it above 80 and incredibly humid. No worries, I'll take it. We walked past the bed and breakfast where Alice was outside pulling weeds and stopped to chat for a minute. Then on to George's to see the Christmas tree and the puppy. Oh, and to see George. The house was a flurry with decorating explosions everywhere, and when little Guy came bounding in the door it felt like Christmas morning.
We got the golf cart and Dad drove us here and there and everywhere once, twice, three times or more. We went by the water this way, by the water that way, around the bend and down the hill. We waved and got waved at, searched for a couple of friends like Tom and Sherry who run the kayak rental, and Barbara who runs the boat cruises with her husband Doug, but neither were around. No matter. We crossed paths several times with Mark who teasingly calls me his girlfriend and loves to point out that the sun is always shining when I arrive and it's always raining when I leave. We spoke briefly to Miss Alice out on her porch as a neighbor was stopping by for a visit. Dad was quick to point out to the neighbor that Miss Alice didn't have any lunch leftovers to share, he'd already checked. And he probably had. Miss Alice has a reputation for keeping her friends well-fed.
I spent the rest of the afternoon doing some work stuff, but work just doesn't feel like work when you're doing it sitting out on the back porch watching the sun reflect off the water and enjoying a warm breeze in mid November.
Later in the afternoon as we were heading out to dinner, we encountered Miss Alice walking up to our house with a huge covered pot. Dad grabbed it exclaiming, "it's hot!" Much to my delight, it was a pot filled to the brim with chicken and dumplings, a favorite dish of mine that I'd raved about at the last church dinner I'd come to last time I was in town. It was something my grandmother used to make and I rarely come across it anymore. It's genuine comfort food and Miss Alice does it up right. She'd remembered, noticed I was in town, and threw together in the span of a couple hours. I love Cedar Key.
Despite the instant dinner, we'd already planned to go out so we left the chicken and dumplings for later and headed over to the Blue Desert for pizza. The food was great, but the crowd was small so after finishing her few orders the chef and owner, Terese came out to sit by the bar for a bit, say hello to us, and to chat up a few of the locals. As we left we could hear the whimpering of Terese's golden retriever, who forever lies at the kitchen doorway, wanting her master to get back to cooking.
Today I'm gearing up for our Journey Daybook island cruise and it looks like the perfect day to be out on the water. Wasn't something bothering me before I got into town yesterday? It seems like there was something ... Oh well, I forget. Crossing number four bridge will do that to you. Even better than the flashy thing in Men in Black, Cedar Key erases the mess and replaces it with magic.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
Take my recent bike rides down the Suwannee Greenway (five times in two weeks!). Yes, it's exercise. Yes, it's a new hobby and brings with it the drive to learn and become proficient at something that until recently I knew little about. But if it were just that, it would quickly become a dull shade of weathered army green. More than a hobby and exercise, it is a bright green renewing pathway--a chance for me to listen to God, work out my never-ending issues, and improve my mental health. Greenway therapy is not something that's black and white, something that I can just put my finger on and say "X accomplishes Y," yet I know it's helpful. After all, green is the color of growth, right?
Something else I'm re-immersing myself in is maintaining my painted journal. I started this journal a year ago, through a non-profit organization called Journey Daybook which my stepmother, Anne, introduced me to. It's an opportunity to capture visual and poetic images, and to track life's journey in a poignant way that for me is decidedly different than what I do with my handwritten journal.
Here's an example of a painted journal page to give you an idea of how cool it can be. No, goodness no, this isn’t mine. I'm far too intimidated to share mine which looks more like something done by a fourth grader.
This is a page by artist and Journey Daybook founder Peggy Herrick, painted last year on a Cedar Key cruise chartered specifically for the purpose of journal painting. I went on that cruise as my first introduction to watercolors and painted journals. To be on the water, in the sunlight, with a pencil and a paintbrush was exhilarating, even though I didn't have a clue what I was doing.
Over the last year, I've gotten out my painted journal here and there, a few times every couple months, to capture images that resonated with me, either real or imagined. But now it's been a while and I need to get back in the groove.
Next week I'm embarking on the second annual Journey Daybook cruise on the Princess Annie (named after Captain Doug’s adorable granddaughter) in the waters surrounding Cedar Key. This year, instead of spending all our time on the water, we'll travel to two small islands, Atsena Otie and Seahorse Key, where we'll disembark to paint the islands' notables.
Atsena Otie, the island closest to Cedar Key, used to be inhabited, but a tsunami washed it out in 1896, and everybody who survived moved to the main island. We’ll be visiting the remains of a cemetery back in the woods—something I’ve always wanted to see. It’ll be like our own little adventure into the past.
Seahorse Key is another nearby island I’ve never visited, primarily because it doesn’t allow visitors most of the year. (Now I’m sounding like The Island has a mind of its own. Maybe I’m mentally gearing up for the 5th season of LOST.) Seahorse Key is a bird sanctuary and if there’s one thing Cedar Key is protective of, it’s marine wildlife. On our visit to the island, we’ll get to sketch the island’s only landmark, an historic lighthouse.
If you can’t tell, I’m kind of stoked about these therapeutic experiences that are entering my life. Not only am I now Cycling Girl, soon I'll also be Artist Girl, Adventure Girl, Wildlife Girl, and general all-around Island Girl. What could be more therapeutic (and “green”) than that?
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Day three was a short, but fun ride with Lisa, testing out an area near my house where I thought I might potentially ride again. Day four was returning to that spot on my own and pushing myself for a good hour's ride with a mixture of straight aways and hills. (The hills were harder than they looked, and yes, I had to dismount and push the bike for a time while another cyclist passed me.) Still it was a good ride and I'll probably do it again (but maybe not quite as far into the hilly area).
Day five was today. David took me up to the Suwanee Greenway, which was super-great. I've been wanting to check it out for some time, to see what all the fuss was about. While it can't quite compare to the Silver Comet trail en mass, it is still a beautiful paved trail through the woods, with less of the freak-out factor than I get when I mention Silver Comet to people (who think "Death by Silver Comet" due to some crime statistics.) Suwanee Greenway is eight miles round trip if you don't stray, a comfortable ride with minimal hills, surrounded by nice park benches and greenspace should you want to take a lunch, or a journal and a pen, for a mid-ride break.
I'm definitely going again. At least I hope I am. There's a part of me that wonders if this is just another one of my things that I'm not going to stick with. But for this week, I'm still motivated. Woo Hoo!
You know, part of it is that I've always wanted to be one of "those people." By "those people" I don't mean just cyclists. I mean doing things normal people do that are generally way out of my personality scope. Like when I was running daily and lifting weights. All of the sudden I looked like one of "those people," but only in theory, because it never was me. I have always hated exercise, even when I was impeccably consistent, and I suppose I always will. I try to make myself do it, but I doubt I'll ever be someone who gets charged up about it.
But still, I'm going to try the biking thing a little longer. Because you know what? It kinda doesn't feel like exercise. And if I can trick my brain into thinking it's actually fun and theraputic, then I might not give it up the next time laziness and discouragement come back for me. I will say this though, if you ever see me signing up for a triathalon or something crazy like that, you will know, without a doubt, that someone has surgically replaced my brain with someone else's, in which case you should send help. Like, immediately.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Now granted, I had to spend the money I'd saved toward a bike on some gnarly car repairs (gnarly in the negative, not as in "cool! gnarly!"), and granted it's on the verge of being too cold to bike, but still, I'm making progress. And now here's where I insert the proverb that has carried me through the last three years, "Steady plodding brings prosperity" Pr. 21:5 (RSV). I have not quit. I am still going forward. And maybe, just maybe now the pace will increase. Since I actually have a bike to ride for a while.
So today I took my first ride on Tracy's bike. It took me three days to even get on it because the tires needed inflating, I had to buy a pump (oh yeah, add this too the list of accomplishments, it's a pump that attaches to the bike frame), only I couldn't figure it out, or there was too much air to pump and I gave up on that route. This morning I hiked it up on the bike rack (again borrowed from Tracy with much appreciation!) and took it down to the gas station to fill it up with air for a whopping 75 cents.
While I'm on that, I feel the need to comment that carrying around a bike on a car can be a bit of a pain, but not for the reasons you might think. On the way home from Tracy's Saturday night, I wanted to stop at the grocery to pick up a few things my mom had asked me to get for her. But I couldn't because of the vulnerability of the bike. And then today, after I got the tires pumped with air at the gas station, I wanted to run by the bookstore, but again, I couldn't for the same reason. Those of you who are regular cyclists, do you have a security device for things like this, or do you just avoid stopping elsewhere when your bike is on your car? See I still have things to learn.
So, my ride. I didn't think to check the time before I left, but it was probably about a half hour ride and not overly strenuous. Strenuous being determined by how many times I have to dismount from the bike during the ride (answer zero). There were some minor hills, but the bike took to them well. I found her road bike so much easier to ride than the mountain bikes I've tried thus far. Sorry, you mountain bike enthusiasts, I prefer the skinny tires.
I consider it a successful ride. I'm not sure my heartrate got up to maximum level, but I didn't want to push it. This was more of an experimental ride than a high-exercise ride. The end result is I want to go again, so that's my real measure of success. (Every time I come home from running, for example, I want to scream Never Again! at the top of my lungs. I desire to avoid this rage with biking.)
And the other perk about biking. It's outside by default, which while it has its minuses (weather, traffic), it also has it's bonus features, sunshine and nature of course, but also my personal favorite: honking truckers. The flattering (only mildly offensive) kind of honking. (This is a perk of running outside too.) I'll take a Hey Baby! over a Get a load of Flubber! any day. It reminds me that I am well on my way to getting back my Hot Bod!
Saturday, October 04, 2008
I'm dogsitting again. This time for a giant fluffy dog named Faith. Here's my dilema of the moment. I am going to a friend's tonight for dinner + Auburn game + concert. I'm expected at 6:00. Which means I need to leave around 5:30. I need to shower and get ready which generally takes an hour so that takes me to 4:30. The crunch is, I need to take the dog for an extended walk, one in which she will need to do her big business (or be locked in a house for hours wishing she had done her big business). The dog walk takes half an hour. Meaning I need to go walk her at 4:00 (in six minutes) in order to keep on schedule and not have to walk her after I'm cleaned up.
No problem, right? Well . . . maybe. But she's used to being walked and doing her big business a few hours later than this. So, I wonder, will the early walk produce the desired result? It is an experiment of the likes of, what's the name of that show where those guys do things like drop a dummy in a plummeting elevator and make him jump the second before it hits the bottom to test the theory and see if he'll survive? The only TV Show name coming to mind at the moment is "What Not to Wear." Don't ask. Anyway, it's like that. MYTH BUSTERS!! Yes, thank you, whoever shouted that out.
It's 3:59pm. Time to put on my socks and shoes, grab a leash and two plastic bags (yes two, sometimes she does her big business twice!) and see what I can eke out of her. I'll keep you posted.
And the verdict is . . .
No Big Business
What will the evening hold for Faith? What will tonight's late-night return hold for Melanie? Time will tell.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
It's more or less the previous post on this blog, which was published yesterday on Burnside Writers Collective (burnsidewriterscollective.com), a website started by Donald Miller (author of Blue Like Jazz) that markets itself as "an alternative to franchise faith." I'm still getting over the shock that they actually published what I wrote, and now it's on some guy's blog in Germany? You gotta love the internet (and when I say love, what I mean is "be freaked out by").
The notion that other people may actually read what I write is . . . well, it still makes me uncomfortable. I know, I know, I've written on this blog for a year and a half, but that's just you guys--mostly friends and a handful of strangers. I've written for Network Magazine, but those are articles about other people, not ones expressing my own thoughts. I've written lots of corporate copy, but again, that doesn't express what I think. And while I've published personal essays a few other places, Burnside's audience is easily the largest yet to read my personal thoughts.
Suddenly I'm finding myself wanting to shout, "Wait! I'm not sure I meant that. Don't take me too seriously. Those were just some thoughts I had. Don't feel like you need to share what I wrote with friends or--with Germany, for goodness sake!"
There are two sides to this coin. Heads: I hope this helps me to gain the confidence to continue putting my work out there, rather than assuming I don't have anything to say or the ability to say it. Tails: I also hope I don't start thinking too much about the ramifications of something I might write and thus hinder myself from free- flowing thought.
I've heard of this happening to new authors who hit it big right out of the gate. They write their first book, freely expressing their passion for the subject and bam! it becomes a bestseller. Instantly they are asked to write a second, third, and fourth book. But now they can't write, because they're suddenly aware that people are actually going to read and form an opinion about what they write. They overly self-edit and their second book is a mere whisp of the first.
Okay, this was helpful. I just had to tell somebody about the Germany thing and talk it out. Shake it off, Mel, shake it off. All is well. Good in fact. Right? Absolutely. Is it too early for a glass of wine, do you think?
Thursday, September 25, 2008
In interviewing a medical missionary in Ethiopia, I learned about a mother and her six children who live in a room the size of a double bed. The mother is dying of AIDS after having contracted the HIV virus from an unfaithful husband who then abandoned the family. She is shunned by society. And she is just one of thousands of women who share a similar story.
I have not visited Ethiopia. I have not met any of these mothers who are dying of AIDS, mothers who silently wonder what will become of their soon-to-be orphaned children. I have not stepped foot into their tiny dwellings made from corrugated metal and plastic tarps. I have only seen photos and spoken with those who work among them. And yet I am deeply disturbed.
Due to the timing, it was unavoidable for me to contrast the devastation in Ethiopia with the current devastation here in the U.S. Our stock market is as unsteady as a drunken man on a balance beam. Major financial institutions are falling apart. Wall Street brokers are in a frenzy, blindly reaching for anything they can find to steady themselves. And a young woman in Ethiopia with no concept of Wall Street awakens, wondering how many more meals she will share with her children.
This morning I sat in my living room, not large by most standards, but probably six to eight times larger than the single room shared by an Ethiopian family of seven, and let my eyes slowly absorb the view. This is my living room. This is just one room in my house. A room that is used purely for lounging, not for cooking or sleeping. A leisure room.
Glancing around I noticed the luxuries in this one room. Television (with cable, DVD player, and a rarely used VCR). Stereo. Gas fireplace. Wall-to-wall carpeting. Two couches and two chairs. Seven pillows. One blanket. Three tables. Two lamps, an overhead light fixture, and a ceiling fan. Two windows. Three entrances. Painted walls and a painted ceiling. Art on the wall. Four electrical outlets. A phone outlet, never used because I prefer a cell phone. A laptop computer with high-speed internet. And a stack of half-read magazines and catalogs two inches thick.
As I let each detail of the room sink into my consciousness, I thought about the Ethiopian mother in “a room the size of a double bed.” I reviewed my notes from the missionary interview and I hesitated about the accuracy of that quote until I noticed the photo. Several Ethiopian women were playing hostess to an American missionary, sharing a plate of bread or crackers in a tiny shelter. Yes, I realized, it was indeed that small.
Thinking about the daily lives of these families in Ethiopia, I wonder what it would take for us to understand that kind of poverty. These families are desperate for God in every way; for their health, their food, their safety, their children’s future. They are in a position to depend on God alone that we, as Americans, can’t begin to comprehend. As strange as this may sound, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we were to embrace the falling economy rather than fight it.
The U.S. government is scrambling to make decisions about providing bail-out loans to save crashing institutions; administering quick fixes to keep the whole house of cards from overnight decimation. While I understand our “plug-up-the-dam” logic, I have to wonder if that isn’t a bit like giving an alcoholic the keys to the liquor cabinet.
I realize in this case the alcoholic controls our entire financial system, and that if the government fails to intervene, the U.S. economy will collapse, severely impacting people at every level of society. But still, I wonder if allowing the natural consequences rather than preventing them might be the more biblical response. Maybe our nation needs to hit bottom. Maybe we need to experience a depression in order to shock our systems enough to admit we have a significant idolatry problem and that we desperately need to seek treatment.
What would it do for our nation if we could live for even a few days in poverty akin to the daily experience of many around the world? Would we start to look at things a little differently? Would it be as important to own houses that are bigger than we need or can afford? Or would we begin to thank God for the cool breeze of the day, for another day of life to spend with our children, for a soft blanket, or a meal shared in love?
What we seem desperate to stop could potentially be the best thing our nation could ask for. As Christians, wouldn’t the wisest thing be to get on our knees and beg God to save us, not from financial devastation, but from our love of money? If the answer is yes, the daunting question then becomes, are we willing to suffer the consequences for the good of our nation?
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
First I started wondering if he was right. Did I have the capacity to contribute wisdom to an intellectual discussion? If so, why have I felt otherwise? I started thinking of a number of things I could do if this were true. I could take more risks entering into conversations that feel a bit over my head with less fear of being thought of as foolish. I could write thoughtful editorials and submit them to various magazines and websites for possible publication, something I would have never even dared to consider before. My assumption has long been that I was not at an intellectual level where I could even compete. And I am beginning to realize that assumption has held me back.
But there’s another side to the thought process: the fact that all this sudden thinking about my wisdom and intelligence (which may or may not be reality, it was a passing comment by one person) has definitively served to feed my selfish pride, and surprisingly has not really served to quench my insecurity. I’ve started thinking, “wow, maybe I am something.” And then quickly sinking into thoughts like, “but maybe that was a fluke,” and remembering all the times I’d said something in a discussion that was met with blank stares and felt a sense of “poor girl, she doesn’t get it.”
Can you see the self-focus growing? I am learning I have zero ability to judge myself, and that others’ judgments are fickle and inconsistent. They can’t be trusted. And they say nothing at all about genuine worth which is found only in Christ.
Here’s where I’m supposed to come in and say that we’re not meant to find our worth in the eyes of the world which changes like shifting shadows. We’re meant to find our value in Christ alone. And that’s truth. But I haven’t figured out how to apply the truth yet. Neither have I learned what to do with affirming comments. Can I use them to help build my confidence and challenge me to try new things? Or should they be downplayed because of their inherent dangers? And what do I do with the rejections? Do I take them to mean I have no ability (to reason or to write) after all? How do I properly assess myself? How do I build confidence and humility at the same time?
As I mentioned at the beginning, I haven’t begun to reach conclusions in this matter. Maybe part of that is due to my relenting need to overanalyze everything. Maybe I need to work harder to let all the thoughts go, and trust that God will accomplish His purposes in me regardless. After all, He’s pretty darn good at knocking down selfish pride when He wants to. It’s the proper balance that I crave.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Which means I haven’t been:
b) running or biking or researching biking
d) spending quality time with God
f) moving forward in my life
And that I have been:
a) sleeping a lot
b) emotionally eating and gaining weight
c) saying no to social activities and then complaining that I’m lonely
d) watching the Olympics instead of thinking
e) spending too much time on Facebook
f) slipping backwards in my life
It’s amazing what happens when you default into coping mode. It's intensely frustrating. All of the sudden I felt like all these things I've worked so hard to achieve just disappeared, most importantly emotional stability. It's like when your immune system is compromised and you catch every little bug within two miles of your breathing space. There is no thinking of achieving great goals. Suddenly the goal becomes keeping it together, getting enough rest to make it to the next day, finding food whenever and wherever, trying not to destroy relationships.
I realize I probably sound overdramatic. But this is how it's felt to me. No transition is as easy and smooth as I think it should be. Eventually things will even out, and are beginning to do so already (evidenced by the fact that I'm blogging again), but none of it is fast enough to satisfy.
I hate this feeling of two steps forward, one step back. I desperately want to be one of those people who only moves forward. One who takes positive steps and is ever increasing in fulfilling their potential. One who leaps over roadblocks on the strength of a power bar.
I've been reading about Rick Warren lately. Big mistake! This guy is doing huge things to change culture around the world. Huge things! I can't even manage to take off five pounds. Or buy a bicycle helmet. Or go to the grocery. Or call a friend. Everywhere I look there seem be Rick Warrens and Michael Phelps and Oprah Winfreys and even 15-year-olds named Miley, not to mention a million others, who just touch things and they turn to gold. And then there's me.
The point I’m trying to make here is not that I'm a loser, though I suppose that could be debated, but rather that I hate seeing my own weakness. I hate that I am so easily sidelined. Weakened. Deterred. I hate that I'm not on the list of rising stars in any category.
It all comes down to worth. At the bottom of it all. What determines my worth? Is it fulfilling my potential? Is it being respected? Admired? Strong? Thin? Financially stable? Emotionally stable? Successful? Married? Able to cook?
True enough, the world says those things do determine who I am. The world says I'm slipping backwards. That I must become strong to earn worth, to earn love. The question is, am I going to listen?
Because this is reality: this world is not my home. I belong to Someone with a different set of values. Someone who wants to remind me I am just as valued as the world changers, and just as valued as the near-homeless alcoholic who has failed at every relationship and lost every possession.
Yes, I’m further down the mountain than I’d like to be. But I matter to God. May my frustrations of late serve to remind me that others, especially the weak and the discarded, matter just as much.
Sunday, August 03, 2008
So, in leiu of my high school reunion, I did the most fun thing I could think of--I painted a la Van Gogh.
It was called Art Night, hosted by Church of the Redeemer, and it proved to be the perfect therapy for my anti-reunion angst. For $5, I got a canvas, brushes, paints, and all the encouragement I needed to play Van Gogh for the night.
I'm not an artist. I've never had that gift. But I love playing, pretending like I do. It's kind of like art karaoke. Instead of playing rock star, I got to play tortured post-impressionist for the night. This particular Art Night was all about Van Gogh, kind of like how American Idol has a music theme for the week where the idol-wannabees sing songs of a particular artist.
Now I am taking a big risk here by posting a photo of my copy of Van Gogh's Fishing Boats on the Beach at Saintes-Maries. Like I said, I'm not an artist, but rather I'm more like a first-grader eager to show off what she made in school that day.
Hmm, it came out kind of blurry. Well, that's probably a good thing. You can't see the flaws as well. This also marks the first time ever in my life that I have taken a photo with a digital camera, pulled it out of the camera, downloaded it onto my computer, and posted it on my blog, so I at least deserve credit for figuring out how to do all that. My word, I sound like my mother. I wonder if I'm going to be this far behind the technology wave for my entire life.
Oh, and to brag on another technological breakthrough [seriously, all this is a big deal. I'm the girl who doesn't know how to download music onto an ipod. (But if anyone has an old ipod they want to get rid of, I'd be willing to learn.)] So, where was I? Oh yeah, my new breakthrough. I learned how to funnel my blog through Facebook notes! Hooray for me. So if you're reading this on Facebook I guess I should tell you that this is my blog. Which is really located at http://www.lifeonatinyisland.blogspot.com/. I feel a little annoying-obnoxious feeding this through Facebook because it's going to show up on everybody's news feed every time I post something new. Which is kinda like "Hey. Over here. Look at me!" Hmmm. Just realized that's kind of what I was doing with my painting. I'm still in first grade, aren't I?
I'm meeting Susan for lunch today to get the down low on the reunion. I still want to know what everybody's up to. I just didn't want to explain what I've been up to (which is pretty much nothing.) I think it is entirely possible that Susan and I are the only two people from the Tucker High School class of '88 who never married. And I realized as I wrote that how much I dislike that phrase "never married." It sounds like it's a done deal forever. But at a certain point people stop saying "hasn't married yet" and start saying "never married." And now I'm doing it! Aaaah!
And I guess it's really not true that I've done nothing these last twenty years. I mean just last night, I painted a real painting on real canvas, just like Van Gogh. (Let's not mention the ear-severing thing, ok?)
Friday, August 01, 2008
I admit it, I am a monthist. I discriminate against months that don't live up to my ideal month standards. August just doesn't cut the mustard. Reason number one? Unbearable heat and humidity. Well, at least in Atlanta. I think if I lived in Maine near Pete and Jackie for example, August could well transform into my favorite month of the year--a mindblowing achievement for a month if you think about it. But I do not live in Maine. I live in Georgia. Have you been in Georgia in August? I mean you cannot breathe because the humidity is so dense.
What I am thankful for is that I live in an age of air conditioning. Oh my word, I'm remembering that torturous summer when I drove a car without air conditioning. Oh man! Let's change the subject. I'm getting irritible just thinking about it.
Another bummer about August is just that it marks the end of summer. My teacher friends all go back to school and life gets rote again. Oh my goodness I just remembered a dream I had last night. There was Christmas music on the radio on one channel and I remember riding in the car with my mom and she asked if I could handle listening to that yet or if she should change the station. Man, my anti-August bias is mixing with my anti-Decemeber bias and affecting my dreams. This cannot be good.
So, let's swing to the saving grace of August, 2008. Beginning August 8th we'll be transported out of Atlanta and to one of my favorite places in the world: China. Yes, the Olympics. This August's silver lining. Now if you've ever been in Beijing in August, it ain't much better than Atlanta, but as long as we're all suffering together, let's get distracted with gymnastics and swimming and visions of Gold. Can you feel it easing up? The oppressive heat dissapates in the excitement.
Incidentally, I was in China for the Olympics back in 1996. Yes, the summer the Olympics were in Atlanta, I was in China. Let me tell ya, China is an amazing country to visit, but if you have to watch the Olympics on television, you do not want to do it in China. I'm not talking about the language barrier, I'm talking about Olympics priorities. Thankfully China is into gymnastics, so watching that was not a problem. Swimming? Diving? These were another matter. I remember several times I'd be watching a swimming or diving competition and mid-competition the station would suddenly switch to their favorite sport: ping pong. It made me crazy! I mean it is pretty fascinating to watch those guys play, but what about the US? Did we win a swimming medal? Who knows? I can assure you we did not win a medal in ping pong.
Yes, August is here, and yes, I'm anxious about it, but, I will endure it. Thanks to the Olympics. And air conditioning.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
The crux of all the lessons is the same. I need to empty myself of my ego if I want greater intimacy with God. And I do want greater intimacy. So what have I been doing? Praying for greater intimacy. And what has God been doing? Revealing every barrier of desire, one by one, and asking me to kill them. Which of course I cannot do. So I have to ask Him to kill them. But in the middle of the execution I start screaming for Him to stop. I have changed my mind. I do not want this surgery. I do not want to die. Never mind, Lord. Forget I said anything. Let's go back to peace and quiet for a while, okay? He relents. And so the battle continues.
If anyone out there has the anesthesia that will make these surgeries more bearable, please share. I will pay big money for it. Well, if I had big money I would.
I really like this new show, Hopkins, a reality/documentary following doctors and patients at Johns Hopkins. On a recent episode, a patient had been brought into the ER who had dislocated his shoulder and was in severe pain. The doctor held the man's arm and told him they were going to pop it back into place, and that it would hurt, but only for a short time. The man, who seemed to be intoxicated, started yelling, "No, no, no. Stop. Don't do it!" The doctor let go of his arm, stepped back and said "Okay. You can go through life with your arm like that if you want to." Needless to say, the man left the hospital with his shoulder back in its rightful position.
God shot me with that one. Melanie, He said, Do you want to go through life with a dislocated self, full of ego, knowing that it will prevent you from the greater healing and intimacy that I want you to have? And I'm stuck. How do you answer that? And so it continues. Yes, Lord, do what you want. No! Stop! Wait!
So can you see, just a little, why I'm weary? Let's just do the surgery and be done with it! And yet I can't make it all the way through. So it's just a tedious, painful process.
But I'll grant God one thing, He is increasing my yearning for intimacy with Him. Day by day increasing it to the point where the pain begins to come from another direction, the pain of separation slowly competing with the pain of execution. And maybe that is exactly the anesthesia I need.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
I knew it wouldn't fly well with some folks, my going alone, so I didn't tell anybody. Except my Dad who lives in another state. And I did write the name of the Bike Rental Shop I intended to use on a notepad in my mom's kitchen, so that if I never returned home she would know where to tell police to look.
So you either know about it or you don't. A woman was murdered on the Silver Comet Trail several years ago. And there was that mugging a couple months ago. So I had to weigh that against my intense desire to have a gorgeous bike ride on a long flat paved trail that could possibly turn me onto the love of cycling forever. I thought about it. Fear vs. Logic. And Logic won.
I reasoned that hundreds (thousands?) of folks have been walking, running, biking, and rollerblading on the Silver Comet Trail 365 days a year since that murder. Logically, it is more likely that I would be killed in a car accident than attacked on the Silver Comet Trail. True, it messes with your head. And I'd determined to be smart about it, wearing a whistle around my neck and making sure there were others on the path where I was riding, coming and going in both directions.
My final decision to go came from advice from an unusual source. As I was debating, I glanced over at the Parade Magazine laying on the counter. A picture of Kevin Costner and a quote, "Don't let fear hold you back." I laughed. Wisdom from Kevin Costner, who'd have thought? And I had to agree. I don't want to live my life based on fear. Who said "if I perish, i perish"? The fiery furnace guys? Oh, no it was Esther. Yes, Queen Esther. Of course she was risking her life to save Israel, but still.
Well I have to say that it was the best bike ride of my life. On flat, paved trails I was able to bike 20 miles without a problem. Which honestly shocked me because I could barely go one mile in Ken's neighborhood. The trail was gorgeous. Peaceful. Pleasant. Energizing. And really not at all scary. There were plenty of others on the trail.
One thing that surprised me was that it was harder than I thought it would be to get into the meditative frame of mind that I was searching for. I've wondered about those guys on the Blood:Water Mission cross-country ride that just ended. Were they able to meditate during their 80+ mile a day rides? I think I was surprised, that even on the easy breezy Silver Comet Trail, my mind was consumed by the energy it took to ride the bike. Is this because I'm inexperienced and out of shape, or is that just reality? I was able to pray some, but not nearly as much as I'd hoped.
Still, about 20 minutes into the ride I was certain that I wanted to do this every day for the rest of my life. I glanced out at neighborhoods I passed along the trail wondering if they had any rentals available. How amazing would it be to walk out your front door and be able to ride a bike for as long as you wanted in a setting like that?
The aftermath of the two hour bike ride was completely another matter. I felt great during the entire ride. As soon as I got off the bike and into my car, I crashed big time. I stopped at a convenience store for Gatorade and Power Bars. I could not wait until I got home to eat something. I hadn't even thought to bring any food because I knew I'd only be out for two hours. I had plenty of water (and there are plenty of places to stop for water along the trail) and it just didn't even cross my mind that food would be important.
Are y'all laughing at me? If you are then I know you're a real cyclist, someone who would say "of Course you have to eat, you idiot." I'm telling you. It didn't occur to me.
I was never sore, but it took me two full days to regain my normal energy level. Two days! And it was an easy ride. Really.
I have a lot to learn. But I'm getting there. I wore my first ever bicycle helmet that day. I now own bike shorts for the first time in my life.
A long way to go, but a step closer. I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, please take up my cause of improving the PR of the Silver Comet Trail. I'll give out free whistles if I need to.
Monday, July 21, 2008
It may be possible that I just picked the wrong place to start my biking quest because when I returned the bike and told Ken where I'd gone, his eyes got really big and said something like "Oh wow, them there's some hills over yonder, there are!" Okay, so Ken doesn't talk like that, but the senitment was the same.
Still, I can't exactly blame it all on the hills. I'm not quite what you'd call in shape. Yet. Yet. Yet. I may get there, IF I can keep myself from quitting after my first experience.
I tried out both Ken's bike and Robyn's bike. Ken's is a mountain bike, and a man's bike. My first question is: what difference does the sex of the bike make? Is it the seat? I don't see what advantage that straight bar on a man's bike gives anybody. Or is that just to tell the two apart? No matter. These questions will be answered in time.
I am embarrassed by how hard it was just to get out of Ken's neighborhood. The long slow hill was taxing, but after weaving from one side of the road to the other, I eventually made it. Though by the third hill (granted, a steep one), I had to get off and walk up the rest of the way. Even using the word walking is a bit of a misnomer. More like shuffled leaning. I moved like an asthmatic little old lady. (No offense to any little old ladies who might be reading this.)
On a positive note, I've decided I really like the downhill part of biking. And if I could find a place that was all downhill riding, I could really get into this. I would still pedal to get (or pretend to get) some exercise. But it would be fun.
Overall, I'm not sure I could call yesterday's ride fun. I have this fantasy image of what riding a bike should be. Zooming along on well-paved roads with nature singing to me all around, my mind freed from any thoughts but ones of contemplative meditation. Me and God, riding through life together.
Maybe I need to figure out why I really want to learn to ride. Exercise or pleasure? Of course I want both, but is that realistic? I think if I have to pick one, I'd pick pleasure. Which means easy riding is a must. But I do want to be able to check off my workout on the good ole to-do list. Who wants to go running after a bike ride? (Crazy triatholoners like Tracy or the Butlers, that's who.)
I think I don't really like the mountain bike. I tried Robyn's hybrid after I finished using Ken's and enjoyed it much more, but by then I was exhausted and could only ride around in circles in front of their house. Perhaps not the best way to judge the quality of a bike.
Oh, and here's another thing. I hurt in places I didn't expect to hurt. Quads, fine. But my hands and shoulders hurt. What is this about? I felt like all of my weight was on the handlebars. Why is it good to lean forward when biking? When we biked in China last summer, we got to sit up straight and it was delightful! We rode and we sang (ala The Sound of Music) and it was blissful. Why isn't that reality in America?
So, suffice it to say, I've got a long way to go. I've kicked up my investigation and begun talking to cyclists at all levels. One friend assures me I can get a decent bike for under $1,000; another says I can find a good one at a garage sale for $20. One friend says a mountain bike is the only way to go, another says a road bike is so much easier to ride.
My latest search has been for bike rental places around Atlanta. Naturally I checked out the one closest to my house, Bikeways of Tucker. I had to include this photo from their website because it cracked me up. If you have never been to Tucker, you may need a little help with the humor. Tucker looks nothing like this. If it did, trust me, I'd be on a bike faster than you can say zip-a-dee-do-da. (Okay, I realize it takes a bit of time to say zip-a-dee-do-da, thus making it an ineffective point, but it popped out.)
I'll keep y'all posted. As of today, it still remains to be seen whether there will be a Day Two of my cycling adventures.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
But that is not what I sat down to write about. What I sat down to write about is much more serious than that. It's spiritual. About sin and stuff. Only now my head is clouded with a fog and a craving for carbs. I should go work out. That's what I should do. But I just got here. And I'm all clean and dressed and such. You know what's wrong with Panera? No protein snacks. You want a snack, it's gotta be bread. I just want, I don't know, like some peanut butter or something. Or a cheese stick.
I don't know if the spiritual thing is going to work today. Because now I'm thinking about biking. Lately I've been wondering if I could be take up biking. I'm starting to ask around, find out what other people do and enjoy, but this really does nothing to tell me if I could really hack it. Here's the thing. I want to like it. But do you go and spend hundreds of dollars on a bike based on wanting to like it? I have this fear that I'll get a bike, ride around the neighborhood a few times, and realize that hills and humidity make me want to kill people, and then never get on the bike again. I mean, sure, there's a chance I could love it, and you don't know until you try. But there's also a chance I could hate it. And what then? Money down the drain.
I biked some when I lived in Cedar Key. I borrowed Lauren's bike, which was pretty nice, and rode all over the island for hours at a time. But. But Cedar Key is kinda like...Indiana. Flat. There is a hill on the way up to the schoolhouse, but no one in Atlanta would call it a hill. Really, the flat biking is the kind of biking I love. But that is just not possible in this city. But I don't want to wimp out when it could be a good thing. And suddenly I'm aware that I'm overusing the word "but."
So then, I guess, there's the borrow-a-bike route. Which I really should do. Both Robyn and Carrell have offerred. It's a matter of getting with them and coordinating. And Robyn told me Jessica bikes, so I should talk to her. I don't know, I guess I'm still just really intimidated. It's like the Peachtree. It's an easy breezy race for everybody I know, but I can currently only run for a few minutes at a time without having to stop and walk a bit, and then I just feel out of shape. I don't want to run the Peachtree unless I can be like them--where it's, you know, easy. It's probably the same with biking. Why do I honestly believe that everything is harder for me than for other people?
The guy is head bobbing again. And he has this really serious "music is king" look on his face like he's actually on stage with his bass guitar. His brow is furrowed and every now and then he opens his mouth in a silent high note scream. Man, is he jamming.
I wonder if he bikes.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
What's the appeal? I'm not sure I know myself. I mean I know it's only pretend-reality, manufactured stories for the sake of entertainment, and that some of these people's lives are seriously messed up, but I don't really care. I'm still intrigued.
And if there's not reality tv, there's the new stream of true crime mysteries that I seem to keep getting sucked into. The other week they had this one where a totally normal seeming guy tried to kill his whole family, arranging to be shot in the leg himself by the "intruder" to throw suspicion off him. His Dad lived and is now his best friend, while he awaits execution. I couldn't sleep after that. But even more sleep-disrupting are the ones where you're not quite sure, even after the verdict, if the guy really did it.
I need a life, don't I?
You know what else? I love blockbuster movies. Pretty much, I love movies in general. In the theater, that is. I almost never rent DVDs or watch movies on TV. Why should I when there's reality tv or crime mysteries? (only reality crime, I don't like CSI-type shows.) Truth is I love the experience of being in the theater. Huge screen, music, drama, emotion. To me it's like the difference between going to a concert and listening to a CD. Is that weird?
There's this sense, with some of the movies I like to go see, that they are beneath me. I mean that in the sense that friends sometimes give me that look that says "You want to see what? Why?" Even movies that get bad reviews, if the preview intrigues me, I have to go.
Just as I appreciate good literature, NPR, and Frontline, I also enjoy good art films, brilliant screenwriting, and insightful directing. I support Project Greenlight. I used to go to the Telluride Film Festival every year. But that doesn't mean I don't love a good sci-fi special-effects-ridden blockbuster just as much. Bring on the aliens and the one-dimensional heros. I still know the difference between Peter Berg and the Coen Brothers.
I'm not sure why I get defensive. I guess I want to be thought of as possessing high-brow intelligence, but at the same time I have this insatiable need to defend my right to just be mindlessly entertained.
One final confession: I think Ellen Degeneres is just about the funniest person on tv.
Or maybe I just like her because she appreciates reality televison.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Tracy's Mama Mia party
Falling in love with a guy who gets that I'm amazing
Losing 10 pounds
The next season of LOST
Ghostwriting a book
Visiting Shannon in Hawaii
Seeing more of God's redemption in the life of someone I care about
More time with Dad
Getting my economic stimulus check (I'm at the bottom of the list.)
Taking a Chinese painting and caligraphy class
Feeling like I'm moving forward in life
Going out to dinner with Mom
Buying new clothes
Free wireless at the new Tucker Starbucks
Mom getting cable and hi-speed internet
Willie Ames new book (I know, I'm a Teen Beat geek.)
Skipping my 20 year high school reunion
Going to the dogpark with Dixie
Better television (Wipeout?? I Survived a Japanese Game Show??!)
Heidi writing me back (how's that for a hint?)
Getting over my Don Miller crush
Being recognized for my creative brillance while remaining humble
Getting comments on this blog post
Today's voice mails from Carrell
One day owning a massage chair like David Webb's
Having the confidence to post real pictures of myself
Rocky VII (kidding!)
Ending this blog
Sunday, July 06, 2008
I'm supposed to write about sparklers. By supposed to I only mean that I asked the guys at the party what I could blog about and Dave tossed out the word "sparklers," which made sense because that's what we were holding at the time. But, sparklers aren't really on my mind at the moment so I'm going to take a risk and go out on my own a bit. Light my own fire, so to speak.
It is entirely possible that I just attempted to slice cheese with a letter opener. I can't be sure, because this instrument was found in a silverware drawer. I thought, "oh, this will work great!" Only it didn't. And as I was sawing at the cheese (Vermont White Cheddar Extra Sharp), it hit me. "This kinda looks like a letter opener." And then I got embarrassed. What if they find out? (They, being the people I'm dogsitting for--the wine people, who surely know how to properly cut cheese.) Still I can't be sure it was a letter opener. I mean who keeps a letter opener in a silverware drawer? It had a fat wooden handle, like an ice pick, but the stainless steel blade was very letter-openeresque. And it didn't cut cheese too well.
So that was one thing on my mind. Only now I seem to have forgotten the dozen or so other things I was thinking. Let me take a few minutes back with my book to possibly jump start my creative brain. I'm reading this brilliant book called A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. I couldn't figure it out at all at first. The back cover of the book gives absolutely no insight other than things like "Exhilarating!" "Funny!" "Profoundly Moving" Which all made me want to read it but gave me zero insight into what exactly I was getting myself into.
It's a memoir, but I didn't even know that until a handful of pages in. Still, I didn't know, a memoir about what? My next thought, 100 pages in was, "okay, so this guy can ramble incessantly and it's entertaining enough, but brilliant? Pulitzer brilliant?" (He was a Pulitzer Finalist.) But now, half way through, I get it. He's brilliant, or at least wildly clever. I can't figure out if he knew what he was doing (planning it all out, how he would convey the story), or if he's just one of those naturally creative people out of whom spills a mess that people deem brilliant only because they don't have the gift. I guess what I mean is, how hard did he try? (And more importantly, could I do it?)
My feet are cold.
This is relevant because no longer do I harbor illusions that I will resume with inspiration and spill out brilliantly random thoughts here today. And the reason those illusions have faded is simple. My feet are cold. Just as hunger trumps good conversation, so cold feet trump blogging.
What I mean is this. I must go warm my feet. It is far more important than anything else in my world at this very moment. And the liklihood that I will return to this cold room with the computer is unlikely. What is more likely is that I will go warm my feet with socks and a blanket on the sofa, settle in with my almost Pulitzer-winning memoir and a Coke Zero, and shortly thereafter close my eyes and dream the afternoon away.
And this may be irrelevant, but I feel the need to share what I've discovered in the last 20 minutes: lemonade and extra sharp white cheddar cheese is a terrible combination.