too late to apologize?

I woke up this morning craving toast.  I’m not sure what it was about, but I started ransacking my kitchen looking for the loaf of sourdough I just purchased from the bakery.  The bread is usually right next to the toaster, but it had taken a walk today.  I have been known to misplace various items, so I went about tearing into cupboards and looking on every countertop in our house.  Finally, as I stared at the lonely apricot jam sitting on the counter, I picked up the phone and called my husband.  “Do you know where the bread went? I swear we had a ½ of a loaf left.”  He started laughing and explained that he was feeling lazy so he stuffed the rest of the bread into his work bag and the huge tub of chicken salad and thought that he would just make sandwiches at work.  I cracked up, “Are you making 12 sandwiches?”

Maybe it was one of those you-had-to-be there moments, but I was reminded that sometimes in our laziness and insecurity we take a lot for granted.  (Thanks honey).  It’s our assumption that we are doing the right thing and our unintentional actions become just that – lacking intentionality.  I recently returned from a trip where we visited one of the Japanese Internment Camps in California from WWII.  In stark contrast to the concentration camps I saw in Germany, the US has dismantled the entire thing, only leaving a couple of buildings.  As President Obama toured the Cape Coast Castle this week in Ghana, I too wondered in California, what the walls and ground would say if they could talk.

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Christmas in July

Last Fall a piece of flair was being passed around Facebook that caught my attention.  (“Flair” are fake buttons you can give your friends electronically – seriously don’t ever join Facebook.) On the little button it declared in bold print: Attention! HP fans Christmas has been moved to July! It was not talking about the latest deskjet printer, no, it was talking about “the boy who lived” – Harry Potter. Christmas had been moved to July for every hardcore Potter fan out there. With reasons unbeknownst to any of us, the sixth installment was pushed back and my friends, I’m happy to say it’s finally July. On Tuesday night a bunch of us will gather at my house for an absurdly late potluck and caffeine binge as we try to stay up way past our adult bedtimes of 10pm for a midnight showing.  I couldn’t be more excited.
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What's public; What's private?

It is an amazing time to be alive.  Never before has information been so accessible or so fast.  Airplanes have internet and fuzzy ant television is now a thing of ancient history.  Changes in media culture are happening quicker and quicker.  Take the time between the inventions of radio and television… it was decades.  Now it’s a matter of months before the new gaming system or new iphone comes out.  People not only expect this, but also make their lives revolve around the latest and greatest.  The pressure to keep up with the Jones’ is pretty overwhelming.  Today will be marked in history as one of the largest audiences ever at and watching Michael Jackson’s memorial, I can’t help but think if this had happened 10 years ago, would it be the same?  Celebrity culture has always been an odd and awed phenomena, but with the advent of everything happening so quickly – it has definitely been thrust even more into the spotlight.  Fans on CNN who were hanging out at Neverland called him a “prophet.”  And the outpouring of tributes and grief are like nothing the world has seen.  I’m not even sure if Princess Diana, who likewise had an enormous outpouring of tribute and grief attributed to her death, had the massive amount of attention that I’ve heard from my friends all over the world who are struck by Michael’s impact there.  Sure in Los Angeles, it’s kind of normal, but Haiti? People received tickets to Michael Jackson’s memorial on Sunday and could fly half way around the world to be in Los Angeles by Tuesday morning and they are here.
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Land of the Free

I was reminded last night of of the great sacrifice people made for our country.  Over a great BBQ, drinks, and games, my friends and I counted down until we watched the fireworks extravaganza at the historic Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA.  It was a great time.  I was also remembering when the fireworks were over last year, we bolted hoping to "miss the traffic."  After celebrating our country's freedom, we charged as well, hoping to conquer time in getting home.  What was a 10 minute drive normally took 2 hours.   People were cutting each other off, cussing, almost getting in wrecks, honking.  It was ridiculous... united we stand.  An interesting moment needless to say.  Last week, my friend told me about these ads that she had seen lately about cyberbullying.  A freedom we feel when we can type whatever we want to and not be held accountable.  I thought it was an important message after having seen the cars line up and repeat the insanity of last year and our friends jokingly asking us if we would repeat our blunder.  We did not, and had a great time celebrating into the night with our group.  So in honor of our freedoms, I hope we realize freedom isn't being without accountability and not standing behind who we are, for the better or worse, and also stand with others... one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.



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Tuesday morning Bachelorette tirade

Every morning of this past week there has been something new to write about.  It’s ridiculous.  Just when I think the world is going to calm down there’s another death, another engagement or another plane or train crash.  The sensationalism we’re all living with was enough to keep me up last night pondering all of this.  Just a few hours before I went to sleep I was chewing another pillow watching the Bachelorette.  My husband was on his computer next to me barely watching until I whacked him with the pillow and said, “Can you believe this!?  Why do I watch this show?  I’m so mad right now!”  I fumed around the house before scrubbing my teeth much harder than usual.  Now that I’ve slept and woke up with bright whites, I’m not sure I’m any less confused, but I’m rested.  I’m in a state of numbness due to “the most dramatic____________” fill it in with whatever you want: death, accident, rose ceremony yet.  There’s no end.  My cup overfloweth… somehow I don’t think that is what that phrase is supposed to mean.  And why is the cup just flowing and flowing?  
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Why I am not a US soccer fan

I married a futbol fanatic.  I knew this was part of the deal 4 years ago when I took my vows.  My husband, a loyal Manchester United fan for over a decade, has another love and always will.  As long as I never root for Arsenal or Chelsea (other clubs in England) we will live a long happy life.  It is completely normal in our house for Nate to wake up at 5:00a.m. to watch a game live, so ordering our vacation in the Sierra Nevadas this week around the Confederations Cup in South Africa seemed perfectly logical.  We sat in our room watching the US shut out Egypt and then the miracle that my husband compared to the 1980 US hockey team win over the former Soviet Union (which I quickly shot down) – USA defeating Spain.  And it wasn’t just a win – it was a beautiful, masterful performance that left the #1 team in the world flustered and shocked, as it did most everyone else who knows anything about futbol. No one thought this was possible. Not even the announcers who days earlier after the Egypt game said it would be a good match but hinted that Spain’s reign of the game would continue.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know who to root for. I’m conflicted when it comes to soccer; I mean futbol. The United States dominates in the world arena of athletics. Since WWII, the USA has been the overall medal winner at the summer Olympics except 7 times and only then communist countries placed ahead of us...that’s saying something.  We breed little people to become big stars.  We have big dreams for them even before they know what a Wheaties box is.  (I also have secret dream of NBA players trading salaries with inner city teachers for a week.) As every year goes by I find myself watching people turn into their version of Mr. Hyde as 35 year old men jump on top of each other and manhandle one another on their quest to be #1.  I grew up playing sports – I do love healthy competition, but in a week where a beloved high school coach was shot to death in the corn state, I have begun to wonder is being #1 worth it?

In the 2006 World Cup the US futbol team came out to play Ghana. Many people thought we would breeze through the game, but Ghana was playing for so much more. The entire country of Ghana shut down to watch the game. The people were asked to conserve electricity to have enough energy to watch on screens all over the sun drenched nation. People stayed home from work and the country rallied behind the 11 men on the field. With equal shock and awe Ghana beat the US and a country was given hope for another day.

The legacy and hope of futbol around the world is nothing like anything I have ever seen.  Yes I screamed when the US scored on Wednesday, but the win isn’t the same for our country – it’s expected. We’re the US, so we “should” be the best – that’s the attitude, but I disagree. If you’ve been to a European futbol match you understand this.  Every single person is Jack Nicholson at a Laker’s game. There is no fareweather fan. It might border on unhealthy, especially when rioting hooligans make a mess, but Ghana changed my whole perspective. It’s like those countries at the Olympics that show up with 3 people.  I love it; I start bawling because it means so much more that they are even there to compete.  They’re not there to bring home medals necessarily, they are there to bring pride to their nation.  Our athletes do this as well, but the pressure to perform and win is so much more immense.

This pressure to be #1 destroys people, as we watched Alicia Sacramone “lose it all” for the US gymnastics team last year against China. The weight of a country on her to bring home the gold instead of enjoying her even getting that far. People yell at TVs and parents run out on fields for the “love” of the sport. I get the passion, but really? Yes, our team can foul or get a penalty – they are not perfect. Neither are referees, but they don’t need to have their eyes checked. We expect perfection and this pressure made the US fire their soccer coach and redo the program after the last World Cup. We have to compete on the world’s stage, so let’s not embarrass ourselves. We defeat countries like Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, and Honduras, whose livelihoods revolve around this game, so when the US goes out on the field I get a weird feeling in my stomach.  Yes I hope they play well and yes they earned their victory on Wednesday, but what is the cost of being #1 to a country who historically, except for a small handful, has not rallied behind this sport?

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In Memory of Neda

It is Father's Day today and I can only think of one father...  a man whose daughter was shot and killed yesterday in the aftermath of the election riots in Iran.  Her name has been unofficially confirmed as Neda and today I mustered up the courage to watch the video of her death. Its the least I can do as I sit here and pour over CNN.com articles.  The people there are living it and I am in a hotel on vacation -- life is not fair.  My prayer today is for her father, who she was protesting with when the government sponsored "forces" shot her in the heart.  I posted the video, but it is VERY graphic so please be aware of this if you choose to view it.  I pray that she does not die in vain and that we will continue to make ourselves aware of what is happening overseas.  I pray that people are moved for Iran and its citizens  - our sisters and brothers in another country that is in turmoil.  God be with them and be with Neda's father today.

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The Plan

I don’t know a lot about Iran, but when my husband, who works for an international development organization, told me that Ahmadinejad won I said, “Well duh.  Of course he did.  It was rigged.” As tensions continued to rise today and more allegations are thrown around that it was indeed fraudulent, I couldn’t help but think of “the plan.” The plan is this ambiguous idea floating around that our lives should turn out in a certain fashion.  I learned at a young age that plans can shift and change quickly and frequently, so I created my own plan – one that relied on my own two shoulders.  This worked for maybe a second and then life happened and the metamorphosis kept going. I’m not sure what the plan is in Iran, but there is one and it is a plan that wants to be imposed on its people.

Everywhere you go there are plans, but in some places those plans are to just make it though the day alive.  You know a person grew up in a privileged home when it is expected that she or he live a long, productive life.  The life checklist keeps growing and finally when you’re 60-something you can kick up your heals and, as my father recently told me, watch your blood pressure come down and get some sleep thanks to retirement.  For a lot of people that was their plan too, but now retirement is no longer a hop, skip or jump away; it’s a marathon. 

When our hope is put in the plan we are set up for failure.  The plan is not worth living for. I celebrated a birthday last week and as I inch closer to 30, I am amazed at each year and how it holds nothing close to what I thought it would.  I celebrated with a heart to heart chat with one of my best friends talking about this very thing and then the conversation continued into the weekend with a group of friends over pizza.  How did we all buy into this plan and what happens when you’re life looks so different from it?

For my best friend, it is that time to “start trying.”  She wants to be a mom so badly, as do a handful of women around me.  She is at the point where her doctors have started bringing up fertility meds, but in her wisdom she said this to me: “What if my body isn’t supposed to? Then should I make it with pills?  That scares me.” People are constantly bombarding her with questions of when are you going to have kids?  And it makes her want to cry because she’d have one in her arms right now if it was up to her plan.  It certainly is not a fair world, but apparently with enough money, privilege, celebrity or political prowess our “plans” can become reality, whether that’s a rigged election or thousands upon thousands of dollars of fertility treatments.  It’s scary that the reality that could materialize naturally is being sacrificed on the altar of “supposed to” or “I deserve this.”

For my husband and I the question has morphed over the years from “when to have kids,” to “if we want kids.” I get accused of being selfish, not ready, and I’m also learning to deal with my favorite 2 responses: “Oh you’re young!” and wave their hand like I will most certainly come to my senses one day.  Or the silent look of disbelief and shock, “Really? You’d be such a good mom.” I might not even get a say in this plan one way or the other, but my hope ultimately is not in the plan.  My hope lives deep inside of me in the inner core of my being.  This life, no matter who you are, is not one of having your cake and eating it too, but it is a good life.

I hate that “good” can be used to describe chocolate cake and God.  Sometimes we need new vocab words, but God is good and if God lives in us, then there is goodness and richness in our lives; however that version of good might be found in cancer, in a lost election, or in infertility.  God’s goodness comes to us when we listen, and often it is when we are talking so loud to change the plan that we are miserable.

I imagine, as I have a heard a few times that Ahmadinejad likes to hear himself talk.  I understand that fertility meds have brought a lot of unique little persons into the world. I believe in the goodness of God and that “the plan” will work out for good, but I feel like sometimes we make God’s job a lot harder than it has to be by playing God or thinking that God is not truly good.  Our hope has materialized in a plan and not in God.  And I am certainly guilty of this too.  My desire to not have kids is definitely part of “my plan” right now and some days I am holding on tighter to my plan than I ought to. I had a plan for college, for my career, and for my wedding – they all changed and had imperfections everywhere, but they were all good things.  It is great to have a plan.  I love sticky notes and planners, but when that becomes the gospel truth – I have major issues.

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For Play: Sexuality Part 4

I bought a hula hoop today.  Inspired by my massage therapist, who just bought one, I drove to Toys-R-Us and found the sparkly hoops.  They now come with water inside instead of the little beads that used to help it go round and round.  I kept shaking it in the store expecting a rattle, but a woman finally pointed out to me that there was water, which makes it go much smoother now.  After I had made a new friend and we talked about what a great workout we were going to get, I found myself wandering around the giant toy store.  I usually dash in and out to quickly snag a Christmas or birthday present for my nieces and nephews, so I haven’t had time to peruse as I was hunting for the Death Star Galatica Lego Extravaganza whose-it-whats-it.  

I wandered back to the bikes and through the doll aisle.  The Barbie bride has come a long way switching out her Princess Di veil and layers of lace to a strapless glittering number with an ultra modern hairdo.  I couldn’t help but also notice that Toys-R-Us used to seem so much bigger as a kid, and it always held such wonder.  It was torture to go in there with no allowance money or to shop for someone else with my mom!  But now the dusty stock shelves and the vinyl floors have lost a little magic – toys don’t hold the key to happiness anymore.  I clutched my hula hoop and drove home. (After paying of course.)

I thought about sexuality on the way home and how toy stores for adults promise similar magic, but their products are quite a bit different.  It’s confusing all of this talk of “toys” so in turn sexuality loses its lackluster too.  Should we go in there?  Am I evil if I actually like it?  Who cares?  Are all questions thrown around when discussing this particular toy store.  So where do we go for play?  For some it is the bedroom, for others the toy store revolves around clothing or electronics or kitchen stuff.  There are still places we go to play, but in a lot of ways the passion of play was lost in our youth.  I think that is why so many people don’t want to lose it.

When you get older, passion for others, non-profits, or even churches is supposed to grow.  Passion for yourself means, well what does it mean?  If it’s talked about in the media it means botox, surgery, and the latest workout, diet, or piece of clothing – you deserve it.  Like the CRV CRaVe campaign – shopping, nails, chocolate dipped strawberries… you’re passionate about all of that right?  So why not buy a car that lives up to that standard too?  For some it is the simpler things, as my friend recently discovered, it can mean going to the grocery store without your 7-month-old in tow.  But to find passion if the romance and drama section is taken out? What does that mean?  Passion for our “self”?  It’s interesting too that the dramas showing the life and death of Jesus are called Passion plays.  Passion here, passion there – what is passion when it’s everywhere? 

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Vampires, Disneyland, and Pain Disorders: Sexuality Part 3

Edward Cullen.  As you read that name one of three things happens: 1. You think, “Who the heck is that?”  2. You swoon, or 3. You say, “Thanks, but no thanks.  I prefer Jacob Black.”  Edward Cullen has captivated the audience of hundreds of thousands of women (and men) worldwide as the lead character in the Twilight series.  He is also the face of sexuality for a generation.  He is immortally stuck at age 17.  He is handsome beyond all reason, chivalrous, and has been waiting nearly 100 years for his soul mate.  Oh and he’s a vampire.  

After seeing a ton of “Cullen” paraphernalia on Facebook and pestering my students about what the heck this movement was, one of them finally just went out and got me the first book. “We can talk about Twilight after you’ve finished reading it” she told me.  So I proceeded to read the first one, then second, third and finally the fourth one, oh and the Edward version online as well.  It is a great story, a little weird, but addicting. There is something to be said about a young, well-mannered man who has self-control and eyes for only one girl.

But I couldn’t help but grimace and wriggle in my chair * NOTE: spoiler ahead if you haven’t read the books * at this undying (literally) pressure for Edward and his human girlfriend, Bella who is 18, to get married.  I’m not saying that getting married young is bad or wrong, but after talking to a handful of my girlfriends, it would seem to us that for Bella, other than her desire to become a vampire out of this love for Edward, the other huge factor driving the wedding decision appears to be sex.  And sure enough, the wedding takes place and they quickly set off for the family’s private island for their honeymoon.  When they get there, it turns out that sex is the one “human” activity vampires still enjoy, but it is heightened to the umpteenth power.  There isn’t a lot written about the actual escapade, but Bella is left on cloud nine come the morning despite the major body bruising due to her now husband trying to refrain himself from killing her – oh the romance of it all.  

It is a lot women’s fantasies – rich husband or at least financially secure, fancy cars, private islands, lovely stable family, moral and upright, spending eternity with the one you love. But the issue is when the lines between fantasy and reality become blurred.  Fantasy is all well and good – trust me I love Disneyland, but we don’t live there.  And this strange deception has crept into bedrooms across the world.  There is a reason why Matthew McConaughey gets a paycheck and books like Twilight sell millions.  

In the perfectionist realm sexuality is the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about, even in the church it is not a healthy discussion.  In the past 2 years, I’ve heard of one church doing a 30-day sex famine and another doing a 30-day sex-periment.  Both brain childs of 40 something white males who did press junkets after their announcements.  I understand that at their inception, these ideas are not evil things.  But the good intention goes to waste if there is not education and safety around these issues.  According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) in America 1 out of every 6 women will be raped in their lifetime as well as 1 out of every 33 males.  In 2007, there were a quarter of a million women raped who reported it.  Approximately 60% of rapes go unreported.  It is true that reported rapes have gone down in the last 15 years, but that doesn’t mean the problems go away.  Every two minutes someone is sexually assaulted in the US and 73% of the victims know their assailant. It was estimated 15 years ago that 10% of all rapes were martial rapes where the perpetrator was her husband (Patricia Easteal). Ten years ago nearly one-third of American women report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives (Commonwealth Fund Survey, 1998).  And 40% of women report some kind of sexual dysfunctional that may or may not even have to do with abuse or assault. The church is oftentimes not a place you will hear these statistics, but this is a community problem.  The church has bought into the marital fairytale too. To preach a sermon on sex and not include the dark side is naïve and dangerous. We need to know both sides of the matter and not just the prince charming with roses.  This isn’t a scare tactic; it’s facts from the US Department of Justice.  It’s the reality of a fallen world and the lives of our mothers, daughters, sisters and friends.  

The pressure is there for marriage and sex, but at what cost?  What about the women in the audience who are hurting either from abuse or a pain disorder?  What about when all the people hoop and holler at the minister when he says “get it on for 30 days” and there is someone desperately needing to leave her abusive husband?  What if there is a couple needing to work on their intimacy and sex is part of that and minister tells them to stop having sex for 30 days?   There are women in congregations and in your neighborhoods that are victims of these disgusting crimes and have disorders, but yet the church for the most part has been silent, leaving the work up to non-profits, therapists and medical facilities while leaving plenty of women with a huge burden of shame and guilt.  

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About
A recovering perfectionist that asks questions about life, art, the Spirit and this imperfect culture we live in, I help women tap into their true self in Jesus through creative means and spiritual direction.


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