Friday, January 20, 2012

The ol' running trail in Fairfax, VA on a particularly enchanting day.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Trust the plumber and love the locksmith.

I hereby resolve to treat everyone like I treat plumbers.

The plumbing van pulls into my driveway, and I wave. Our favorite plumber knocks on the door, and I shout through the kitchen "Come on in!" like I know he's my neighbor coming to drop off the Pampered Chef cupcake liners that I will use to make treats for my 3rd grader's Valentine's Day party*. (In the interest of full disclosure: *None of those things are real. Don't be mad at Pampered Chef.) I tell him to not worry about removing his manly workboots, make conversation, offer him coffee, and sit near enough to the leaky sink to know that he really doesn't want to steal my coffeemaker, but far enough away that he has space to wedge his body under the cabinet, talk to himself, and drop a wrench without an audience.

The locksmith, on the other hand, comes to our house at 11 p.m. when an interior door refuses to open, no matter how many friends with mafia ties try to coax it. To start things off, I give him the eye. Dude's not here to save me from mopping the stanky sink water off of the floor. He's here to break into my house and be compensated. My locked-out roommate is nervous, and his System of a Down tee shirt can't even remember the better days it's seen, adding to the tension in the air. He opens the locked-solid door WAY TOO EASILY and asks for $50 more than the previously quoted price. Cash only. I slloowlyy cross my arms, cooolly cock my head, and caallmly interrogate him with flashing words like blades until he mumbles that he will take roommate's check for the original price and he hopes we have a good night. We watch him slide out the door, my arms too crossed to wave goodbye.

Night and day, people. Night and day.

My dad taught me, when he managed a plumber's warehouse in Central Nebraska, to believe that plumbers need love too, and plumbers saved civilization, and plumbers are prone to some hyperbole, but overall, can be trusted. He also taught me to trust my gut and do what I could to avoid being taken for a ride, if you know what I mean. He ALSO taught me to not be afraid of giving people the kindness they deserved - remembering their inherent dignity would never put me at an eternal disadvantage.

I'm not going to invite Smithy the door-opener over so that he can demonstrate knob-unlocking techniques at Game Night...but I am going to remember that self-preservation doesn't have to stand in the way of kindness...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The kind of people you can't wait to be friends with...

Imagine my elation when I found this rendering of one of my FAVORITE quotations! 
Just try and imagine it!
After the first gaspy discovery, I read Rebekka's blog...and kept reading, and kept reading.

Follow the sound of my squeals of happiness to:

“My Standard is: When in Rome, Do As You Done in Milledgeville.” 
-Flannery O’Connor to Maryat Lee, May 19, 1957

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pray for parents.

We really need to pray for pregnant women. Especially when their baby is no bigger than an avocado. It's a really hard job that you just can't perfect. It's terrifying and exquisite. It's so risky, and it's the only way we start.

At the moment of conception, they are different in a way that tightens the band around the front of my brain because I can't fathom what it all means. Humans grow inside of women for a little stretch of eternity, and that changes the woman's identity irrevocably. She is a MOTHER. My head hurts.

Yesterday, I sat and stared at a young woman as she received the results of her fourth pregnancy test. She was actually pregnant, and really scared. Legally, she can end that baby's life for a few more weeks. Please, please, please pray that she doesn't. She cried into a tissue, stood up carrying more questions than when she had arrived, and walked out of the office with her little blueberry-sized baby tucked inside her, looking to the world like any other young, hip, exotic twenty-something. She was so beautiful, and so alone. I didn't know if I could hug her, if that would help. I just cry. And pray.

It's just that I was wondering...

Went to the neighboorhood of young hipsters with moustaches (because they would appreciate the alternate spelling) to listen to 1950's swing records and do the lindy hop.

What is it about public dancing spots where I only attract older, shorter, European men with little regard for deodorizing soaps, but great talent for dancing like Rico Suave? They all wave their salt-and-pepper eyebrows, which makes me look. Once I've made eye contact, it's basically a binding contract. But then...they sweep and bop me around the floor so that I feel like a dancer, even though I wore a yoga top, oversized adidas pants from a middle school Christmas gift, and silver-spray-painted sneakers to the struttiest jive bar on the East side. By the looks of me, they can tell I spell it "mustache"... but when Rico pulls me around the floor, "I'm ChaCha DiGregorio, the best dancer at St. Bernadette's."

Why? From whence does the awkward magic come?

And another thing: Yogi Berra's really dead, right? Tonight's Rico told me that Berra is actually living a quiet life in New Jersey, where Amelia Earhart and all other dead American celebrities go to live. I expressed my doubts. He didn't ask me to dance anymore.

Risk, Part Two

This video.

This book.

I like both for reminders that greatness and suffering are inextricable.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Risk, Part One

As a kid, I could get buzzed on spelling bees. The adrenaline I felt made the blood in my arms zing and made my teeth nervous. (Have you ever felt that? They don't teeth feel excitement and anxiety. Maybe I need special toothpaste.) Watching spelling bees in our old gymnasium, I would turn to my dad and, through nervous teeth, whisper, "I CAN SPELL THAT!"  When I was old enough, I entered class, school, county, and state bees. My parents helped me buy the Scripps Howard official study booklets. The whole thing was COOL. It wasn't dramatic like Akeelah ("P-R-E-S-T-I-D-I-G-I-T-A-T-I-O-N. Prestidigitation."). I never made it to ESPN, and the plastic trophies couldn't even be hocked to help Mom with gas money for the van. Didn't matter. It was a thing I really, really liked to do.

One year, I don't remember which, I was competing in Falls City for the county title, pretty comfy with the whole deal. I had short, short hair because I wanted to look like Julie Andrews and Winona Ryder, and a colorblocked, suede vest. Like I said: cool. (No wonder old men sometimes mistakenly called me "Sonny." Yeesh.) I stood at the mike and spelled a few words, then got up and spelled another...incorrectly. I sat down, nearly certain that they would invite me back to the microphone for another word. My teeth were tingly again - ominously so - and I was sad and embarrassed and tired. I went home, laid in my bed, and cried for hours. Hours.  The rest of the family listened to my wails through the walls of my room (in addition to spelling, I count projecting as a particular skill) until, eventually, Dad had had enough.

When he swung the door to my room open, I knew I was in trouble. A scolding and a spelling bee disaster in the same night was a lot for a pre-teen to carry, so I wailed louder to drown him out. Trouble is, Dad is even better at projection, and his voice rumbled over all of the anguish:

Dad: "Stop crying. Tell me why you're so sad."
Tala: "A-ah-ah-I FAILED! Imesseditup hic andmisspelledthatword honk andIcan'tgotothenextspellingbee!"

This led into the lecture that, by the miracles of God and parenting, dried up my tears and soaked through my skull, to be mulled over and repeated to friends and teammates and Bible study girls for YEARS after. It was the stuff of legends. Hallmark wishes they'd heard it. I wish I had thought to record it on my '90s-era YakBak.

Dad told me that no one in this family was disappointed in me for showing up, trying, and failing. I had no reason to hang my head unless I gave up. I should only be ashamed if I kept up my pity party and cried myself into a miserable little puddle because I thought I deserved it. I'll never succeed if I don't feel free to fail.

I'll never succeed if I don't feel free to fail.

I totally remember The Night of That Lecture: the half-light coming into my room from the hallway where Dad had snapped the light on in frustration at his melting, hysterical daughter. The yellow gingham bedspreads on the un-bunked bunk beds in the room I shared with Hannah. My deeeeeeep and lasting sorrow. The startle and the fear upon Dad's entry. The alliteration in his lecture. My parents were proud of me. I had failed. Everybody fails. I should be a little wary if I succeed at everything.

(Funny thing? I don't remember the word I misspelled. Just that another kid misspelled "illegal." He added an extra "e" and switched around the "a" and spelled it like the bird. And another kid, who was really nervous, misspelled "pencil" in the practice round. I'm pretty sure he didn't cry, though.)