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In Which Our Heroine Is Now a Mommy

August 17, 2015

…granted, my child has scales and a tail longer than her body, but still.

Dear readers, meet Aravis:

Okay, well, she is still very shy.

That’s more like it. (She’s sitting in her food dish, wondering why there aren’t more bugs in it.)

Aravis is a (reportedly) 6-month-old female bearded dragon that I adopted via Craigslist from someone who didn’t have time for her anymore. I felt sorry for the previous owner until I got her home and had a better look at her less-than-ideal living conditions. But I have since rectified that, and she is healthy and eats, sleeps, poops, basks, and reacts just as she’s supposed to. She’s still very skittish, though, but I’ve only had her for two weeks, and she is still a young’un, so she’s jumpy and excitable. Last time I measured her she was 10.5″, an inch longer than the first time I measured her.

Here, she is mad that I made her take a bath.

 

Here she demonstrates the bearded dragon “sexy leg.”

 

And here, she is exhausted from a hard day of dragon-ing.

 

She is officially my first pet as an adult, and I think she’s adorable. And yes, I named her after Aravis in C.S. Lewis’ The Horse and His Boy. Bearded dragons are desert animals, and I wanted her to have a literary name, so I thought it was appropriate. (If it turns out she’s actually male, I will change her name to Shasta or Eustace.)

Advice to My 20-Year-Old Self From My (Almost)30-Year-Old Self

August 2, 2015

Friday is my 30th birthday, a milestone of sorts that I have been anticipating and dreading for some time. I don’t know why turning 30 weirds me out, but I guess it just feels strange to leave my twenties behind after spending a whole decade in them.

After looking back on what I’ve learned about myself and life over the years, I wrote a list of things I wish I knew when I was entering my twenties and leaving my teens behind. Granted, I might not have listened to the advice at that age, but I imagine I’d be more likely to listen to myself than anyone else.

– If you aren’t sure whether to leave an issue or task up to God or deal with it yourself—leave it to Him. He can handle it.

– Get stuff done, but take your time. Despite what other people may say or how they may make you feel, you are not in any hurry. You are not in a hurry to find your ideal career path, to cross stuff off your bucket list, to get married, to travel to that one destination you’ve always wanted to see, to have kids, to get a house. Forget what T.S. Eliot says: you have a lot more time than you think. Just don’t waste it.

– Spend birthdays and holidays the way you want. You need to take the initiative to plan and invite people to celebrate birthdays with you. Often the birthdays will suck, but it’s okay–there’s usually next year. At holidays, be an adult: if you can’t stand to be around bipolar Uncle Stuart or racist Aunt Bianca, or if the way your cousin eats her food makes you sick or you can’t stand someone’s kids, you can do something else. There’s a lot more you don’t need to put up with than you think.

– No one else cares. Or at least, not as much as you do. What about? Anything: your college graduation, your new apartment, your new job, the book you just published, that guy you’re interested in, your new pet, your last vacation. It’s a hard truth, but no one is more interested in your life than you are.

– Most things don’t matter. Things that seem terribly important, like a single bad paper grade, that nasty customer you had to wait on at your summer job, the number of honors you wear with your graduation robe, that one embarrassing moment that still makes your stomach tighten with dread when you think of it, that jerk who made fun of your hat or your music taste, or whether you graduate with some kind of “cum laude” in front of your name, won’t mean jack in 10 years. That being said: Get as much sleep as you can, get regular mild/moderate exercise, use sunscreen, and always take earplugs to concerts and movies. Those things are important.

– You won’t meet your future husband by now—if there even is such a person. It’s okay. Don’t worry about it, seriously.

– Once you’ve gotten past high school, 99% of the affronts you experience are unintentional. Be ready to forgive people and move on. If someone does something that really does bother you, tell them. If it was unintentional, they probably didn’t even know they offended you. If you have to choose between stewing in a silent huff over an offense, or telling the other person about it and talking it out, choose the latter.

– It’s true that you don’t look as good without makeup. You know who else doesn’t look as good without makeup (or Photoshop)? Everyone.

– People will come in and out of your life. Let them. Don’t be dismissive of someone, even if they are less than your ideal. If they’re toxic or otherwise dangerous to your health and safety (physical or mental) or threaten your principles, then you are not obligated to spend time and energy on them. If, however, they are just tiresome or annoying or make you roll your eyes or seem like too much work to be around, don’t write them off immediately. They may need you more than you know, or they may benefit you more than you realize. If you have people you were very close with or who were very important to you, and that relationship begins to dissolve, or at least become downgraded, let it happen. It’s a part of life. Trying to cling to an expired relationship can keep you from going on to the next, better stage.

– Ask questions. When you don’t know something, and you don’t trouble yourself to find out, it will just make things worse in the long run. Don’t be ashamed to speak up when you don’t understand something, or don’t know what a person is talking about. People might tease you about it—ignore them.

– You will change. You will learn new things, new stuff will happen to you, other people will influence you, and you will change your mind. That is not necessarily a bad thing. Stand by your convictions, but also remember when you are going “This is me now!!!” that things could change in the next five years, five months, or five hours.

– Be nice. Sometimes it will seem edgy or cool to be flippant or rude or antagonistic. It’s not. Don’t be a jerk.

– People won’t listen. By all means, offer advice and warnings when you strongly, sincerely believe it is warranted. But expect to be ignored 99.999% of the time. It’s not you; people are stubborn idiots.

– You will worry about the people in your life, because you care about them and you want them to make the right decisions. There is very little you can do for them, and you have zero control over their decisions. The best you can do is pray for them, serve them in practical ways if they become obvious, and leave them in God’s hands.

– Don’t say “I love you, too!” on the phone with your mom when cute guys are in earshot. They will think you are talking to your significant other and it will ruin your chances with them.

– You are smart, pretty, funny, and competent. You will doubt this. Don’t.

Singleness and Homosexuality in the Christian Church

June 30, 2015

There are a lot of issues troubling and dividing the Christian church in Western culture, but if I had to name one (among many) that I believe is heaviest in my heart, it is the treatment of singleness. As someone who has been single for all of her almost-30 years, and a Christian for approximately two-thirds of those years, it’s something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking, reading, and talking about.

As I’ve alluded in previous posts, the modern church is in great danger of idolizing marriage–if it doesn’t already. Marriage and family is now the foundation of the faith for many, with defending “the family” more important than defending the faith. Jesus and His other teachings (such as being willing to suffer for Him, visiting prisoners, caring for orphans, and not being anxious) are almost secondary. Getting married–and only having sex after that–and raising children is considered the most important thing you can do in this life, and it’s what everyone should aspire to. Granted, not all churches and Christians subscribe to this attitude, but it is there.

Another matter more volatile, and definitely more talked about, is the church and homosexuality. I think that the two issues are more closely linked than it may appear at first.

Homosexuality might be less of an issue in the modern Christian church today (not that I am proposing to solve the issue completely) if today’s Christian culture idolized marriage less.

Heterosexual singles have essentially been fed the idea of, “Just hold out until you get married, and then you get to be visible and of value to the church community. And you get to have sex and make babies.” Which incorrectly assumes that everyone will get and stay married. Single women who enter Christian bookstores to find advice for their lifestyle meet only an endless selection of books on what to do while waiting for that Prince Charming/Boaz/Mr. Darcy.

Meanwhile, if church doctrine says that Christian homosexuals can’t get married, then what are they waiting for? What are they supposed to do with themselves? Are they even wanted in the church community? How do they serve God from their unique positions? It’s the same questions that most Christian singles face, particularly in churches that do not require singleness/celibacy in certain roles.

If the church treated single and married members with more equal grace and welcomeness and purpose, it would matter less whether the singles were gay or straight. Right now, there’s an attitude among many heterosexual church leaders that is almost greedy, saying “We all get to have this thing, and you can’t, and you just have to deal with it.” But if the church treated both marriage and singleness as equally possible, valid, noble lifestyles that worship God and serve His people in unique ways, then perhaps it would be less of an “us vs. them” attitude—either between homosexuals and heterosexuals, or between singles and marrieds. Perhaps fewer people would feel as though they don’t matter in the church community unless they were married.

The Christian ideal, according to the modern church

What does this look like? As usual, I’m not as good with the practical application, but some ideas I’ve tossed around with my friends include better, wider acknowledgement in the church that marriage is still a flawed, human institution, that it is not the ultimate goal of a Christian’s earthly life. More churches should be willing to give their single members greater authority and leadership and participation in church matters. Honoring God and nurturing community should be central to even the most casual church events, without reducing them to mere matchmaking opportunities.

Don’t assume that all women like or want children. Don’t hold up sex as the greatest gift from God and the greatest experience and goal of Christian living, or as a bribe. Don’t assume that everyone wants to get married, will get married, or will stay married. Hold more open, mature, appropriate discussion of sexuality in the church, among people who will ask and answer tough questions. Sermons should focus on both the abundance of the grace that saved us from our sins, as well as the seriousness of those sins.

None of this, of course, will solve every problem in every church, but I think it is a cultural attitude change that is desperately needed.

(By the way, this post was written under the assumption that homosexual marriage is and should be forbidden in the Christian church. That itself is a topic for heated debate, but I am writing from that assumption because it is 1.) my own belief, 2.) the current stance of many churches, and 3.) simpler for my argument. If any readers want me to elaborate on my beliefs and the reasoning behind them, I can write a separate post for that.)

Summer 2015 Adventures: Colorado and Bishop Castle

June 26, 2015

I returned on Monday from an extended weekend in Colorado Springs, gathering with college friends to catch up and sample the local culture. (No, none of us consumed marijuana.)

Colorado features a variety of activities and beautiful sights, but one of the most bizarre is Bishop Castle, an architectural marvel for which mere photos and online descriptions could not prepare us. When we decided to check out the … structure … nestled on a piece of private land surrounded by the San Isabel National Forest, all we knew was, “Some guy tried to build a castle in the middle of Colorado.”

I mean, there are worse locations…

Online descriptions of Bishop Castle include gushing admiration for its fulfillment of the American Dream and the determination required for such an endeavor, as well as praise for the grandeur of the structure itself. Based on these accounts, I was expecting something on par with other New World ‘castles’ I had visited, like Stan Hywet Hall in Akron, Ohio, or Casa Loma in Toronto.

Much like Game of Thrones‘ Sansa Stark, I found my dreams of castles, knights, and dragons crushed under a heaping dose of reality. Instead, I stood amidst trash bins and portable toilets and looked upon a tower of iron and stone that could only have been conceived and executed within the mind of a lunatic. It was the Tower of London’s meth-addict cousin.

BishopCastleJess1

(Photo courtesy of my friend Jessica)

My disappointment quickly gave way to mirth and bewilderment as we began our exploration of the place, and to sheer terror as I defied my acrophobia to join the Saturday masses scaling (part of) the asylum’s heights.

A dragon! Yay!

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!!!!!!!!

AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!!

I should note that this is also not a good spot for people with claustrophobia. (Also not my photo)

There were a few times where I felt nauseated and my legs felt like Jell-o because of the heights, and I was too focused on not falling from the ironwork or tumbling down the stairs to stop and take my own pictures of the scariest parts. There were some spots with very narrow metal spiral staircases, like in the picture above, but without railings–just a long, loose piece of rope to hold onto. While trying to maneuver around crowds of fellow visitors, without falling.

Other weird parts was that the castle is technically still a construction site, but there is no place in the building that you look at and say, “Oh, that is clearly going to be a bathroom” or “That looks like where the kitchen is going to be.” It’s just big open “halls,” rickety balconies, and narrow stairwells.

As you can imagine, a man who tries to build his own castle on almost-federally-owned land, using his own materials and methods and not really caring if anything is up to code, is going to have a few clashes with some form of the government. Visitors to the site can clearly see that Bishop responded appropriately:

(Photo not mine)

In the end, I felt a bit torn. Sure, it’s admirable that a guy would design and build his own castle, and I’m all for mocking the government at every possible chance. But the shoddiness and haphazardness of the design and construction, not to mention the many, many angry rants scrawled on plywood all over the site, is more than slightly terrifying. The recent legal disputes surrounding the ‘building’ are also fascinating.

Still…it has its pretty spots.

BishopCastleJess2

(Photo also by Jessica)

Yes, that’s a random ghost in one of the stained-glass panes

When Sexy Becomes Annoying

June 1, 2015

On a recommendation, I recently borrowed The Science of Sexy from the library. Essentially, it’s a book of fashion advice for women. Some advice is general, but most of the book involves taking measurements to determine your body type and what looks best on you.

Half of the advice I already knew: “V-neck cuts are most flattering” and “dark, boot-cut jeans make your thighs look slimmer.”

But then it got personal, and I spent the other half going, “Screw you dude, I WEAR WHAT I WANT.” Example: short women shouldn’t wear tall, dark boots. Eff that.

IMG_1015

Any 18th-century gentleman can tell you they’re the sexiest fashion choice of all

According to the book, I am an Average Plus Rectangle: Average height (because 5′3″ is on the bottom end of ‘average,’ I guess), plus-sized, and rectangle-shaped. Unfortunately, none of the book’s suggestions for outfits involve Tshirts, my wardrobe staple–a privilege I claim as someone who works from home. The “must-have” for my shape is an empire-waist dress, which…no. No, thank you. I get enough people thinking I’m pregnant as it is.

Each body type has a list of “blessings” and “curses.” For mine, the first “blessing” is broad shoulders because apparently that makes one look taller. Oh, good. And the first “curse” is that I “lack curves in the places that make a feminine body.” Awesome.

To quote the book, ”As a plus-sized woman, your rectangle shape turns into more of an oval, as you carry more weight in your stomach. This means you have double the work when it comes to dressing sexy.“

Translation: Wear jeans and Tshirts all the time, because f*ck it.

Now, I don’t have a problem with people who really do want to use advice like this. Some people don’t want to bother thinking about fashion, and they’d rather have someone else tell them what to wear. There’s nothing wrong with that if that’s what you want to do.

I prefer to choose my own accessories

As for me, I don’t like other people telling me what to do, and that includes clothing. “I DON’T CARE IF YOU THINK THIS PRINT IS TOO LOUD FOR MY SHAPE, I LOVE IT AND IT WAS ONLY $4 AT GOODWILL SO SCREW YOU.”

Another friend reminded me of a quote floating around online: Your body type is not a problem that needs to be solved by strategic clothing choices. “Life is way too short to wonder if ‘other people’ are going to find your clothing attractive, flattering, etc.,” she said. “If it makes you feel confident and pleased about your appearance, wear the thing!”

And that’s what I’ll be doing.

Gluten Free…Bread??

May 23, 2015

I recently purchased Gluten-Free Girl Every Day, and although I am excited to try the chana masala and walnut-kale pesto, I had to try the recipe for gluten-free sandwich bread ASAP. Sandwiches have been one of the most difficult things to give up. I found good recipes for GF naan and GF pizza, so those haven’t been much of a sacrifice, but sandwiches have been a killer.

I said that this wasn’t going to become an exclusively GF blog, and I stand by that. But I have to share today’s semi-victory, because I am just so pleased, AND there are pictures!

Just as Gluten-Free Girl promised, GF baking means you have to let go of expectations. This bread dough is more like pancake batter than the kneadable dough I was used to (it’s the gluten that makes dough stretchy; it’s why you knead dough in the first place).

But! This dough still had yeast, and it still rose. Unfortunately, I had not read the recipe carefully enough, and I let it rise too high before I put it in the oven.

So as the bread baked at 450F, it rose further only to drip down the sides, so it wasn’t quite the high, poofy loaf I was hoping for.

But like many things in life, appearances weren’t everything, for inside, I found…

BREAD! GLORIOUS BREAD!

Since it was made with a combination of flours that included rice, millet, buckwheat, oatmeal, and potato starch, it had a good flavor, and the texture was just like ‘real’ bread! I celebrated by having a slice topped with butter and raw, local honey I got at the farmer’s market.

Maybe this will help put an end to those traumatizing dreams I keep having about accidentally eating gluten. ;-)

The Wild, Wild Midwest

May 22, 2015

This morning I was sitting on my couch, at work, when I looked up at the door to my porch and saw this:

This fuzzy guy (or girl) sat there for about 15-20 minutes, blinking lazily and occasionally closing its eyes. Eventually it stretched and yawned (I’m not overly fond of squirrels but it was SO CUTE) and shifted to get some more sun.

DSC02466

 

I threw some nuts out onto the deck, but apparently it wanted a nap more than food, because other than watching me warily, it did not respond to the offer at all.

That was my first delightful encounter with nature today, but it was far from the last.

It was a perfect day so I went for a walk in a local nature preserve. There I saw, in the following order (you will have to just trust me because unfortunately I didn’t have a camera on hand):

  • two mallard ducks fighting over a female
  • a woodchuck climbing a tree, which I didn’t even know they did, but yep, they do. I learned something new today.
  • what I later identified as an eastern ribbon snake (I literally prayed that I would see a snake today, because I am a weirdo)
  • two deer grazing in a meadow
  • a vulture circling
  • a great blue heron fishing
  • AN ACTUAL BLUEBIRD

I think I might qualify for Disney princess status now.

So, I know it has been too long since I updated this blog, mainly because a lot of personal stuff has been going on that I figure most of you wouldn’t be interested in. Not a lot of brilliant spiritual insights or new tips for INTJs or even any unique thoughts about Age of Ultron. A few things, though: I am going to Colorado in one month, and planning a possible small-scale road trip to geek out at some historic sites in Pennsylvania later this summer, and I may be going to Chicago in a couple weeks, so perhaps there will be photos and stories to share from one or all of these events!

Some personal updates, in case you are actually interested: I started going to a new church that I like very much, I am taking an antidepressant that is doing amazing things for my mood but worsening my insomnia (so some tweaking is needed), and going gluten-free is still working out for me even though I keep having stupid dreams about accidentally eating things with gluten in them. One dream involved a cupcake, another a pretzel, and the most recent one involved a Chicken McNugget, though how I ate one of those accidentally I have no idea.

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