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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Things that make me happy today.

Yes, I was angry last night. Still am slightly. I want my blog to be a place that can withstand one of my rants if need be---but I don't like to let negativity sit at the top for too long. So, here are some things in life that are making me happy right now:

Avon's Mark Self Sanctuary Fig Basil Perfume

The scent is unlike anything I've ever smelled before and is different than the florals that I normally wear. It's earthy, yet classy. I don't wear it often, primarily because I have to be in the correct frame of mind. It takes a strong mood to carry this scent off, which is exactly why I'm wearing it today. And what's even more amazing? It came from Avon. Sorry gals, it's discontinued.

My London & Paris Itinerary

Siebe and I spent last weekend hammering an outline of how we will spend ten days overseas. I leave in less than a month. And the drama will stay behind.

Stella the Puppa

I'm dogsitting this weekend. I love to dogsit. Stella is so much fun and she loves unconditionally. I'm hoping for pretty weather so we can go to the park and scope out some mens.

Clean Windows

We've been begging our landlord for months now to complete our list of maintenance issues at the house. Our windows never got cleaned before we moved in, and literally had a thick, slimy layer of contractor dust caked onto them. Well, I walked into the house yesterday and saw that a cleaning crew had come and completely erased any remainder of dust on every single window in the place. Even the windows 25 feet high in our kitchen. Amy and I thought the windows on our garage door were frosted---but no, they were just dirty.

Low Gas Bill

When Amy got our gas bill yesterday, the three of us were preparing for the worst. It'd been on high power for February, and we were expecting hundreds of dollars in damage. I cringed when she ripped it out of the envelope. Amy erupted joyously because our bill was only $156.00! Incredible! Especially since the window cleaning guy found out that our two top windows in the kitchen were open, virtually letting our heat out.

Book Club Tonight

I missed February's meeting because I was celebrating Mom's birthday, and I didn't realize until then how much I love this monthly activity! Em's making "the New Engagement Chicken" and I'll get to spend time with some gals that I love dearly, yet only see a couple times a month. And we get to play "Robert's Rules of Order," and that's always fun for me.

New Work Friends

I'd been praying for this for a long time, and God answered prayer.

Dwight Schrute

If you know what this is about, he's back. I won't go into how I expect he was victimized, but he's floated back to the top of the water like the axhead. See 2 Kings 6:1-6. My Bible study gals are probably crackin' up right now.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Because I'm not getting laid, a.k.a. why birthdays are important to the Single girl.

A birthday is an incredibly important day in a single girl's life. At no other time of the year is the single girl celebrated. There aren't any perks that come with an anniversary, and you certainly don't get any lovin' on Valentine's Day. And those random acts of kindness that your significant other does for you throughout the rest of the year---you know, "flowers just 'cause" or "special date night" or "whatever-the-hell-people-in-love-do-for-each-other-that-I-wouldn't-know-about-because-I've-been-single-for-so-freaking-long"---the single girl misses out on all of that. As Carrie Bradshaw would say, when you're single, you get "bubkes." The only chance I have for any sort of action (that'd be attention) is my birthday. One shot. One opportunity.

The further I journey into my twenties as a singleton, the more I realize that my parents, my brother, my extended family, my got-married-straight-out-of-college friends (not all are included, mind you) and many of my married co-workers look at my life in puzzlement. Quite simply, they don't get me, nor do they get any of my other single friends. In their eyes, we are the rejects of society that couldn't manage to snag a mate, and therefore, we must be dying to spend all of our time catering to their desires and fulfilling their requests. And what else more important would I have to do with my time???

I love it when preachy comments are made to me about "real responsibility" and "the burdens of marriage and family." Please. We make choices in life, and we live with the consequences---both good and bad. Marriage and raising a family is very hard and very important, and I don't make light of that. But I don't know of any happily married couples with kids that would give it all up just to be single again. They may envy my "freedom" for a few minutes, but no way would they go back. And lest we forget that marriage is a choice, and so is sex, and the use of contraception in sex.

Singles are constantly making sacrifices for non-single parties and their life choices. I have no problem with this. I am happy to re-arrange my plans if I can help out or if I am needed or wanted. I want to be there for the people in my life that I love and that I care deeply about.

But, where do I draw the line? Once, just one day of the year, I would like a "get out of jail free card." And that day is my birthday. I don't expect for anyone in my life to roll out the red carpet---but I do expect them to make an attempt to understand why my birthday is so important to me. And it would be nice if they respected that I'd like to spend my birthday celebrating my own life choices, not theirs. Laissez-faire, already.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Chicken or the Egg?

At ten o'clock last night, my roommate Amy commented that I'd been in the kitchen cooking since she walked in the door at 5 p.m. She was wrong, but that's only because her knowledge was limited. I'd actually spent those five hours in the kitchen, plus a couple preparing Easter lunch for my Mom and Dad.

I had a really nice Easter this year, especially compared to last year. My parents joined me for church--it's always fun for me when they get to experience a little bit of my world. The music at church was amazing yesterday. At one point, I was sitting there thinking about how I wanted to jump out of the pew and dance and clap and shout with praise to the Lord. I wonder if anyone else at church feels that way. Instead, everyone just sat there with their legs folded and hands neatly clasped while the choir, orchestra and some soloists belted out beautiful hymns and praise music. Is it too much to ask for Southern Baptists to employ a little charisma when we worship the Creator of the universe?

Lunch yesterday was one of my favorite dishes--Cranberry Chicken. You've heard of "Engagement Chicken"? Well, let's just say that Cranberry Chicken is the new "Engagement Chicken." It's become a favorite dish among my circle of friends, after Natalie introduced it to the group. I made it for my parents yesterday, and they loved it. Someday, I'll hook me a man with this entree. The recipe is below and I've decided to rename it:

The "New" Engagement Chicken

4 (5 ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
1/4 cup white wine or white cooking wine
1 cup stuffing mix
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup melted butter

In a baking dish, lay chicken pieces two inches apart. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top of chicken. In seperate bowl, combine cream of chicken soup, white wine, and 3/4 of stuffing mix. Spread over chicken pieces, competely insulating pieces. Distribute the remainder of stuffing mix on top of chicken, along with cranberries. Follow with melted butter. Bake on 350 degrees for about 45 minutes or until meat thermometer tells you the internal temperature of chicken is between 180 and 190.

Serve it with some parmesan cous cous with toasted pine nuts, and a spinach, mandarin orange, feta and walnut salad. Make your own citrus balsamic dressing using the reserved mandarin orange juice, a splash of balsamic, and a little olive oil. Add a packet of Splenda if you want it a bit sweeter.

After lunch, I spent some time filing my taxes, and was rather disgusted upon finding out that Uncle Sam is keeping more money this year than he did last year. Evidently I've stepped up into a higher tax bracket, yet my salary is still at the low end of that bracket. This translates to Mary Anna getting taxed more for just slightly more money than she made last year.

Don't get me wrong---I'm not one of those Americans that feels like the government isn't entitled to any of my money. I like the quality of Tennessee roadways (have you ever driven on Alabama roads?) and I know that good asphalt doesn't come cheap. But when TurboTax laughed in my face at my piddly refund, I got mad.

Single, childless people get the shaft from the government. Others get a tax break for being married, for overpopulating our earth, and for combining their double-incomes to purchase homes and cars and stuff that most singles have difficulty affording. Logically, it costs two people much, much less to live---especially with things like rent/mortgage and utilities. The burden of responsibility is shared with two paychecks. In my case, my living expenses account for almost three quarters of my hard-earned cash flow. They say that single people in their mid-twenties account for a millions of dollars in disposable income in our marketplace. Which one of my friends has millions of dollars in their checking accounts? My millions belong to my landlord, Nashville Electric, Nashville Gas, and Metro Water.

Suffice to say, heavily taxing singles is poor policy. Dad told me to write a letter to my congressman.

Around 4:30, Mom and Dad left for home, and I began to prepare brunch for Monday night. Each girl in our Bible study has shared her testimony and prepared us a meal in her home for the past six weeks. It's now my turn, and I'm very excited. It's been since 2005 since I've shared my testimony to a Bible study, and I have grown immensely since then. The journey so far has not been replete of both peaks and valleys, but "He who began a good work in you, will be faithful to complete it."

But, before I testify, we break bread. Or, in this case, we'll break sausage pinwheels with hashbrown casserole and ham tarts. I also made homemade strawberry muffins, and they're gorgeous. We're having fruit-n-yogart parfaits for dessert.

Not that it has anything to do with Bible study, but the majority of my girls will stick around tonight to watch the season premiere of The Hills on MTV. I. Cannot. Wait.

One last thing... Em is back in the blogosphere! Take a mid-morning break with some Oreos and Milk!

Thursday, March 20, 2008


I work in "Corporate America" and I work for "the man." In my case, "the man" is Jesus, but that's a moot point. For some reason, the word "corporate" lends itself to importance and authority--and don't forget about those bearded men around a cherry-stained conference table in leather-backed swivel chairs.

From 1995 until 2003, I was a minimum-wage employee at the now defunct Uptons department store, Goody's (for one day, then I quit--they were heinous), Books-A-Million, Hastings Entertainment, and Linens-N-Things. I've worked for both "good" corporate entities (LNT) and "bad" corporate entities (BAM/Hastings). In the world of retail, a "corporate visit" or "call from corporate" was a phrase that was tossed around by management, and meant to strike fear in the hearts of all of us. Kind of like the word, "Mufasa!"--you know, from those little greasy hyenas in "The Lion King." It worked.

Well, evidently, I'm one of those "corporate scary people" now. For instance, today, I called one of my stores and asked for the manager. The employee answering the phone, nicely said the manager was unavailable and asked if I'd like to leave a message. So, I replied, "oh, no thanks. This is Mary Anna from corporate. Do you know when David will be in?" Instantly, as if the mention of the word "corporate" holds the secret to the Holy Grail, the employee becomes overly perky and sometimes they even stumble over their words---like I'm some kind of celebrity.

Awhile back, my co-worker, Matt, dealt with a similar experience with one of his stores. Matt needed some information from the store manager, and evidently, the store manager asked one of his high-school age employees to "call Matt at corporate and give him this information." The employee sheepishly said no, because they were afraid of messing it up with corporate. It wasn't astrophysics, folks. We're just "corporate scary people."

Personally, I always feel like a fraud when I say "this is Mary Anna from corporate." I feel like I'm in an episode of "The Office" and I'm Jan Levinson-Gould (without the trashiness) calling to harp on her little peons. Speaking of "The Office" and satirical depictions of a business environment, I bought some "The Office"-related swag (stuff we all get) at Target, including some magnets labeled with buzzwords--much like a pack of Magnetic-Poetry. The buzzwords that make direct reference to the show, like "Scranton Party," "Christmas is Cancelled," and "That's what she said." Of course, the set wouldn't be complete without the word "Corporate."

I guess for nothing else, my retail experience has given me a little perspective at my marketing job for retail bookstores. And maybe if I am ever in management at this company, I won't let it go to my head just because I've got "corporate" stamped on it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

She's gonna be a Star!

A couple of weeks ago, I received a baby shower invitation in my inbox. It wasn't an ordinary baby shower, but an internet baby shower for my blog friend Kristen. She's got so many friends all over the U.S., that a friend of hers decided to organize an effort to show her some love via the world wide web. I love this idea.

Kristen and I met during my Adtec days when we were co-writers for a fashion and pop-culture blog called "Las Fashionistas" (R.I.P. 8/21/2005 - 3/2/2007): Kristen's moniker, "F. Seattle," and mine, "F. Nashville." Apart from that common bond we shared with the blog, I realized that I'd made a new friend in the process.

Kristen is expecting a baby girl very soon, to be named Alyssa Star, and the shower invite asked us to post any words of wisdom or thoughts about this joyous occasion. Considering that I've never birthed a child of my own, I don't have a lot of sage advice for my friend. But spending some time this weekend with friends who are new mothers, I managed to glean a nugget that I will hang onto when I find myself with child (and Lord, let's hope it's later rather than sooner).

Kristen, know that you will never have it all figured out. Just when you think you've got a feeding schedule perfected, she'll begin to grow and demand more. And today she might like this and tomorrow, she'll like that. Every child is different, and while some may claim to be experts in child-rearing, there won't be an owners manual for Alyssa Star. Praise the Lord that he created each of us individually and uniquely, and that we aren't cookie-cuttered, carbon prints of each other! You're going to be a fabulous Mom---trust your instincts and always look to our Creator for direction. Congratulations and much love to you, Jay and Alyssa Star!

"But my dove, my perfect one, is unique,
the only daughter of her mother,
the favorite of the one who bore her.
The maidens saw her and called her blessed;
the queens and concubines praised her."
Song of Solomon 6:9

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Legend of the Menagerie

My life feels almost as if it's starting to get back to normal after three months of insanity. I reluctantly took last Thursday and Friday off work (despite that I haven't had a vacation day since July 2007 and have a huge bank of time to use for 2008) because I knew I'd come back to a huge workload, but it was completely worth it.

I spent my time on Thursday and Friday unpacking, cleaning, dealing with drama from our contractors and maintenance issues, errand running, and the like. But by the time Friday afternoon rolled around, I was ready for some fun and relaxation and the arrival of the Menagerie for our annual girls weekend.

Tina was the first one to arrive, and she and I spent some valuable catch-up time together while we waited on Ashley to meet-up with us. The three of us had dinner that evening at Agave Tequila Lounge, a new trendy restaurant just off downtown on 12 South. The food was fabulous, and Tina and I took advantage of Ash's Lent resolutions and made her our DD for the evening. The margaritas are expensive, but oh-so-delicious. We had a wonderful time, and lots of giggles, mostly at my expense with a "panty" predicament.

After dinner, the three of us headed over to Demonbreun to the Tin Roof, and got hit on by a few middle-aged married men. Nice. Picken's are slim, ladies. If it's not the married men, it's the Nashville metrosexuals in their bedazzled jeans and titty shirts. Needless to say, we didn't stick around very long. Nashville is in dire need of a 21-and-up martini bar or upscale lounge that isn't a primarily a fine restaurant or a honky tonk. Because Nashville is the "Athens of the South," the college kiddies have stolen the hip nightlife and turned it into a primordial meat market.

Saturday morning, we met the rest of the crew (sans Ginny in Dalton because lil' Mil was ill) at Wolfgang Puck Express in Cool Springs. We got some horrible news on arrival from one of the gals, and spent a few minutes in sadness and sympathy before lunch. It's a good thing our friendship is so strong, because the next couple of months are going to be tough for one gal who's going through some hard times right now. It felt really good to be there for her on Saturday and take her mind off things. And I can't wait to see how God is going to work in this situation---I think it's going to be a faith builder for us all.

After lunch, we headed over to A Moment's Peace and Avanti Nail Spa for some rest and relaxation. I had an hour-long massage, and then an RS2 facial. The massage was good, but I had a difficult time turning off my brain from all that's gone on during the past weeks. My facial was fabulous, and I was so much more relaxed during that procedure. My face has been very angry lately with all the stress I've been under, and this treatment helped out my roseacea-related acne. I could tell a noticable difference when I walked out---my face was lighter, more evenly toned, and even my blemishes were soothed.

After our last stop for manicures and pedicures, the group of us traveled back to my house in 12 South to get ready for dinner. Our reservation was for 8 p.m. at Mambu, a meditteranean-asian fusion restaurant in West End. The seven of us (missing Gin, Court and Katie at that point) spent two hours laughing about the four scandalous years we spent in ADPi, and how the current chapter still talks about the "legend of the Menagerie." Coincidentally, I was unpacking some boxes on Thursday night, and came across several pages of notes and letters we'd sent to each other our senior year, noting everyone's funny personality traits and hilarious stories. We took some time to read these to each other, and teared up at some really special memories we held together. Ashley introduced us to her new pronunciation of ghetto, "jah-het-toe," and I poked at Tina from Queens, "I know, riiiiiiiight?" Our night would not be complete if Christa didn't probe around in our personal lives, and ask those questions that you only feel comfortable answering in the company of people who love your good and challenge your bad.

Two-and-a-half hours later, our evening ended, and it was time for the most of us to part ways for awhile. I am humbled and thankful that God placed these friends in my life, and that He has sustained us through ups and downs for almost a decade. We are a special group of women, special to each other. Next year, West Palm!

As I reflected on all of this Sunday afternoon, I realized how much I needed a weekend of peace. I wasn't dreading work on Monday morning because of everything that's been weighing me down in my personal life. And I had some time to take care of some very important tasks, including booking hotel for Paris!!!

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Royalty in Me

Autumn and I are watching season three of the Office. We're on the episode where Phyllis and Bob Vance, Vance Refrigeration, get married and Kevin's Police tribute band plays the reception. The band is called Scrantonicity and I forgot how hi-larious it is.

I love our new place. Amy and I commented last night at how it feels like we're on vacation and that this glorious holiday is going to end soon.

Friday night, it snowed. And it snowed. Annnnd it snowed. Amy came home late and hollered at Autumn and I to look outside. Autumn was unfazed, and she made it clear that "she's from Nebraska." I, however, reverted to childhood and giddily scampered down the stairs.

Amy was already outside by the time I made it downstairs in my slippers and pajamas. Because I live in a state where winter is adversely affected by el nino and/or global warming (if you're into that), I don't have snow boots. I have several pairs of nice, leather boots, of which I do not want to ruin with ice and wet.

When I was a child, Tennessee got very large snows several times during the winter. Some of our snows would stick around for a week or longer. My parents couldn't afford to buy Ben and I those Napolean Dynamite moon-boot-style snow boots, so Mom just rubber-banded plastic bags around my ankles.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. And desperate measures mean I get really resourceful.

I spared you by photoshopping out my Friday night hair. You can thank me later.

By the time I rolled out of bed at 10 a.m. on Satuday morning, the snow had melted a bit, but we still had about four to five inches on the ground. You know the music that plays when Ralphie Parker wakes up on Christmas morning and sees the sparkling white landscape from his bedroom window? That music played for me Saturday morning.

Evidently it also played for my next door neighbors, because by the time I walked to the end of our sidewalk to take a picture of the house, they came walking around the corner with their two little girls. I was there to greet them with crusted drool, greasy Saturday morning hair, and my angry acne face. But, I was still thrilled to meet them. They're going to be fabulous neighbors. And hey...at least I wasn't wearing my homemade snow bags when I met them...

Saturday night, Amy and I hosted our very first official dinner party at the yet-to-be-named abode. I cooked a Pesto Caprese Pasta and Amy made a flavorful Berry-Bleu Balsamic salad. It was delightful food and delightful company.

I spent much of the remainder of the weekend unpacking boxes, arranging furniture, and searching for a place for us to crash in Paris. We've got our London hostel booked, but quality hostels are few and far between in Paris. They're either in the porn district or they're hundreds of dollars a night. So, now we're looking at vacation rentals and I've found some quaint apartments practically at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. More to come very soon.

Speaking of Europe, I got a preview of London Fog on Sunday afternoon. Natalie and I had coffee together at Starbucks, and I stared at that menu board for minutes trying to make up my mind. I don't know what got into me---normally I'm incredibly decisive. The quirky and flamboyant barista asked me what I like to drink. "Tea," I replied. He said, "Let me make you something special and I'm not going to tell you what it is. If you don't like it, I'll make you something else."

A few minutes later, he hands me the concoction. I sip and I love. I can taste Earl Grey, but I can't quite figure it out. It's called a "London Fog," and it's one part soy milk, one part hot water, two EG tea bags, and a shot of Vanilla syrup. I felt privileged, like he was my own personal coffee boy making his Queen afternoon tea. He obviously recognized the royalty in me.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Love like Christ.

Life is a whirlwind right now, and its not coming from outside my newly blinded windows. I walked in the door of my new homestead this afternoon, and was greeted by Armen, our very hot, and very married contractor (yes, I looked), and a house full of windows covered with wooden slat blinds. This might seem ordinary, but when you live in a dwelling consisting largely of gigantic windows, it becomes a big deal. You see, we've been here for two weeks, and our lesbo neighbors have been getting an eyeful. We have lesbians on both corners, so its like a double-shot. I bet they love us already!

I'm already taking advantage of the shared booty that comes when you have roommates. My favorite borrowed toy at the moment is Autumn's electric teapot. I'd always considered myself a traditionalist when it came to tea kettles, but this little gem is fast. And, I hear that Em's got a stainless electric kettle, with some extra bells and whistles...but without the whistle---I'll miss that.

With the move, I gained a new family. I was working on my Beth Moore "Stepping Up" study tonight, and she had us read Matthew 12:46-50. Beth's point was that you don't have to be related by blood to claim ownership in the lives of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. The other day, I was trying to explain to my Mom how important my friendships are to me in this stage of my life. I don't think she quite understands it, but then again, she was married by 23 and had me by 27.

If you are a single, Christian woman, your friends become your family. And we're not talking about a pretty label---we're talking about really doing life together---and with that comes the good times, the bad times, and everything in-between. It's an amazing thing to have people invest in your life and trust you to invest back in theirs. And I think that's why the expectation is so high for each other. If one of us falls, all of us fall. It's hard to see a friend fail, because you feel like a part of you inside has failed too. And in the same regard, one friend's success is another friend's joy. A whole lotta people in my life were ecstatic when I was finally offered the job at L-Way, and these same people were the ones that encouraged me through my tears, fears, and the years.

Someday, Lord-willing, a man will love me like Christ loved the church. But right now, that's my friends. I am so privileged to have people in my life, outside my blood relation, that love me as family.

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