Far too easily pleased

I have a horrible habit of going on a Cheetos binge about once a year. It only happens once a year because afterwards I feel guilt-stricken by the thick layer of cheese dust on my thumb and pointer finger from a solid thirty minutes of mindlessly putting fake food in my body.

Why is this even a temptation? It’s bad for me, it makes me feel gross, and it only tastes good for like the first 50 Cheetos.

I need to remember this weakness every time I get on my high horse about eating healthy and whole foods. Remember, you love Cheetos. Let she who is without junk food cravings cast the first stone.

In fact, I have even less room to talk because I used to prefer Velveeta and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter to cheese and butter. I know – you’re shocked. I, the girl who has made a cake that required 8 sticks of butter, used to not like butter and prefer its nearly-plastic counterpart, margarine. I shudder at that word now. Margarine. And Velveeta? I know these products exist as cheaper versions of the real thing. I know they exist to make you think you’re getting the real thing when you can’t afford the real thing, but, oh, it’s bad.

I used to dislike macaroni and cheese made with real cheese because it didn’t taste like Velveeta. And Velveeta tastes like lightly flavored glue. That’s how deluded I was. I also didn’t like potatoes in any form but French Fries at this juncture in my life, along with broccoli, beans, avocados, salsa, eggs, any salad dressing other than ranch, hummus, red pasta sauce, spinach, and just about any other good thing you can think of. I eat all those things now (still don’t eat meat though. That likely won’t ever change). I wouldn’t eat the actual blueberries in blueberry muffins but would instead perform surgery on each muffin to take all blueberries out and commence to eat the muffin with just the “stain” of the blueberry left. (Quote: Ashley McDonald, 2000) With I Can’t Believe Its Not Butter, of course.

Satisfaction is an interesting thing. I was more than satisfied with this lifestyle. I ate what I liked and turned my nose up at some of the foods that form the staples of my diet now. Real cheese and butter – these are the good things. These are what my body knows how to process – since it hasn’t already been processed for me. Potatoes?!? How could I not like potatoes? I was satisfied with boxed macaroni, frozen pizza, and peanut butter and jelly.

Satisfy, according to Merriam-Webster’s is to be provided for, to be gratified to the full, to be convinced.

It doesn’t mean to be right.

C.S. Lewis, in The Weight of Glory comes to mind:

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Like an ignorant child who wants to go on eating gluey cheese and ignoring real food. I am far too easily pleased.

Tonight, following my shameful Cheetos binge when I got home from the grocery store, I will eat a salad. And not even with ranch dressing. And I will remember that just because I am satisfied does not mean that I should be.

The state of doing something else.

Off is an interesting word because it describes a negative state of existence. Off is not being on or being aside from. It can be the state of not doing something.

Webster’s adds a few other thoughts to the definition, including: unconsciousness, being away from a path, being divided, separated from support, discontinuance or suspension.

It’s a state of not being. Not awake, not on the path, not together, away from support.

I’ve got the summer off from school. I’m in the state of not being a student. But I’m still doing reading for school, so I guess I can still be considered a student. And I still get a student discount. Definitely still a student, but in a state of suspension between semesters.

I have the day off of my retail job and finished my other work this morning, so this afternoon I’m in the state of not working.

But I’m not in a state of not being.

Read that again slowly.

Maybe it’s specific to my situation since the jobs I’m working now are great places to learn and grow but aren’t my career goal, but being off of school and off of work feel to be like the freedom to be more in my desired state of being.

Today I’m taking my blanket and my notebooks to sit on a hill by the lake and read and write. If you don’t want to be an author, that might sound like an afternoon of leisure, but for me it’s like practicing free throws or attending a conference or testing out new software. It’s practice, honing skills.

When you picture it, me sitting outside and doing something I really enjoy, it kind of does sound like a day off, but it’s not the state of not doing something. Well, it is because I won’t be selling clothes, but it also isn’t because it’s the state of doing something else.

Most people spend their days off doing something else. Especially if you work full time because the laundry doesn’t stop piling up, and your dishes don’t do themselves, and your friends still exist, even when you don’t see them (object permanence).

I guess I’m just thinking about what place work has in our lives, if when we say we have a day off that it means we’re in limbo, just veging until we are pressed against the grindstone again. We were made to work, to have purpose and be productive, but does it define our state of being?

I probably won’t be able to actually answer that til I’m working full-time, but until then I’m setting my goals for my time away from my money-earning jobs, so as to be in the state of doing something else.

Bad planning skills and lots of grocery store trips.

My family can’t go more than two days without going to the grocery store. In fact, I think I’ve been four times this week. And that’s just me.

Is that a problem? I’m not sure. It’s not like we fill up a full cart each time. Heck, last time all I bought was pizza sauce. We just don’t always plan ahead very well. Making a birthday cake (like I am today, for my dear, sweet, chocolate-loving mom)? Well, you’ll certainly make sure you have enough flour and sugar and eggs when you go to the store a few days before. You think you’re being proactive.

Then you get home and look at the recipe for the ganache and see that you need heavy whipping cream… the ONLY dairy product that is not currently in your fridge (other than cottage cheese). And it also calls for fine chocolate, but you’ll just punt and use semi-sweet chocolate chips. It’s worked before.

What’s a cook to do? Well, my parents found out that I wanted to make pizza tonight, and of course we’ve gone through the cheese in the past few days because I’m home now (vegetarians will tell you they eat alternative protein sources. Really, it’s just cheese, peanut butter, and Greek yogurt), so add that to the list. And they like meat, so they get pepperoni, too. Oh, and while we’re there, can we get cut flowers?

It’s a miracle to go through the process of cooking a meal or baking without finding that there was just one tiny thing we forgot. If we didn’t live five minutes from the grocery store, we’ probably plan better.

But instead we take fifteen to twenty minutes to get the required ingredient. (I’m convinced I’m the fastest of the three of us.)

You can say it’s attention to detail or doing the thing right. Or you can say we just really like to use our resources, like having the grocery store nearby. Or you can just say we’re not the best planners. That’s okay, too.

Kingdom come


Welcome to Saturday. I tried yet another pancake recipe this morning from Once Upon A Chef. I’m not even sure what I’m looking for in trying all these pancake recipes. I just know I haven’t found it yet.

I spent some time in a tube on a playground with a three-year-old yesterday. Then we got pink and yellow ice cream (strawberry and lemon custard, but who cares what the flavor is? It was the PINK that mattered).

imageI think I’ve finally found a lotion that will take away what I think is eczema on my hands. This is the first time in months that I’ve woken up and my hands aren’t itching. It seems like a small thing to have itch-free hands, but it is such a relief. Thank God for colloidal oatmeal… whatever that is.

I have the day off from work, and my sister and I are going to go shopping, probably.

I started reading Gilead by Marilynne Robinson last night in preparation for an independent study on her work in the fall.

This is my life right now.

Then I got in bed and read Ann Voskamp’s blog post about four women living in a shipping container in Iraq and how she sat with them and heard about the atrocities ISIS has inflicted on them. Yes, right in the stream of everything else I did yesterday I read this and I thought – what in the world should I do with my days when ISIS is selling 9-year-old girls for $172 and saying, “Do what you want with them.” Then they are sending these girls back to their families pregnant and ashamed of what has been done to them. 9-year-olds.

That had better cause some tension, right? These women have never been allowed to learn to read or write. They had to choose which children they would take with them when they fled from ISIS… because they couldn’t take them all. How do you tell your child there isn’t room for them with you?

The easiest way to deal with this knowledge is to deny it. We’d never say it out loud that it never happens, but we could walk away from it. We could frown, give a worried look, and just barely let concern graze our hearts before we turn our backs and return to our lives.

And our lives are legitimate. We are where we are for a reason. I live in suburban Minnesota and work retail right now because that is where God has put me. But we are blessed to be a blessing. We are given much and told to whom much is given, much is expected.

We could compartmentalize our lives. We could carefully wrap up all the over there and somewhere stories that are horrible beyond our understanding. And that would get rid of that nagging feeling that we should do something.

Something – but what? What can we do? I felt such helplessness reading her post, which is maybe why I felt I needed to write about it. There was a place to give money to help women start businesses and send their children to school. Ann says that’s defying ISIS and waging love.

It feels small to me, because my dollars can go, but my helplessness will stay. Am I waging love?

This is the point where I remember how helpless I am in all things. Ann knows this. She knows that even when we pour our all into humanitarian efforts, it’s for naught if God isn’t at the helm of it all.

This isn’t where I relinquish responsibility for the state our world is in today – it’s the part where I realize that I am part of the problem and can be part of the solution, but God is the solution. This is the part where we’re supposed to get down on our knees and say God, this is awful. This isn’t what you want for our world. MOVE, Lord. Or MOVE ME. 

This is the part where we say, Your kingdom come. Your will be done. And not in the passive, you-do-it-and-leave-me-out-of-it way because we are the vehicles for the kingdom of God.

The dissonance of it all — I’m still going shopping this afternoon, and I still will keep living my life here, because this is where I am. But God, keep me from forgetting that over there is not so far and that these are my brothers and sisters who are suffering. Let me be quick to help and pray.

Works in progress

I’ve been home for over a week now, and only today did I gain the capability to walk across my room without lunging and pivoting around all the things on my floor. It’s still a work in progress, which means that I have to keep working in order to progress.

That’s a thought. “Work in progress” is a phrase I often use for something I’ve put on the back burner for a while. Oh, the plan to always have a clean bathroom and to never embarrass my parents by leaving my clothes on the bathroom floor? It’s a work in progress.  Or, my plan to have a plan for blogging for the next year that would give me some direction and exercise for my writing? Yeah, that’s a work in progress.

I think it essentially means I’ve hit a roadblock and instead of examining what the thing’s made of and looking at my toolbox, I scratched my head briefly and took another route for the time being.

So far I’m getting the idea that my summer won’t be about charging through new and uncharted territory. It’ll be about being faithful where I am. It’ll be about seeing roadblocks not as that which bar my path but as the path itself.

This is the character building stuff we all encounter at one point or another, the time when the new opportunities have run off and found other people, and we’re left looking at the same old projects we’ve been working on (or ignoring) for a while now. They’re those day-to-day tasks that we’d like to throw off because we think they don’t matter – maybe because the results aren’t big or fancy or immediate. They’re the people we find less exciting or more difficult to deal with, and in the times where we’ve got bigger fish to fry, we (or I) give them the short-lived kindness and little else.

If I’m in a place where nothing is being added to my life large-scale, I need to evaluate what is there. Who is there? What have I ignored by putting it on my incorrectly named “work-in-progress” list? In what do I need to progress while I wait for the barrier to move – or better yet, wait for the knowledge or tools to move it?

Maybe I’ll realize the tools were there all along – I just needed to dig deeper into the recesses of my toolbox.

Battery hope

There’s almost nothing as inconvenient as turning the starter in your car only to hear a dull clicking sound. No purr, no wooshing of the engine warming up and getting ready to take you to work.

Just click click click.

When most everything has been replaced at least once in your 15 year old car, and it has been at a higher cost with each new problem, this brings a pit to your stomach. Not now. Could something else break instead? The blender, perhaps. We can do without that for a few days. That’s easier to replace.

I applied for four internships this summer. I started looking for them in December, totally prepared to use my summer to gain experience in the field I want to be in. I’m ready to take a step forward, to have a job that fits my goals. And today I was kindly informed that another applicant has been chosen. For the fourth time. I am so very sick of rejection right about now, of being told to apply again. Why not me? Why not now?

There’s always a big sigh when I tell my parents that Audrey is malfunctioning again. It’s a collective sigh because that means we need to find a time to drive her down to the trusted mechanics, to leave her there all day, and somehow get all the places we need to go with one car.

How much will it be this time? What is broken? Is it the alternator? How much is that?

The two I had interviews for even went well. I thought they liked me. They seemed to like me. I think I like me. I liked them. I got my hopes up because all that liking was a good sign. My mom always reminds me that I don’t know what it would have been like. Maybe I dodged a bullet. Maybe there’s some other connection yet to be made, even this late in the game. But all that effort expended with no yield just makes me tired. There have been other “no”s in my life lately, too. Where are my yeses? 

Yes, I have jobs. Yes, they pay. Yes, they give me experience. But it’s not the kind I want. Yes, I can use the extra time to write more, to read more, to see more friends and be freer with my time. Those are good yeses. But gosh, I wanted one of those others to be yeses.

My dad always calls the car fixers to schedule an appointment. When they talked about the problem, the lady on the other end said it could be the battery. Sure, it’s only three and a half years old, but that could be it. Extreme temperatures, something about charging too quickly… maybe it’s the battery.

That would be good, my dad tells me. That wouldn’t be expensive. We could put it in ourselves. Hope rises.

When I text my mom that I didn’t get the last one, she emails a friend who she just remembered used to work in the industry. I remember talking to someone the day before at work who seemed to own a company in that realm. It’s not a yes, and it means I might have to send a bunch of emails, but it could be something. Hope is still a deflated balloon right now, but we might be able to find a helium tank somewhere.

Dad picks me up at work last night. Neither of us have had dinner because we worked through dinner time. He tells me what the car fixer lady said, in more detail, and I – in the spirit of efficiency – ask if there’s anywhere open that we can get a battery and try it tonight. He’s game, so we go find one. And it’s heavy. But it’s a possible solution.

We go home and eat dinner then put on our jackets and shiver in the misty, cold night. I don’t feel completely inept because I do remember how to pop my hood and am able to unscrew some of the screws holding the battery in. I only drop the nut once, but it falls through to the rocks under the car, so its retrievable.

We get the battery in (and by we, I mean mostly my dad), and I get behind the wheel to try it out.

Tick-tick-tick- puurrrrrrrrr. 

I don’t know if I’ve ever loved the sound of my car more. And I really love my car.

We get all the wrenches and pliers put away, and I take her for a spin around the block. It’s 10:30pm, which isn’t the best time to get your car fixed, but it’s fixed. Not a complete overhaul. Not a pricey, day-long trip to the car doctor. Just a new battery.

The state of moving back in.

I should feel pretty accomplished today, but moving doesn’t feel like an accomplishment until the last cardboard box is empty. And considering that this is the current state of the union, I can’t feel done yet.


And that’s even after getting the majority of my clothes put away (and storing a few things in the guest room temporarily). I told myself that I could open up the boxes with my books in them if I put my clothes away. So I put most of the clothes away and opened up all the boxes because in the short span of a few days, I’d promptly forgotten what each one had in it.

It’s 10:00, and I woke up at 7:30 and drove about 500 miles today, about 150 of which I took the wheel. I moved a whole bunch of things and vacuumed and cleaned out a fridge before we left. When we got home, I moved everything in and up the stairs to my room. Much effort exerted. Yet I just wanted to put my books on my shelf before I went to bed. It needs to be reorganized – by genre, I think. But for now the books are having interesting conversation. When else can C.S. Lewis and Garrison Keillor sit next to each other? Or Willa Cather and Kant? St. Augustine and Paula Danziger? You get the picture. Turn this into a seating chart, and we’ve got one strange event about to unfold.

Anyway, I’ll make book organization my reward for when I finish unpacking. Ugh. This is the time of year where I again ask myself why I have so much stuff. And where yet again I donate and sell and pare down, feeling only slightly relieved because there’s a lot left. I’ve got a stack of clothes ready to go to Goodwill already. Maybe I’ll go through my closet at some point and find still more remnants of childhood that aren’t significant enough to keep. You know, like the dried-out playdough or broken crayons that somehow made it through the last round of purging.

Here’s hoping that I won’t still be talking about doing this in a week. Motivation, don’t leave me now!

Moving on.

This 82 degree weather is a little too appropriate for the last few days of living in this apartment. When we moved in, my mom described it as hot with “buzzard choking humidity.” You know it’s bad when buzzards are mentioned. I’m still not totally sure what those are. Oh, it’s a bird. Thanks, Google.

I’m not known for having a neatly organized space, but as I take apart the furniture and lamps and start packing boxes, all chaos has broken loose. Around 8:00 last night, there was much clanking of metal poles as I took apart my clothes rolling rack that was functioning as a closet, so the chaos has a noise dimension, too. If you multiply this picture by about 12, you’ll have the status of our apartment right now. Such is the nature of moving. (don’t multiply the toes in the bottom left by 12 though, just the mess)


It’s interesting to inhabit a temporary space, to make something your own that has actually belonged to hundreds of other people. Maybe they even decorated better. Or named it something better than AL’s Pancake World (but I highly doubt it because Gilmore Girls references typically win). And more people will live here after you if the crack in the ceiling doesn’t bring the place down. We’re just here for a short time, receiving shelter from the elements and sometimes from responsibilities, sleeping in metal-framed beds with vinyl mattresses.

I’d like to know how many pancakes were eaten here, how many slices of pizza… (have I mentioned how much I LOVE pizza?!? Even if we only ate one pizza per week we were here, that’s still 256 pieces.) How many to-do lists were written in a moment of overwhelming stress? If I write it down, I can do it. How many times did the shower turn on us, switching to either a glacial or volcanic temperature? How many times did we smell smoke of the inhaled varieties wafting up from certain neighbors’ windows?

Then the real question: how many times did we walk up and down the three flights of treacherous stairs?

I guess the answer to all those questions is: enough. We did it all enough. We ate enough pizza (debatable). We made and completed enough to-do lists. And now it’s time to move on.

Saturday morning will see me and my parents rolling back on to Minnesota after we fit every last thing into the car with leg room to spare (cross your fingers, will you?). Moving right along to whatever’s next, both the things I’ve planned and the surprises God has in store.

Coming down.

This morning my hands smell like snickerdoodles. It’s not a bad smell at all, a mix of butter and cinnamon and sugar. Maybe in my dream life I’ll bake every morning while it rains lightly outside. Or maybe I’ll be realistic and save that for special occasions.

In the past two days, I’ve done no homework. There’s still half of a poster to be written on, but it’s so low priority with all these baking supplies that need to be used up. I’ve made oatmeal raisin cookies, homemade pop-tarts, (both recipes from Smitten Kitchen), and snickerdoodles in the past 24 hours. I spent a few hours wandering around Uptown yesterday and gazing longingly at an abandoned synagogue with my friend, wishing we could go inside without getting arrested or feeling guilty. Thank goodness someone from Huff Post got inside legally and took pictures so the rest of us can live vicariously through them.

I’ve met with professors and had my last class and turned things in. And I’ll keep doing those little closing things this week to wrap up another year of college and prepare for my final semester. And then there’s the packing – ay-ay-ay. So I guess I’m not really done yet, but for all academic purposes, I nearly am.

As nice as it is to have little that presses on me to do in terms of assignments and just a few things to do responsibility-wise, I’m having a hard time coming down from the mentality that I always should be doing something productive. It’s like switching species to transition into summer, going from a bee to a sloth. My summer is still going to have quite a lot of purpose, but compared with the school year, I’ll have more free time.

Commence the transition into a slower tempo. We’re not at allegro agitato anymore. More andante, walking pace. And not that hyped up, caffeinated walking pace of a city dweller. We’re going to a suburban summer pace.