Saturday, September 29, 2007

P.S.

You know that ring I was whining about losing the other day? It's been missing for a month, and yesterday, after whining, I found it! See? Whining really does work. Sometimes . . .

Surprise and Delight

If I told you how I am now the owner of the new Annie Lennox CD before its release date, I might have to kill you, but all the same, I feel somewhat smug about this and just wanted you to know that I am.

Starbucks likes to encourage its employees to "surprise and delight" the customers, and I'm afraid that's a little hard to do when you're working with a skeleton crew, all of whom have coughs and fevers, as I was yesterday. And I also feel that "surprising and delighting" might be overstating things a little here, but I still have to say that I usually am most enthusiastic about things I wasn't expecting or hadn't heard of before. This happened when I saw the Matrix (the FIRST one. I only mean the FIRST one!) and Pirates of the Caribbean (again, let me emphasise that I am referring to the FIRST movie in these trilogies). I felt this way about Blue Like Jazz. It happened with the latest OtR release. And, when I unexpectedly received Songs of Mass Destruction before the release date, I was, at least on some level, surprised and delighted.

The problem with this is that I enthuse about these things for a while and then I get embarrassed and think everyone will wonder what kind of pathetic sense of style and taste I have--and then after that the things become blockbuster hits or whatever and it's disappointing because there's nothing edgy about my liking them.

But anyway, I'm just going to put out there, before the release date, that I'm really enthusiastic about the new Annie Lennox CD. It's not like I've been an Annie Lennox fan before this, although based on the songs of hers I've heard before now, I had a hunch I might could be. ("Might could," incidentally, is a verb form I picked up from College-Roommmate-Jenne, who's originally from Alabama.) But it's nice to hear music sung by people who can actually sing. And I just like Gospel- and soul-influenced music. Even if the person singing it is kind of missing something when it comes to the Gospel. Which I think it might be accurate to say Annie Lennox is (though I'm not sure I really "get" the Gospel, either, exactly, when I think about it).

Actually, the CD is a real downer, but it's a heck of a fun downer to listen to. Wikipedia says, "The album addresses global warming, Iraq, Aids, religious conflict, global poverty and inequality." I'm afraid I'm not perceptive enough to get all that, although I do get some of it. I think mostly she just sounds really lonely and sad and sometimes angry about it, and she would like the world to be fixed.

As would I. I find the whole thing a little conflicting, because as I listen to her words I want to say, "I get what you're saying, but if you just knew Jesus . . . " And I really mean it, and I really believe it, but the fact is that I have raged with the same sentiment and almost the same words, sometimes, against that very Jesus. And I can't say that I usually feel Jesus any more than Mother Theresa did, probably. (I'm just less brave about it.) So I can't truly say why, exactly, I feel that it would make a difference to Annie Lennox in this life for her to, say, "put her faith in Him." But there is something bedrock and comforting and "nevertheless" about trusting Him anyway, or trying to. And there's something about her lyrics that remind me of Him, almost as if she were wishing He were true, but not quite willing to believe it.

Anyway. I found myself praying for her on the way home from dinner with the Molly Llama last night. And I really do like the CD.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Odds and Ends

Ex-Roommate-Sarah and her fiance Stephen are getting married this weekend. Congratulations to them!

I used to have this really cool ring made out of silver and mother-of-pearl, and shaped like a flower. It is now missing. I try not to become distraught over things, but I really did like this ring. Anyone seen it?

Today as I was driving home, I saw an SUV with a decal saying "Family" in very fancy lettering on the back window. Apart from the fact that an SUV would say "Family," and in a rather bling-ish style font at that, is funny--I almost couldn't read the first letter, and thought it said, "scamily." Then I thought that "scammily" might be a good new adjective. Then I thought that you could create some really great doggerel (if that's not an oxymoron, which of course it is) by rhyming "family" and "scammily." But I couldn't. If you're up to the challenge, go for it. Just make sure you post it in the comments here.

Oh. And. I find it bizarre that I live in the northeastern part of the United States and it's been 90 degrees all week, even though September is almost over. That, I think, is a very odd end, indeed.

(Sorry. I know. It wasn't funny. You didn't even know it was supposed to be funny until I started apologising. But look--I'm done now, see?)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Prayer Walking

I skipped church on Sunday.

I didn't actually mean to, although I have been meaning to visit different churches in the WC in my efforts to "seek the good of the city" and also to seek what good is already being done. I thought I'd visit a church I'd never been to, and then head out to the walk to sponsor a cancer cure that was happening downtown. Starbucks was helping to support it.

In the end, partly because I didn't make myself get up sooner, and partly because I got caught up praying about something (not to make myself sound super-spiritual . . . or . . . anything . . . ), I didn't get to whatever Unvisited Church I had been planning on going to. I thought about just going to my usual church after all. But then I thought some more, and it occurred to me that joining in this Cancer Walk was also a way to seek the good of the city. Besides, all my Starbucks friends already know I'm churchy. They know I "don't work on Sundays" (whatever that actually means). I'm not sure they know that I care about some of the same things they care about, or that I would do something about that caring if it conflicted with one of my "religious" activities.

So I ditched church and walked. (I will add here that I slapped sun-screen on myself. Skin cancer runs in my family. I didn't think the sponsors of this thing would be too keen on its becoming known as the Walk to Cause Cancer or anything.)

The Starbucks people I managed to connect with on-site weren't walking--they were handing out free coffee and hot chocolate, which was kind of funny, since it's been unseasonably hot for about a week and a half. I helped with that a bit, but then the walking started, and so I set out. I somehow missed the other Walking Baristas from the district, and I never did manage to find them until I got back, even though we were all wearing green aprons. But walking "alone" in a huge crowd of non-violent people, all of us united by the fact that each of us probably knew someone touched by cancer and wanted it to stop, was how I discovered that this was a really great way to pray.

I think it's been well-established by now that I have some issues with praying. One which I maybe haven't mentioned much is the whole paying-attention-and-focusing thing. I'm not too good at it.

But it was a glorious day, and it was a five-mile walk, so there was plenty of time to refocus if I got distracted. And I found that, surprisingly, I wasn't all that distracted. I think if I had been trying to pray at home, for example, I would have hashed over and over the thing I had been praying about (and late for) that morning. I probably wouldn't have prayed for anyone or anything else. But the purpose of this walk was loud and clear on most of the walkers' t-shirts, and I couldn't stop thinking about all the people I knew who had struggled or were struggling with cancer. My great-uncle. Team Leader Ray. The daughter of some missionaries my church supports, who's only my age. I think her father has/had it, too. And, though I didn't think of them at the time, Emmanuel and Lloyd also suffered. (Lloyd never told me. I only found out about it later in an article.)

I prayed and I prayed, and I thanked God for those people, and for my own health so far, and for the people I was walking with, and . . . There are things about going to a church building and worshiping with other Christians that are vital, but I'm thinking maybe I didn't really miss church that day after all.

Photo: Courtesy of http://www.walktocurecancer.org/Picture_Album_2006.html#PicPos

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Grieving Process

There are quite a number of people whose departure from this life to the next has saddened me in some way this year. I guess, just as you can't predict when someone is going to go, you can't really predict when it's going to hit you. Or hit you again.

Last night I dreamed that I was invited to see Lloyd's house. I'm pretty sure he didn't live in a British terraced house (known as a row-house to us Yanks) relocated to Pennsylvania, but if he had, it might have looked like the one in my dream. In my dream I walked up the steps, through the front door, and straight to the back of the house where his study was. Somehow I knew that was where his study was. The door, which had one of those textured-glass windows in it, was ajar, and the light was on.

I entered slowly, reverently, almost expecting Lloyd to be sitting in there, working on a book. Someone was in there--one of the publishers or somebody who had been involved in getting me there--and everything seemed to be exactly as Lloyd had left it and exactly as I had expected it . . . but Lloyd himself wasn't there at all. I thought how ironic it was that I had actually been invited to his house but had never gotten to meet him in person. And I started to sob.

Clearly this dream was triggered by something I got in the mail yesterday, which I didn't read until I got home from work at 11.30pm. It was an invitation from a publisher to "light refreshments" at an establishment in New York City, in honour of Lloyd. I had half-imagined that someone might have found out about me while going through Lloyd's paraphernalia, but I didn't really expect anyone to do anything about it. I was kind of stunned and overwhelmed and flattered.

A publisher is going to be there. And some literary agents. I went to bed wondering if it would be totally tacky to go network at an event in memory of someone who had fairly recently died. But I guess my reasons for going wouldn't be entirely mercenary. I think the dream proved it.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Golden Rule

So, I'm not trying to negate anything Jesus said because I really do believe He's God and that what He said is as true as it gets.

But I'm just going to throw out there that some things, when viewed from a limited human viewpoint, don't always seem to work out quite like we might think from the way He stated them. Like that whole "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" thing? Doesn't always turn out so well.

Here's an example.

While my parents were here, one of the supermarkets had a two-for-one sale on Friendly's ice cream. Not being one to pass up a sale--or ice cream--my father bought us two boxes. Of ice cream with peanut butter in it. Clearly the makers of Friendly's ice cream are on my dad's wavelength, if they have two different peanut-butter-laden ice creams. My dad loves peanut butter, and ice cream, and chocolate, so clearly it was an act of love on his part (though he was also sure to benefit in some way) for him two buy these two decadent flavours. But see, my mom's not as keen on peanut butter in her ice cream as he is. And me? Well, I'm in a phase of not even liking peanut butter very much. So what was a very well-intentioned purchase turned into something of a family joke, and my parents ended up palming off one of the boxes on Uncle Ted and Cousin Paul.

So what to do? Because sometimes you just don't know things about people. Even though our family is pretty close, there are still things we don't even know about each other. Grandma Madeira used to make lemon meringue pie for my parents quite a lot because she thought they loved it, when really it's about their least favourite pie of all. (I let her make it for me anytime, though, because I really do love lemon.)

And then what about the times you do know things about people, but what you would have them do unto you is different than what they would have you do unto them? Like, for example, Until-Further-Notice Peter's birthday is in a couple of weeks, and he professedly hates surprises. (I bring this up in the blog so as to mitigate the surprise factor a little.) But me? I love them. Not the scary kind, or the make-you-feel-like-a-total-idiot kind, but there are lots of really great surprises that don't make you fear for your life or feel like the entire world is smarter than you. I love being surprised and I love surprising other people. So, what I would have others (by which in this case I mean my friends) do unto me is, say, blindfold me and take me to Boston to picnic on a swan boat or something unusual and unexpected like that. But I don't think UFN Peter would be all that into whatever the guy-equivalent of that is.

So how do you follow the Golden Rule then, huh?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Arrgghh!

I missed Talk-Like-a-Pirate Day! I put me in mind of it out on the docks, but as soon as I put into safe harbour to tell of it, I clean forgot. (Well, I would, wouldn't I?)

Belatedly, I discovered this about my pirate self (gender issues notwithstanding):



You scored as Sinbad.
You are gifted with gab and can talk your way
out of just about any situation.
Very charming, but sometimes the charm
gets you into trouble.
The gods look on you fondly and
sometimes throw obstacles at you
just to see how creative your solution is.

Sinbad


83%

Morgan Adams


83%

Captain James T. Hook


75%

Black Beard


42%

Captain Jack Sparrow


42%

Captain Barbosa


33%

Will Turner


33%

Long John Silvers


25%

Mary Read


25%

Dread Pirate Roberts


8%

What kind of Pirate are you?
created with QuizFarm.com


Now you take the quiz. Or walk the plank.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Apostrophe's. I Mean, "Apostrophes."

Maybe you know someone who has fits over faulty apostrophe usage. (Can we say "apostrophical usage"? 'Cause it sounds so much zanier.) I know a few such people. Actually, I am "such people," only I usually have apostrophe fits in my head, so you might not know about them.

We could talk about all the nuances of apostrophes' rules, but I just want to talk about plurals and possessives. It's not like I never err in this realm or anything, but I still just don't think the rule is that hard. Basically, you put an apostrophe in when you're talking about something belonging to someone ("apostrophes' rules," for example, or "Jenn's bad memory"), and you leave it out when you're talking about more than one of something (like "apostrophes" or "rehearsals").

Of course, there are always the exceptions, but if we just concentrate, they're not too hard. Sometimes you have to put an apostrophe in when there's more than one of something because it's already an abbreviation and people wouldn't know if that "s" on the end was part of the abbreviation or not. So, like, "DVD's," or "Jenn with two n's."

But today I was mulling this over on my lunch break and I thought, probably those people who came up with the apostrophe rules could have made it easier on everybody (and ditched a lot of the exceptions) if the rule went the other way around. For one thing, almost everybody nowadays puts apostrophes in all plurals, and none in possessives. "Possessive's," or something. Drives me nuts, but if they would have decided it was supposed to be like that in the first place, then there would be so many fewer errors. ("Many fewer"? Eh?)

Then you could have said, "Jenns two n's," instead of "Jenn's two n's," which is just confusing. Plus, it looks weird, and is nearly impossible to say, "Jennwith2n's's blog."

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Forgetful Jones

My parents left for their current country of residence last Thursday. When I was in college and my early twenties, I went galavanting off to places like India shaking my head at my parents' concern for my well-being. But now every time they leave, I can't wait until I hear that they've arrived at their destination safely. I would like to say that it was my deep and heartfelt concern that made the following episode (not) occur, but I'm pretty sure that's not it.

As I mentioned once before, I play my flute at church with the worship team on a fairly regular rotation schedule. The Thursday before we play, we always have a rehearsal. We played last Sunday, so of course we had a rehearsal scheduled for the corresponding Thursday. I was well aware of this. I had been conscious for weeks that I was playing on the 16th because various other momentous things (like Ex-Roommate-Sarah's bridal shower, for one) were also happening that day, so it was suitably highlighted in my mind.

I was also conscious of the rehearsal if for no other reason than that I had had conversations (real or virtual) about it with various worship team members all week. The very day of said rehearsal, it came up in my mind as I was bidding farewell to my parents.

Then I went upstairs to be productive or something, and felt kind of sad about the empty house, and watched some TV and went to bed. You may have noticed that I did not mention going to worship team rehearsal. That's because I didn't go. I didn't even realise I had missed it until I was drifting off to sleep, although once I did realise it, I couldn't sleep at all.

Actually, I became quite distressed, because this is the second time this has happened for that particular activity, and I did the same thing for Pioneer Clubs once. The particularly terrifying detail for me in this case was that during the very rehearsal I was missing, I happened to scan my calendar for something else and my eyes lit on the note I had written myself that I was playing on Sunday, and I still didn't realise what I was missing. You may recall that my Grandpa Madeira had Alzheimer's for something like 15 years before he went Home just before Christmas last year. I began to fret that I was going to become the youngest diagnosed victim of the disease.

"Fret" might be putting in mildly, I suppose. Actually, I had little melt-down. I thought I must be going crazy. I started talking to God out loud, as I do sometimes when I'm alone and upset. Then I thought that the fact that I was talking to Someone I couldn't see might be further proof in some people's minds that I was going nuts. Under normal circumstances this would have made me smile at myself, but for some reason (maybe because part of me felt like being frightened and angry) it didn't work that time.

The deep underlying irony, of course, was that the primary reason (followed by job decisions, parents leaving, roommates moving out, trying to decide if a new roommate is moving in, and relational adjustments) that I keep forgetting things is that I'm not getting enough sleep. And the reason I wasn't getting any sleep that night was because I couldn't get out of my head the detail that I hadn't been able to get into it when I needed it. (Well, that, and I had to get up at 3.45 a.m. Again.)

My mother (who hasn't heard this story before this writing) recently sent me an article about steps to take to be a more optimistic person--and why you should be. (Incidentally, she thinks I'm more optimistic than I used to be--and she's right. But clearly, as noted above, I have these relapses . . .) None of the things I did on Thursday were on the list. But neither was sleeping, I don't think. I'm pretty sure that (along with laughing at myself now) will help. Hahahahaha! Good night!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

What IS This World Coming To?

And all that.

Could somebody please tell me--is there such a place as "Cheaspeake"? No. I did not say "Chesapeake."
Today, as you can see above, I received a piece of mail from a company in Nebraska, which naturally sends its mail from Virginia. It would appear, however, that the postal service in Virginia needs a spell-check. How is it that the United States Postal Service can't even spell its place-names correctly for a metered stamp?

Unless, of course, "Cheaspeake" is an acceptable alternate spelling? 'Cause I googled it just in case, and I actually came up with some stuff. Can anyone elucidate?

Friday, September 07, 2007

I've Got Something in My Eye

We're kind of a sappy family, it turns out. This morning my parents (who, quite wonderfully, have been in town for the last month) and I were talking, and we got kind of "into" what we were talking about, and all three of us started crying. You might remember that I was engaging in that kind of activity fairly recently.

I find all this sappitude somewhat hilarious. Clearly each of us is highly in touch with his or her feelings. And apparently we process all of them by giving our tearducts a work-out. I may have mentioned this before, but when I turned three, my mother started crying at the breakfast table. When I asked her why, she said it was because I was getting so "grown up" and it made her happy.

Huh?

That was my first introduction to parental weeping for what seemed to me the bizarrest reasons, but my brother and I grew to become pretty familiar with it over the years. On Sunday afternoons after church, we used to read novels together aloud as a family. There were more than a few which my parents had to pass back and forth to each other at the end because they were crying too much over the poignancy of the final scenes to actually be able to finish reading them.

But . . . apparently it's hereditary. A late-onset thing or something, undetectable in childhood, but beginning to manifest sometime around college. Now if I feel at all strongly about anything, either positively or negatively, I begin to choke up when I start talking about it. And my brother? He does, too.

Just today, for example, we learned that his little niece (his wife's brother's daughter) makes him teary. Why? When she sings "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," she inserts the name of our family's favourite team. Tears worth shedding, for sure.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Motivators

Until-Further-Notice-Peter said to me, slightly before my birthday (though not in relation to it), "Put in order, from what motivates you the most to what motivates you the least, these four things." (I think he constructed his sentence better, but I'm having trouble with syntax presently, it would appear.) The four things were Power, Relationships, Money, and Recognition. This is how I ordered them:

1. Relationships
2. Recognition
3. Power
4. Money


It is not really pertinent for me to tell you how UFN-Peter ordered them, although I might mention his order was pretty much entirely different from mine. How would you list them?

I've been thinking about this question and this order a lot over the last two months, for various reasons. One of the reasons is, naturally, because I've been feeling like the undercurrents of my life are shifting, while the details of my life aren't actually being allowed to change very drastically.

If relationships and recognition are my prime motivators, for example, it might explain why I was so distraught that tall-one-pump-vanilla-latte woman disdained my making of her drink. It might also explain why I feel so loyal toward my colleagues or why I care whether or not I remember that Customer-Angie's name is Angie and not (as I kept thinking it was for about a year) Debbie. The relationship thing also probably explains why I've been primarily happy working a job that some people would consider beneath them.

But the recognition piece hinders that, too. One time this customer, whom I actually like quite a lot, asked us how old her son had to be to work with us. "Eighteen," I told her. He was a year too young, which was disappointing to her because, as she said, "Next year he'll have to get a real job." I gently and teasingly called her out on this, and she was so apologetic that when she came in a month later she was still apologising . . . but the fact remains that very few people consider anything at Starbucks below management to be a "real" job. This kind of interaction is fairly common--even among my friends.

Heather was musing today about what happens if God called her to "ordinariness," and I guess I've been mulling over the same things. I see people I know doing great things. And I think I have the same capabilities as some of them. I don't really believe I'm meant to stay a Starbucks shift supervisor for my entire life, although I do expect I'll be there for a bit longer. But what if I was meant to? With all my motivators clamouring for my attention and desiring greatness, how would I know? And would I be able to do it?

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Another Thing About Prayer

Since it's supposed to be two-way communication and all that . . .

I have already firmly established in my mind and through my experience that when it comes to men, and liking them, and potentially marrying one, I am completely deaf to the voice of God. Even when I'm trying really hard to listen. I have twice (count 'em--twice) been utterly convinced that God had told me I was going to marry a certain guy. (The second one was different from the first, of course.) Both guys are now getting married; neither of them to me. Based on this I have decided that if I ever am going to get married, God is going to have to figure out some really creative way to let me know, because I'm never going to trust my gut (and what it thinks it knows God said) on this one again. But I can live with that.

What I'm having a hard time living with right now is that I thought I usually had a pretty good sense about God's leading when it came to other areas of my life. But a recent life-overview is making me rethink this assumption.

For example, I left London in 2002 because I thought God wanted me to. I still remember the reasons, and the things I thought He told me, and though I can certainly see how I've grown from my experiences since then, I can't tell that His Kingdom has benefited all that much from the move. Not to mention that I didn't really know what to do when I got back here, so I went through a year of a Master's degree programme before quitting that, too.

I quit the Master's degree because it seemed like a lot of money for a degree I wasn't going to use (and I'm still paying that year off), and I thought I wasn't going to use it because it seemed that God had given me an idea for a ministry-focused coffee shop. So I moved back to where I am now and started working at Starbucks to get some coffee background.

Three and a half years later, I think I've got background.

Then a couple of months ago, I began to get this sense that God was going to change a few more things around, and that one of the changes involved my backing out of the rather bumpy and problematic Starbucks management track I was on. I thought I might move. Or I thought I might get a job in editing. Or both. And maybe the independent coffee shop idea should still be in the picture . . .

I told my boss I was no longer interested in Starbucks management. (If I ever was in the first place, which is a question worth considering.)

I applied to a lot of jobs. I started thinking about where I was going to live. And then my housing situation changed so that now, barring strange and unforeseen provisions, I'm kind of locked into my current place of residence for the next two or so years. Not to mention that it's hard to convince anybody in editing (or college admissions, which I was also looking at working in) that, with my somewhat untraditional career pedigree, I have the requisite experience. No one was convinced.

I'm okay with asking the "good of the city" question. What I can't figure out is why I keep thinking God's telling me things are going to change, and then when I try to investigate the change, situations occur that leave me even further locked in to the situation I was stuck in to begin with.

Pardon?

Excuse me?

What did You say?
There was an error in this gadget