Saturday, January 31, 2009

Uncle Sam

Woo-hoo!

Today I walked out of our tax appointment feelin' fine, thanks to a nice first-time homebuyer tax credit that we got on our federal return. It's really more like a no interest loan, but hey, that is still a form of "free" money. 

On the way home we talked about what we're going to do with the money, instead of crying and lamenting over how to come up with money that was owed. Yes, that is the stark contrast between this year's tax appointment and last year's. 

Insert generous sigh of relief {HERE}.

Much of it will be going to pay off a card, then some will be put into my car, which needs new tires and a couple repairs, and then there will be a little bit of "fun" money. Because we just haven't had that in a long time. I'm using mine to get my Disneyland pass! Hooray! By the way, my husband is NOT getting a pass because he just doesn't love Disneyland like I do, so I will be pathetically looking around for friends with passes who want to go. *wink wink*

Hooray for today, the rest should be good, too. Gotta go get ready!

I can haz haircut?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Early Morning Workouts

I never regret the mornings when I actually drag my arse out of bed and go to the gym first thing, before everyone else is starting their day. After an early morning workout, the air outside is fresher and cleaner, even in Smogsville, California.

Not that I am a morning person at all. I just feel so satisfied and accomplished after a morning workout, so any completed task for the rest of the day feels like it's just adding on to that initial accomplishment.

Then there are the health benefits. Like now I'll be burning more calories all day sitting at my desk than if I had not worked out. I will sleep better tonight, and I've already had at least 16 ounces of water. Plus, for some weird reason, I have it in my head that I only want to eat healthy food after working out. I guess it feels like a waste to eat junk after making such an effort to go work out.

It just feels like I have my day to myself now. No inner monologue nagging me over the need to find the time to go work out, or trying to get the motivation to pack my gym bag or rush home after work to go to the gym. It's just done.

No matter what time you get up, I highly suggest you try getting up an hour earlier and going for a workout. Even if it's just 20 minutes. You might find that the benefits are worth the little bit of suffering it takes. 

If nothing else, you'll have won a fight with the alarm clock. And that, my friends, is a noteworthy thing.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Surprise Visits

January has mostly been a blur at work because of my new job description. I'm working just about every minute of the day when I'm at the office, without really a second to stop and take a break or plan the day.

Today, my dear BFF Lori walks in. She was covering a court case up the street (yeah, she's a reporter!), and just wanted to stop and say hi. It was so nice to stop working for a few minutes and visit with my friend. It was a much-needed breath of fresh air.

And no, this post is not about Lori, it's about the little surprise visit from her today. ;) The Lori post will not be until later this year. I was just really thankful that she stopped by today, she brightened my day and I like to think I returned the favor. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Betsy

Today has not been one of the best days for me stress-wise. I am in the midst of adjusting to new responsibilities and trying to go ahead and take on problems that keep repeating like a bad record. 

Kevin picks on me a little for the way I shoulder burdens, but I really do feel it's what I'm meant to do sometimes.

All that to say, I don't feel like I have many "things" to be thankful for (at least, that I haven't already written about). I had to stop mid-cooking to go to the store to get bread because our frozen bread was inedible. I have a headache. Aaron stayed home sick today so I couldn't exactly ask him to run out to the store. I guess you could say I have lots to gripe over today.

And then there was my lunch date. Betsy. Betsy used to work in the Flipside office, and she did a great job, too. She left to go gallavanting off to Uganda to intern for Invisible Children, and now she's back in So Cal, at least for now. Betsy was my little ray of sunshine today. I was shocked that it was already 1pm when she got to the office because I was so buried in my work.

Over lunch (which she bought, thanks, sugar mama) at Baker's, we talked about life and other non-workish things and I just took a genuine breather. And she asked if there was anything she could help with at the office, so I asked her to whip up a Super Bowl party flyer that I had been asked to make. She did it gladly.

Betsy hates getting compliments, and I know she actually reads my blog, so she's going to hate this. ;) But she is one kind and gentle girl with a great attitude. She's beautiful inside and out and I'm really glad that she's part of my life. Whichever of the 50 states you end up in, I know you will do well. I am thankful that today you were still in the 909.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Jeannie

People like Jeannie are few and far between. Even within the setting of the church, it is hard to find people who have the trifecta of time to give, willingness to give it, and the right combination of knowledge and passion to do certain jobs.

The job Jeannie has done for the past 6+ years is coming in faithfully, once a week, on Tuesday mornings, to help process charitable contributions to the Flipside. This is not even as exciting as it sounds (it doesn't sound exciting, does it?). It's a mostly tedious process of opening envelopes and writing names and check numbers on new envelopes, and counting and recounting cash and adding up all of the special earmark donations to things like Year End Drive, Love Fund, and other projects as they come up throughout the year.

Just about every week, Jeannie has trekked down to the office, sometimes with an extra Starbucks or half a breakfast burrito in hand, to give her time and energy to a pretty much thankless task. It's just me and her, upstairs, counting and recounting and then entering all of the data into the computer system.

Today, Jeannie came and helped with the count for the "last" time. I may take her up on her offer to call if I'm ever in a pinch for a helper, but today was officially her last day. 

She felt spoiled because the church gave her a gift and Briana and I took her to lunch, but truthfully, I don't think the gifts accurately measure up to a heart like hers to give back to the church. Not even her church, her daughter's church. She didn't serve because it looked good to her pastor, she served because she saw a need and she filled it well. 

Jeannie, you're an awesome servant, you're sweet, and you're caring. You raised a beautiful daughter (I know, more than one, but I only really know how great Mindi is). I hope that you do get plugged in at WOL and find a way to bless them like you've blessed us. 

Pretty much, what I'm trying to say is, you rock. Thanks.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Rose

How many times have I thought to myself that I am thankful for Rose? Thanks to her and Jon, I have a job where I only work on Mondays and get paid generously. 

Sometimes I either forget my lunch or just don't plan one, and she lets me raid her fridge. She always has a funny story to tell, or a funny way of telling a sad story. 

We talk about dogs, and husbands, and God. She has never treated me like I am inferior or different because I am young. She is funny, and kind, and encouraging.

So thanks, Rose. For the job and the Mondays.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Rest Day

I don't observe the "sabbath" as often as I'd like. I know, I know, it's actually Saturday. But I don't think there's anything wrong with observing it on Sunday when that's how my culture rolls. 

The thing that really truly matters is taking a day to rest. A day to stop and say the dishes can wait, the laundry can wait, today, it's all about thinking about God, and rest. Taking a nap. Reading the Word. Just being.

It's really hard for me to do this. I often find myself working super extra hard on Saturday, like I did yesterday, so that I feel as though I have "earned" the day off. But that's not really how it works. I'm supposed to work that hard every day. Not just Saturday before I plan to rest on Sunday. And even if I work my fingers to the bone, that doesn't mean I "deserve" a break. It's just a gift. 

Sometimes I feel convicted for how many times I refuse to accept that gift. Every Sunday morning greets me as a day to stop and rest. Some days, I say "no, thank you," preferring to toil and worry the day away in some fear over how my week will be effected if I don't have everything preset. I want to be in control of my whole little universe over here, but that's not the life I am called to. I am called to live a life that brings glory to God. And part of what brings Him glory is doing what He asks. 

A lot of people argue over whether or not we "have to" observe the Sabbath, or whether that was just an old Jewish thing or whatever. The fact is, it's not a "have to," it's a "get to." I try really hard not to pick and choose what things to obey God on. I just try to obey in everything as much as possible. Personally, I think the idea of Sabbath is one of those eternally applicable things. We won't always have work to do. Once we peace out on Earth, we get to spend eternity with God. To me, Sabbath is a really really blurry foggy dark shadow of a glimpse of what that eternity will look like.

I am thankful for the days when I make a conscious effort to dial into that thought. To remember that I am dust. To remember that I need to recharge my battery because I am human. 

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Wii

The Nintendo Wii has brought a lot of laughter into our house.

It's not one of those game systems where it becomes dangerously addictive, well, maybe Rabbids is a little addicting, but we'll get over it. 

It's great because we can play it together, and laugh together, we can play with friends, and it's not so intense that you can't have other conversations going on while people are playing. It's a really nice way to unwind and just be a little goofy for a while.

I'm still working on the cleaning/organizing undertaking of the weekend, I'm basically revamping our office. It's looking pretty amazing so far, I can't wait to get to the finished product! I didn't take any before pictures, just a couple in progress... we'll see if it's worth posting once the job is done.

Sidenote, Pandora has dished up some Fiona Apple today and I'm realizing I kinda dig her more than I realized. :) Her and Regina Spektor. 

Viva la Lunch

I have, at long last, discovered a way to get my Viva Madrid (be warned, the website needs help) fix without having to drive to Claremont and pay a hefty bill. 

It's all about Trader Joe's artisan bread, prosciutto, and Iberico cheese. And oil and balsamic vinegar, of course. ;) I also attempted steamed and then cooled asparagus wrapped in black forest ham, but the black forest wasn't right. Have to find a different ham for next time.

Last night's dinner was awesome, and enjoying some leftovers today for lunch was almost equally fantastic.  I wouldn't normally blog about lunch, but seriously, I don't want to forget the shopping list for this. And do yourself a favor, go to TJ's and pick that up. Don't stick the bread in the oven, it's perfect just the way it is (even though the label says it's slightly underbaked).

Friday, January 23, 2009

Toby

I am thakful for the Pike family. Every week, I get to work and laugh with Angie. Last week Toby and Angie's sons put together a new desk for the front office.

Today, I am especially thankful for Toby. He took on the task of replacing some irritatingly inefficient light fixtures in the front office. I thought it was going to be an easy hour-long job, but once he got up there and started working, he found out about a few snags. 

Instead of saying that it was more trouble than it was worth, and telling me just to live with the current fixtures, he recognized that the job needed to be done right. That's just the kind of guy Toby is. He likes things to be done right, and I appreciate that about him. 

So, it will take a few Friday mornings, but once the project is done, it will be done right. 

Thanks, Pike family. You guys are all awesome. And thanks Toby, in advance for fixing the lights, for being super awesome with the wedding sound help today, and for leading a great family.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Satisfaction

Lately it seems I'm having many more days that get away from me. Days when I feel like I didn't even accomplish half of what I wanted to accomplish.

Today, I feel satisfied with what I did accomplish. Some boring work stuff, shopping for tomorrow night's hangout with friends, eating homemade dinner thanks to Aaron.

And I earned some stars. Not all of them for the day, but some. I know I'm trying, and it feels good to be satisfied with that for now. I'm often very very hard on myself, so it is no small victory when I am able to just let enough be enough.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Small Graces

Today, after a tough day of grading, Aaron found $10 outside his classroom on the ground.

Which is a nice little gift when you're on a super tight budget.

I'm keeping this one super short so I can go finish laundry and dishes before settling myself into the couch at 8pm for Lost!!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hope for change

I am choosing today to begin another jaunt with my 40-days of good habits. It's not because of inauguration day, though it would be fitting given the hope that is almost tangible in the air. Whether or not you voted for, like, or even have a granule of respect for Barack Obama, you have to admit that he at least promises hope in a way that we haven't seen in a while. Now, whether he lives up to those promises is yet to be seen. But today, there is at least hope that he will.

No, the reason I chose to start over with this venture today is because it so happens that in 40 days, it will be February 28th. And that will end my first attempt at resetting my habits once again. It will be a clean break, and if I'm successful and able to start up again mid-March, that will end on April 30th. It gives me a couple week window between these mental and physical sprints and also a no-nonsense way to know when a session ends.

The main purpose of this is to lose weight. I am more overweight than I have ever been, and am really in a self-loathing downward spiral in part due to it. I'm trying not to let it get to me, I'm trying to find clothes that fit so I don't feel miserable going out in public. But it's getting more and more difficult and I just don't feel healthy

Today, I have hope that I can do this. I can start up again and get back on the right track. I even think I may take some of what we discussed at our staff meeting/retreat day with another area church and apply that to this process. I'm just hungry to not be here anymore. I'm tired of being miserable and uncomfortable in my own skin.

I know I missed a couple of points today, but that's why God created tomorrow. I'm trying to be thankful for this whole notion of one day at a time, so for now, I'm thankful that I hope I can learn to live that way.

Also, this girl is my absolute hero. Both for her witty blogtastic ways and her astonishing weight loss.

Off to floss and maybe even do the dishes. Maybe.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Friends who go after it

We have a few friends who are either living in New York or LA and are going after really difficult careers in entertainment. It's not all that glamorous, and most of the time they have to work their day jobs and face rejection, both passively and directly.

But they are actively going after these elusive successes in the arts. Honestly, I think these little endeavors of theirs fuel interest and inspire people and create space for creativity. It's such an important thing to do in a world of reality TV and sports channels and bad game shows. 

Tonight, we got to watch our friend Elizabeth progress to the final three in a 15 week competition. 200 people auditioned, they chose 20, and now she's in the top three. And even though she's our friend, we didn't just vote for he because of that. We voted for her because she did an awesome job creating stories and telling them on the spot.

I'm thankful that we have such creative friends. They're brave and smart and funny.


*I am going to work on making these less sappy. Which is hard when your prompt is "thankful".

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Home, Sweet Home

On August 8th, 2008, we became homeowners. 

I am very thankful for our house.

We are able to do whatever we want with it, we don't have to get special permission to have people park near it, we don't have to worry about holes in the walls or getting a deposit back, we just get to "be" here. And slowly but surely, we're making it our home.

Yes, more of our time on weekends is taken up by projects. But someday, that will become less, as we're not the type of people to look for extra money to spend or work to do. I actually don't mind the chores and upkeep so much, because in the end, it's "my" house that I'm caring for. 

Today we went to Home Depot and picked up a few odds and ends, and then this evening I tackled some disorganization in our linen closet and bedroom. It really didn't even feel like work.

Someday, in about 29.5 years, we won't have to pay for a place to live anymore. We'll really truly own this place. There were several times when I can remember thinking that we would never be able to afford to buy a house, especially not in Rancho Cucamonga. By the grace of God, we were able to. It is both a relief and an enormous responsibility. I think it is one of the best decisions we have ever made. And I'm thankful to be home.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Hybrid Saturdays

I am thankful for "hybrid Saturdays". Those Saturdays when you sleep in waaaay too late and get moving waaaay too slowly, but still manage to be productive.

Today was one of those. Aaron let the dog out of her crate around 8am and after she went outside, she came to bed with us. A nice treat for a girl who would have the dog sleep in the bed all the time if she could. Once we finally got up, we were lazy until around 12:45 when we finally got started cleaning up the garage so we could park both cars in it (what a concept). 

I left the cleaning effort to spend some QT with Lori, then I came back and picked up where Aaron gave up. Ha, he thought it couldn't be done.  Once that was done, we tackled the backlog of laundry and picked up around the house in general until Geoff and Daniella came over around 7 for pizza, beer, and games.

Usually, I feel satisfied with being productive AND doing something social. Today, I got to be totally lazy (and get rested), productive, hang out with my BFF, and then be productive again, only to be able to spend some fun time with friends, too. 

I said hybrid Saturdays. But today was more like a perfect Saturday. At very least, ideal. So I am thankful for that. To know that it can be done. All of it. ;)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Carol

I was trying to save this until her last day before the inevitable move, but what can I say? I am just too thankful for her today not to write about it.

Carol is from Texas. Carol is probably moving to Mexico at least for a few months with her husband, Paul, and dog, Tanka. Carol has been volunteering in the office for the past few months with me on Friday afternoons. 

She is one of those few people who is actually willing to help do whatever needs to be done, not just what she wants to do. And mostly, she does it with a smile.

Even when she is in a hurry, she doesn't seem like it. Which is nice when you're having a conversation because she actually stays with you and listens without doing that annoying eyeballing the clock or fidgeting that myself and other California-born-and-raiseds are known to do.

Carol (and Paul) are generous, loving, and encouraging people. I hope that wherever the next road leads that they get to have great adventures and see their kindness returned tenfold.

Man, I'm such a sap sometimes. I apologize for the cheese-factor. I really really mean it though. I am so thankful for Carol's friendship.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Tonight, Aaron and I headed out to the far-off land of Monrovia (not because it was the only place showing, but because we had gift certificates) to catch Slumdog Millionaire

I knew pretty much what to expect. Poor kid wins lots of money on Who Wants to be a Millionaire, the Indian version, but is suspected of cheating because nobody should know all of those answers. Especially not a punk kid who grew up in the slums.

I told Aaron I could think of a great many reasons to love this film. I will attempt to write about just a few of the reasons why I am thankful it was made and that I got to experience it.

For one thing, it was absolutely beautiful. The use of color and texture was brilliant.

There were moments when I truly wanted to cry or look away, but Danny Boyle did a great job of ending the viewer's suffering right before it was too much to bear.

I think what was most important, and impressive, about this film is that it actually tells a story. It shows this life, this adventure, in a way that is really inviting and not condemning. How many times a day do Americans have a disapproving finger wagged in our faces for being too money-hungry and not appreciating what we have and being so rich compared to these other impoverished people, yada yada yada. I'm frankly pretty tired of the collective guilt trip. I do what I can. This film brings you to walk alongside these characters and experience in a miniscule way what they experience. It does not have that air of judgement, of, "have pity and send money to orphans or you'll lose sleep tonight." It says this is the life of these characters, and not just these characters, but some of the people with whom you share the planet.

In spite of the lack of judgement and scornful disapproval from the artist who conceptualized these 120 minutes, I still walked away from it with a greater appreciation for what I have. I didn't have to work as a child. I got to be a child. And even as an adult, I don't have to work half as hard as the children do in this film. I have just been able to float along, and the reason why I have to work so hard now is because I made some poor decisions.

The credits helped, as well. 

I thought I would have something more articulate to say, but I'm distracted by internet connectivity issues and tiredness. All that to say, if you can, go see this film. I don't think you'll regret it one bit.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Don't let 'em take the fight outta you

I've only been doing this a short time, but I'm already seeing how it's going to be a challenge. I do sort of cheat and think ahead as to what I'm going to write about when it comes to being thankful, but today, I had no idea what it was going to be.

I could write about something frivolous, like the minor victory that was getting my hands on a copy of Raving Rabbids TV Party for the Wii, which proved to be more difficult than Aaron's acquisition of a variant cover of fellow *FOF's drawn issue of Spiderman. You know, the one that has been on the news because it has Barack Obama on the cover. Yeah, we got one! I'm hoping we got two, so we can save one and keep it mint and sell it on ebay someday.

Anyway, all of that just seems trivial. Sometimes I am thankful for really trivial little things that make my day. But today, as I stopped to watch my tv for a minute I heard something really encouraging and the feeling it gave me is something for which I am much more thankful than these little luxuries.

I am not the biggest fan of Rachel Maddow, in fact, sometimes she just irritates me and I feel like she gives "liberal media" a worse name than it already has.

But sometimes, and this is why I still turn on her show and intermittently pay attention to it, she'll share a gem of a story, like this one.

Republic Windows & Doors, a company in Chicago, closed its doors back on December 5th (?). Sad, but not surprising in this economic landscape. But the workers, get this, refused to leave the premises. They really wanted their jobs back, but if they couldn't have that, they wanted their benefits, such as pension and severance, which they were owed under federal law.

The workers stayed until they got something. And now, while the bankruptcy proceedings are going on, this company in California is trying to buy the factory and give the workers back their jobs, as many of them as possible. It says it will turn them from "blue-collar workers" into "green-collar workers". 

Now if that isn't a testament to the strength of the human spirit, and what can happen when we stand up for ourselves, and what good can be accomplished when we think like humans instead of machines and love like humans instead of corporations, I don't know what is.

So I'm thankful for a myriad of things. I'm thankful for the warm fuzzies I get from hearing that story. I'm thankful for the workers who worked harder for their rights than anyone I've heard of in recent years. I'm thankful for Serious, the company that might buy Republic if given the chance by the court. I'm thankful for the other people who are inspired by what the workers at Republic W&D accomplished. 

I'm thankful for the "fight". I'm thankful for the determination. For whoever that one person was who got the idea to sit-in in the first place. American workers can't just take this stuff sitting down, they need to prove that they are a commodity worth saving. They are fathers and mothers and sisters and brothers who have people depending on them not just for new cars and bigger houses, but for food and shelter.

I love this story. Thanks for reading.



*FOF: One who is friends with Francine H. of Costa Mesa, and consequently friend/acquaintance with select other random people from social gatherings. See also: Todd & Dawn, Aimee, Lisa...

Funny Home Video

I felt that this was worth sharing. It's from Thanksgiving, when Scout was nervously watching this stuffed Tiger every time she walked by it. My sister, April, and I decided to capitalize on that and capture the hilarity on film.

video

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Oddities & The FedEx Guy

I am thankful for oddball happenings like this:

Today, a FedEx guy stops into our office. Not with a delivery for us, but with a check. Not a check that he wrote, a check that he found on the street by the curb. I'm not entirely sure if he realized it was a check, but he knew it looked important, so he made the effort to stop in and give it to us.

It was an electronic check from a bank, someone's tithe or whatever. It was SOAKING wet. Like it had been floating on the river of rainwater (you know the one, the one that is perpetually running along the curb or just sitting stagnant, waiting for you to step in it in flip-flops). It was one of those checks that is like a report card, as in, it was not in an envelope. To get to the check inside, there's these magical perforations along the outside edges and once you tear all of that away you tear out the check inside.

As the check was a soaking wet mess, and as I am the one who handles these donations for the church, I tore into it. It made me wonder what happens when someone writes a check like this and the fluke happens where it gets blown out of the mailman's hands or his truck. I send my checks that way, so I really wanted to know.

I'm tearing away the perforation, being careful not to rip the check. I wanted to hang it to dry without having the whole thing dry together into one unreadable mess. I was talking to Donna about how nice it was that the FedEx guy brought it and all worked up over what happens to people's accounts when this happens, wondering how old the check was, etc.

Then, as I get to the check, I see the amount looks familiar.

As I tear further down the perforated edge, I see the name of my bank (ING Direct), not one that most people in our church use.

Sure enough, it was our check.

Random? I think not. 

Seriously, we get one of those in the mail almost every day. Sometimes a few. How is it that it was MY check that got re-delivered in such dramatic fashion?

So thanks, FedEx guy. I think I shall have to call and tell your supervisor how awesome you are for bringing that in to us. I'd be thankful anyway, even if it wasn't my check.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Redbox

Aaron and I used to have a minimum Netflix subscription, but we really weren't even using that enough to justify the $5 a month. So we canceled it. 

My friend, Carol, who is in my opinion a money-saving expert, introduced me to this lovely little thing called a Redbox. It's basically a vending machine for DVDs that can be found inside of various stores. It's only $1 to rent until 9pm the following day. Which is a steal if that's motivating enough for you to go turn your movie in. What's even better about Redbox is that if you sign up for their email or text message list, you will get a promotional code every single Monday for a free movie rental.

Which means every Monday, as long as we aren't overloaded with work or commitments, we can have a little free movie night at home. It's great.

So far, courtesy of Redbox, we've seen Wall-E, Kung Fu Panda, Run Fatboy Run, and tonight we'll be watching The Dark Knight. Granted, they don't have the artsiest selection, but I'm not going to complain about my free selection.

Aaron's home, time to watch the movie!


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Knitting

Way back in March or April of last year, I learned how to knit. Heather M. was hosting a little knitting and tea party, and her friend Maggie was exceedingly patient in trying to teach me the ways of the needle.

Once I finally got the hang of it, which probably wasn't until the next day, I loved it. It was soothing. I could do that while sitting on the couch watching TV and it was oddly more relaxing to be doing something productive. But at the same time, I don't have much faith in myself to actually finish anything. And I am okay with that. Which, if you know me, is weird. I'm not trying to conquer it. I knit just to knit.

Last week I was hanging out with Heather, who is a little knit-crazy right now, and I realized that I missed it. And I thought I should pick it up again.

So today, I went and picked up my very own big fat wooden knitting needles and a new skein of yarn (it's wool!). And I figured out again how to cast on, and now I'm off.

Sitting on my couch/chaise, knitting, and watching Flight of the Conchords. And it's just nice.

I'm thankful I learned how to knit.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Thoughtful Friends & Thoughtful Gifts

The better part of today was spent aimlessly wandering around the Huntington Library. 

My dear friend, Liz, loves loves loves the Huntington and is always raving about how fabulous it is to go there and have tea in the Tea Room. Back in November, she informed me of my birthday gift, which was a day at the library and tea. Of course, with the holidays, the soonest this could possibly happen was today.

So we met there around 11am, and I requested that Liz show me her favorites. Which really isn't fair, because everything about that place is her favorite. ;) We explored and she narrated and told me about all kinds of awesome childhood adventures with her siblings and pretending to be kings and queens of the giant estate.

The definitive highlight of the day was Tea. We had tea at 2:45 and just about closed the place down. There were only a couple of tables still occupied when we finally left. The tea room is in the old groundskeeper's house, which has been converted into a tiny little restaurant of sorts. The servers bring you a whole pot of a flavored tea of your choosing, a basket of WARM freshly baked scones, and then you are left to help yourself to a variety of cheese, crackers, little sandwiches with the crusts cut off, fruit, beautiful little deserts, caviar... it was amazing!

I am thankful not only for the gift of tea at the Huntington today, but for the friend I have in Liz. She is smart and compassionate, funny, clever, loving, and accepting. She's a doll. I met her in my very last class at Cal Poly, and I'm so glad that I did. It's a little sad that she's my only "English department" friend, considering that was my actual major, but hey, I'd rather have one great friend than 10 indifferent ones.

I have a really hard time developing solid friendships, but the friends I do have I love fiercely. So what I'm really truly grateful for on January 10th, 2009, is that Liz shared with me something that she loves. I got to know my friend a little bit better today.

Thanks for a beautiful day. 

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Good Laugh

I had a really good laugh today, thanks to some research Carol and I are working on for Kevin.

Carol shared a snippet of this article with me, and then I read the whole article and discovered this gem. I could not stop laughing long enough to read a piece of it to her. I was laughing so hard I was crying. 

I hope you find it as funny as I did, but then again, you may not be of the fifth-grader mindset like I am, and by that I mean someone who laughs at fart jokes.

And I really want anyone who is reading this to walk away having had a good laugh, so if those didn't do it for you, try these:



Woops! After a quick re-watch at home I realized I had to take the OTHER video down. Sorry if you already watched and were offended, I really try to keep my blog on the up and up. Here, enjoy this one instead:


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Briana

Last month, I started taking on some new accounting and finance job responsibilities at Flipside. Our bookkeeper, Briana, had notified us that she would no longer continue in her position as of December 31st. 

I had already learned a lot about our database and the way FS does accounting in 2007 when I covered for Briana while she was on maternity leave, so a lot of the training was more like refreshing. We both felt pretty good about my preparedness on the last day that we talked accounting stuff in December.

However, this week, the full weight of the new responsibilities is hitting me. I know that I can do it, and that I'll be okay. But it's going to be a difficult month, if not six months, until I get into my own groove and routines with my new schedule (adding 5 hours to my work week, meaning getting to the office 1/2 hour earlier and staying 1/2 hour later, the earlier part is the hard part), and just getting back to a comfortable place with the accounting and reporting. 

All that to preface this story about my day. There were 22 AP checks to be signed, 2 of which were for hefty amounts that required 2 signatures. I had left these checks with Kevin to be signed, and somehow in the confusion about the 2 signature checks, he ONLY signed those two and not the other 20. Which also needed to be mailed.

I was realizing this immediately after Kevin left for the day, and while I was on the phone with Briana. She was still able to sign the checks for me, so she offered for me to stop by her house so she could sign them and I could get them out of my hair and into the mail. I am so thankful that she did that, but more importantly, I am thankful for her. 

I can remember her from the days when she and her husband (also Aaron) were dating, and I went to the same Bible study that they did when I first started coming to Flipside. She was always kind and made me feel so welcome. Her demeanor was no different when I came on staff. And as she trained me for her leave, both times, she was patient and helpful and went above and beyond to help me find answers and understand how things were done. 

She is one of the women who I most respect in our church. She exemplifies what I think we should all try a little harder to be like, and I hope she is blessed as she makes her transition from work-at-home mom to stay-at-home mom. I know her workload will only be lighter in theory, but I hope she's able to find rest in it.

Thank you for you, Briana!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Retroactive Coupons

I love Bed Bath & Beyond. For one thing, they're always mailing me AWESOME coupons. Magic coupons that don't expire, even though they have an expiration date (really, they don't expire). Magic coupons that I can take back to the store long after I've made my purchase and apply to my receipt. 

Aaron and I went on Sunday and spent a gift card we had gotten as a housewarming gift. I didn't even realize that I had a coupon in my basket at home. We were only going to spend what we had left on the gift card, which was around $40. We ended up spending $55, and didn't feel too bad about it since that was really only $15 in cash. But then we went to Staples and spent another $70 and to Target and spent another few dollars there. Not to mention I had already been to Ikea on Friday night and spent a good chunk of change. So by the time it was all said and done Sunday, we were over budget on our household / miscellaneous spending. What a way to start the year!

On Sunday evening I was doing some cleaning and organizing and discovered one of those Bed Bath & Beyond mailers, that had a coupon good for $10 off a purchase of $30 or more. Score! So tonight, when I was over in Upland meeting Heather M. (who I am also thankful for, but that's another blog for another day), I made a quick stop at the big B to get my $10.78 back (yeah, including sales tax). 

We're still over budget for the month. But only in those two categories, and we could still be under on others. Especially since we went to AT&T and got our government employee discount and gas prices are still quite tolerable. So I'm thankful that BB&B has their own little equivalent of a CTRL-Z* for spending at their store. 

*CTRL-Z is mega-nerd speak for "undo." It's a keyboard shortcut. Learn it. Use it. Love it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Scout Finch

I've been looking forward to writing this one since a few days ago when I realized I would have a golden opportunity.

One year ago today, we went to Rancho Regional Vet and picked up Scout Finch. We had adopted her from the shelter the week before, and were finally free to bring her home once she was spayed. And this is what she looked like that night, man, she was dirty and scruffy!






For me, having a dog in the house is part of what makes it a home. I was raised with animals, I can't ever remember not having one as a child. One thing I always looked forward to was having MY OWN dog. A dog who would be more excited and happy to see me than anyone else. My parents always got that with the dogs we had because either they fed them or were just around them more.

Scout is MY dog. Yeah, she's Aaron's, too, but more mine. :P I know she's a bit annoying at times, but we're working on it. She has gotten so much better in the year that we've had her. We've trained her to do quite a few tricks, too. She is a bit on the high-maintenance side, I think in large part due to being abandoned or lost or whatever happened to her to land her in the shelter. But she really is one of the sweetest most gentle dogs I've ever met. 

To some people, she's just a dog. But to me, she's a little piece of my family and having her makes home a warmer place to be. I'm extremely thankful that we adopted Scout. 










Monday, January 5, 2009

Music and Lyrics

I am thankful for music.

It reminds me that I am human. It reminds me that there are other people who have similar experiences to mine. It reminds me that I have experienced both pleasure and pain in this life, and I have some sort of convoluted soundtrack to prove it.

I went back and forth on how to do this. First I was going to select just a few songs from my iPod, but most of you wouldn't even recognize them if I did. Instead I opted for a little bit of googling and sought out "top 100" lists for MOST of the years. The two exceptions are 2006 and 2008.

So, here it is. This exercise proved to be time consuming, but pretty fun!


1980  Don't Stop Til You Get Enough - Michael Jackson
Yeah, I was all about Michael Jackson when I was a kid. Except Thriller scared the expletive out of me and my mom and dad had to tell me the VHS copy of it was in Arizona at my aunt's house. I was so mad when I found it when I was a teenager, right there in our entertainment center!

1981  Jessie's Girl - Rick Springfield
So I really don't remember this particular Springfield song from my childhood, but I remember listening to this Rick Springfield record over and over again. And now, out of the whole list of top songs from 1981, that's the only one I recognize on sight! lol

1982 Eye of the Tiger - Survivor
Say it loud, say it proud, I was 2 when this song came out! It's awesome and reeks of hilarity.

1983 Always Something There to Remind Me - Naked Eyes
Okay, let's face it, these songs from when I was super young don't really mean very much to me. It's just fun poking around at these lists to see what songs I do actually know.

1984 What's Love Got to Do With It - Tina Turner
Now THIS one, I remember. I think this is one of the first songs I actually can affiliate some foggy memories with of being a kid and riding along with my dad to the dump. Yeah, he would bribe me by stopping at 7-11 to buy me candy and the occasional slurpee so he could have some company whilst he was our very own DIY trashman. I heart my dad.

1985 The Power of Love - Huey Lewis and The News
OH MAN! I freaking love Back to the Future. But when I was a kid, that first scene with the amplifier scared me real bad. I think I scared easily, see 1980 and also library scene from Ghostbusters. Ha.

1986 Sledgehammer - Peter Gabriel
This is getting really fun, I recommend you try it. Sledgehammer was maybe the first music video I can remember seeing on MTV.  

1987 Walk Like an Egyptian - Bangles
What little girl didn't do this dance? Seriously. If you haven't, you should try it. 

1988 Faith - George Michael
Ah, the days of turning up the radio really loud and thinking about anything but my homework. I remember having worksheets in front of me, and I would get so wrapped up in listening to the radio that a half hour later I still hadn't done any of my work. It's when my rebellion against homework started, I think. 

1989 Straight Up - Paula Abdul
My friend Danielle and I used my dad's video camera to make our own little movie featuring our barbie dolls and this terribly 80s looking plastic mattel rip-off furniture we had. I do believe this song made the ACTUAL soundtrack. Maybe a party scene? I wish I had that VHS... then again, maybe it's best left to fuzzy memories.

1990 Hold On - Wilson Phillips
Every week we made a family trip to Costco, which I believe was still called Price Club at this point in history. I was getting to that age when I actually wanted things like books and movies. This was also the year when we got one of those new-fangled CD PLAYERS. So one night, we're at Costco, and they had CDs. And they had this CD. And I begged and pleaded and got my very first CD, by Wilson Phillips. L-O-freakin'-L.

1991 (Everything I Do) I Do It For You - Bryan Adams
Yikes! The list of songs for 1991 is surprisingly sultry. This song, for me, represents a couple of things. #1, I think it was the beginning of my hopelessly romantic ideals. #2, I was starting to break away a little bit from KIIS FM and whatever my parents were listening to. 

1992 November Rain - Guns N' Roses
Yup, it's not your mom and dad's music anymore! I remember watching this video every time I could on MTV. Man, I loved me some Guns N' Roses for a while. This is getting a little embarassing. I hope it doesn't get worse before it gets better!

1993 Have I Told You Lately - Rod Stewart
Fun facts about this song. I started to make fun of my dad for listening to Rod Stewart and Eric Clapton. Then there was some story Aaron told me about dancing to this song at prom, or something, I can't even remember now… but I decided to pick on him for Rod Stewart being his "favorite" singer. And now sometimes I break out into speak-singing this song to him just to irritate him (in a really loving funny way)

1994 Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm - Crash Test Dummies
In my Jr High to High School transition angst, I thought this song was awesome. Maybe I thought I was a freak or that I wouldn't ever fit in or what, I don't really know. But this is THE song from the 94 list for me.

1995 Hold My Hand - Hootie and the Blowfish
This song reminds me of Jaime Randolph. And having friends in general. She was the first one of us to get her drivers license thanks to being a January baby, and we would drive around Bloomington and generally laugh and be girls together. I really miss her. I miss having those friends and those adventures.

1996 One Sweet Day - Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men
Get the kleenex out. This was my sophomore year of high school. I was thoroughly enjoying participating in drama as much as I could, when my drama teacher fell into our orchestra pit and died as a result of her injuries a few weeks later. The thing was, she wasn't just a teacher. She was a friend. She gave me rides home after I would stay and miss the late bus helping out with painting sets or cleaning up after rehearsal. She was a devout Christian. She was kind and funny. This song was on every station we turned to in the car on the way home from her memorial service. I don't even know if I could bear to listen to this song now.

She was an incredible woman and had such an impact on so many students. I love & miss you, Mrs. Edwards.

1997 It's All Coming Back To Me Now - Celine Dion
This song represents the summer of 1996 and spending lots of time at Amber's house swimming. And there was one dance / party, too… I can't remember whose house that was at, but it wasn't Amber's. Anyway, I was all about Celine Dion in my melodramatic teenage romance years.

1998 Foolish Games - Jewel
One girl on the swim team would have her headphones on and sing along to Jewel and the rest of us would follow her lead. Away meets were the BEST. We got out of school early and got to laze around eating snacky energy foods while in between events.

1999 Baby One More Time - Britney Spears
There were these two guys at Dave and Buster's who always insisted that I looked like Britney Spears (riiiiight). And there was a really good friend of mine, who was a bit on the flamboyant side, who had an awesome made up silly dance that he did to this song. I think this song actually does the Dave & Buster's era justice.

2000 The Real Slim Shady - Eminem
Know what's weird? Going to a country line dancing club and hearing this song. This one's another D&B memory, when the Brandin' Iron had a college night on Wednesday nights and I went with my Winner's Circle friends.

2001 Hanging by a Moment - Lifehouse
In 2001 I really connected with this song. I discovered it right in that time when I was doing really well but then went crazy, so this whole album reminds me of that time. But in a good way, because it is one of the things that helped me through it.

2002 Goodbye to You - Michelle Branch
Goodbye to you, goodbye to everything that I knew… at the time, this song had some romantic implications, as well, but now I just see it as a shift in priorities.

2003 Landslide - Dixie Chicks
Country music has been completely missing from this list, even though it really did deserve a spot (at least). I don't listen to the same country I listened to in high school, but I will still occasionally crank up some Dixie Chicks or a few other good female artists.

2004 Meant to Live - Switchfoot
This was the first full year of me and Aaron. This song is also representing the Christian music spot on this list. It's odd to me how frequently it seems like I've been stumbling around with my faith as I look back at this list and think about all of the places and songs and memories I have here. It's oddly comforting to know that even during the times when I thought I had it all  together, I really really didn't.

2005 Beverly Hills - Weezer
My biological grandmother is, well, she's different. She listens to the radio ALL THE TIME, even while she's watching TV. One year, when I was visiting for Thanksgiving, she asked me if I liked this song. It seemed like a benign enough question, so I said "sure", more to appease her than out of a genuine affinity for the song. Big mistake. Every single time it came on the radio in her room, she yell at me letting me know it was on. That song I liked. Apparently she didn't let it go after I left that year, either, but still continued to ask my mother why she didn't like the song - because I did, so it meant something must be wrong with her for not liking it.  Oy vey!

2006 Happy Everafter In Your Eyes - Ben Harper
I'm deviating from the top 100 list now. This song was one that I discovered in 2006 while driving home from Disneyland with Lori. It was so beautiful I decided that it had to be part of our wedding, too, even though our first dance was already going to be Not Fire, Not Ice by Mr. Harper. Lori and I decided that it would still be okay to use this song for our slideshow, as well.  "all that i can give you / is forever yours to keep / wake up every day with a dream /and happyever after in your eyes"

2007 Crank That (Soulja Boy) - Soulja Boy Tell'em
Picture this: A tall young man in a Spiderman costume doing this dance. Yeah. That would be my husband at a pep rally during his second year of teaching. I so wish I could have seen it. Just the mental image is entertaining enough to make me giggle.

Another kleenex box, please. One of the most sadly memorable things about this year has been the passing of Laiken Kenwood. I went to the hospital to pray for her in 2005, and thankfully she got better that time. On April 20th, 2008, I went to CHLA to pray for her one last time. She passed away on April 22nd. She was one little girl who loved life and had a smile that could light up a stadium. This song was written for her by Panoramic View, who are a couple of great girls trying to make something of themselves. I'm so thankful to have known Laiken and her family, and to have been a small part of their lives.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Divine Providence

Wikipedia says, "Divine Providence, or simply Providence, is the sovereignty, superintendence, or agency of God over events in people's lives and throughout history."

When I say that, what I really mean is the hand of God in my life. I am thankful for it. I know a lot of people who don't believe in God the way I do, but here are a few of the reasons that I do.

*I tried to keep these short, so they may be jumpy. And some of them are still verbose. Sorry.

1. Jackie. I was born Jacqueline Marie R. to a 15 year-old girl who had recently moved to California from New Jersey. The day I was born happens to be the same birthday as one Jacqueline B., sister to Bob P. of Bob & Robin P., who would quickly become my adoptive parents and give me the name Kimberly Jacqueline, both to honor the name my birth mother chose for me and my aunt, Jackie, who shared my birthday. 

2. Butterflies. There have been many ups and downs for me when it comes to my faith. One of the ups was in Spring of 2001. I was at the beach on Easter Sunday for a bonfire and service. That afternoon, I stood telling a friend of mine that I felt like a new creation. Out of nowhere, this huge monarch butterfly flies down and lands on my shoulder. Okay, I know I've told this story a lot, but about a week after this incident I went "buck wild". I got into some crazy weird stuff, I'll spare you the details, but I seriously tried to shut God out of my life. Thing was, there were freaking butterflies everywhere I looked. On billboards, flying in front of my car, one time there was even a kid's drawing UNDER my car which, when I opened my door, the little gust of air blew it out from under my car into my line of sight. I knew God was not letting me lock him up and out of my life. He used that beautiful moment at the beach to remind me for months that He was not going anywhere.

3. Doxology. When I started at Cal Poly Pomona, I seriously wanted nothing more than to do theatre. My parents wouldn't allow me to major in theatre alone, and since they were paying for my education, I had to at least double major in English & Theatre. The first show I auditioned for was The Crucible. The Crucible was running on weekends when my absolute favorite band (Five Iron Frenzy - FIF) was going to be on their farewell tour. In fact, one of the weekends of the Crucible was the weekend of their FINAL show in their hometown of Denver, Colorado. Lori and I had tickets to go to the show, and her grandparents lived in Colorado. This was for real. I decided that I would audition for Crucible anyway, because of my dedication to doing theatre at CPP, and I was honestly more than a little disappointed when I was actually cast because it meant missing my favorite band's final show. 

One of my favorite songs by FIF was "A Flowery Song" which was a takeoff of this really old hymn that said "Praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise Him all creatures here below, praise Him above ye heavenly hosts, praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." 

Now, in preparing for Crucible, it was decided that during one scene some of the cast would be offstage singing a hymn to help set the idea of a church service going on. And of all the songs Kay could pick, guess what it was? Yup. That very same Doxology. I knew I was actually supposed to be working on that show, and not going to see some ska band in Colorado.

To add icing to the cake, during a performance of The Crucible, right before her entrance, Elizabeth Triplett asked me if I thought Aaron was cute. Then she went on stage (she was Abigail), leaving me to wonder about Aaron for the duration of the show. She redeemed herself from being known as the grim reaper of matchmakers (you know, since I'm married to Aaron and all). ;)

Today in church, we sang another version of that Doxology which led me to think about all of these things for today's post. I'm in yet another season where there are some weaknesses when it comes to my faith, but yet again God has reminded me that He is in control.

4. Six Degrees of Separation. Okay, remember my birth mother from #1? Well, she has a sister who lives in Upland. Vicky. Vicky works at the Rancho Cucamonga library. A guy named Christopher also used to work there with her. His dad worked at the City of Rancho Cucamonga, in the engineering department. Who else worked in the engineering department at the City of RC? In fact, still does work there? My DAD. Yeah, Bob P. from #1. Since 1988, I have been separated from my birth mother by only 5 degrees of separation. 

Not only that, but the reason I found this out is because Christopher left the library to attend art/film school in Pasadena, and became friends with another friend of mine who attends my church, and I met him at her graduation party. Now he attends my church and is engaged to my friend, Lisa. :)

5. NYC: 2008. I had been looking forward to this trip and the time we would get to spend with our friends. Call it coincidence if you really want to, but while we were there, another 5 friends we knew from Cal Poly theatre were there, too. In 3 different groupings. Two couples and a friend who had moved there that very week. While we were sightseeing, we actually BUMPED into two of those friends as we entered St. Patrick's Cathedral. Of all the places, NYC, the largest city in the US. Of all the places, of all the times that we could be ENTERING one of so many places to see in the city. How many times have we bumped into people from Cal Poly theatre in So Cal? And we're pretty much all here, aren't we? 

I wish that I were able to be more faithful. I wish I had more integrity. I wish that my life more exemplified the love of the God I hold so dear. Truly, I cannot deny that He is at work in my life, placing me in the right places at the right times for the most impact in  my life and the lives of those who I have influence with. I know I suck at conveying that sometimes, I wish I could do it more justice. 

So many of the people I love have no interest whatsoever in believing in God the way I do, in giving Him some control and credit in their lives. I don't judge them for that. I do wish that they would at least admit that some of these things are impossible without some influence from some higher power, somewhere. 

So I am thankful for all of these moments of Providence and then some. I am thankful that I am able to have faith, and to live, and to love. I am thankful that even when I am terrible at being obedient, and being loving, and gentle, and compassionate, God is not. He Is. He loves me, the often unloveable. He loves the people I love, and the ones I don't. He blesses me even when I don't deserve it. I am thankful for Grace.