Is My Nerd Showing?

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A common lesson of mothers everywhere is “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” This is bunk.  You ALWAYS judge a book by its cover and really should only NOT use this method in regards to people.  Failed metaphor, in my opinion.  Where was I going with this… Oh, yes – judging people.  I don’t know when it started for me, but at some point I developed a weird reaction to people’s covers.  I have a friend who admits she feels uncomfortable around rich people, and I think I’m this way with pretty people.  It’s not that I feel inferior or anything – I’m secure enough with my cover and am reminded I should be just often enough.  It’s not that I’m bitter and assume you’ve been gifted with blessings we mere mortals cannot hope to attain.  My real reason for not being crazy about pretty people is this:  I assume they will be boring.

I should clarify straight off that by “pretty people” I mean people who obviously care a great deal about their physical appearance, their projected persona, their level of cool.  Having worked with models, I’ve trained myself to look at people and figure out how much time they spend on the way they look. Tip: Shoes are always a good indicator.

Anyway, there are fortunately exceptions to this “rule.”  Some pretty people manage to be both cool and interesting.  One 6’5” model guy and I were once really good friends for about 10 minutes as we talked about his philosophy degree.  This is not, however, what I have come to expect, and I don’t find it true the majority of the time.  Take the girl I met a few summers ago who, while wearing an oversized scarf…in June, told me that she was a nerd because she had seen Star Wars.  Not liked Star Wars.  Not loved Star Wars.  Not memorized Star Wars.  Seen Star Wars.  Umm, thanks for playing; move along.

There are probably all kinds of studies on how class, schooling, genetics, success, attractiveness, etc. are all related to what a person is interested in, but “pretty people” are generally not interested in the things that interest me.  I don’t care what car you drive.  I don’t care how much your apartment costs.  I don’t care how many touchdowns you threw in college.  My eyes roll up into my head a little bit whenever I’m with a group of people who can’t talk about anything deeper than the last party they went to.  And, more often than not, when I find myself in these situations, I’m surrounded by pretty people.  So, I blanket judge the lot of them.

Hypothetically speaking (translation: not hypothetically speaking), I have no interest in that pretty guy at a party who only wants to talk about how much money he makes while eating Twizzlers and accidentally flicking spit at me as he gestures with said Twizzler. However, I am VERY interested in the conversation going on across the table about the Avengers vs. the Justice League.

These are my people.

This is my language.

I was summing up this story with a friend last weekend, and he laughed at me, “So being smart and interesting means being a nerd?”  I blinked and realized that, yes, this is exactly what I mean.  So, I guess I judge in the opposite way that most people view pretty people vs. nerds.

To be clear, I’m not saying that being ugly or socially awkward is a prerequisite for being interesting or vice versa.  And I’m not limiting being interesting to only a quality of the nerdy.  What I’m saying is that nerdy people tend not to care about exteriors.  They’re much more all-inclusive.  With pretty people, appearance is everything.  With nerdy people, interests are everything.

I think this whole dynamic is much better as adults than as teenagers, obviously.  Bridging the gap is attempted more often.  At that party, for example, the dude-bro was welcome to sit and talk about comic books – even if he did eat his Twizzlers in boredom and play on his phone.  And he did invite me to the basement where the pretty people were playing beer pong. I went as a kind of experiment, and I was at least pleased to find that they were nice. They seemed confused why I was there – sheep in wolf’s clothing that I was – but they were nice.  (Sidenote:  The dude-bro made an honest mistake in assuming I was one of them.  On the rare occasion that I go out in public, I do take the opportunity to wear the better part of my closet – i.e. nothing from the sweatpants section.  I can care, but the majority of the time I forgo makeup and end up walking around the Knapp Meijer being judged by the natives.)  Anyway, nice as the pretty people in the basement were, I just didn’t fit down there.  I wanted to get away from the discussion about their last party and back to the convo upstairs about making homemade movies.

As an author bud told me recently, “You’re unique.  You don’t have to be pretty.” …I’m really not sure how to take that, but I think I thanked him.  I guess I like not worrying about being a pretty person and instead letting my nerd show.  That is what I want people to see of me.  That’s the interesting part of me that loves connecting with other people’s interesting, nerdy bits.  I guess it feels more real to me to get to know what a person loves.  Can you be a nerd about football? Sure.  Can you be a nerd about iPhones and the GAP and breweries? Certainly.  I’m not limiting my interest in what people love – just have interests that matter to you more than how you present yourself.

So.  Maybe I do judge people by their covers.  I’m delighted when I’m wrong.  But I think maybe it’s healthier for me to focus on being unique rather than pretty, and that attitude is certainly something I gravitate towards in others.

Apologies to Twizzlers Dude.

Top 25 Favorite Books List

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Recently I was faced with an interview question of “If you’re stuck on an island, what three books do you have to have with you?”  I brought this up with a group of friends, and of course we wondered about all kinds of qualifiers – are you ever going to see people again, does a collection/series count as one selection, is there wi-fi on this island, etc.  It’s a toughy.  One of my friends and I agreed on a bigger problem, however – we don’t reread books. 

And that is making my New Year’s Resolution very difficult to stay committed to.  Back in (okay, I was late) February, I decided that I would reread my top 25 favorite books to see if they still meant as much to me now as they did when I first read them.  As of this moment, I have about 8 left to go.  And it’s killing me.  Not because I’m finding I don’t love them after all, but because I just do not enjoy rereading books.  I have a freakish memory anyway, and so rarely am I finding that I’ve forgotten anything about these stories.  I don’t get much new out of them.  And so, as I’m reading, I’m finding myself glaring at the pages yet to go in my right hand and just wishing to be done.  Which is bad, because I do love these books.  Rereading is proving to me that I kind of wish I could just hold onto my memories from the first time I read them – my initial loves, surprises, fascination, etc.

However, so far there is one book from my Top 25 List that I’ve discovered does NOT mean as much to me now as it originally did, and so I guess this is accomplishing what I originally intended.  “My Name is Asher Lev” is the book I’ve most drifted from loving.  At the time (in college), I got a lot out of the book because it was about an artist trying to break from his familial/religious mold to find his artistic identity.  Now, I just don’t connect with that anymore.  It was a very important book to me during that particular time in my life, but now maybe I’ve just outgrown it.  Odd, considering I reread “Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator” and don’t feel I’ve outgrown that one at all, but whatever.

Fortunately, all of the other books (so far) that I thought were my favorites really are my favorites, so there’s that.  And (again as a lover of lists and checkmarks), I’m finally able to commit to rating these as 5-stars, because now I’m sure.  I’m also sure this is making some of my friends happier, since I used to have a very gymnastic-scoring-eque approach to rating books, proclaiming there’s no such thing as a perfect 10.  But I guess a perfect 5 I can commit to.  Go me.

So, anyway, here’s my Top 25 Favorite Books List:
The Time Quartet (L’Engle)
Jane Eyre (Bronte)
The Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe (Poe)
Twelfth Night (Shakespeare)
Freedom in Exile (Dalai Lama)
The Demon in the Freezer (Preston)
I Was Told There’d Be Cake (Crosley)
Young Kate:  The Remarkable Hepburns… (Andersen)
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator (Dahl)
The Chronicles of Narnia (Lewis)
Through the Looking Glass (Carroll)
Agent to the Stars (Scalzi)
Pastwatch (Card)
The Dark Tower (King)
The Raw Shark Texts (Hall)
Kane and Abel (Archer)

 Still to read:
The Vampire Lestat (Rice)
Speaker for the Dead (Card)
Shadow of the Hegemon (Card)
Shadow of the Giant (Card)
Dune (Herbert)
A Game of Thrones (Martin)
The Cosmic Trilogy (Lewis)
Possession (Byatt)

Out:
My Name is Asher Lev (Potok)

Out of curiosity:
Has anyone else done this?  Does anyone else have this problem when rereading books?

“Summer of Heartbreak”

My brother and I labeled this summer “The Summer of Heartbreak” because so many people we know broke up, got divorced, or just had their hearts pummeled in general.  It’s to the point that I’m so jaded about romantic relationships that even if He-Against-Whom-All-Others-Are-Compared showed up and confessed his undying love, I would probably run in the other direction.

But, on the uncharacteristically optimistic flipside of all this, I also realized, this cooling side of summer, that I have many great relationships in my life which are incredible blessings to me.

I often learn via the compare/contrast method.

I have not always had great friends.  Quite frankly, many of those from school days left me with issues which I’m realizing will probably never go away no matter how many different ways I try to stomp them down. I also seem to have a sign over my head proclaiming, “Tell me your problems.” A depressing pattern has emerged in my friendships were I try to help and end up having the emotional energy sucked out of me without getting much in return.  As my brother put it earlier this summer, “I honestly feel like a lot of it comes down to your not having a whole lot of experience bringing the ‘right’ people into your life ~shrug~  I think most of your training in relationship-building has resulted in… not entirely constructive, long-term-healthy relationships.” One close friend echoed, “How do you keep getting yourself into these friendships?” It’s at least reassuring that it’s not all in my head.

Anyway, all of these awful friendships have been a blessing, in a way.  By comparison, my good friends seem absolutely amazing.  Often when sitting/drinking/laughing/talking with my main group of friends, I find myself thinking, “Huh, I love everyone here.” Or, I’m constantly surprised when my friends do things for me. Or show concern. Or care enough to give me wise counsel.  It’s kind of pathetic but also refreshing to constantly re-remember that I have people who love me.

And not all of these relationships are the same, which is another Autumn-realized blessing.  I tend to want to know everyone as well as possible and be as close as possible to everyone in my life.  But sometimes this can be exhausting and I end up draining myself.  Sometimes I work too hard to make a friendship work – as my brother pointed out, from bad training.  I have to remember that not all relationships are created equal.  I can’t be intimately close with some, because those friendships will not work that way.  I also can’t be anything but intimate with others, because those friendships won’t work if I’m not.  I need to get different things from different people, and I need to give different things to different people.

Fortunately, a great mix of peeps have been thrown into my life:

  • I have a friend I can rely on to talk about Halloween costumes one minute and our deepest personal aches the next.
  • I have a friend who this summer was going through similar “WTF?” friend crap, and we oddly reconnected by getting outside our own situations while simultaneously empathizing with each other.
  • I have a friend who will stay up way past her bedtime and FB Chat me through my crying, knowing me well enough to end on a goofy note:

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  • I have a brother who is also a best friend who knows he can stop by at 12:30 a.m. to talk about his crap because he knows I love him.
  • I have a circle of friends who actually enjoy sports.
  • I have a friend who will text me absolutely incoherent nonsense because it’s common knowledge that I find this amusing.
  • I have a friend who, after 20+ years, will still offer to tell off someone (a stranger to her) who has hurt me.
  • I have friends who are like siblings to me even if we don’t know what’s going on in each other’s lives and we don’t see each other as often as we would like.
  • I have friends who could talk seriously but mostly enjoy comparing notes on TV, movies, and books.
  • I have somewhat-lost friends who still reach out and remind me that I have people in my life who care about me.

 SO.  In all of this, I see the hand of God gently and not so gently turning me to see – through the pain and heartache – the blessings in my life.  I will inevitably get annoyed with my friends and nitpick, but I really did, through this summer, greatly appreciate those who prove that I have relationships that save me.

Bring on Autumn.

“Single-Serving Friends”

“Sometimes you run into someone, regardless of age or sex, whom you know absolutely to be an independently operating part of the Whole that goes on all the time inside yourself, and the eye-motes go click and you hear the tribal tones of voice resonate, and there it is – you recognize them.”  — Anne Lamott

“So when we meet as strangers, when even friends look like strangers, it is good to remember that we need each other greatly you and I, more than much of the time we dare to imagine, more than more of the time we dare to admit.  Island calls to island across the silence, and once, in trust, the real words come, a bridge is built and love is done –not sentimental, emotional love, but love that is pontifex, bridge-builder. Love that speak the holy and healing word which is: God be with you, stranger who are no stranger. I wish you well. The islands become an archipelago, a continent, become a kingdom whose name is the Kingdom of God.”  — Buechner

For my own sanity and well-being, I try not to base too much of my life philosophy on Fight Club.  However, the idea of single-serving friends is something that I appreciate.

Probably the biggest difference between the Sunny of Mother Superior Era and Sunny Version 2.0 is that now I like people.  Love ‘em, even.  As a writer, people are good sources of quirks that aren’t from my own head.  As a slightly better-adjusted human being, people are just fascinating for their own sake.  I love meeting new people, which is something I learned about myself during the model scouting period.  I’ve always liked opening people up, finding what makes them tick, finding what passions drive them.  Sometime the people that are in our lives every day get comfortingly boring, and we forget to ask new questions, discover new things.  With new people, it’s much easier and natural to ask about who they are.  And it’s great how new people can completely surprise you by being exactly what you need at exactly that moment.  I think the shock value of a complete stranger getting you can do wonders. Sometimes you run into someone who is so much you that it’s wonderful (or awful).  Sometimes you run into someone who teaches you something you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

Here are a few of my favorite single-serving friends:

  • Garage Sale Kindred.  During a family garage sale, my brother and I had an encounter with one of those people who I know God throws in my path just to get my attention.  We were almost ready to close down the garage sale for the day when this blue car slid to a stop just too far of our driveway.  Slamming the unenthused car into reverse, this old lady pulled into our driveway and got out to inspect my brother’s drums.  Immediately, we both got the sense that she didn’t think she was old – you could just tell that about her.  Her hair was white and she wore wide-rimmed glasses, but she carried herself like she was my age.  She wore this beautiful sari that fluttered in the wind like a flag.  The woman – I don’t even think we got her name – had attitude, spunk.  It would be no stretch to say that she was interested in whatever she came across that she didn’t know about, I think.  It was like she knew a secret that only she and life shared.  Christian and I both agreed after she left that she was awesome.  All the time we talked to her about her Sunday school kids, her yellow house down on the corner, my brother’s drums, and our own lives, she talked to us like we were her equals.  That really was a great unspoken compliment.
  • Smiley Asian Guy.  Do you ever notice that simple, seemingly coincidental run-ins can change your outlook on a day? One morning at college, I was stressing over the problematic people in my life.  I was walking down the sidewalk when I crossed paths with a little man who was obviously a visitor to campus. As I walked by him, he greeted me with a serene grin and asked, “Are you enjoying this morning?” It was just funny somehow, and it surprised me because it wasn’t the monotonous, “Hi, how are you?” I perked up immediately.
  • Meijer Lady. During grocery shopping on a busy day, I found myself stuck in a funnel where this silly girl with her boyfriend was clogging the aisle as she tried for 3 minutes to decide which kind of ketchup she wanted. A lady in a scooter and I were the next up for crossing paths if the girl moved, and we made eye contact and exchanged smirks. Finally the exasperated boyfriend shoved his cart to the side enough for the scooter lady to get by. As she went by me she said with an eye roll, “Your word for the day is, OBTUSE.” I started laughing but tried to cover it as the boyfriend also rolled his eyes. Great.

So, yeah, I enjoy discovering fresh people.  But what about people who are in my life daily and who have been in my life forever?  Obviously we can always seek to know people better, and we shouldn’t forget to continually try.  This leads to another favorite quote:

“We spend our lives guessing at what’s going on inside everybody else, and when we happen to get lucky and guess right, we think we ‘understand.’ Such nonsense. Even a monkey at a computer will type a word every now and then.” – Orson Scott Card

But the thing about people you know well – in many ways, it’s harder to be surprised by them.  You know each other’s histories.  You know their favorite foods and movies.  You know what makes them angry.  You know so much about them already that you can get lazy about pushing for more.  However, even old, old, old friends can surprise you and be exactly what you need at exactly that moment.  I’ve found that the trick is to fake myself out, to be just as interested while conversing with a friend as I would be with a new, single-serving friend.  You see things more freshly that way, and sometimes your eye-motes go click.  Sometimes you re-meet someone you’ve known for years and they’re a blessing you never saw coming.

 A few times old friends/family/acquaintances have really mattered to me:

  • Shaaaaaaane!  The summer between high school and college, I was a mess, to say the least.  One of my cousin Randy’s friends, Shane, happened to be up for the Fourth of July at my aunt and uncle’s cottage on the lake.  Everyone pretty much acted like normal, asking me the usual questions about my upcoming departure for college, but I remember sitting on the beach with Shane and him asking me similar questions.  For whatever reason (I’ve convinced myself it had nothing to do with the fact that I was at last 18), Shane treated me like he really cared, like this next step in my life mattered.  I’m not sure we’d ever really talked before, but for some reason this was completely refreshing to me and meant a lot, maybe simply because he was a new person and I needed so very badly to be reminded that I needed new.
  • Rachel K.  A great thing about people who know you well is that sometimes they know exactly which of their own experiences you can learn from vicariously, even if you never saw it coming.  When I was having problems with a particular mutual friend, Rachel was a surprising source of comfort as she explained a similar situation with another mutual friend (yes, I’m being vague).  It was one of the first times we connected about things more serious than books and movies, and her response to her situation made me realize I had a better way to handle my whole thing.  Her advice really helped, and I’d never seen it coming. 
  • Second-Favorite Hunter.  I think I’ve told this story before.  Chris H. is really probably my favorite hunter (don’t tell!) because I like a person who will jab at me playfully and know I won’t be offended.  Chris for years would say, “What is that smell?” whenever I would enter a room.  Anyway, during one fateful Haymarsh Sporting Clays Pig Roast, I broke my hand.  Everyone asked what I’d done and looked sorry for me and all that.  My family of course knew I was a klutz and so helped me get a plateful of pig and other assorted potluck food.  BUT, much to my surprise, Chris was the one who brought me a piece of the dessert his wife had made.  I didn’t ask for it, he didn’t ask first, he just brought it over.  It was oddly kind and memorable, and it reaffirmed my love for my weird little hunter family of adopted-uncle-types.

Now here’s the flipside.  What happens when I am that person who has the opportunity to matter in someone else’s life? How can I contribute to the people in my life – whether strangers, single-serving friends, people I’ve known forever, whatever?

For starters, I really do try to smile more (stop laughing, people who know me! I do!).  I learned from that man above that this simple thing can matter to people.  And I can be more cordial and kind in general to random people whenever our paths cross.

Strangers actually are easiest for me to be charitable towards.  It’s the people I know well, the people who I’ve spent perhaps too much time with, the people whose flaws/strengths I know inside and out that I have a hard time with.  (Apologies all ‘round.) But obviously these are the people I’ve invested in, the people who are most part of ME, and I should work to be…better.  I should have the decency to dig deeper and not assume I know everything about them.  I should be more forgiving of faults.  I should seek to help them open up and grow. I should be encouraging.  I should…I should…I should.

Sometimes I even do.  I really do try to give more than I take.  I try to be whatever a person needs from me.  It’s that 1 Corinthians, “I have become all things to all people” idea.  The problem is that I somehow usually end up draining myself – yes, I realize how self-righteous that sounds.  Often I will invest so much in trying to help someone that I lose myself and feel like that person is sucking me dry.  So, yeah, a happy medium would be good.  But, honestly, I always know God is trying to teach me something as I try to help whoever He’s put in front of me.  Patience. Compassion. Abandonment of self.  Etc. Etc. Even in mattering to other people, we end up getting a lesson ourselves, I think.

There are obvious things I need to work on.  I’m not good with criers.  Hypothetically, I will pat a crying person’s head if I don’t know what else to do.  And I’m not good with not poking when I see something is wrong – I want to fix everything and often don’t have the patience to go at someone else’s pace.  I’m not good at letting down my defensive shield if it means I might get hurt, if it means I might have to be so honest that I could lose that friend.  And, again hypothetically, when a person requires more vulnerability from me than I’m prepared for, I’m not good at letting go of all my little mechanisms for controlling the situation, and instead I will segue with something like, “Say, did you hear about that killing spree?” …Hypothetically.

So, yeah.  People sometimes surprise you and can change you.  And you can sometimes surprise people.  I think the key thing – whether with strangers or best friends – is to treat each meeting as an opportunity to know someone better. You just never know who might turn out to really, really matter.

How Do You End a Phase?

When does a phase become a rut?

Miranda and I had jokingly made a New Year’s Resolution in 2009 to “turn this douche of a life around,” but August rolled around and we hadn’t made much progress – okay, no progress except to re-title 2009 “Douche Awareness Year.”  And then came 2010.  After living in the Knapp House for four and a half years, I realized that I had gotten stuck in this idea of “Now What” and the limbo between college and the great expanse of the rest of my life.  As one of M’s coworkers once said, “What are the markers for the rest of your life once you graduate if you’re not married?”  It looked like this fairly happy, comfortable life could go on for an indeterminate period of time.

This freaked me out.

I had told myself I would use this time/phase of limbo to figure out what I wanted to do with my life; I had gotten lazy and settled for life as it was. The problem was, I simply had no good reason to change anything. I loved our house. I loved living with M for the most part (after four years of living together, anyone can get on your nerves, even a saint).  I loved my job, my environment, and the friendships I’d invested in.  There honestly wasn’t any big change I could see that would make me any happier than I already was.  But, I was way too comfortable while being unsatisfied at the same time.  Something had to change.  I barely felt like I was living; I found that I was just waiting for something new to happen, as if God would rain down answers.

So, by 2010, I realized I had to at least MENTALLY take a leap out of my limbo-phase mindset I’d become comfortably trapped in.  I had to mentally create for myself a marker of change from the “Now What” phase.  I wasn’t really in that limbo anymore.  I wasn’t married or having kids or whatever – fine – but I had progressed to some new phase of life.  I had pushed out of the wandering, figuring out phase and into the “Oh, these are the decisions I have made for my life” period.  It was time to stop waiting and embrace…something.

But, once again, there was that question – What did I want?  Even of what I had, what were the best parts I should do more with?  What could make life as good as I could make it? What would make life bigger, fuller, richer?

Thought. Thought. Thought.

Prayer. Prayer. Prayer.

I finally reached the conclusion that, in order to have my own life and do what I wanted, find what I wanted, be what I wanted, I needed to be on my own.  I was excited to branch out and start afresh, on my own – I REALLY had liked living on my own in Detroit, and I figured this would be even better since I had friends in Grand Rapids and wouldn’t feel so isolated.

But, for a variety of reasons, I stayed put.   However, God sends solace in odd ways, at least in my life.  In January 2010, for some reason our landlord decided that he would paint our entire house, and I made a fun two-week friend out of Painter Elf while they painted – surprisingly, with vibrant colors I myself would have picked.  For some reason, this simple change to my abode made me perfectly fine with continuing to live there.  It was a small change, but I’m an artist at heart and the sudden burst of color on the walls was enough for me to feel refreshed, I think.  So this got me through winter.

Then, in April 2010, I lost my job and had a rather intense week and a half of unemployment, during which I tried to decide all the more what I really wanted to be doing.  I realized that I had loved my job, to my surprise.  When I semi-miraculously had an exact replica of that job (but better!) dumped in my lap, I had to admit that maybe God had been showing me that what I wanted vocationally was exactly what I’d had.  Between the paint job and the new job, I was refreshed and surprisingly happy with where I was.  I’d made enough internal switches and mental leaps from the “Now What” that very few physical things actually needed to change.  Mind over matter, so they say, but it really did work and I felt prepared to continue onward and get better and better at contentment, if that makes sense. (This positive thinking was also oddly inspired by watching so much poker on TV.  Elizabeth Shannon, who I would not normally call anything like someone I admire, explained her whole approach to positive thinking in all areas of life, and for whatever reason that kinda stuck with me.)

In May 2010, M decided she wanted to buy a house.  And I moved with her.  This wasn’t exactly what I had planned, but it WAS a good end marker for the Knapp House, “Now What” phase.  Moving was a very physical change from all that, so maybe this was really the final thing I needed to completely snap out of my rut(s).  I was done waiting, done wallowing, done wondering.  I realized that I am not a person who needs goals or a specific list of things I want – I waste too much time trying to figure that out rather than taking what is in front of me and just going with it.  I have NEVER known what I want, so maybe that is kind of an answer in and of itself – I don’t have anything that I really want in order to be happy, so I find stuff along the journey and get contentment that way, or something.  “Let whatever happens happen” right?  Work with where you’re at.  Live in the Present.  And (like Kynacoba, my alter ego, in Book 4) I have to stop worrying and do what is best for me, because in the end, my life is up to me.

“Carpe diem.”

“Get busy living or get busy dying.”

“Nut up or shut up.”

 So… Here’s a sum-up of the last days before I moved out on my own.

Summer 2010 – the Summer of Like

I hate moving.  Not that I fear change, I just hate packing.  And starting a new job in the midst of this transfer didn’t help.  But the freedom to paint gave me enough joy to make it through – my room looked like Avatar by the time my stress was done splirting all over the walls.

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Honestly, though, while that house was M’s home, it didn’t feel like mine.  It was not a house I ever would have bought.  But it was okay.  I liked it, but I didn’t love it.

A not-like:  MONSTER BUGS.  House centipedes have got to be the nastiest buggers in the Midwest.  They eat spiders and other vermin, sure – it would not surprise me at all to hear they’re capable of taking down small rats – but they’re welcome to do that outside.  They have no fear.   They’re smart.  They’re fast.  I had 3 run right at me while I was trying to kill them.

So you’d think that our constant insistence that these little monsters were terrifying would have kept people from ever coming over, but people still were willing to stop in from time to time.  And it was THESE houseguests who were welcome, which led me to realization about myself #576,588:  I really, really like people.

  • We met our neighbor, Marc, and began a note-writing war back and forth that started with him leaving a gift on our porch one night with a note that said “PLEASE BE QUIET!” and ended with us telling him to paint his flowers white because we didn’t like pink.
  • Shark Week 2010 was particular fun with Racie when we lay on the couch until 1:00 a.m. and refused to put our feet on the floor for fear of the Monster Bugs.
  • I randomly had a drink with Elijah after 15ish years.  Funny how people you barely knew in grade school turn out to be cool.
  • I became better friends with Marcus not only because he had access to a pool…though, that was a big part of it.
  • We had a Girls’ Night at one point where we watched Newsies and the Disney version of Robin Hood because Rachel and I have cartoon-crushes on the fox.  We ate waffle fries and Ozzies (otherwise known as Flurries unless you were watching the Red Wings/Blackhawks Stanley Cup game with Joel).  It was good.  Dressing up is something I personally never have need to do, so it was fun to slap on makeup, dresses, shoes, and go out for drinks downtown afterward.  I don’t know why I’ve never felt as comfortable around women as men (okay, Haymarsh, you’re to blame somewhat), but this night reminded me why I DO like being around strong, intelligent, fun, funny women from time to time.
  • I cannot explain how joygasmic the 2010 Camping Trip was.  A big part of it was probably my ability to take my friends on my turf – the Haymarsh.  Nothing makes me as at peace as being home, with friends, showing them my world and hoping they might come away loving it even half as much as I do.  campAnd I think that mission was accomplished.  Lying around on blankets with friends all weekend between rain bursts, swimming in the lake day and night, sitting around the campfire, playing “Haymarsh Spa” with Rachel in the mud, getting Jeff and Kyle nearly lost as they not-so-soberly followed my hike back to the campsite after a midnight swim.  It was good.

Really, this summer was so busy it was kind of a blur.  But it was really good, probably one of my favorites ever.  It’s good to be around other people to the point where I climb out of myself for a while.  I fell deeply in love with things and people in my life that were already there, strengthening my resolve to take what I had and make life better.

Fall 2010 – Oh, Fall.  Nothing, it just felt like it needed an “Oh, Fall.”

I always think Fall is a good time of reflection – everything dying, days growing shorter, and you can just feel winter coming.  Fall’s slowing down is good; summer is when you need to be busy and active so you don’t look like crap in a bikini.  Fall also, however, means I stay inside more and therefore become more likely to let little things build and bother me more.  So, my new philosophy in my age of wisdom – trick yourself.  Stay so busy (at least mentally) that you don’t have time to fester.  I suppose this is still Elizabeth Shannon’s positive thinking trick.  Or Wendell Berry’s “joyful though you have considered all the facts.” In any case, Fall in Michigan is a very brief time period, so I didn’t think much of it and just enjoyed what came as we crawled inevitably toward Winter.

  • Sundays became my favorite day of the week.  Brooke, Joel, M, and I met for almost every Lions game at the Saz for lunch and the communal self-torture of watching the Lions.  Although, we take personal responsibility for the last 4 wins of the Lions 2010 season – every time we ordered the Pizza Sub, they won.
  • Halloween.  After the previous year, we weren’t sure how to top it.  So, I went on a decorating rampage and M built a ping-pong table hal why we thought it would stay ping-pong for any length of time before becoming beer-pong, I don’t know).  It was glorious.  I bounced around from group to group so much it was dizzying, which may be partly responsible for my fall on the floor in front of everyone, after which most of the full room asked “Are you alright?” while my brother just looked at me, knowing that me falling is not a rare event.  Anyway, it was a great Halloween.  You know it’s a success when I don’t even notice it’s 3:00 a.m. before everyone leaves.
  • Admittedly, each Fall I become introspective about life at least partially because, come 11/23, I get older. And being only one year shy of 30 (though still a far cry from 35, my scary age) probably heightened the intensity of this year’s introspection.   For my birthday, a bunch of us met at the Saz for drinks.  I really need to get over being surprised that I like people and people care about me, but this was yet another good reminder.  Way more people showed up than I’d planned – Joel, Rachel, M, Christian, Amy, Phil, Jeremy, Brooke, James, Andy, Brad, Josh and Sarah, Josh and Katie, Dan, Marcus, Brian, Jeff, and Ryan.  I could have done without the Tabasco-based shot, but fortunately I was clever enough to pass it around so that it was only about half-full by the time I had to drink the evilness.   And it was kinda funny when Ryan at one point asked me, “Is that the guy you’re seeing?” and I responded with, “No. Wait, which guy? Wait, no, it doesn’t matter.  No.” 

Winter 2011 – UEF Storm

Dear friend Rachel needed to move back from Ann Arbor to Grand Rapids before going who-knew-where in the next Fall for law school.  Rachel’s presence, combined with Samson (her dragon/cat) made the usual winter hibernation much more bearable.   It was an adjustment getting used to three people in one house again, but if you haven’t picked up on my manic need for change by now…  Well, it was worth it. And with Rachel’s reappearance in our lives, the UEF (Unlikely Event Factor – from The Pigs Are Flying) rose considerably.

  • New Year’s Day – We thought it would be a great idea to have a big dinner for everyone at the house.  But, apparently we’re too old to stay up on New Year’s Eve and then be expected to be entertaining the next day.  Dinner was good, but then we all crashed on the couch.
  • Sarah Brown’s Baby Shower – As the first of our girl friends to have a baby, this was a little interesting.  Brooke, Christine, Miranda, and I sat on the floor in our own little word, planning a gauntlet-style baby shower for the next of us to get pregnant.  Then, later, we met the boys at a bar and went for dinner.  I bumped into Scott (ACS friend), who was drunk and gave me Mardi Gras beads…not sure what that was about.
  • Florida Trip – M and I had planned a road trip to go see Gloria way back when she’d first told us she was moving to Florida, floand of course doing so in winter was my idea.   Panama City, I must say, has a bit too much Alabama in its blood for my taste, but it was warm and that was really all we wanted.  Meeting Gloria’s boyfriend-and-future-fiance was great too, especially since we’d pre-stalked on Facebook.
  • Craigslist Adventure – Rachel and I should never be left to our own devices.  When bored one weekend without M’s supervision, we set up a fake Craigslist account and responded to every terrible man-seeking-woman ad we could find.  Some were nice-ish but boring, so we dropped them.  We were offered $500 for a night from “The King Door.”  Then, finally, we created an ad of our own which consisted of nerdy questions about Lost, Star Trek, and  Firefly.  We added “PS. I’m hot” at the bottom of our ad to amp up our number of responses.  Anyway, all of this led to an outing to meet one of these dudes because we were really bored and he promised free booze.  Let’s just say that the story ends with us meeting a leprechaun sex offender on St. Patrick’s Day.  (If you haven’t heard this story, feel free to ask.  It’s a gem.)
  • Fort Night – The next weekend, Rachel and I decided to limit ourselves to stalking the neighbor out the window with binoculars.  We took pictures of ourselves doing it and posted it on his Facebook wall, which led to entertaining back-and-forth commenting for the next hour or so before we got bored and built a fort in the living room.  Then we made a Meijer run to get Kool-Aid.

Spring and Summer 2011 – End Scene

  • “Super La-La  Mancha!” Making our 5th and final movie sucked up most of my time this summer, but it was kinda worth it.  Why are there not more superhero musicals?!
  • Camping 2011 was fun with the addition of Katie, Tracy, and the Browns (Sarah, Josh, Oscar, plus Carmen the dog).  
  • I watched the others enjoy their bowling league, and it was surprisingly fun to watch, especially the team of 80+ men who were awesome.

bowl

To my great pleasure, this year I lived with M at “009” turned out to be one of the best years I can remember.  When Rachel moved out for law school in Chicago, I decided that that would finally be a good time to get my own place again.  The end of this summer felt like a good…end.  And the beginning of a new phase.  I’d come to appreciate all the blessings I really had – family who get me through tense times, friends who are willing to camp, and a job that lets me make a full-length movie on the side.  I’d figured out what I wanted to hold to, what I wanted to drop, what I wanted to grow.

Onward and upward.

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