What Keeps Me Busy

This week, the message at church was “Addiction to Busyness.” It’s part of a series called “Hooked,” in which the pastor and various guest speakers address big things that we tend to idolize, often subconsiously, and that distract us from being close to God and doing His will. I wasn’t able to go to church this week because I had to work (still waiting for my original availability request to go into effect). I didn’t listen to the podcast either. I’ve been distracted. Fitting, right? 

Church or no church, however, Kurt and I always try to go growth group every other Tuesday. We meet with 4-8 other people from our church who live in our neighborhood, and we play a game, eat snacks, discuss the last two Sundays’ messages, and pray for each other. It’s mostly other couples–most with kids, some without–and the odd single. We are getting to know other humans who are also Christians, some of whom are in the same stage of life as we are. It’s great.

So this week, we talked about what’s keeping us busy, what distracts us from the important things. For most of us, and definitely me, it was “screen time.” TV, computer, phone… if it has a screen, it has our attention. This far into the information age, I imagine it’s a problem for many 1st world humans. I admitted that I am addicted to watching Bones and scrolling down Tumblr. I try to justify it with “Bones is a really good show, it’s so well-written, the science is spot-on so it’s educational, Brennan is a terrific role model [see last Saturday’s post],” but that doesn’t mean I should spend all of my free time on it. There is really no justification for the amount of time I spend on Tumblr. But at least it’s not as bad as it could be. I don’t spend all day on it; I get bored.

Regardless, it’s too much. I could be spending time on more important things, like reading my Bible, praying with Kurt, exercising, reaching out to friends, eating right, looking for writing jobs, just writing, practicing photography, maybe even painting. It’s so easy to get sucked into an activity that requires no thinking, no engaging, because we feel like we need a distraction from real life. Zoning out and letting responsibilities just slip away is easier than facing life head-on, but that doesn’t make it right. I always feel so much better about myself–body and soul–when I get something productive done or just spend time doing NOTHING. Not wasting time on the internet. Just nothing. Sitting and letting myself be at peace with God and with myself. There is nothing more relaxing. It’s not easy, if you’re not used to it, but even if you’re not a believer, I highly recommend it. Allow yourself to be bored. It’s okay. Don’t search for peace; let peace come to you. 

Well that got a way from me a bit. Basically, I busy myself with screen time to avoid being productive. Then I busy myself with productivity when i could be allowing myself to be at peace with Jesus. It’s definitely a hard habit to break, but I know it will help all other aspects of my life, to reorganize my priorities to 1) Jesus, 2) loved ones, 3) work, and 4) free time. Wish me luck/pray for me! 🙂

 

What keeps you busy? Leave a comment! 🙂

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An Anniversary in Bavaria

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Thirteen days from today, Kurt and I will celebrate our 1-year wedding anniversary. Freaking surreal as all get out. I can hardly fathom that it’s been that long. I feel like soon enough we’ll be celebrating our 50th! Will it still feel surreal then? I hope so.

So, we are going away together. Just for the weekend, but it will be just us, with nothing to do but enjoy each other’s company. We’re going to Leavenworth! For those of you who have not heard of Leavenworth, it is basically a little Bavarian village in the mountains of Washington. Very touristy, but very fun. I have been there exactly once, around Christmastime with my ex-boyfriend Nat and his family, while we were still dating. This was about five years ago. I’ve known many friends who have visited there on date-days, honeymoons, or anniversary weekends. I actually hadn’t thought of going again until I started getting to know Kurt. He has been to Germany, has what he calls a “German sister,” and took German classes in high school. He loves the culture, the chocolate, and the language. So, after he made the trek to Washington to be with me, leaving everything and everyone he knew, I suddenly thought of Leavenworth. Of course, when you’ve already been to Germany, a tourist-trap with a German-esque theme can’t really come close, but it’s not like we can afford to fly to Europe for a vacation. Yet. We’re getting there. We can’t even fly to Missouri at this point without his parents’ help.

I’m really excited for this trip. First, because we have been together for a year and won’t have to worry about work, interruptions, or chores for almost three days, and second, I barely know anything about the German culture. But I love immersing myself in other cultures in general. The fact that different places even have different cultures is enormously fascinating to me in and of itself. I loved the culture in Greece, where people were so laid back, at least the ones who weren’t protesting at the White Tower every other day. Kids my age could just sit for hours drinking one cup of coffee, chatting with the same person literally all day. They know how to converse and how to enjoy the day. Although, I’m sure I’d have a much easier time enjoying my days if I lived in Greece weather all the time. Even if Leavenworth is only a glimpse of something close to Germany, it’s still something Kurt knows more about than I do, and it’s something he loves, and I can’t wait to share that with him.

A Vampire Slayer, A Colonel, and A Forensic Anthropologist

So I mentioned in my last post that I have been binge-watching Bones. If you are unfamiliar with the term “binge-watching,” it simply means watching a TV show (or set of movies) in quick succession, from start to finish, as often as possible. People who do this often discover a show that has already finished airing, or at least has a good amount of episodes already aired. You could watch on Netflix or download episodes to your computer. You could even buy DVD sets if that’s what you want to spend your money on.

Now that definitions are out of the way, let’s get to the point: I have noticed a rather delightful phenomenon that occurs when I have been watching a certain show for several months. I start to emulate the mannerisms, tone of voice, and thinking processes of my favorite characters. Now, this phenomenon in general might not always be a good thing, but I have found that my favorite characters always end up being wonderful role models. These are not usually the characters I identify closest with personally, but the characters I admire most. I see qualities in them that I wish I saw in myself. They are brave, intelligent, and revered as the best in their field. They are also imperfect and human.

1. Buffy Summers (Buffy The Vampire Slayer)

Buffy didn’t choose her role as The Slayer at the young age of fifteen. It was thrust upon her by fate and mysterious forces that she wasn’t even expected to understand. For the first few years, she struggled with her humanity and what it means to be the savior of a world that seems to have evil at every corner. But as she grew into her strength and learned more about her legacy and place in the world, she was able to rise to astounding heights of bravery and self-sacrifice. With the help of her friends, she did more than the ancient men who created the Slayer line could have ever thought possible. She saved the world countless times.

Buffy was not perfect. She may have had supernatural physical strength, but she made stupid decisions, doubted herself, misjudged people, and many times, just didn’t know what to do. Sometimes, she was just plain airheaded. But all of these faults co-existed with her determination to do the right thing and protect the people she loved. She was a multi-dimensional character that any girl could relate to, or at least look up to. At least that’s how I feel. When I was binge-watching BTVS, I noticed I became sillier, snarkier, and more assertive. In a good way. Also, Buffy might have the best one-liners out of any character I’ve ever seen and I love it.

2. Colonel Samantha Carter (Stargate SG:1 and Stargate: Atlantis)

Ah, Sam, you will always have a special place in my heart. I grew up watching Stargate with my family, but when I started watching SG1 on DVD with Kurt, I realized that I didn’t recognize any of the episodes or characters, at least not at first. Maybe my family was watching Atlantis. Either way, I very quickly found a kindred spirit in Major Sam Carter, who would be promoted to Colonel by the end of the series. She is unbelievably smart, resourceful, level-headed, and professional. Military officers, scientists, and students of both revere her as the best astrophysicist in the country, if not the world. Whenever a character mentions how widely known and respected she is, I always swell up with pride, like, “That’s  my Sam! She’s so awesome!”

Amazing as she is, Sam is still human. But that is what makes her so admirable. She isn’t perfect, therefore, little girls around the world can more easily look up to her as a role model. She is, for the most part, more rational than the average woman, or least what the mainstream media would have you believe is the average woman. But she still has her moments of weakness. She still struggles with what is ethical and what is the lesser of two evils in trying situations. She reacts to emotional situations just like any healthy human, even if sometimes she bottles it up. But then, in the military, there are some things you just can’t talk about. Like your passionate love for your commanding officer. So we’ll give her that. When I’ve been watching Sam often, I find that I am more optimistic and better at problem-solving. Always great things!

3. Dr. Temperance Brennan (Bones)

Did you know that the character of Dr. Brennan is based on a real person, Kathy Reichs? Reichs is a forensic anthropologist and author of a series of books starring forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance Brennan. TV Brennanis not based on the Brennan in Reichs’ books, but on Reichs herself. On the show, Brennan is the author of a series of books starring forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs. The real Reichs is also a producer on Bones, insuring that all of the science is accurate. Nothing bugs me more than a story that takes real life science and riddles it with accuracy errors.

Anyway, Temperance “Bones” Brennan is a very different kind of character from Samantha Carter or Buffy Summers, or any other character I’ve admired before. Not only is she very intelligent, highly-educated, and very brave, she is also extremely socially awkward. Sam can be awkward at times, but not to the point where her awkwardness is a major source of humor in her show. Temperance, once completely unable to comprehend humor, especially based in pop culture, eventually learns to recognize sarcasm, hyperbole, and metaphor, and enjoys joking with her colleagues. I love that she grows. We learn that her coldness comes from the abandonment issues she gained from her parents’ disappearance when she was fifteen. She learns to trust others and open up her heart by working closely with Special Agent Seely Booth to solve murder cases. Booth is her polar opposite in many ways, notably his religious faith and sentimentality. Bones is strictly an empiricist, but eventually gives up trying to argue philosophy with Booth and ends up respecting and accepting what he believes because she cares for him and sees how important it is to him.

I love Brennan as a character because she is not just an archetype of the “nerdy girl.” She is beautiful, and she knows it, but not in a way that makes her conceited. She is highly sought after, both by aspiring scientists who want to work with her and by men who want to date her. She is shown to have interests other than her work, yet is still very passionate about her field. She often takes things very literally and is unsure of how to respond to others’ emotions, yet still has a healthy emotive response to situations in her own life. She is at the top of her field and sees no reason to downplay her intelligence and esteem. She is awesome.

Kurt has said that since starting Bones, and especially immediately after finishing an episode, I have been calmer, more logical, and more rational, which are all things I could really work on. I truly want to be Dr. Temperance Brennan when I grow up. Even before I thought of being a writer, I thought of going to school to study forensics. Maybe it was all those crime shows I watched growing up. If I am ever given a million dollars, I am going back to school to be just like Bones.

Who is your favorite TV character? Are they a good role model for you?

Perennial Faves: How to Think Up Good Comments

The Daily Post

Lots of commenters on Tuesday’s post mentioned how challenging it can be to write substantive comments. Here’s a great piece from last year to give you a commenting boost.

Here on The Daily Post, we’re always advising you to build blog relationships by leaving substantive comments on other people’s posts. That’s easy enough to say, but how do you think of more to say than “Great post!” when all you can think to say is, well, “Great post!”

I often have trouble coming up with things to say — both in blog commenting sections and at parties. Here are some questions I ask myself when I want to leave a comment on a post but find I’m at a loss for words: 

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A Space of My Own

Today, while binge-watching Bones with Kurt and Kelle, I applied for some writing jobs I found on Craigslist. The first was easy. All I had to do was send a writing sample and my name to an email address and wait to see if they liked it. The second one, however, required a bit more work. I sent a cover letter and resume, both tailored to the company and job description, and two related writing samples from my blog. But then I had to type in previous work experience. This is always the most stressful part, because I always over-think such a tedious process. “Should I include my retail experience? That’s the most recent, but it’s not relevant to the position. Do I include all of my jobs? I don’t have reliable contact info for some of them, and others only lasted for a week or two just because they were temporary, not because they fired me. How many jobs do I include?”

Then I start doubting that all the tedium is even worth it, that my writing isn’t up to the standard that an established company would want anyway. They all want 2+ years of experience writing the type of content that the position requires, and I don’t have that, so why try? But I know that with that attitude, I’ll never get to start out anywhere. Regardless, this moment of stress resulted in my attacking Kurt and Kelle just for trying to help. In those moments, no one can help; I just need to be alone. I was frustrated with myself and with the application process, and I took it out on them, which was wrong.

More to escape myself really, I went for a run to clear my head. On the way back, I found Kelle starting on a walk. I apologized and hugged her. She accepted. She’s very gracious like that. Kurt, too, was wonderful in accepting my apology. I told him I needed a place that would be just mine, a place to write and apply for writing jobs where I could stress out about my own insecurities and frustrations without bothering anyone else. He understood and helped me clean up the study so that we could move the vanity into the guest bedroom. I also moved in all of my books about writing, my cameras, my candles, some writing utensils and journals, my rolling desk chair, and my laptop.

The study is still a shared space, but my space in there will be for arts and crafts and sewing. In what I will henceforth call “my office,” I will be able to write without being disturbed, and it is such a peaceful feeling. The window provides a view of our front yard, the house across the street, and an abundance of evergreen trees. The freshly-painted walls (well, in the last few months) are empty, save for a wood-framed mirror and a cute owl graphic that says “Owl you need is love.” There is no clutter. Everything in here is mine. I have lit a Redwood Woodwick candle, which crackles like a fire, pulled up the shades, letting in the sun (there is sun!), and turned on a “Relaxation” channel on Pandora. I still want to make or buy curtains, just to add some color. Kelle’s Papasan chair sits behind me, taking up half the room, but it can easily be moved to the living room to make way for the blow-up mattress we’ll use for overnight guests, should we have any. And I could curl up in it to read or write or just listen to music all by myself. That will be nice.

I’ve been in here, door closed, but forty minutes and already, I am beginning to understand why Kurt needs alone time sometimes. He shuts himself in the study to sit at his computer if he’s had too much human interaction for the day, or if I’m being ridiculously emotional and irrational (it happens). He’s an introvert. I’m an extrovert. I never got it before, but this is so incredibly relaxing. I have no distractions, and am therefore more motivated to write actual original thoughts, instead of scrolling down Tumblr for hours, dwelling on my inadequacy as a writer. I wish I had done this when we first moved in. That would have made a lot of sense. I could have written so much. But alas, I do not think of these things. Now that I have my very own office, I feel like a change in my writing habits is actually going start. That would be awesome. Let’s see how it goes!

Work Pants Models

Today was my third day working at Fred Meyer. Saturday was my last day at Victoria’s Secret. I miss it, but this was the financially responsible choice. I suppose I’ll get used to it. On the bright side, I can wear colors, and I can see Kurt on my breaks because we work at the same place! Sometimes we even get to drive home together. 🙂 Way better than taking the bus for an hour and a half by myself.

At one point, I was restocking men’s work pants (yes, this post does have a point) and noticed something funny. For each brand of pants there is a different poster standing on a table of that particular brand of pants. Both the Levi’s and Lee’s models were handsome, lean, and charming. The frame consisted of a fully-dressed guy, just standing there, in a model pose, against a white background. No props or anything.

But the Carhartt poster was different. It was actually an ad for a shirt that protects from sweat and dirt so you don’t feel gross while working hard. In the photo was a guy wearing Carhartt pants and shirt, work boots and a hard hat, with his face turned down so you could barely see it, swinging a sledgehammer. He was demolishing a house. Dust and smoke filled the air around him. A few workers demolished things with their own sledgehammers in the background. It was a convincing scene of hard labor. It wasn’t meant to be sexy, and it wasn’t. But it was admirable. It was noble, and it was humble.

See, as I was growing up, I knew my father as an incredibly hard-working man. When I was around 7 or 8 (I could be wrong), he took up excavation for a living because music ministry just wasn’t doing it anymore. Even in music ministry, he had worked hard writing, recording, and performing music all over the country. Before I was born, he worked hard as a custodian, and before that as a cook. In recent years, he has begun to work for himself, but his job description is the same. He spends his time fixing plumbing underneath houses, building walls, building houses, repairing roofs… basically, if someone needs him to fix something, he does, and that’s how he makes his living.

And my dad always wore Carhartt. Still does, as far as I know. He swears by it as a brand that is definitely worth its cost and will outlast any jeans made just for looking cool. He’s always been a person who values reliability over appearance when it comes to any product. It it lasts forever and does what it’s supposed to, he doesn’t mind paying a little more. That’s wisdom right there.

Putting away the Carhartt jeans today reminded me of that wisdom. Or rather, it reminded me of how my dad will do whatever it takes to make sure his family is taken care of. He earns an honest living doing hard, sometimes strenuous, work that helps other people, and I admire that so much. I’ll probably think of that every time I’m putting away Carhartt products and see that poster. Thanks, Dad.

Trying to Write

I know, it’s been a while. My writing has slowed to once a week, if even that, and I’m ashamed. How can I call myself a writer if it’s something I have to make myself do and I can’t even find the willpower to start trying? I find no more joy in it. I should be eager to get home and write, or write as soon as I wake up, shouldn’t I? I should be thinking up original ideas that get people thinking and are spread around the web like wildfire, starting important dialogues and garnering attention from people who can make a difference in the world. I should be making a difference.

Instead, I am marathoning Bones. That is literally all I do. Every moment that I am not at work or sleeping, I am watching Bones and scrolling down Tumblr. Before this, it was Angel, Buffy, Stargate SG:1… I have an addiction. I have plenty of time to write. I want to write. I often wake up with an idea for a blog post and am all prepared to get it written by the day’s end, but I still wake up the next morning having written nothing. This goes on for days, weeks. Why? Why can’t I write free-standing articles that mean something and send them to magazines in hopes that they’ll hire me? Why haven’t I still applied at Nordstrom to be an editor? A coworker at Victoria’s Secret told me that they’re always hiring editors at Nordstrom. They start at $18 an hour. And yet, I think it’s the crippling fear of rejection that is stopping me. The worst they can do is say no, but that is still literally the worst thing, because it confirms yet again that my degree means nothing. I BS’ed the whole thing. No, I never cheated, or made anything up, but I could have worked harder, put in more effort. Why didn’t I? Because I was afraid of work? How on earth do I expect to live in the real world without working hard for anything? Yes, I am having an existential crisis. Yes, I am doubting the choice to major in English writing. It’s getting me nowhere and I’m starting to fear it never will.

I often wish I had studied forensic anthropology, and not just because I’m obsessed with Dr. Temperance Brennan and the amazing things she can do. Solving crimes by studying evidence in a lab used to be a dream of mine. I watched a lot of crime shows with my family growing up. It fascinated me. Yes, I know it’s not as glamorous or as fast in real life; I’m not stupid. But I think I could do it. I could actually make a difference. Identify victims and their killers. Potentially save lives. I tell people these days that if I could afford to go back to school, I would go into forensic anthropology. That, I could actually do something with. English teachers tell you that an English degree is so versatile, and it makes sense, but tell that to every single employer who posts a job listing with all the requirements being “an English degree” and then “3-5 years of experience in copyediting.” Nobody wants to train anybody. Nobody wants to be anyone’s first job. How am I supposed to get experience if everyone wants experience before they’ll hire you? And I’m pretty sure that it does not take three years to be competent or even excellent at a copyediting job. I was the best copy desk chief my college newspaper ever had–the rest of the staff will tell you that too–but who cares if it was only for 3 months? I would have done it for the rest of my life, if it wasn’t a student-only position. But I graduated. Whoops. Silly me.

I don’t remember where this post was going. I’m frustrated with myself for choosing a major that is getting me nowhere, and I am frustrated with employers who refuse to hire people straight out of college. There is literally no sense in that.

And yet… I’m about to apply for a writing job right now. It makes me physically sick to think about rejection and fiery hoops to jump through in order to maybe get an opportunity to do what I want to do, what I excel at, but I’m going to try anyway. Because no matter how much I hate it, no matter how much I want to pull my hair out, I can’t stop. I can never stop. Maybe I’ll go months without adding to my novel or sending an article to a magazine, weeks without blogging, but I can’t stop being a writer. I’ll never stop completely. I hate it but it’s who I am. At least sometimes.