Friday, November 9, 2012


I'm not sure where this post is going to end up, but it's my only outlet at the moment. I'm having an emotional evening ...

I am very good at blowing things out of proportion, giving them more weight & time & headspace than they deserve, letting them grow until they overwhelm me. That thing right now, sadly, is health. Or rather, a lack thereof and/or the methods by which you achieve it.

See, my roommates & my best friend here in Yakima are all very, very healthy. It's their passion. They get excited talking about nutrition and exercise and wellness and making your whole body strong so it's equipped for anything.

That's all OK. I mean, it's a good thing -- health is a good thing, and being aware of it, etc. I would say that the twins take it a little far, and I would say that Maximized Living always sounds like a cult, especially when they get so jazzed by watching videos of the very charismatic founder of that lifestyle, but whatever. It's their thing; I try not to voice any criticism I have of it. But what is true is that they are able to bring up health and fitness in almost any conversation.

Then there's me. I am not healthy. I mean, I try; I do yoga a few times a week, went climbing today, try to go on walks, and I'm more aware of how healthy food can taste good than I was before I knew these people. But I still eat chocolate croissants for breakfast a few times a week, and I'm still eating our leftover Halloween candy, and I need to lose like 20 pounds.

Yeah, the twins don't eat sugar.

I can't fathom it. Not just that -- the lifestyle. I can't do it. I would feel deprived, and that would make me feel angry (many things do, I guess).

The thing is -- the thing that's got me worked up now, the thing that has been depressing me more and more over the past several weeks -- that they're building up this community workout thing they do. It started out just Drew and Remy, because Remy wanted to get in shape, and who better to teach him than Crossfit instructor 0 percent body fat Drew? Right. So they started doing really hard Crossfit workouts. Then Drew's brother got home, then Courtney joined, then Sienna, and now they've got like eight other people from our church or friends or their coworkers who are in on it. Monday Wednesday Friday, this huge crew of people takes off from our house -- after clogging up the narrow street with all their cars -- and goes to the park to do crazy things. Tonight, the workout was something like ... do 50 pistol squats (one-legged squats where you go all the way down til you're sitting on your heel, I think) then sprint 400 meters (one loop around the track), then do 100 prison-yard pushups (at the top of each pushup, you high-five the person doing pushups across from you) then fireman carry the person for 200 meters ... and I stopped reading the workout after that. Plus, they had to run from here up to Ike, the high school, before they even started that. We live on 24th and Ike's on 40th, plus over four blocks, and uphill at least half of it.

Sounds so fun, right?

I have been wrestling since they started this with wanting to do it, but being so irrationally afraid of it that I have refused to join. They invite me; they're very encouraging; they would love to see me out there, yada yada, everyone thinks they can't do it at first but they get stronger, yada yada ... but I can't. I want to so badly, but I'm too scared. Of what? Of all of it. Of not being able to do it. Of a whole group of people seeing me unable to do it. My roommates know I'm out of shape because I tell them, and because they know how I eat, but they haven't SEEN me be out of shape. I don't want any of them to.

And Crossfit, it's supposed to be a team atmosphere but also competitive. And you do all this in front of everyone, and if it takes you five times as long to finish, then they're all just gonna be standing around waiting as you drag your fat ass around the track at a snail's pace.

I cannot do that. I cannot do it in front of Drew, who literally has an 8-pack (I counted) and gets a stomachache if he eats a cookie. I cannot do it in front of Courtney, who LITERALLY looks like her legs are carved out of stone. If her legs ever saw my legs, they would grow mouths and digestive systems just so they could throw up.

They try to encourage me; there are people in this group who are probably much less in shape than I am, and they finish at their own pace; Drew says he's seen me climbing, he knows I could do it, plus there's a scaled-down option for everything ... but I cannot bring myself to do it.

I hate myself for it. I really do. I love these people so much, and they really are so kind about it, and they know I want to do it, so that's why they keep asking and pestering, but tonight I just cracked. I got back from climbing (which was a good workout, too, plus the steep hike up to the crag during which my friend Sam made me carry his giant pack to appreciate how heavy it was) at about 5:30, and thought they'd be gone because they start at 5, so I was emotionally unprepared for the 12 people crowded in my kitchen standing around in exercise gear listening to what they were going to do for the workout. They said I should come with; my friend that I'd climbed with jumped right in and took off with them. Courtney said she would be my partner, it would be just her and me, no one else would have to see, it would be dark, this would be a good day to do it ... I felt myself leaning, almost saying yes, wanting to so badly ... but then they said they were going all the way up to Ike, and I snatched myself back. I couldn't even do the warmup. Court said I could drive, but I was already pulling back, shaking my head, receding farther into this prison I've made for myself. They left the house and I sat down sobbing.

I don't want this! I want to be free of this. But all I can picture is going to this workout, failing, hating myself, and becoming a negative presence that drags down all these awesome people who are trying their hardest and don't need me pouting on the sidelines to add to the stress. I would be toxic; I know I would. I've done it before.

And it just builds and builds and there's no end in sight. Tonight I was chilled by the thought that ... it's only going to get worse. We have eight more months of living here, and they have no intention of quitting. That's eight months of 3x a week getting home to all these exhilarated healthy people telling me how great the workout was and how I should totally do it next time. Over and over and over again. And the group is getting bigger and bigger; they've had one lady who was almost 300 pounds do it, and the very obese friend of one of the guys might try it, and I will just keep hating myself more and more because I'm not brave enough to do it. Eight more months! I won't make it -- it makes me want to move out. Which is absurd and horrible and makes me cry harder, but I honestly ... every time they tell me I could totally do it, and that they want me out there, I just hurt myself more. Stupid stupid stupid, fat fat fat, coward coward coward, failure failure failure. I want to be fit, I want muscles that let me run and climb and do pull-ups; I want to take care of my body so it lasts and does all the things I need it to now and in the future ... but I am so terribly afraid.

It's exhausting and I feel enslaved by it, but I don't know how to get over it. And the longer it goes, the more power it has over me. The more power I give it.

Oh Lord, help me.

Love always,

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

my manifesto: moving forward

Yakima is not my destination.

I’m going to repeat this to myself for the next two years, as I remain committed to my plan to pick up and move to South America by winter of 2014. That will be three-and-a-half years after coming to Yakima, my absolute latest deadline. With luck, I’ll be gone months before that.

This is nothing against Yakima. I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve gotten here. Although this started as a yearlong internship, within four months, it became a full-time, no-cutoff-point grown-up job. I had a permanent (as permanent as I wanted) job in my field within 10 months of graduating college, and I had already been employed in my field during those 10 months.

That is extraordinary in this economy and in the current climate among newspapers. Everywhere, people are saying that newspapers are dying, that jobs are vanishing; seasoned reporters are looking for work just as much as fresh-faced recent grads. So I am very, very fortunate to have gotten a job here so quickly.

And it’s been a good job. I’ve been able to settle into a beat; learned that I’m good at building sources; picked up a lot of useful information about health care, education, politics, etc. It pays well – well enough for a single girl with a car payment, at least – and has allowed me to live comfortably, even extravagantly.

And I’ve loved Yakima. This place felt more like home faster than anywhere else I’ve lived since I left my parents’ house for college – more so than Seattle, or Cadiz, or Port Townsend, or Santiago, or Olympia. And I loved all those places, too, and made great friendships there and had great adventures. I have made a life no matter where I live. Plus, I get to go climbing every week and spend time in the beautiful outdoors all around me. That’s nothing to scoff at.

So yes – I have nothing against Yakima or what it’s meant for me. And in 10 or 15 years, I might be able to see myself settling down here and raising a family (if such things are in the cards).

But this is not the best I can do. This is a stepping stone; a necessary one, to be sure, and one I am grateful for and that I do not deride. But it’s a starter job, a first-job-out-of-college, a temporary stop as I work my way into the places I want to be.

I want to be in South America. After that I want to be in the Middle East, then maybe China or Southeast Asia. I want to go everywhere, learn everything. I want to cover a war, getting the truth out to the world when everyone around me is determined to silence the media. I want to cover global politics, high finance, revolutions, growing economies. I want to write about things that matter, and I want to see the world change with my own eyes. I want my work to be a part of and an engine for that change.

I do not want to become so comfortable in Yakima that I’m not brave enough to take that leap. This is a stepping stone; I want to be able to jump into the rushing river and see where it takes me. I don’t want to pause indefinitely in the safety of that midway point, afraid of what will happen if I fail.

I could fail. That is a terrifying reality. I haven’t failed yet, so maybe I’m more optimistic than I should be; too naïve for my own good. Or maybe that idealism will help shield me from the kind of fear that could stop me from reaching my goals. But truly, I could fail. I could move somewhere and not find a job, or I could find a job and then get caught in layoffs, or I could find a job and then end up so beyond my depth that they fire me for incompetence. (Shudder. Not if I can help it.)

But I want to try. I want to push myself. That fear of failure is a motivator unlike any other. And I want to pursue the life I have always envisioned for myself.

If that means taking business courses and reading the Wall Street Journal every day so I can work for Reuters, bring it on. If it means taking language classes so I can speak Arabic and move to Afghanistan, I’m up for the challenge.

This is why I’m getting the tattoo. The first one, Courage, dear heart, was in response to those previous moves I’ve made. Every one of them was terrifying; every one of them started with me doubting my ability to succeed. But, just as in Dawn Treader, I realized “that there was nothing to be afraid of, and there never had been.” It would be prudent now to remember that my success, far from coming from my own steam, is really because God has been with me every step of the way. (Astonishing how easily I neglect that, isn’t it?) I have never gone on alone; even if I had failed, he would have been there.

And now, in response to the comfortable stagnation I already feel setting in, I’m going to get my new tattoo: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” I will not let my life be nothing. I will not end up decades from now regretting that I didn’t dare to step out and take a chance.

So, Yakima: I’m counting down. Let’s see.  The bosses wanted a three-year commitment; I’ve been here 15 months and I have 21 left. Starting at the beginning of 2014, I will start actively looking for and applying for jobs overseas, and even if I find nothing, I will leave here by the end of that year. I will not let myself stay here.

Not for anything. Not for anyone. Not for fear of failure or money or the job market or anything. Not for a guy. Never for a guy. Not even a hypothetically perfect one with dark hair and crazy blue eyes who’s a climber and loves kids and makes my heart melt with just a smile. Never! This is my life, my dream, and I’m going after it.

No excuses. 

Love always,

Friday, August 31, 2012

struggle bus

Of course it couldn't be perfect forever. Such is life.

No, the house is still great. It's me that's imperfect. And we're all imperfect, yada yada, but this feels like me ruining something that could be and has been so special.

I have struggled for as long as I can remember with some pretty weighty insecurities. In everything. In work, in friendships, in relationships (few and far far between), in random things that should be fun like salsa dancing or playing Ultimate Frisbee ... everything.

I don't know where it comes from. I have never been unloved; I have doting parents who always encourage me, friends who do the same, even my bosses are extremely vocal in their positive affirmation.

And yet I doubt.

With work, I thought I had conquered it, almost out of spite last year. When I was in Olympia, my boss/coworker was such a d-bag that I found myself thinking, "No, you know what? I AM good at this, so SUCK IT." But now I'm back to doubting.

I don't understand it! Before this job, when I would complain to my parents about not being a good journalist, and they would try to comfort me, I would largely dismiss them, saying "Well, you're not journalists; you don't know what makes one good."

But now, my bosses say wonderful things to me, praise me so often for my work, and I'm still discounting it. I say, "Well, they just like me, so they're nice to me." I'm convinced that sooner or later, they'll figure me out, understand that I'm not the "golden girl" they've set me up to be, and they'll finally be disappointed.

I almost can't help feeling apprehensive when the praise seems too good to be true. I talked to my editor recently about how I just don't feel like I'm living up to my potential, and I haven't earned the credit they give me, and I want to do something extraordinary, and she said, "We don't want you to feel like that; after all, you're a bright shining star here." I wish I could just graciously accept that and be happy! But instead it fills me with dread: "Someday, you'll know I'm a fraud."

And with the house ... I'm just not happy. I'm so stressed out about relying too much on my roommates, turning into like a needy girlfriend when I'm not dating any of them ... but that's what it feels like. I depend on them for all my friendship needs -- we cook together, play music together, read together, go climbing, go on walks, watch movies, have long personal conversations, make fun of each other ... but I care too much. I don't want to care. I don't want to need them so much, because they don't need me.

Something is broken there. Or in me. I feel it and I don't know what to do. But just in recent days, something in that closeness got twisted; maybe they know how much I care and are pulling away instinctively. Which is what I need to do.

Why can I not believe that I'm good enough? I can sit down and write out a list of the ways God has blessed me, and there are lots of things I'm prideful of. How can I be prideful and achingly insecure at the same time? It's like ... I have things I like about myself, but not in comparison to other people. My gifts are not worth as much as the gifts of my friends here, or else they're not the kind of gifts that I think my friends here value. Which is probably projecting and not fair to them.

I just ... it's exhausting. I want to be free of that. I want to stop caring and stop hurting myself and stop overanalyzing any kind word someone says to me. I don't enjoy being around those people, and I don't want to be like that myself.

But I don't know where it comes from, and I don't know how to stop it.

Love always,

Sunday, July 29, 2012

house heaven

I don't think our house could be any better.

Seriously. I have loved every minute there. I mean, the cat meows constantly and leaves hair everywhere, and there are more spiders/spiderwebs than I'm comfortable with, and one of my roommates alternates between country and metal, which happen to be the two genres of music for which I have zero appreciation.

But those are just trifles -- minor annoyances, little forgettable and forgiveable things. They pale in comparison with the big awesome things.

Things like:

--Our vegetable and herb gardens and raspberry patch, which allowed us to say (until it got so hot that a lot of stuff is done for the season), "Oh, we need a salad for dinner? Let me just head outside and grab lettuce and spinach and raspberries and basil and VOILA magic deliciousness."

--Our front stoop, on which we have beautiful summer-night talks as we watch people walk by from behind the relative privacy of our hedge.

--Our patio, where we grill out ALL THE TIME and have people over and tend to our garden.

--My window box, which (well it's a little dead now, because I missed watering for one day a week ago) makes waking up a joy as the sun streams in and lights up the flowers.

--BOYS WHO CLEAN and enjoy cleaning. I don't think I've swooned harder than when Andrew (who does many swoon-worthy things, it turns out) said, "Yeah, I think I'm gonna organize the fridge this weekend, that's gonna be my project." And he and Remy both talk about how much they love coming home to a clean and orderly home. Everyone does their dishes, and when we cook all together, we clean all together and it gets done so quickly! And they sweep and wipe down the counters and ahhh so nice. They might actually clean more than I do (lolwut?)

--Boys who do yardwork, which I have no inclination to do ... so I'm very thankful that Drew seems to enjoy mowing the lawn at the hottest part of the day. And he does it all pretty with nice straight lines. And then weed-whacks.

--Late-night talks in our kitchen. The kitchen is really the heart of our house, as it should be, and I'm so thankful that it's big and open and lends itself to such warm community. We can perch on the counters and just talk for hours.

--Boys who appreciate my cooking! Not that it's anything fancy -- yet -- but it's so gratifying to throw together the veggies or stir-fry or whatever we're eating and have them make happy faces when they take a bite.

--Late-night Sons of Anarchy in the basement ... yesss. Got them hooked on it and I am so happy. It's  hilarious because Remy (raised a missionary kid and probably the purest-hearted lad I know) will look at the floor during inappropriate scenes, while Andrew laughs uproariously and repeats all the inappropriate lines.

--THE PIANO oh man can't believe it's this far down on the list. I love having a piano. I play and sing all the time. And the boys like it (or tell me they do, at least; hopefully they'd tell me to be quiet if they wanted me to stop).

--Impromptu worship sessions in the living room, that are super chill and comfortable and informal ... just three kids and a guitar, yo.

--Our herb garden, again. Do you KNOW how much I love rosemary? A lot. A lot a lot.

--The little white board in the hallway, where Andrew writes encouraging notes to us. Aw.

--The attitude of encouragement and support in the house, in general. We can't seem to tell each other enough how much we appreciate different things about each other's personalities. It would seem fake if I were an outsider looking in ... but these are two of the most genuine, agenda-less people I've ever met, and I know they always mean what they say.

--Our proximity to the park, so we can walk there and hear Thursday night Music in the Park, or play ultimate Frisbee or just wander around.

--Going on walks through the neighborhood and feeling like a part of the community -- saying "Evening" to neighbors and admiring all the beautiful houses and going to the little tiny park and taking turns on the single swing ... I will never be too old to swing.

--The fact that our house has felt like home since before we even moved in. I don't even miss my pool. I just love the house, and can't get over the fact that we're lucky enough to live there.

It's just above and beyond what I've ever experienced before or could ever anticipate it would be. We have such great, random conversations, and are able to talk about basically everything. I sometimes have a twinge of concern that it's not like, appropriate for me to be a part of such frank talks, as a girl, but I think I'm basically a bro in their minds. And it's so great. I feel truly comfortable with them, and know that we can tackle any subject.

And it really does feel like family, because I can get annoyed or impatient with one of them but shrug it off a moment later, and they don't get offended, and we all just settle back into our rhythm. I didn't realize before how cranky I can be in the morning ... anyone who's reading this post is probably laughing their face off at that statement, because everyone ELSE knows exactly how cranky I am. But these guys love me in spite of it, and are patient with me, and know that I love them despite my tendency to grumble when it's early and I haven't gotten enough sleep.

It was really cool -- they both mentioned several times recently that they've "learned so much" from me, which I cannot fathom; learned how to be mean? I dunno. But Andrew told me this week that it's encouraging for them to see me start to get mad or impatient or reactive, but then try to rein it in, and not give myself over to those feelings. He said they pick up on it, and appreciate that I'm working to be a better roommate and a better friend. Weird ... but cool.

I'm learning a lot from them, to be sure. Mostly about the kind of person I want to be -- I want to be genuine, and open, and kind, and unassuming, and to call out all the places I see God working in others. I want to love my friends as well as they love me, and make others feel as welcome as they make me feel.

And there are just the cute moments that I was hoping for, secretly, in living with boys; when they ask my opinion, "as a chick," what they should do with their facial hair or how an outfit looks, or when they muse about what pet names are acceptable when you're in a relationship. I enjoy getting insights into the male brain.

Anyway. It's just going swimmingly, and I am excited to go home at the end of every day, knowing that one of them is probably there and can talk or hang out, and if they're not, that I can sit down at my piano and play to my heart's content until they return.

Love always,

Thursday, June 28, 2012

family value

What hurts most about Mark's recent actions is how he treats his family.

We've been his family for 20 years. I grew up fighting with him, snuggling with him on the couch, shouting over chores not completed and laughing about the jokes that went over our parents heads. My parents were the ones who raised him, helped him with homework, yelled at him when he was being a jerk, told him they loved him every night, gave him all the stupid toys and video games he wanted, and tried to teach him to be a good person.

This girl, this manipulative stripper whore bitch, is not his family. Neither is her baby, whom she allegedly cares so much about but whom she easily left in Washington to move to California with Mark on a whim.

And neither is Mark's biological mother.

I am so frustrated and hurt and on the verge of tears when I see how they interact on Facebook. When Mark was in Afghanistan, he and I talked about him visiting Yakima. He was going to come up for a whole weekend, and he was excited about it. He wanted to go to salsa lessons with me and he wanted to go camping and climbing with my friends; we were going to have brother-sister time, just the two of us.

When it came down to it, though, he was too busy driving off to Boise to see the stripperwhore dance for him (which is just SO GROSS I can't even begin to articulate). He thought he would come up here the day he left for California, but refused to leave her behind so he and I could have time together.

But when he drove across the state just to see his half-sister's high school graduation, it was a different story. His birthmom asked if the stripperbitch was coming with him, and he said, "No, she'll do her own thing so we can have family time." And then the stripperbitch told her thank you for being so welcoming.

You know why she's welcoming, you disgusting twat? Because she has no stake in Mark's future. It does not matter to her if he ends up saddled to your diseased stripper ass for the rest of his life, paying for your delinquencies as you screw every member of his platoon while he takes care of your bastard baby.

I'm adopted too, but I have always had it clear that my parents are the ones who raised me, not the ones who had sex and accidentally conceived me. Don't get me wrong; I'm very grateful that I know my birthdad, and my half-siblings; we have a good relationship and my life is richer for that.

But I wouldn't for one second dream of putting them over my parents, or my brother. Especially not after coming back from a deployment in Afghanistan. We spent seven months not knowing if we'd ever see Mark again. Every time I read about a roadside bomb or a deadly explosion, my heart stopped. I cried in my newsroom over and over, had to hide in the back hallway until I got myself under control, until I could calm the overwhelming fear that he would be killed and I would never get to say goodbye. Or that he would come home with a traumatic brain injury, and be there, but be dead inside.

Did the stripperbitch have nightmares like that? Did his half-sister lie awake, night after night, praying that it wouldn't be his foot that triggered an IED? Did his birthmom hope every day that he would call, so she would know he was OK, at least for the time being?

Maybe they did. Maybe I'm not being fair. Maybe they missed him and worried about him and prayed for him, too.

But they are not his family, and their fear for him can never be the same. He didn't know his birthmom & half sister until high school; he didn't know this stupid whore until later.

Why are we so unimportant to him? Why doesn't he understand that your family should be a priority? Why doesn't he see that this girl is going to ruin his life? I don't say things like that lightly -- Mark has been making stupid decisions all his life, and I've given up the delusion that he'll ever learn common sense, but I have never felt such dread about a situation before. He wants to marry this bitch. I want to pay her to never see him again, and you know what? She'd take it. She is with him because it's convenient right now, not because she reciprocates his inexplicable loyalty.

I'm just so hurt and angry and sad and helpless. He's not listening to our family, and he's not even listening to his best friends, who tell him over and over again that he's making a mistake. What do I do if he marries her? I won't see her -- I can be stubborn, too -- but does that mean giving up my brother? I don't want to do that, either.

And there's really nothing worse than hearing your mom sob over the phone, so upset she can't even get words out. How can he do that? How can he not care that he's causing so much hurt to the people he's supposed to love the most?

Hit men aren't that expensive, really.

Love always,

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

the big move

I should be going to sleep, since I have to get up for yoga in 5.5 hours, but I'm procrastinating. Like always.

I brought my first load of stuff over to the house tonight. (One of my friends keeps chanting "Bro house!" whenever I talk about it, and that's what it's become in my mind. And that's what it'll be, a little, for the first two months when it's just me, Andrew & Remy ... hm hm hmm it will be interesting.) And I talked with our awesome landlords who have bent over backward to make it work for us and who are just as excited about us moving in as we are.

I just can't wait for us to be moved in and done with all this shit. I'm so tired of processing it, of tiptoeing around people's feelings, of making excuses and having discussions and being thoughtful and considerate. It feels like in ancient Greece, Athens I think, or one of those city-states -- their enemies would be coming down the road, and they'd be like, "Let us have a democratic discussion about what we should do. Socratic circle, anyone?" I am all for processing, and I don't jump into big things carelessly, but c'mon, enough is enough! There has been far too much talking, and caring, and thinking. I have gone out of my mind so many times it's a wonder I know how to get back into it.

So yes. I just want to be in the house. Then I can remember why I wanted to do this in the first place -- why I'm leaving my beautiful, CLEAN apartment with a pool (two pools!) and my own rules for a house with three boys (and another girl, but that won't be til the fall). Whyyyy am I doing that? Giving up my own control and my individual comfort and my quiet space?

Well, because we felt called to live in community. (Did I though, did I really? Did I maybe just get called to live in a bro house and have friends around no matter what, attractive friends at that, who make me feel like I'm part of the "cool kids" group? Yeah, that sounds more like the reason.) We wanted to have a family of people who hold each other accountable and support each other and help each other pursue the life God has in store for us.

But all this stupid discussing and deciding and stalling has taken all the joy out of it for me. Asking over and over again what God's will is has pushed God out of it entirely. That's messed up. I'm ready for that just to be over ... so we can live in the house, and focus on what we set out to do.

I'm so excited when I think about what it's actually going to be like. I mean, yes, there are going to be some big adjustments. I'm going to have to hit people and make them do their dishes and not talk about their junk in front of me. Boys are weird.

But we're going to have nights where we just play music and worship and spend time together, and we're going to have nights where we all just lie down on the floor or the grass outside and talk about nothing for hours on end. And I'm going to get up in the morning and pick fresh raspberries to put on top of my cereal, and we're going to have fires in the cookstove on the back patio at night, and we're going to work in our little vegetable garden and say hi to the neighbors and fall asleep with the windows wide open.

Katie was here this weekend, and it was amazing, and it made me even more excited for the coming year -- for roommates. We lived together for the better part of three years, and we know each other, I think, better than anyone else. Better even than family, in a lot of ways. It's so important to have that — to have friends who know you better than you know yourself, who have seen you struggle and grow and change and find yourself. That kind of history is powerful.

Anyway. Ramble ramble. Need to go to bed. Only three more nights in this apartment after tonight ... holy crap. that's the first time I realized that. This is the longest place I've lived, without moving out for a summer or an internship or anything ... an entire year, a year and about two weeks ... feels so long.

Love always,

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

some days, y'know

Seriously, why does EVERYONE IN THE WORLD have a boyfriend.

It's OK. I mean, really, it's OK. I am totally OK with it. Look how weird OK looks in correct AP style ... hm. But seriously. When I sit down and think about it, I mean actually think about it, I'm glad I don't have one. In my current state of being, I can only imagine it would be stressful and hard and just another way to bring out my secretly-crippling insecurities and lack of self-worth. And think of how much time I wouldn't get to spend just lounging in my apartment, by myself, reading or watching Buffy. That time is gold, my friend, and living by myself has taught me to cherish the solitude.

But still. SERIOUSLY. Some days, you know, it just feels like everyone is a couple. And they're bent on making sure you know it. Oh, sitting next to each other at dinner? Of course, we HAVE to clasp each other's hands, and share a cute little smooch every now and then, and put a hand on the other's knee, and laugh with that starry-eyed look that means we're just *sooo* in love. Aw.


And I mean, I know. I know that during the exceedingly rare moments in my life (11 pitiful months of my 23 years, to be exact) that I have had a boyfriend myself, I fell into all the same pitfalls. PDA, oh goodness yes. I'm sure many people were made to feel pukey by my very existence.

But sometimes when you're single, it just feels like the world is out to shove it in your face. Then rub it around a little, like cake; maybe smear it in your hair, pat you on the cheek with the frosting in a totally condescending way ... yeah. My singleness is the birthday cake that life has shoved in my face. That's how I feel.

And I don't take this as a serious negative often ... I have great friends, and a great life, and I love where I am right now. But when I have to be around really cutesy couples for extended periods of time, it just starts to wear on me. And then I wonder what exactly it is about my personality that has ensured that I will be FOREVER ALONE.

Perhaps the fact that I blog about my belief that I will be FOREVER ALONE. Yeah, that might be a turn-off.

It's hard, though, in the face of such glaring singleness, to not immediately look inward and wonder, What is wrong with me? Why do all these really gross people have boyfriends — why does the stupid stripper whore that bewitched my brother have a boyfriend — when I don't? What trait of mine makes me somehow less dateable than these aforementioned gross skanky people?? And how do I fix it or hide it or change it so that I become slightly more dateable?

Wrong attitude, I know. "Only God can truly fulfill you!" I know. Giant pity party. Whitegirlproblems. I know.

But still. Some days, I feel chronically unwanted. And it's just not a happy feeling.

Love always,

Sunday, June 10, 2012

baby steps

I've learned a lot about myself lately.

Mostly ugly things, which is not a self-pitying declaration but really a statement of fact. Specifically things about my temper. I was an angry little kid and I've grown up to be an angry adult (ish? young adult? 20-something?); the only difference is that I don't have anyone I unleash on very often. That's really only because I don't live with my family anymore. As a kid, my brother and I had knock-down-drag-out fights until we were both way too old to have an excuse. (Incidentally, he's been a douchebag almost the whole time he's been in Washington on leave, ignoring my parents in favor of some stripper 'ho, and I feel that same old violent anger boiling inside me. But now he knows jujitsu and I can't do anything to him.) I got into screaming matches with my parents, which have thankfully become rarer, but they still happen.

And I know, in recent years, it's kind of gotten to be a silly thing; when I was a trainee, I punched John & Erik all the time for being obnoxious little twerps & for intentionally pushing my buttons, and it's become good fodder for teasing. And that's fine. I don't punch anyone in Yakima; haven't gotten to know them well enough yet, I suppose. (I'm moving in with three boys in three weeks, though, and I imagine that'll change pretty soon.) At any rate, it seems it's become endearing — "Oh, Molly, she just gets so worked up over little things" — rather than seen as something serious or damaging.

But despite any outward appearances to the contrary, that temper of mine is still lightning-quick, still present just beneath the surface, ready to come out snarling at a moment's notice. That's how it feels: like an animal of some kind, snarling and snapping, "the jaws that bite and the claws that catch." And, as with all our animal feelings, our baser urges, there's some pleasure in giving into the anger. There's a part of me — a really big part, I think — that wants to wallow or bask in that rage, give myself fully over to my anger, and just refuse to listen to the more moderate voices in my head. This past week, I spent hours upon hours thinking of all the most spiteful things I could say, and as a writer, I knew I could use words as weapons to pinpoint a friend's most vulnerable spots and make her feel worthless and alone. And I relished it. I was looking forward to the moment when I'd get to pull out these carefully practiced hateful speeches, when I'd get to see her face fall in dismay when she learned "the truth" about herself.

That's where I was when I headed to Ghormley this weekend, a place that's supposed to be focused on God and nature and love and childhood and fun. It's hard to be sullen at Ghormley, and I was able to throw myself into playing with the girls in my cabin, but God wasn't content to leave my heart out of the picture. Boy, did I fight it. I sat there Friday night and well into Saturday morning just revisiting all my hateful thoughts, building them up again, not letting myself forget the hurt and anger I felt, which ultimately meant I had to tune out or neatly exempt myself from a lot of what was being said and sung.

I finally let my anger ebb away, more for convenience's sake and because it took too much energy than out of any altruistic realization of my wrongs. I'm still working on that one. The weekend was wonderful, as Ghormley always is, and that friendship is teetering a bit less precariously than it was last week.

But the whole episode just brought me back to an idea Kaetochi and I talked about recently, and something I've been finding in a lot of different places in life: Being mature is just a series of small decisions to not be immature. It's not some big switch that gets pulled when you're 18 that makes you lose any urge to be a jerk to the people around you; it's a conscious, constant effort. And it's hard. This is nothing earth-shattering or new, here, but it's newly-remembered for me. I dealt with this when I did the juice fast, too — the "slow, slow, steady process of self-denial." It's remembering in each moment that you have a choice between caving to those baser urges, which usually hurt you or the people around you, and actively pursuing the high road. God's road.

Where does this leave a stubborn jerk like me? It's more than scary. This realization means that I'm in control of my emotions. Usually, I unconsciously assume that my emotions are somehow independent of my brain, and if they take control over me, I'm just a helpless prisoner. Not so. My emotions can only get the better of me when I let them ... which means that every time my emotions get the better of me, it was deliberate surrender on my part that allowed it to happen.

The good news, I guess, is that God's supposed to help with this ... but the ongoing bad news is that I don't think I really trust him to do that. In words, perhaps, but it doesn't come out in how I live my life. Stubborn, independent, hot-tempered and reveling in it; how's that for a winning combination?

Anyway. I think I lost my point somewhere in there, so I'll stop. Hopefully, this week I'll be able to rein in my temper, for the benefit of all involved.

Love always,

Thursday, May 31, 2012

things worth sharing

The last week or so has been a good time for reminiscing, as it often is when I come home. Mark's home now, too, which is a wonderful blessing, but he's not really one for reminiscing.

I've been reading through the Rose Wilder books, the series that follows the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote Little House on the Prairie. Almost everyone read those books growing up, right? My friend Courtney in Yakima never did, and that just makes me sad. Those books were an integral part of my childhood, with my mom reading them aloud, and then being able to read them myself. The Rose books, too. I'm flying through them, remember how attached I was to the characters when I was little.

We also pulled out some old cassette tapes — the Wee Sing tapes and Discovery Toys tapes and, best of all, the lullaby tapes I used to fall asleep to. "Sleepytime Tunes" and "Lullaby Magic" are the two that I remember the most. Just listening to them sends almost a little shiver through me. They always used to help me sleep, and I remember pulling them out even when I was quite a bit older (still in elementary school) and listening to them. "Wynken, Blynken and Nod" and "Goodnight, My Someone" ... hearing them is so strange, like it's echoing very far back in my memory.

But all this reminiscing has a point, kind of. The twins that I'll soon be living with, Chris & Drew, talk more about families and kids and marriage than anyone my age. It's very weird, these two young guys, who look like they could be frat boys or something, talking about what kind of father they want to be one day. But it's interesting. Chris asked me once what I'll want to pass on from my family to my own kids, and it's a question I keep coming back to. For a long time, I was staunchly opposed to kids, and I still go back and forth on that. I want to be able to be selfish, and travel the world, and not worry about uprooting someone ... plus there's the whole needing-to-find-a-husband thing, and what if my kids come out stupid, and the whole having them thing that would suck majorly and is really the most disgusting thing in the world (yes, I refused to watch the video that day in health class; anyone who says birth is a beautiful thing is a big fat liar, or suffering from memory loss), so the likelihood of me having kids ever is very much up in the air.

But I do like to think about what I would pass on, and recently I've been thinking that the songs and stories of my childhood are the most important legacy I have. All the nursery rhymes, all the folk songs, the "Oh, Susanna"s and the "Old King Cole"s and the "Little old woman who lived in a shoe"s and the "four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie"s and all of those — things that probably most kids today don't know. I think about the girl I mentor in Yakima, and her little brothers, and they just have no way of knowing all those stories that I grew up with.

We listened to those songs over and over again, on tapes in the car, and in little cassette players at home; I listened to storybooks on tape for hours, and we sang the songs all the time. If I am a good writer, it's because I was a reader from a very early age; if I am musical, it's because we always, always had music around growing up. Now, I wasn't raised listening to the Beatles, or anything famous, but we always had songs. And all those old stories — the American tall tales, the Paul Bunyans and John Henrys and Johnny Appleseeds — those are things I would want my kids to know about, too.

In the Rose books, the author talks a lot about how much Rose loves reading, and how much she loves storytelling. Storytelling is something I want to work on. If I ever have kids, I want to have stories that I make up and tell every evening, stories that make their eyes go wide and that they want to hear again and again. Not storybook stories, but stories that I make up all my own — or stories from my own life that they want to listen to. It's just so important, that oral tradition. I still hope to someday have my dad just talk into a recorder for hours on end, telling about growing up on a farm and doing rodeo and all the other bygone-era kind of stories that he's told me in pieces over the years.

If I have kids, I don't want them to be glued to various screens. For one, they will never have video games, even thought they'll probably be implanted in their brains via computer chip by then; I still hold that video games were the worst parenting decision my folks ever made for Mark, and I blame Call of Duty for his ever going into the Marines in the first place.

No, if I have kids, they're going to read. From the day they're born, I'll read them stories; they'll start out with Dick & Jane, like I did, and fairy tales, and Arabian Nights, and Little House on the Prairie, and Nancy Drew, and Beverly Cleary, and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, and Pippi Longstocking, and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, and E. Nesbit, and Harry Potter, and everything else that fires up the imagination. And they're going to play outside, pretending to be pirates and bandits and explorers, and they're going to tear up the garden when they play safari, and they'll build forts from old refrigerator boxes and go barefoot all summer long. That way their brains won't be mush from watching TV or playing mindless video games for hours on end, and they'll have good stories to tell their own kids when they're grown up.

In Eight Cousins, Archie quotes someone as saying that "A love of good books is the best safeguard a man can have." Word, Arch. Word.

Love always,

Sunday, May 20, 2012

On decisions

So it's been a while.

I think I need to resolve to blog more often. For one, I'm a writer, and what is a writer who doesn't write? Useless. (The fact that I write for a living doesn't exactly exempt me from this; it's like how pleasure-reading falls by the wayside during college, because you're forced to read so much for class. But pleasure-reading is still vitally important, as is pleasure-writing.) (Why is "pleasure" such a bad word these days? Hm.)

 Also, if I write more often, I will (hopefully) avoid the novel-length posts that I end up writing when I go months in between. (Side note: "Hopefully" in its common usage was accepted by the AP last month sometime. Maybe the month before. Don't know how I feel about that ... Its original use, its correct use, was to mean "in a hopeful manner," as in, "She skipped hopefully to the mailbox to see if there was a card for her." But we've taken it to mean "I hope," as in, "Hopefully there's a card in the mailbox." And now we're allowed to do that. I like that language is alive and evolving, I get that, but I also like the rules and am afraid of what could happen if we loosen them. A short story in Mrs. Smith's 9th grade English class will forever haunt me; the sci-fi one about a guy who goes on a "time safari" or something, wanders off the path in the Mesozoic era, crushes a butterfly with his boot, and comes back to his time to find the modern world disastrously changed as a result. And everything is misspelled and awful. If we let language devolve into how normal people carelessly talk, then we'll all be writing in very ugly ways one day. And this is a long aside.)

What's consumed my life for the past month or so is a big decision: I'm moving into a house with friends! Doesn't really seem that big, does it? Well, it's not; when the idea first came up, I had a lot of resistance (I'll have to leave my own apartment! Can't have my bathroom as spotlessly clean as I like it! Can't walk naked from the shower to my bedroom! Giving up the apartment POOL! That kind of thing) but quickly came to realize that the potential benefits outweighed any negatives. And I found a beautiful beautiful historic house in the beautiful beautiful historic neighborhood here, and the owners are wonderful, and they're moving to Hawaii for a year and need someone to basically house-sit. Who better to do that than a group of flexible, 20-something-post-college kids? Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Except for the fact that 3 of our 5 are boys, and the other girl has another friend who is adamantly opposed to girls living with boys, and this friend has had an unreasonable amount of influence in the decision. So it's been a very frustrating, drawn-out process of my friend waffling back and forth, torn between what she thinks God is calling her to do and fear that the other girl will think she's casting herself into the pit of Hell. (True story.)

But anyway. That's mostly done now; we signed the lease a week and a half ago, so it's all OURS, starting July 1, and they dropped the rent down so my non-grown-up-job friends can afford it, and we're taking care of the 14-year-old cat Calvin, and there's a raspberry patch and an herb garden and a swing set with a fort and a laundry chute and windows everywhere. Sigh of contentment. Sigh of relief. Sigh of couldn't-we-have-avoided-all-that-frustration-by-just-making-grown-ass-decisions?!


This process was a good learning experience, and a useful heads up; I now know how vastly different I am from my soon-to-be housemates. And I learned that I'm OK with that. Previously, with this group of friends (whom I hold in very high regard), I would have taken that difference to mean that I was somehow wrong; that they had their priorities/personalities straight, and I was being dumb. But nope! I can say that I am very glad to be the decisive, go-getter type of person that I am. Shit would not get done otherwise. So it'll be an interesting year — a perfect experiment, really. The idea-people will maybe learn to be a bit more feet-on-the-ground; I will maybe learn to loosen my grip on "the plan" a little bit; and we'll all learn how to love each other despite painfully grinding differences.

My housemates are the group that's in my profile picture on Facebook, plus 1: Courtney, Remy, Drew, and Drew's twin brother Chris (so, basically, the same picture, just imagine 2 of the guy on the left.) Chris won't be moving in until the end of the summer, after he finishes up an internship in Coeur d'Alene.

Oddly enough, none of our parents had an issue with the mixed-gender concept. My dad says he sees it as the same as a dorm - separate bathrooms, separate bedrooms. We're even going to have separate boys' and girls' floors. His only concern was that I would end up being the housemaid, cleaning up after all of them, but I refuse. I will make them clean ... lovingly. My mom's concern, that may or may not be valid, was "How will you date anyone if you're living in a house full of boys?" The boys themselves laughed at the idea of sitting down to grill a potential date, like 3 angry older brothers at once. The fact that these three boys are probably the only eligible young men in Yakima pretty much evaporates any fear about dating ... not that I do that ever anyway. So it'll be a good year to be good friends.

Back to the writing bit, though. My task last week was to help craft a letter to send to this doubting friend, to try to explain what our mission and vision are so she can get a bit more on board. It's something that I tend to undervalue outside of my job: Yes, I'm a writer, but what good does that do me? I've been a writer for so long (of the crappy middle-school English students, I think I was the slightly-less-crappy one that stood out) that I don't even think about it. Of course I can communicate articulately; can't everyone? Not so, it turns out. So that's been cool/interesting to wrap my head around. It's a gift, one that I can be proud of, and one that is useful outside of my writing-for-a-living thing.

Disclaimer: Blogging does not equal writing.

I would like to write more, though. I tried my hand at a slam poem last month; I like how it turned out, but it will be a long time before I'm able to share it, I think. Long time. It's an odd medium; half personal story, half detached monologue. Even if it's a powerful story, and personal, it would be strange to perform it with the level of emotion it requires each time. Somewhere along the way, it becomes very scripted. But I would like to write more poetry; for the past few years, I only go that route when I'm in the midst of extreme emotional turmoil, and the words just come naturally. Forcing it feels weird. Then again, I don't particularly want to experience any more extreme emotional turmoil.

Our house is quite a musical house; two or three of them play guitar, and two of them sing, and I play piano. I would like to try writing songs with the guitar players. Again, I can do the word thing. Useful. Maybe.

Anyway. Long post. Again. I'll try to write more often, and less lengthily.
Love always,

Sunday, March 11, 2012

what if...

OK, new crazy project idea to kick around in the ol' brain.

What if I — not alone, but with lots of people and organizations and volunteers and donors — started a climbing gym in Yakima?


You know, it could happen. Over and over again, when I write stories about things that needed community support — the new med school here, the new hospice center at Memorial, and on and on — people tell me about what a uniquely generous community Yakima is. How people here just get on board and make stuff happen.

So climbing stuff could happen, too. I mean, we're right at the border of great climbing country out here; Tieton's a half hour away, Vantage is only an hour, and I'm sure there are other little places in between or along the canyon. Then Leavenworth's only an hour and a half away, though that's more out of our jurisdiction.

And the only gyms are at Central, where you have to be a student or know a student who can fit you into his/her schedule, and at the Court Club in Tri-Cities, where you have to be a member or pay a guest fee every time, and where the wall isn't open more than 2-3 times a week.

Granted, the guest fee is like $10, which is a lot cheaper than you'll pay for a day pass at any Seattle gym. And at Central, if you can get a student to accompany you, the guest fee is only $6 something. (Or you can be like my student friend, and just slide on through the gate without the desk staff knowing you're not a student.)

But still: There is no community climbing gym. There's nowhere that a regular person can buy a season pass & climb as much as he/she wants.

And this community could use one. First off, we're the 11th-fattest metropolitan statistical area in the country, with 32.4 percent of our population labeled obese. People need some fun exercise. Second, anything active that could keep kids off the street and out of gangs would be awesome. And third, climbing is a badass sport. Fer realz, guys. Guys would dig it because they get serious muscles all over their bodies, without having to pump iron in a feet-smelling gym weight room. Girls dig it for the same reason (and, speaking personally, because of all the aforementioned lean-muscled guys ... ahem.) (And who's to say that the boys don't love it for the badass climber girls, too? Don't want to be one-sided in my sexism here.)

But it's a sport that provides a good outlet for people who want to be tough and strong and macho, and it trains them to use their brains at the same time. Climbing is like a puzzle that you solve with your whole body. It requires focus in a way that's almost meditative/yoga-ish, and you have to learn what your body is capable of.

Plus it's a sport that makes you feel good about yourself! Instead of working for 8 weeks to get into running shape, you start to see progress almost immediately. You get one hold higher on the wall, and you feel like king of the gym. Or queen. Whatever.

But back to Reason No. 2: This would be a great outlet for kids. Heck, we could even have climber vanpools that could go pick up kids if they couldn't get a ride there. And when I say "kids" I mean anyone under 18; teens, too. Teens especially. If you're at a climbing gym, you're not out making bad decisions. And when you're done climbing, you're too damn tired to go make any bad decisions.

So, yes. Those are the good reasons we need a gym. Now, the practical: How could I spearhead this while working a full-time job? Hm. This is difficult. But I would just need to get a couple idea partners to join with me. And I need to talk to folks in Oly about how they started the gym there, because that's not a big commercial gym at all. That was a small project to begin with, too. Now, the point of that one is not as community-outreachy as my plan, but it still brings together a group of people that wouldn't have that space otherwise.

That's the other thing! Climbers are SUCH GOOD PEOPLE. Not necessarily as in, they love the world & only think about making it a better place (though most of them do), but they're just open and friendly and hard-working and outdoorsy and all-inclusive. (Except some places in Seattle, because hipsters are none of those things.) Climbers become a community just from standing around watching other people try to send routes. Wouldn't that be good for people here? For kids here, who need someplace safe & positive to go? Also, this is already a tight-knit small-town community. I bet it would happen easily.

Hmmmmyes. I think I would talk to the Y, and Madison House (an after-school arm of Union Gospel Mission in Yakima) and probably groups like Trail Seekers and other outreach peeps like that. It wouldn't have to be a big gym; the Warehouse isn't big, but it's my favorite gym out of all the ones I've been too. (Central's and the Court Club's aren't big either, but they're solid.) Hey, it could even go into one of the giant unused buildings in downtown Yakima, where the entire old mall is sitting empty. And I could write grants; I'm a writer, for Pete's sake! Shoot, I could write the shit outta some grants.

Wouldn't it be cool if this happens? We'd have an entire population of kids and community members of all ages who come to love this awesome sport, and take it outside to the surrounding area, which promotes more love & good stewardship of the outdoors & all kinds of good things like getting away from the computer and video games and Facebook and all that shit.

OK. I'm gonna start a Yakima climbing gym. I've got 2 more years here; let's make good use of them.

Rock on. (<---future gym name? Eh? Eh??)

Love always,

Friday, February 10, 2012

for 100 percent kids!

Hello, peoples. So I'm writing this as a semi-public declaration so I'll be shamed into sticking with it: My friend Courtney and I are going to do a two-week juice fast starting on Sunday.

INSANE, I know. Whew. I'm pumped, yet also petrified. I texted my dad about it, and he was like, "what happened to my meat and potatoes girl??" I know, Dad, I know. More like "what happened to my Oreos & Reese's girl?" But that's kind of the point. I don't eat very healthily; I really do eat Oreos for dinner sometimes, and I really do eat chocolate croissants for breakfast most mornings.

But not anymore! Not this week at all, actually. We've been weaning ourselves off the bad stuff, so except for when I caved and had Reese's on Tuesday (two packs ... my logic being that I wanted to be totally off sugar on Wednesday, then I better not have that last dollar in change on me after Tuesday! Um, yes. This is my brain.) I haven't had sugar, meat, much dairy or carbs this week. That's quite a feat for me. I have zero self-control, in this & many other areas of my life ...

But that's part of the goal of the juice fast! To show myself that self-control IS possible, and rewarding, and a better way to live.

So yes. Starting Sunday, we will only consume fruit & vegetable juice. (We could've allowed solid fruits & veggies, too, but we decided to go all in; the benefit of juice is that it's already broken down into a form that your body can immediately put to use. Or so says Courtney.) (Courtney studied nutrition & reads health-food books for fun & is going to be a naturopathic doctor, so I trust her.)

I got the juicer today from my coworker, and tested it out tonight with cucumber, apple and ginger. Whew, a little too much ginger. And then I squeezed some lemon juice into it, because lemon juice makes everything bearable (except paper cuts, I guess). And it's not bad. I think it'll take a while for it to not feel like medicine of some sort, and I don't know if I'll ever look forward to juice like I look forward to Oreos, but that's part of the goal too. I want to change my appetite & learn to crave good foods.

Good quote I found on Pinterest: "If you're not willing to eat vegetables, then you're not really hungry — just craving."

This juice fast is meant as a cleanse, to get rid of the 22 years of toxins I've been putting in my body, and to start healing from that damage. I'm afraid it'll be more like two weeks of feeling hungry all the time ... but Courtney says it'll be good. We'll be praying a lot.

Anyway, I'm gonna write about it here: and hopefully Courtney will be able to post stuff, too. It's mostly for me/us, but if anyone else is thinking about doing a cleanse like this, it might be good to see what someone else is going through.

Wooo juice! My favorite ...mmhmm.

Love always,

Sunday, January 22, 2012

perfect love

Hey folks (folk? the one folk ... anyway). It's been a while; 3 months-ish, and that's mostly due to the weather. It's cold in Yakima, and I don't turn the heat on in my front room (because I'm cheap), and I still don't have a wireless router, so my Internet/ethernet is still just in my front room, and when I sit out there for more than 5 minutes my toes go numb. And I can't exactly blog during work hours. So there it is.

But today my friend and I were talking about how to explain God as perfect love. This is something I've thought about a lot in the past few years, mostly looking at how God's love differs from the love we can have for each other. Watching many good friends go through painful breakups and think that life was hopeless without that person, that that person represented the epitome of love and that they would never find anything equal, has shown me how desperately we all need and deserve something better.

Think of your lowest moment — physically, emotionally, spiritually — and think of who was there for you in that time. I always think of people who have taken care of me when I'm throwing up, because that's a pretty gross experience and for me represents some serious commitment on the part of the observer. My parents are always some of the first to mind, because I've known them the longest and gone through the most with them. But then, you could say that my parents are my parents, so they have to be there for me. So it can be even more revealing when newer friends or people I don't really know step up to the plate and stick with me, with no obligation at all.

Perfect love is love that never, ever fails you. Even my best friends, who have the best intentions and stand beside me through my dark times, can't help but let me down in some way. I say this not to be accusatory; just factual. We are human, and we are fallible, and we are destined to disappoint each other. It's our nature. Sometimes they say something that rubs me the wrong way, or that hurts more than it comforts, or they don't take me seriously when I really need to be heard, or they just don't — can't — understand what exactly I'm feeling.

I struggle with this with my parents a lot. Sometimes I just need them to say, "Yes, this sucks. I know that it sucks, and I'm sorry." But so often — and I do this too — when I start talking, they start proposing solutions or telling me that I'll get over it. And while what they're saying may be true, it's not what I need to hear.

God is perfect love because he just doesn't do any of that.

1 Corinthians 13:4 has gotten tiresome because so many people use it at weddings, but it still rings true. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Try to put a friend's name in there, or your own name, or any name but God's, and you immediately see why we can't be perfect love for each other. In our heart of hearts, we are at least occasionally self-centered, and we can get worn out from constantly listening to a friend's problems, and we get frustrated when they don't take our advice and end up in the same painful situation over and over. We keep score; we think of how much we've been there for a friend, and feel they owe us the same time and commitment. We feel pride, thinking that we're the best advice-giver or best crying shoulder and then get offended when our friend turns to someone else for counsel. We listen to our friends' problems, but complain about them behind their back and talk about how we would never make the mistakes they're making.

God doesn't.

God listens, and never says "I told you so." God is never too tired to hear our problems, and he never berates us for getting into the same situation over and over again. He delights in our confidences the same way a parent delights in his child bringing its worries to him. He wants us to tell him what's wrong, because he wants to make it better.

And what's more — no matter what we're going through, God understands. He knows. I get so frustrated when I'm struggling with something, and a friend says, "Oh, I tooootally know what you mean; this one time, I had this happen to me and yada yada yada." I want to say, No, you don't know, you couldn't possibly know; this is my life and my pain and it's nothing like what you've experienced.

But God has experienced it all. He's felt the pain of rejection, every time we turn away from him; Christ was mocked and scorned and called a liar and a madman by the world, and he was abandoned by his closest friends. Read The Magician's Nephew from Narnia; there's a moment when the boy is telling Aslan about his dying mother, and he looks up into Aslan's eyes and sees two great shining tears, as if the lion was sorrier for his mother than even he was. "My son; my son," he says. "I know. Grief is great."

God's love is perfect because it comes from a place of perfect understanding.

That understanding also means that God knows us through and through, and still accepts us unconditionally. I tell my parents almost everything, and I have a handful of friends in whom I confide almost all my struggles and falterings, and I'm lucky to know all those people. But they still don't know my deepest, darkest sinful nature. I don't tell them the things that are truly shameful. I am vindictive and petty and unforgiving and jealous and grasping and angry beyond their wildest dreams, and I dare not tell them so, for fear of losing their friendship once they know the real me.

But God does know the real me, and he's not running. He sees all my imperfections and hateful thoughts laid bare, and still wants me and chases after me, like a lovesick teenager who won't listen to anyone's words of caution but cares only for his sweetheart.

God's love is perfect, and we would call it foolhardy if we saw our friends acting that way. We wound him and betray him and ignore him and deliberately disobey him again and again, and he still won't give up on us. Every now and then, I feel the truth of that like a knife, and cannot help but wonder at it ... If I had done everything I've done to God, to one of my human friends, they would never look at me or speak to me again.

I think back to my friends who have suffered excruciating relationships and breakups. Human-relationship love is very tangible and very immediate and present, and so it's easy to get wrapped up in it and think that it's the real deal. But again, we can't help but let each other down, in small ways or big ways, and sooner or later, a lot of relationships fail because of it. Sometimes they fizzle out, but sometimes they tear at the very fiber of our being, and make us sob those sobs that mean our world has ended.

If we believed that the love that person had for us is the be-all, end-all of love in this world, and that we'll never again be loved so well or so deeply, then I don't know how any of us would get out of bed in the morning. What is the point of living if you can never hope to be truly loved again?

Our hope comes from the knowledge that there is a better love out there, a love that never disappoints or cares more about itself than about us, that never lies or cheats or openly insults. We can get out of bed in the morning in the full certainty that God is madly in love with us, flaws and all, and that the thing that excites him most is our process of falling more and more in love with him.

Good parents give us a glimpse of God's perfect love; so do good romantic relationships, good sex (not that I'd know, ahem), and really good friends. And that's the value in those relationships — they point to something bigger, something more real, something more perfect than we can fathom with our tiny human minds. They make us want more. And if done correctly, obediently, they point us back to God, the source of love itself.

Anyway. That got quite preachy, not to mention rambly (though the rambly should be expected by now). But it's something that matters, so hopefully you won't hold it against me.

Love always,