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Rainy Day Ode

When it starts to get to Spring and everything turns bright and sunny, I start craving rainy days.

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I know it is counter-intuitive. Late March through May is just about the most perfect weather that we get in Oklahoma. But, the rain, the gray and the gloom, that’s what wakes me up. It wakes up the earth, the soil, the worms. It reminds me that symbols of stress and strife, as well as, sideways 27 year olds can be redeemed into something that bursting with life.

Several months ago, in a fit of boredom, or perhaps inspiration, I googled “random holidays.” I found a website dedicated to such things and I put one or two (or 50) dates into my phone of holidays that I found interesting. Because, you know, maybe I wanted to do themed Instagram photos (that was a real thought in my brain). But, also because the celebration of everyday and arbitrary is my favorite bit of magic.

 I’ve gone a few months without much acknowledgement of these holidays, but today I noticed it was “Make up Your Own Holiday.” Day. I looked and my phone and said, “Ok, I’ll do that,” and Book Character Crush Day was born. Then I added an International to make it seem more legitimate and International Book Character Crush Day was born.

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International Book Character Crush Day is a day to honor the crème de la crème of book characters – the ones that make you swoon, the ones that make you want to be best friends. Whoever it is that makes you feel all the feels. The ones that you think about and talk about for the rest of your live long days.

I won’t be talking about Mr. Darcy. He’s great. I have actually fallen in love with every man I have ever seen play Mr. Darcy, and I tell you this so you will know that my love is deep, but Mr. Darcy is not my first Book Love.

Shiloh Irons is.

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Who is Shiloh Irons? He is a 6’4’’ blond nurse circa early 1880s. Orphaned as a baby, raised by three German sisters, boxer and Confederate soldier – until an injury brought him to a field hospital where he found a natural talent as a nurse. In the first book, he comes along side our independent and smart heroine Cheney Duvall (who is a DOCTOR) as her nurse and I think that basically makes him a feminist.

I cannot possibly see how you are not also already in love with Shiloh Irons, so I will say this. This eight book series that features Shiloh is the Cheney Duvall, MD series by Gilbert and Lynn Morris, and they are my most reread books of all time. I hold them dear to my heart and have for many, many, many years. I know they are slightly ridiculous (is there a way to make Christian Historical Fiction not at least slightly ridiculous?) but these books and their characters taught me about love and friendship and God and family and, in their own strange way, feminism.

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So, even though my older sister mercilessly made fun of me for these books, I’ll share them proudly. Because like so many things that seem so little and insignificant, they are actually running through my veins like oxygen changing my blood from blue to red and most of all keeping me alive.

The real conclusion to this is that we are all real lucky they have never made a film version of any of these novels because, if my reaction to Mr. Darcy is any indication, I would surely be stalking the man who played Shiloh Irons.

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Four years ago today, my heart changed. I didn’t know it would because all they (the proverbial they) told me all my life was that parenthood changed you, and it has never been hard for me to believe. Books, songs, starry nights, hard conversations – all of these things have changed me, so a little person in my care? Why, of course, how could it not. But, four years ago, it wasn’t I who gave birth to this wild, brave little thing.

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Seven years ago, Jenny got married, one of my very first, dear friends to get married. Seven years ago, Taco Bell was still a regular part of my meal plan and I wore almost exclusively dresses and band t-shirts, but Jenny got married and together these past seven years we have grown and shifted throughout many seasons of life. She pushed and prodded places of my heart that I tried to forget about and I am endlessly and deeply thankful for this.

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Three years ago and five months, I realized I had fallen in love. To be fair, Jenny finally just moved back and I had not much seen Bug prior. But, there we all were, going to Target and I played my first made up on a whim game for her and Jenny said, “I’ve never seen you act like this.” I tried to tell her that she hadn’t seen me much around children, but mostly I had no idea that a heart could grow so quickly. The deep friendship and love I had for Jenny was suddenly magnified and exploded and turned into confetti on its way down and little Bug and I would dance and dance under it.

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Three months ago Bug started calling me Anna, exclusively, giggling with delight when I would respond with, “Yes, Elsa?” Bug and I are make-believe partners in crime. We are committed to bits (I mean, 3 months committed and going strong), believe in dancing in public and singing loud. We share no genes and no names (except the ones we make up ourselves), but we both have fairy hearts. We both have sparkle right behind our eyes that let us see the magic in everyday life and thanks to Bug my regular heart has grown, Grinch style, but my fairy heart – it grows and grows and keeps on growing every day. Two years ago, Jenny and I were obsessed with the Enneagram and already trying to figure out what Bug would be like when she grew. I know enough to know that we won’t be alike in many ways. Bug will be more fearless and more free than is natural for me. I will watch her and learn from her and tell her until I’m old and grey that I’m so thankful to have had her to learn from. That she helped me to sing louder and dance wilder and grew my fairy heart to see that there is so much more magic than I had remembered. That I can see all the magic I once saw, when I was her size.

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Little Bug, happy birthday. I’m so thankful to have you, and darling, you’ve got me. Always.

Steadfast

Last year, I found it to be startlingly good and hard and simple to pick one word for the year. With fearless running through the back of my mind, it shaped my decisions and thoughts like water – slow and deep*. So, this year, I thought I would do the same. If fearless helped me to remember to live life out to the edges, I knew that 2014 would be about digging down deep.

I turned 27 a little over a month ago. An age that is unremarkable in many ways (since I’m not a musician), but remarkable to me in that it indicates my entrance into my late 20s. My life looks very different than I once thought it would, but I would surmise that this is a common trick of life and instead of whistling out to the edges, it is time to dive into the deep of life. The edges of life have been beautiful and taught me things I needed to learn, but the deep, the deep is where I need to go next. I don’t want to live life just wide – with lots of cool Instagram pictures and neat stories, I want to live life deep as well.

And so, steadfast.

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I chose steadfast because I needed a little more faithfulness, sturdiness, stick-to-it-ness in my life. If I’m planting deep roots, then it is happening by getting my hands dirty every day. If I’m going to go deep, I need to sturdy up my lungs for this long dive. I’m still going out to the edges, but I’m also sinking into the middle.

Maybe because I love Etsy, or maybe because I’m slow and in need of constant reminder – I always get something to remind me of my word. I usually pick necklaces because I’ve found that there is something significant in what you carry around your neck and close to your heart all day long. I can buy rings and earrings and bracelets because they are cute – but my necklaces, they almost always have secret meanings and simple reminders. I need it that way.

So, here I am, nearly a quarter a way through 2014 and sinking into steadfastness. Come along side me, ok?

*Optional Doctor Who Tangent – the Water of Mars episode. I have a deep relationship with water, but nothing reminds me or its power (in a terrifying way) like that episode. It might remain the most terrifying episode to me ever.

**I bought the steadfast necklace on Etsy and I have bought several things from Liz and I love her and she is great and you can make this necklace say anything and you should all buy something from her. She didn’t even ask me to say this, I just really, really love her shop.

On Adaptations

This weekend I watch The Lizzie Bennet Diaries for the second time. My sisters and I squealed and laughed and I had to once again try to calm my Darcy fangirl down. But, that, of course is to be expected.

It is always interesting to experience an adaptation of a story that you love, and I find that it seems to be a nearly constant event in popular cinema these days (book adaptations and sequels, my friends, the way of Hollywood). 

I may stand in the minority here, but I love adaptations. When it comes to the beloved story of the illuminable Ms. Elizabeth Bennet and the brooding before it was cool to brood Mr. Darcy, I love them all. Well, most of them. I have a thing about the 1995 miniseries with Colin Firth that almost everyone in the world (save Jess) disagrees with me on, but then again, that’s the very reason I am writing this post.

See, the problem I have with the miniseries, is the one surefire way for me to dislike an adaptation – especially a book to film adaptation. The purpose of an adaptation, should be, to enhance the story, to treat the story as a living, breathing thing, that transported to a new medium, or a new setting, or a new whatever the adaptation does, it would transform, in some ways.

This is why I don’t care if a movie leaves out a scene. Or makes a character a little bit different. Because movies tell stories in such a different way than books do. If you adapt a book to a movie, then, certain aspects of the book, which worked to tell the story so well, will simply fall apart on screen. The reverse is just as true. After all, what may take 10 pages to describe in a book, can sometimes be shown in a movie in 30 seconds. But, that inner dialogue that carries the book – well, that will have to change on film. This is the beautiful thing about the different mediums of art.

Of course, there are awful adaptations, which I think, occur one of two ways. By trying to be so faithful to the original that they don’t use the tools of their own medium. Sort, of that whole idea of following the letter of the law, but not the spirit. And then, those that abandon the heart of the original.

I say this to say, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is simply a brilliant adaptation. Clever. True to the heart of the book, as well as, exploring new aspects of it. So, excuse me, while I go watch it again. 

Weekend Super Power: Napping, i.e. I napped for a total of 5 hours this weekend.

Weekend Movie Quote: Cher’s Dad: You mean to tell me that you argued your way from a C+ to an A-?
Cher: Totally based on my powers of persuasion, you proud?
Cher’s Dad:Honey, I couldn’t be happier than if they were based on real grades.

Weekend IRL Quote: “I think you slipped in the water you spilled on me earlier.” Re: My gracefully inconspicuous fall on Abigial’s and my re-return in Upper Crust.

Weekend True Confession: Admitting I love snow cones (upon the discovery that you can ADD CREAM TO YOUR SNOW CONES and upon my third try…er, this week, of snow cones, I’m sold).

Best Weekend Bug Moment: Naming the dance move we ripped off of Dirty Dancing “swazying” and then laughing when she said, “Swayze me!”

Best Weekend Internet Discovery: Forever Young Adult – let your Lady Nerd fly free and proud, and pour yourself a big glass of wine.

Weekend History Lesson: Historical Figures in Modern Looks – why do I love this so much? Probably because seeing Elizabeth I in a stylish power suit makes want to get a framed picture of her for my Leslie Knope-ian Inspirational Women Wall.

Weekend Hero: IRL BFF Jenny (I just wanted to use some abbrevs) for chauffeuring me back and forth between my car and tire shops and what not while I dealt with a flat tire. She would for real be on my Leslie Knope-ian Inspirational Women Wall (LKIWW).

How was your weekend?

I don’t know if I can think of something apropos to describe last week. It was so very long and thick, but somehow never felt like there were enough hours to just stop in. It was following several other similarly feeling weeks, filled to the brim, overstuffed. So, I felt like I was showing all my seams and needing to sleep an extra 16 hours a night, and mostly unable to hold on.

Weeks like last make me feel like I am not enough. They make me feel stuck and make me feel like the only possible solution is to drastically cut out every single thing that consumes any amount of time and start over. Fortunately, I don’t do things like that, because weeks like that happen, and maybe they happen too often.

While I dreamed of a new city and a new job (as though it would quiet my soul), I found that the most life-giving things I did last week were to make Thai turkey burgers and to paint my nails red.

What I wanted to do was one of two things – something dramatic – a huge leap, designed to immediately make a change. Or nothing. Go to bed immediately. Or watch more tv than what’s good for me. So the simple act of making myself dinner, of painting my nails, was my small step of rebellion.

I have a tendency to think in giant leaps. This month went by unusually fast? Well, then I’m practically aging a decade in my head. I’m moving forward in anxiety, sure that I have missed something, frantic about life passing me by. I think that things have to be done in huge steps, free-falling leaps. I too often think in a world of cold-turkey quits, roof-top declarations, and flash mob confessions. Thai turkey burgers and red painted nails teach me to think in small, quiet steps. That sometimes, the only way to change is a million inches forward, one inch at a time.

When I look back at my life, what I often see are not the big, defining moments – they are there, the one decision, one step life changers. But, more often what has changed me have been those small, scared, barely trusting, but I’m still moving steps. I forget, too often, the great faith it takes to move forward when you can’t see the end of that long winding road.

And so I will continue to feed myself well, paint my nails red, and trust in the work of small, scared, barely trusting, but I’m still moving, holy steps.

I suppose one does not have to know me for very long to know the things I care about deeply. Community. Adoption. Oh, and gender.

I spend a lot of time thinking and studying about what people and the Bible says about gender roles because in my heart of hearts I believe most what Paul says in Galatians – “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ.” (emphasis mine) So, when I stumbled upon Rachel Held Evan‘s book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood – I was ready for a little hope and a little more digging into this idea. 

If you’ve ever read Rachel’s blog, then you know that she is thoughtful and well research (two of my favorite characteristics in a person), so I knew that this dense little book would be more than an exercise in gimmicks to sell books. What I did not expect was to find a book that was as freeing as it was. Rachel’s honesty and research continually point back to the Bible, but does so in a respectful way. I would feel comfortable suggesting this to some of my more complimentarian friends because – although she disagrees with some of their tenets, she does so in a way that does not alienate and I think the very way she tries to live out some of those tenets invites a conversation that I think it important to keep having.

But, my favorite part? The part that had me crying and praying hallelujah? That would be reclaiming the Proverbs 31 woman. Rachel befriends an Orthodox Jewish woman, Ahava (wife of a Rabbi), and when she gets to her month on Proverbs 31, she turns to Ahava for advice – as Proverbs 31 has become an exhausting to do list for Rachel and many other Christian women. Ahava’s response is liberating. That idea of a valorous wife (eshet chayil) is a blessing. In Jewish cultures it is the men – not the women – who memorized Proverbs 31, so they can sing it as a blessing to the woman. How beautiful!

So, basically, buy this book. It will make you think. You will add no less than 12 books to your Amazon wishlist as you go through the footnotes. And you will become a fan of the thoughtful, bright, hungry voice of Rachel Held Evans.

 

A Conversation Overheard At Target

Big Brother: Mom! Mom!!! Look what Little Brother can do!

Mom turns and looks at the brothers – approx. ages 3 and 5

Big Brother: Little Brother, what’s this? Points to picture above.

Little Brother: BOOBIES!

Big Brother dissolves into laughter. Mom acts embarrassed. I make a sharp right turn and try to my hysterically laughing together.

I have this rather bad habit. It comes from trying to find a way to better say yes and more importantly to say no. I am an introvert. An internal processor. A type 9 who never wants to create any sort of conflict. This is the habit of maybe. It looks like this:

Friend, Acquaintance  Co-Worker: Whitney do you want to do something in the future that you may or may not like or feel like at the time, like be in a large group where you know one person, or so on and so forth.

Whitney: Maybe. I’ll have to think about it and get back to you.

The heart of this habit is to ensure I don’t mindlessly agree to things. But, I often let it become a way to say no without saying no.

I was walking down the bakery aisle of the grocery store, examining all of the different versions of nuts I could buy when I was suddenly struck with a thought, or rather several. First is that pecans are always, in every recipe I can think of, superior to walnuts. 

The second, and probably more important has to do with Matthew 5:37 – let your yes be yes and let your no be no.

There’s nothing in there about maybes.

I started thinking about the fact that so often, someone would ask me to do something that I knew in that moment I wasn’t going to do, but I wouldn’t say no. I would say maybe. Not because I was waiting for something better. Not because I wasn’t really sure. But, to save feelings. To say no without saying no.

But, the thing is and was, that I was still saying no. I wasn’t doing the thing. I just wasn’t saying this. Further, I thought, maybe there is something more to this verse, not just saying what I mean and doing what I say (which – hello – I could use some practice on), but also on understanding that each decision I make comes with an inherent yes or no. I said maybe and I meant no.

In a year where I am trying to be fearless, this struck me hard. So, when I shirk away from a hard conversation – I’m saying no to that fearlessness. When I take my vitamins in the morning, I’m saying yes to healthiness. And so on and so on.

Which means my habit of maybe is for naught. So now I’m trying to reframe my maybes, I’m trying to think in terms of saying yes to wholeness and no to fear. It’s an endless journey, no?

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