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Friday, January 30, 2009

Going Green

A little while ago, Cooper, Nathan and I realized that we are matchy-matchy today. Green shirts, khaki pants, brown shoes, and glasses. Nathan and I even have green drink containers. We thought this was so funny that we submitted the photo to our online employee newsletter for "Photo of the Week." I guess marketing minds think alike!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Love Bird

This is the illustration that my good and talented friend Courtney drew on my whiteboard at work. Originally, there were two birds, with a heart in-between them. But, because there's no other bird in my life, I erased one. It's more honest that way. And I'm okay with that.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

My Sabbath

Sunday is my favorite day of the week. I love coming home from church feeling inspired to live God-sized. Mike's sermon today was a hard look at evangelism, and a challenge for us to take it seriously. So often, I'm so focused on my own spiritual needs, that I forget my call to serve, love, and tell others about the hope I have in Christ. During the service, Mike had us watch a clip of Penn Jillette speak of his recent encounter with a Christian after one of his shows. This gentleman clearly made an impression on Penn. Watch below.

I haven't been to Sunday School in months. There's no real clear or profound reason why. People in my life are pouring into me, and I'm being spiritually fed through other Bible studies, so I haven't really felt compelled to go. But I do miss being keyed in somewhere after worship on Sunday mornings. For a long time, I've wanted to serve somehow, in some capacity. Lately, I've been feeling like that place is the nursery. I know, it's random. It's not that I don't like babies...I love them. But before this, if you'd ever asked me if I would work in the nursery, the answer would've been no. This afternoon, I sent an email to the childrens minister, and about an hour later, I got a phone call with an emphatic "yes!" So, assuming I pass the background check, I have a new gig on Sunday mornings. I'm excited about loving on some little ones and blessing their parents with some undistracted time to worship.

Later this afternoon, I attended an informational meeting about mission trips through my church. I've been planning to go on a mission trip to Los Angeles in July to work with Set Free Church, ministering to the homeless on Skid Row. Yall know how I love the homeless. I just wanna hug them, dirty clothes and all. Planning for this trip is in the early stages, but I'm very excited about the possibility. Please pray for me in making this decision, as well as God's provision financially.

Tonight, I met with my weekly Bible study girls to discuss our first week of A Modern Girl's Guide to Bible Study (Jen Hatmaker). I'm encouraged my girls are loving it, and I know it's going to kick some spiritual behind---my own included. One of Jen's recommendations to successful daily time in the Word is to create a place that invites quiet study. Dad is bringing an old desk of mine to the house this week, and I have a new lamp to go on top of it. I'm going to put the desk in the upstairs nook, and arrange my study helps and references there. Most of the time, it's quiet when I get home from work, so that gives me some dedicated time to study and pray.

A friend also gave me some good news today about some answered prayer. She and I took great delight in the unexpected way that God intervened. I'm so proud of her. I love it when spiritual accountability leads to transparency, and joy comes from a triumph over bondage.

It was a very good day.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Day Four

"The greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion, which is war against the child. The mother doesn't learn to love, but kills to solve her own problems. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want." -- Mother Teresa

By publishing the following news story, I realizing I'm pushing buttons on one of the most hotly controversial topics current in my country today. For the record, I support President Obama as our leader, and am a proud American at the historical significance of his achievement. And also, for the record, I am unapologetically pro-life, and very disappointed in his actions today. This is a huge step back for human rights. Do with this what you will.

Officials: Obama to reverse abortion policy

By LIZ SIDOTI and MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press Writers - 2 hr 19 mins ago

WASHINGTON – In a long-expected move, President Barack Obama plans to sign an executive order ending the ban on federal funds for international groups that perform abortions or provide information on the option, officials told The Associated Press on Friday.

Liberal groups welcomed the decision while abortion rights foes criticized the president. Known as the "Mexico City policy," the ban has been reinstated and then reversed by Republican and Democratic presidents since GOP President Ronald Reagan established it in 1984. President Bill Clinton ended the ban in 1993, but President George W. Bush re-instituted it in 2001 as one of his first acts in office.

The policy bans U.S. taxpayer money, usually in the form of U.S. Agency for International Development funds, from going to international family planning groups that either offer abortions or provide information, counseling or referrals about abortion. It is also known as the "global gag rule," because it prohibits taxpayer funding for groups that lobby to legalize abortion or promote it as a family planning method.

The Democratic official and senior U.S. official who disclosed the plans did so on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to pre-empt Obama's announcement.

Obama was expected to sign the executive order at a low-key event, one day after the 36th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion.

The move was not a surprise as both Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who will oversee foreign aid, had promised to do away with the gag rule during the presidential campaign. Clinton is to visit the U.S. Agency for International Development, through which much U.S. foreign aid is disbursed, later on Friday.

Obama has spent his first days in office systematically signing executive orders reversing Bush administration policies on issues ranging from foreign policy to government operations. But, save for ending the ban, Obama has largely refrained from wading into ideological issues, perhaps to avoid being tagged a traditional partisan from the outset after his campaign promises to change "business as usual" in the often partisan-gridlocked capital.

Rather, Obama has chosen to focus initially on issues in which there is consensus across the political spectrum and support from the public, such as closing the prison camp for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to making government documents more accessible.

In a move related to the lifting of the abortion ban, Obama also is expected to restore funding to the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) at his earliest opportunity, probably in the next budget. Both he and Clinton made this a campaign issue.

The Bush administration had barred U.S. money from going to the fund, contending that work in China supported a Chinese family planning policy of coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization. UNFPA has vehemently denied that it does.

Organizations that had pressed Obama to make the abortion-ban change were jubilant.

"Women's health has been severely impacted by the cutoff of assistance. President Obama's actions will help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, abortions and women dying from high-risk pregnancies because they don't have access to family planning," said Tod Preston, a spokesman for Population Action International, an advocacy group.

Anti-abortion groups criticized the move.

"President Obama not long ago told the American people that he would support policies to reduce abortions, but today he is effectively guaranteeing more abortions by funding groups that promote abortion as a method of population control," said Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I Fought the Law

and I won.

Do you ever get the shaft from the man and feel powerless to do anything about it? I do. But today, I fought back. It feels good. There's no need to go into detail, but let's just say that I had it out with Verizon Wireless today. Their deceit and trickery was no match for my debate skills and my submission of evidence. I should've been a lawyer. It felt good and justice was served.

Ben called me last night and said he had some special news for me. It turns out that Mr. Ryne Sandberg, my all-time favorite Cubbie, took a job as the manager of the Tennessee Smokies, the AA minor league baseball team out of Knoxville. Don't think I won't be there in March to see him in action. I'm going to work my minor league connections to see if I can score a meet! Now if I could just figure out a way to get my hands on Matt Murton...

In other news, a Nashville institution closed earlier this week. The Alley Cat, located at Five Points in East Nashville, shut its doors. It credits the recession as the cause. I visited the Alley Cat for the first time in 2003, when I worked at Adtec. Sure, it was glorified bar food, but who wouldn't want fried avocado and corn cakes for lunch? And ohhhhh, their Drunken Chicken... Sadness....

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Going Parking with the Superfreak

January has been a very slow month for me. It's not been very exciting, but that's been kind of nice. Work, on the other hand, is kicking my butt.

Rick James is slowly growing on me. I got his tag in the mail this week, so he's officially legal. I'm having a hard time trying to park him though. I'm used to a smaller car that I could whip into a parking place easily. You should've seen how quickly I could parallel park. I wouldn't think of doing such a thing with RJ now. When I pull into a parking space at work in the mornings, I normally have to get out and check to make sure I'm straight in the lines, and then I realize that I'm about four feet away from the wall, with Rick's butt sticking out. It's embarrassing, especially since I consider myself such a skilled driver. And, Rick doesn't zip-zip-zip like the Cubmobile did. He's got a big engine under the hood, and he's a lot of car to handle. I'm probably going to get a ticket someday soon. More than once, I found myself approaching 50 in a residential area. I've got to keep RJ under control better.

Early on in January, I became an aunt. Ben and Brittany got an Boston Terrier puppy and named her Charlie. I haven't met her yet, but she barked to me on the phone. I love her already.

Last Thursday, I met an incredible guy. I listened to him talk candidly about his beliefs during a work meeting, and I was floored. All I could think about was how much I "got" him. He's what I'm about. Oh, and he's married, so he's a no-go, but still...it gave me a little bit of hope that there is someone else out there that might possibly share my beliefs. I was encouraged.

It's been an interesting month with relationships. I'm watching one friend deal with the fallout of a horrible break-up and another friend stumble upon a guy that might just be it for her. I'm in a better place now than I've been in months, but some of my other friends aren't. It's hard and every year it gets tougher.

I don't think we're asking too much. I don't want a spiritual giant, but I don't want a spiritual baby either. I'd like to be equally yoked with someone---someone that's going to challenge me, someone that's going to allow me to challenge him, someone that doesn't have four inches of dust collecting on their Bible, someone that prays, someone that at least gives a damn. Someone that isn't offended because good Christian girls don't say "damn."

I haven't given up hope for this. But I sure am ready.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Cubmobile, R.I.P.

Ah, where do I begin? I'm only four days into the new year, and already I feel discontent.

Christmas and the days that followed were fine and well, but nothing spectacular. Most of my time was spent at the cabin with my parents and the dog, or antiquing around Gatlinburg. Truth be told, I got a little stir crazy, especially toward the end of the trip. On the way home on Monday afternoon, I had a deep feeling of unsettlement that I was having trouble shaking. I chalked it up to hormones, the holiday singleness funk, and being in close quarters with my parents for six days.

Around three p.m., we pulled into my parents driveway and I dumped my stuff in my car and headed back home. I exited the interstate onto Wedgewood and waited at the ten minute-long light to turn left onto Eighth Avenue. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw some steam waft across my windshield, but I brushed it off. A second later, more steam. Rather, smoke. Panicked, I called my dad and drove on home. I pulled into the driveway, lifted the hood and saw what appeared to be oil leaking all over my engine and smoldering. It looked like it was pooling down in the crevices of my car. By 4:30, my car was being towed to the mechanic.

Ironically, Amy and Emily were also having car trouble and both of their vehicles were also at the same mechanic. We joked that we should apply for the roommate discount. Thankfully, Arica had left us her car while she was in Texas. Otherwise, we'd have been in trouble.

Tuesday morning I woke up, and marveled to Amy that I didn't know what to do with myself--I had a whole week of vacation left and no obligations. I was going to clean out closets, file paperwork from the past year, run errands, cook and freeze future meals, read, paint, write, workout, load my iPod, and so much more. Little did I know...

The mechanic called mid-morning on Tuesday and confirmed that I did, indeed, have an oil leak. He was going to replace the cracked valve cover, but warned me that I had other leaks as well. The valve cover was an easy fix, but I was potentially looking at thousands of dollars to replace the cracked head gasket that was leaking coolant, and the other issues. He said that once you take one thing out to replace, that it might, in turn, create other problems. Basically, the replaced valve cover was a band-aid solution, and repairing other parts was the equivalent of opening Pandora's box. I call my dad with this news, and he tells me that he thinks it's time to replace my car.

Now, my '97 Nissan Altima was twelve years old, but was just fine for my needs. My commute is only three miles one-way to work, and while the car was old, it had only 117k miles. Yes, the Cubmobile groaned and creaked on cold winter mornings, but she was faithful to me and a reliable ride. She needed new tires and she had a bent toe arm, and that would require a good chunk of change soon. But she was worth it. I planned to keep my car for two more years and pay cash for its replacement. I had a fund, people.

Everything happened so quickly, and Tuesday afternoon, my dad and I were looking at cars at CarMax, the Nissan dealership, and the Toyota dealership. I didn't test drive anything on Tuesday evening, as the daylight was gone by 4:30. We began again on Wednesday, and by this time, I was past the point of overwhelmed and worried. What did I know about buying a car? I didn't want a new car. I wanted my car. And I certainly didn't want a car payment.

Normally, I wouldn't have ever even entertained the idea of a brand-new-off-the-lot car. But because of the poor economy and the end of the year, both Nissan and Toyota were offering zero percent APR for three years---plenty of time for me to pay off the car. I'd just about settled on a bright, sparkly, cherry red Toyota Carolla, as it drove a little better than the Nissan Sentra. Dad and I sat with the slick older gentleman and wheeled and dealed until we came to an impasse. The Toyota dealership wouldn't come off the car another $1500, the amount of money it would take for me to be relatively comfortable with payments. Dad and I walked out.

Talk about supreme frustration. While Dad is right that there is freedom in walking away from a bad deal, I was also in the same place as I was on Tuesday night. I had no further peace or clarity about a car. The only thing I knew was that I still wanted to keep my car. I cried and cried about this, seriously considering saying "to hell with it" and playing Russian roulette with the Cubmobile.

I realize that this is probably not the normal response, right? Most people would be glad to get rid of their 12-year-old clunker. But clearly, I have some sort of emotional attachment to the Cubmobile. When I was sixteen, my Grandpa gave me his '94 Nissan Sentra, because he bought a new car: the '97 Nissan Altima. Grandpa called it his "Al Teema," because he thought that was how it was pronounced. When he passed away in 2001, I was bequeathed the car. It felt like a privilege to be its recipient.

On top of the sentimental connection, I felt yuppie guilt. While one could make a fairly strong argument that I needed a new car, I also realized that my dented, creaky Altima is a the equivalent of a golden chariot outside the boundaries of the richest country in the world. The value of my 12-year-old car is worth food, clothing and shelter to hundreds of lives of those living in utter poverty. And I'm shopping for cars in the 15k range, why???

I drove in the Cubmobile to my parents house on New Year's Day. Dad and I were going to another CarMax, but before we could go, my parents and I got "into it." They couldn't understand why I was so upset. And maybe some of you don't either. But spending another New Year's Eve alone and feeling the weight of a car payment on a single person's already limited income was enough to put me over the edge. Hearing "suck it up" was not appreciated.

Five or so hours later, I was signing the paperwork for a 2006 Nissan Altima. It is a pretty car, but who cares? Is it what I would've chosen if given the time to think about it? Maybe so, maybe not. But at the time, I was so worn out and beaten down that I didn't give a rat's ass what I drove home. I just wanted it all to end.

Every time I've looked at the car this weekend, it's made me ill. While I am blessed that I am able to make the payments, I'm disgusted at what it represents about our culture and the way we spend our money. I know I need to make peace with it, because I'm going to be driving it for the rest of my life...lest I have to go through this again. Siebe gave me some comforting words last night though, saying that she too experienced the same stress when she had to make a quick decision about her own car awhile back. That made me feel better. Maybe I will learn to love my car. It could be like an arranged marriage.

I named the car "Rick James." If you get it, then you'll think it's funny. If not, clearly you haven't wasted any time watching Dave Chappelle reruns.

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