Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Short Rant, a Hard Truth, and Something Funny to Make Up for it.

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be English lit. majors. I am truly, truly grateful for kind interest and helpful suggestions about work from people. And yes, there is a BUT. I am just tired of the "Have you considered ...?" and the "Have you thought about ..?" and the "Have you tried ...?" The answer is YES, okay? Yes, I have considered, I have thought about, and I have tried. And now I am receiving "thanks for applying, this position has been filled, we will keep your resume on file" notices for part-time grocery checker positions.

God has really shown me a lot of pride and insecurity throughout this process. Not easy to learn, but I am grateful that He is doing that for me. I am praying for a heart that is humble, hopeful, and focused on service. This is still in progress, as evinced by my fed-up-ness with the conversation above. Really? What kind of a response to loving interest and desire to help is that?

I promised something funny. And here it is, continuing last week's Star Wars theme no less. What do you know? A B.A. in English Literature is good for something, after all!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Me, Darth Maul, and Other Fugitives (Long)

Sleeping in, dates at Starbucks, and just plain going grocery shopping together. I am loving DH’s spring break! My admirable husband is keeping up with his studies, but we're still taking advantage of the extra free time. We've even started re-viewing the Star Wars hexology. Yes, all six movies. Even Episode I. (What WAS George Lucas thinking? Then again, I can see how the brain that came up with Ewoks, after several years' slow decline into senility, might think that Jar Jar Binks was actually a hilarious idea.)

Regardless of its strengths or weaknesses as a movie, I have a secret fondness for Episode I. You see, it features two of my favourite characters. My fondness for these two has nothing to do with their role in the story or the skill with which their actors portray them.

I like Queen Amidala. Not Padme, the emotive "handmaiden"; not the sensual, inexplicably older-but-apparently-grown-completely-STUPID Senator of Episode II, but the padded and painted Queen. I like her because of her outrageously voluminous, outrageously numerous ceremonial costumes. You could stick Jabba the Hutt in those gorgeous robes, paint his face, and tie on a thirty-pound headdress, and call him Queen Amidala, and as long as he spoke in an emotionless monotone no one would be able to tell the difference.

And I like Darth Maul. You see, he's got a full set of armor, tattooed in red and black stripes across his face. He could be giggling uncontrollably, grimacing in fear, or weeping with the tortuous weight of guilt he's accumulated from his years of Sithly deeds. And all anyone would be able to see would be Tattooed Scary Evil Guy.

Why do I like those characters? Because they're safe. Nobody can see anything but the functional role they have assumed. Padme's heart can be broken (although really - Hayden Whatsisname acting like a thirteen-year-old Artistic Soul?) -- Queen Amidala's heart is invisible. Unassailable. All that is there is the even performance of her function as Queen.

Kind of a long and nerdy intro, I know. I've been reading this book, by Ed Welch. As the title suggests, it's about what's up when other people become more important to a person (viz, me) than God. When other people become the focus of idolatry.

Do I define myself by who I am in Christ?

Or do I feel insecure when I can't compete with or measure up to others? Am I afraid of being laughed at? Of not being liked? Am I unable to say "no" when people ask me for commitments? Do I feel responsible for helping others and fixing their problems? Do I tell "little white lies" to smooth over difficult situations? To avoid offending people? Do I need to prove my independence from others? Do I avoid people? Do I feel that my "low self-esteem" is holding me back?

Do I fear God, or do I fear people?

This is a scary, scary book. It is a book that is not afraid to shine the light of truth into the scariest corners of our hearts. Reading it, I am confronted with my heart. It's not fun. I feel exactly like Eustace. Like God is peeling off all my makeup. And then my clothes. And then my skin.

My heart wants to be like Queen Amidala or Darth Maul. No, I don't want to rule the galaxy via the Dark Side of the Force. But, almost more than anything, I want to be functional -- unassailable -- in the ways those characters are. I want "people" to perceive me as someone who fulfills her role. Smoothly. I don't want them to see the inadequacies, the fears, the petty self-indulgences. I want a mask in the shape of my own face -- a mask that doesn't let through pouts or tears.

Why is it so important that others think of me -- not as someone extraordinary -- but as someone "functional"? So much so that, in the vast majority of my relationships, I exchange superficiality for real love and service?

Mr. Welch suggests that my tendency to hide from "people" is an indicator that I want to hide from God. Or perhaps, worded differently, a way to distract myself from the terror of that (inescapable!) Knowing.

Has anyone else read this book? What did you think?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

News & Notes

Some exciting things have happened this week.

DENNIS IS ON SPRING BREAK!!!! He has a test right afterward, but without extra lectures to worry about, we should have plenty of time to hang out and have fun ... and look at potential new apartments. After our first year of commuting through winter weather, an apartment closer to DH's university sounds more and more attractive!


The study schedule being less frantic, we have been playing DH's new game, Agricola. I am loving a strategy game that is about, get this, farming instead of world domination. I highly recommend this game -- it's fun, makes you use your brain but doesn't take three days to play, and is really well designed. Not to mention the fact that I can TOTALLY play with the goal of not being in debt at the end, instead of racking up the most points (I haven't "won" a game yet). Hey, my family is from small-farm Tennessee. A big profit from a family farm? Yeah, right!

Then again, the game is set in a (hilariously-illustrated) 16th-century. Whatever. It's fun anyway!


I got hit by a car. Apparently the nice family in the red van forgot they had a stop sign AND completely failed to notice that an enormous blue tank of a car was entering the intersection. By the grace of God, no one was hurt and damage to the vehicles was not too bad. I am very grateful that nobody was hurt, and that Mrs. Red Van's insurance is paying for repairs.

My brother Nathaniel is emphatically NOT allowed to read this last.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Visit To The Des Moines Botanical Center

Outside looks like everywhere: great slabs of white snow marbled with dirt and gravel. Gray pavement glazed over with pitted, grimy ice. Colourless, cold sky. Everything is flat, blank, bleak. The geodesic panes of the greenhouse rise from the parking lot with science-fiction strangeness.

Inside the dome: whorls and curlicues and tendrils. The air is exuberant, heavy with pollen and the lemony smell of growth. Green unfolds and uncurls itself, presses into every centimeter of space. Fullness of stems and fronds and buds and lacebitten leaves. Cursive scribbles of moss fill the spaces on the treestems; aggressive ferns push up beneath broad, spiral palms. The flowers are profuse and jubilant. They lack the decorous beauty of garden flowers, exploding in unnatural, chemical-bright splashes of scarlet, orange, fuchsia, magenta. Their shapes are exotic: frilled, curled, spider-legged, flat alien disks. Not ornamental, but aggressively, unmistakably sexual: anatomy-book closeups, unshy, flamebeautiful.

We few refugees from winter wander two-by-two, wide eyed. Unconsciously our fingers hover near jewelbright leaves and petals (don’t touch!). Human sparrow-pairs, drab in this peacock garden.

An elderly, besuited gentleman, very round of shoulder, very pink of skin, very white of hair. His fluting tulip-wife beside him, immaculately groomed, tastefully brooched and suited. 

The longhaired child, elflike even in her denim jumper, darting and peering: purple orchids (look mom! my favorite color), scary cactus, goldflashing carp. Mom, dumpy and solicitous, smiles.

A peroxide mane, 1980s smear of eyeshadow, cell phone glued to her ear. This woman is ludicrously obese, triple-chinned. Her stretch leggings (look twice, three times: still true!) painted over her lumpy, enormous behind. Thirty years ago she was smacking her gum, gossiping with the same girlfriends about the same (white—harmless?) trash. Ah—behind her, the longtime biker boyfriend, his badboy looks settled now into grizzled, shaggy self-confidence, stuffed into the same Harley tshirt and acidwashed jeans. These two belong together: middle-aged, unglamorous now, unbeautiful. They hardly look at one another; she smacks into her cell phone (she what? Gawd!), he strides behind his proud beerbelly, jingling in his boots. Leaving the greenhouse their arms drift around one another in an unplanned, habitual tenderness.

A thin girl, roundfaced and spectacled, in a little boy's black tshirt. She links hands with her boyfriend, listens as he crouches down to peer at the variegated undersides of leaves, points out the bunch of infant bananas (we had a banana tree once, the fruits fingerlength, thickskinned and bitter). Near the artificial stream there is a creaking, unsteady bench, baking in the sunwarmth trapped by the glass ceiling. Turtle-like, she sits and closes her eyes. Green presses through the thin skin of her eyelids: in great lime-coloured whorls, in sharpedged blades, in saucers and curls and chartreuse tendrils. 

Should this cake happen?