Saturday, January 30, 2010

Be kind to furry friends

If you watched or read the news this week, you probably heard about PETA’s absurd request to replace celebrity groundhog Punxsutawney Phil with a robotic stand-in at the Groundhog Day Festival. In response, a Pennsylvania official assured PETA that Phil is "being treated better than the average child in Pennsylvania" (what that says about Pennsylvania kids, I’m not sure). Anyway, I’ve never been a fan of PETA’s crazy publicity stunts. And really, if you want to talk about the poor treatment of animals, how about this humiliating shot?

Let's help these poor pets out. This photo needs a good caption or thought bubble, don't you think? Post a comment with your suggestion.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Fumbling my way through the week

Stupid Vikings. They got this fair-weather fan on the bandwagon at the beginning of the season and now I'm mourning with my fellow Minnesotans. Yesterday, most conversations I had went like this...Me: "Hey, how are you?" Everybody else: " know." And yes. We all knew. The game was a heartbreaker.

Not even last night's episode of The Bachelor and all its awkward craptastic-ness could pull me out of the funk. It's not that I care that much about the Vikings. It's more that I can't believe I spent nearly 4 hours of my weekend completely stressing out—high blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, lots of yelling at the TV—for nothing.

Today I received an e-mail invite to our office's annual Super Bowl Potluck and the invite from the Fun Committee used this photo:
See, not even the FUN Committee could be excited about it. But the world will go on. I'll cheer the Colts to victory. And after all is said and done, I still have the Winter Olympics and a few more months of hockey to look forward to.

So this was my really long way of saying I just don’t feel like writing a thoughtful blog post today. It’s not just the Vikings. It’s January weather. It’s being sick of staring at my computer. And it’s that I have no words to respond to John Travolta flying Scientology ministers to Haiti to “re-establish communication within the body by touching people through their clothes...” Ummmm, yeah. Goodnight.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The quest for rest

This weekend, my goal is solitude and rest. My husband is in the midst of a 12-day mission trip to Kenya, Africa, so I’m home alone and theoretically doing whatever I want. (If you want to see some great photos, videos, and testimonies of what he and the team are doing in Africa, check out this site or the embedded video below. It’s exciting!)

Anyway, if you’ve been reading this blog in recent months, you know that I was traveling a lot last fall and overall very busy with work and life. So, my goal for these 12 days was to do everything I could to refuel physically, mentally, spiritually, etc. Yet somehow, after one week of being on my own, refueling has somewhat alluded me. Work has been crazy, and I now realize that my busy schedule outside of work isn't just due to the fact that I usually have a busy husband around. I have had some extra time to spend with friends and extended family, which has been great. However, I’m starting to stress out that Phil comes back in five days, at which point I anticipate feeling even busier, and I haven’t rested much (even though I miss him like crazy and would be thrilled if he came home today).

So, with a winter rain/snowstorm coming for the weekend, rest is my plan! Besides a few housekeeping items, I plan to download some new music, turn it up and sing along, get in a good workout, give myself a facial, work on my Bible study, and cheer on the Vikings from the comfort of my couch. So, wish me luck…it’s not easy for us Type A personalities to hit that relax button!

Hakuna Matata!

Kenya - January 19 from Grace-Church on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Thank your mentor

Some of you know about my involvement in the Kinship mentoring program. When I started volunteering with the program 3 ½ years ago, I was so touched by all the inspirational stories of children’s lives changed. So touched, in fact, that I was sure I would be a hero to my mentee and change her life. Vain much?

Well, it didn’t quite work out that way. Due to some behavioral issues with my mentee and a strained relationship between her mother and me (among other issues), the whole experience was a real test of my patience and many times (to this day) I’ve felt like a pretty crappy mentor.

Despite the challenges, I stuck with it for a couple of years and learned a lot about myself and how to deal with people who are very different from me. I’m sad to say our relationship has sort of fizzled out now that my mentee is a busy junior high student and my other commitments have made regular meetings even more difficult to coordinate.

But enough of my volunteerism woes. You don’t need to be an official mentor to be a role model and encouragement to someone who needs it. January is National Mentoring Month, so even if you can’t make a regular commitment, I’d encourage you to look for opportunities in your community, church or business to impact the young lives around you.

Looking back, I’ve been blessed with many mentors in my own life. Some of them (most, actually) were only in my life for a short time, but they still made a big impact. I think of my junior high youth pastor and his wife who encouraged me through those awkward years and helped me grow in my faith; my academic advisor in college who was not only a great communications professional but also an inspiring artist and breast cancer survivor; and a vice president at my first, post-college employer who offered compassionate and practical advice when my skin wasn’t yet thick enough to handle the everyday punches of the business world.

Thank Your Mentor Day is Thursday, Jan. 21. Who are you going to thank?

I could end this post with an inspirational story about the power of mentorship, or I could give you this:

I couldn’t resist. It’s one of my all-time-favorite Joey moments.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Twindom: Questions answered. Myths revealed.

Recently, when Heather and I were traveling together with our family, we were approached by our fair share of complete strangers with the ever-popular (and way overdone) twin questions. Over the years, our identical twin status has created an abundance of questions, assumptions, and interesting comments. So today, I respond to the more common (and more annoying) questions we often get. It's my good deed for twins everywhere who no longer wish to answer them.

Are you two twins? [Usually spoken by complete strangers who have been staring at us since we walked into view.] Our preferred sarcastic response is, “No, we’re just good friends.” I'd sometimes like to add, “and if you want to ogle over multiples, go find Jon and Kate’s sextuplets.” And so help me God, if the questioner responds with anything close to, “Oh how cute!” they may be physically injured.

What’s it like being a twin? Um, well, it’s like having a sibling who's the same age as you. I don’t know what else people want me to say here. I don’t know anything different. Sorry to disappoint everyone who asks.

Do you read each other’s minds, feel each other’s pain, or have your own special language? We have no special powers of any kind. But, like any two people who know each other well, we’ve finished each other’s sentences from time to time and can pretty easily tell when the other is having a bad day (I can usually sense Heather’s mood in her first word upon answering the phone). And feeling another’s pain? Not in the physical sense. But again, when someone you are close to is hurting, don’t you sort of feel their pain in an emotional way? I guess that’s how it is for us…it’s nothing supernatural.

Do you dress alike? Now, why would that be cute at age 30? Sure we dressed alike when we were three and it was cute. But today, any like dressing is purely by accident. In fact, we often notify each other of our clothes choices in advance if we’re going to be together – just so we don’t dress alike (lest it lead to any of those previously mentioned “oh how cute” comments).

Did you ever play tricks on people? I can understand this question, because it has the potential to lead to some entertaining stories. But alas, we were never the trick-playing types. However, we have been unintentionally mistaken for each other numerous times, and it has created some awkward moments. Our close friends and family have never been fooled though (except for my 99-year-old grandma, who has never been able to tell us apart).

We might whine about the questions that come with being a twin, but I think we've got a pretty great thing going. We have a unique friendship and sisterhood that, frankly, can’t be understood by anyone else. We wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s mostly a blessing (rarely a curse), and it’s what God intended, so we do our best to embrace it. Just don’t say to either one of us "Hey, I know this girl who looks just like you" and then hysterically laugh at yourself for your "witty" comment. We're so over it!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Math genius to the rescue

Two things I am not good at--patience and math--were simultaneously put to the test last weekend while I stood in line at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

First, you need to know that I always stand in the slowest possible line in any check out. I know we probably all feel that way. It never fails, as soon as I get my cart unloaded, the cashier needs help. Or the lady in front of me decides to go through her entire coupon file one-by-one. A few months ago when I was in this situation, I warned the guy who got in line behind me: "If you ever want to get out of here, do NOT get in this line." He actually came back after he'd made his purchase--while I was still waiting--and thanked me for saving him the hassle.

So I'm in line at BB&B, waiting to purchase my one item. The woman in front of me is buying 12 identical novelty pens. They are 75% off. The cashier needs to enter the discount manually, which apparently requires the pressing of at least 14 buttons (very slowly) on the keyboard. Finally finished ringing up the first pen, the cashier explains that she now needs to do this 11 more times. (Help me!) After the 5th time through this process, the customer notices the pens are not ringing up correctly. The cashier cancels the whole transaction and starts over.

But wait, they are still ringing up "incorrectly" according to the customer. She proceeds to explain that these $2 pens are ringing up as 50 cents after the discount is taken, but 75% off $2 should be 25 cents. (Go ahead, do the math...this is where I really start to lose it.)

Here's the thing. I write stuff. I can't do math. I may have graduated summa cum laude, but my secret shame is that I didn't qualify for the basic freshman math class in college. Instead I took some remedial class called "Contemporary Math." (I appreciated the course title because, despite the reality that put me in this class, it sounded like I was on the forefront of all that was hip and cool about math.)

But even I know that 75% off $2 is 50 cents! That is lemonade stand math! And neither the cashier nor the customer could figure this out. I proceeded to do the math with both of these women. In detail. Turns out it hadn't rung up wrong the first time after all. Isn't that swell?!

When it was finally my turn, the cashier actually said to me "Thanks for your math help." Wow. Five words I never thought I would hear. I would like to bottle that up and give it to Mr. Martinson--my high school algebra teacher the year I had to get a math tutor. I admit, I would be lost without my calculator, but have we really lost all ability to problem solve for ourselves?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Long live The Baby-Sitters Club

Long before Twilight and the Jonas Brothers captivated tweens everywhere (and before the word “tween” even existed), we had The Baby-Sitters Club books. And now, since Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears, and GI Joe have made triumphant returns in recent years, why not bring back this wholesome book series, right? Indeed, series author Ann M. Martin is writing a new prequel to the series, which will trigger the series re-release to a new generation. And, while you probably won’t understand unless you’re a late 20s/early 30s female, I can’t help but feel a bit nostalgic about it.

The Baby-Sitters Club may not have spawned hit movies and a creepy obsession with all things vampire, but it did make for more than just a fun book series. For instance, I remember owning The Baby-Sitters Club trivia/board game. What’s more, I had my very own baby-sitters club with several friends. We even had our own business cards made. I was the club treasurer, which I remember because a few years after our club fizzled out, I found an envelope full of the “dues” we collected from each other in my bedroom closet. I’m not sure what the money was intended for; and I honestly don’t remember what I did with that money after discovering it.

Also, in my trip down memory lane (via Google) I discovered clips of a Disney TV show based on the books and—while it never hit blockbuster status—there was actually a Baby-Sitters Club movie! Seriously, how did I miss this? (And can you spot the Minnesota native turned mildly successful actress in that movie trailer?)

Anyway, good luck to Ms. Martin and Scholastic books with their new publishing endeavor. I hope today’s tweens appreciate the re-release of this series, even if it isn’t filled with blood and scandal.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The best-laid plans

Last night I attended an advance screening of the new movie Leap Year. It was pretty cute. Amy Adams is fast becoming one of my favorite actresses and, let’s face it, I’m a sucker for just about every unrealistic, cheesy and predictable romantic comedy out there.

In the movie, Amy’s character, Anna, hears about the Irish tradition that a woman can propose to a man on Feb. 29. Since her boyfriend of four years still hasn’t proposed (and is conveniently in Ireland that day), she goes on a cross-continental adventure to propose to him herself. Of course, hilarity ensues, and if you care about the rest of the story you’ll have to see the movie.

There was one thing about Anna that I both appreciated and loathed (don’t worry, no spoilers here). She is a little OCD in her desire to plan—well, control—everything that happens to her. I appreciate this because I can totally relate. I loathe this because, ugh, I can totally relate!

I am a plan A person. When plan A starts to go off course, my immediate reaction is to take matters into my own hands (never mind that they are matters completely out of my control—I’ll still try). Sometimes realizing I’m not in control—of which there have been plenty of reminders lately—is actually very freeing. But other times, it just stinks!

I’d love to say I’m turning a corner now that recent conversations and happenings have put this flaw of mine in the spotlight, but that would involve some serious letting go, which wasn’t in my plan for today. But I think/hope I’m at least doing less kicking and screaming (sometimes) when plan B (or Z) sticks its tongue out at me and does a little happy dance. One of these days, maybe I’ll dance along.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Laughing at the stuff we like

Each new year promises new opportunities to laugh at ourselves...and I like that! A couple of authors have helped us out in that regard by highlighting some stereotypes that will either make you laugh or make you hang your head in embarassement (most likely the former).

A few months ago a friend told me about the blog turned book, Stuff White People Like, which is a satirical look at the white middle class. Now, another blogger has made laughing at myself even easier with a spin-off blog (and soon-to-be book) called, Stuff Christians Like.

I like to think that when people see Christians they first notice the love of Jesus, but I have a feeling a lot of people first see the kooky Christian culture stuff that generally makes us look like dorks (like the evangelizing t-shirts or, let's face it, even some of "our" music). Mind you, I'm quite fond of some of a lot of Christian stuff, but it's still pretty humorous (and maybe a little disappointing) to think of how we're viewed by mainstream culture or even by each other.

You should check out the blog for yourself to learn more about things Christians like, such as: the metrosexual worship leader, not knowing what do to with Santa, the side hug, awkward opposite sex friendships, surviving the church as a single or married couple without kids, wishing there were a Christian version of Lady Gaga, and The Shack.

Enjoy some good laughs in 2010...even if it's at your own expense!