Monthly Archives: November 2009

So We’re a Little Melvin Udall…so what?

Last Thursday, November 19, we moved into our new home.

Four faithful friends and one mom helped us move, without which we might still be swimming in a sea of cardboard.   My mother firmly grabbed my shoulders as she made her departure.

“Do not finish unpacking tonight,” she advised.  “It is too much.  Don’t let your compulsiveness make you think you need to do it all.”

Apparently she knows me pretty well.  She also knew, even as she spoke, that I was incapable of following this advice.

I’m not one of those people who has to lock and unlock a door seven times before I can walk away from it.  I don’t wash my hands with a fresh bar of soap every time I approach the sink.  I don’t have Melvin Udall-brand OCD.  But I do feel completely suffocated and unable to sleep knowing that my kitchen is only half-unpacked.

Add to this that I can’t resist surprising people, and I was doomed.  Mike had to go to work immediately after our full day of moving (poor guy), so I felt compelled to wow him with what I could get done before he got back home.  He’s as much, if not more, freaky as I am about organization, so before he left he looked around at the boxes and said he couldn’t look any longer without developing a twitch.

So I dove in.

I have discovered that Mike and I both have an insatiable need for order.  Despite the midnight hour, despite barely being able to walk from exhaustion, I still relentlessly unpacked boxes and organized, as if pounding my gavel and hollering “order in this house!”

It’s as if we are transition-averse.  I seriously thought Mike was going to break out in hives when he couldn’t find his shaving cream the day after the move.  There’s nothing to make you homicidal like the rush of the morning coupled with lacking all of your essential tools.

So I grabbed my proverbial sledgehammer and started knocking down the walls of disorder.  It’s truly a good thing I was in workout pants and a hoodie, because the effort was not without perspiration. 

But I did it.  And when Mike walked through the door to find he could see the floor and the countertops, it was like his shoulders descended from their perch near his ears to the more relaxed location near his chest, where they should be.  Though I hardly noticed since I was beaming the special glitter-glow that organization creates.   

What’s funny is I always translate my work skills into my home skills (since my home skills are limited).  As an example, I made a three-week “moving” work-back plan that mimicked ones I used to make while at Microsoft.  Excel kept us in line with tasks, details on what to pack each day, which walls to paint, when to clean, errands to run, forms to turn in.  So on the actual move-in day, everything was streamlined and we finished in less than five hours. 

But I’m not going to pretend all is as it should be.  We only painted two areas of our new place, so we are going to have to go back through and move things around next weekend to paint more extensively.  The den is not put together at all.  The curtains are not up. 

…which is why we both feel the need for self-imposed denial of every social opportunity until the task is complete.  Even as I write that I realize it’s absurd; people take years to fully furnish and decorate — why should we try to do it in two weeks?  The truth is, we won’t.  Unless you’re on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, who on Earth could accomplish such a feat? 

And who would want to when there is a cozy couch, lit fireplace and glass of wine beckoning?

Next week, I am excited to debut two new guest bloggers, who will tell us about the completion of their first half-marathon (coming up on Nov 29)…both of whom, before training, had never run more than three consecutive miles.

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Filed under UpWORD (Beauty)

Sold!

A few weeks ago I wrote about our painstaking process of deciding where to live.  I say painstaking only because I caused Mike a lot of pain. 

Headaches.  High demands.  Histrionics.

He estimates that he spent 13 hours a week canvassing Redfin, Windermere and Zillow to find us the perfect place to buy.  He obsessed.  He compared.  There were spreadsheets, listing print-outs, and saved “Favorites.”

Guess how many hours I spent each week?  Hint: it’s the same number of hours I spend watching Star Trek.

To me, online research holds the same appeal as voluntarily attending a life insurance seminar.  To Mike, online research is like crack cocaine laced with ecstasy.  So, we agreed it only made sense for him to handle that part of the process.

Now imagine the ensuing scenario when Mike has filtered through hundreds of listings to bring me to two condos/houses that pass his intense selection process, and I walk in the door and the first thing out of my mouth is, “Oooh, I don’t know if I can live with that light fixture.”

For the rest of my life I’m not sure I will be able to match the look of apoplectic frustration on my husband’s face. 

The truth is that he and the realtor only showed me beautiful places to buy, all of which were entirely livable (except one glaring exception, which I will only say was inhabited by a creature who had no desire to see the floor, dispose of food or empty the litter box…but I digress).

I think that was the problem, actually.  I trusted that Mike’s standards were the same as mine, so differenciating the potential places really came down to details. 

I ended up trusting him so much that when he said “Let’s make an offer” on a condo I had only spent five minutes inside, I said “OK.”  And when that offer was unexpectedly accepted, and I realized I was going to own something that had not been validated by my control-freakiness, I didn’t panic; I celebrated.

I hadn’t relinquished my control to Mike, entirely; I had more privately given control to God, saying, in essence, “Please figure this out for us because I am going to have a minor heart attack or a major stroke before it’s over if You don’t.”  And He did.

Just like when I committed to Mike and felt the finest freedom of my life, I had that same rush of release when we committed to buying the condo.  It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes of all time, and I’m not at all embarrasssed that it’s from a Starbucks cup:

“The irony of commitment is that it is deeply liberating; in work, in play, in love.  The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation.  To commit is to remove your head as the barrior to your life.”  Anne Morris

So…we’re commited.  Last Thursday, November 12th, we closed on a condo in Kirkland.  Yes, the location question has been answered and the Reph’s will soon be Eastsiders. 

…with a pretty kitchen.  Any woman worth her salt knows the kitchen is the heart of the home, so if that doesn’t make you happy, it doesn’t matter if the rest of the place is gilded in gold.

kitchen

While we will ache for Seattle in more ways than we even know, we are sure that Kirkland is right for us, right now.  My commute to work reached nearly 20 miles each way recently, and from Kirkland it will only be eight.  Mike loves his job in Bellevue and wants to create more community in an area where both our work and church reside. 

Of course, downtown Seattle is still only nine miles away.  It’s not as though we moved to Yakima.

And do we care that we’re cheesy?  Do we care that most people probably don’t still carry their wives over their thresholds?  No, no we do not. 

Why?  Because after going through tireless work to make something happen, we celebrate.

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Filed under The WORD (Faith)

Homeless

It’s been one of those days when I constantly wonder how I am going to function for the next five minutes.  Mike and I are wading in the cloudy waters of trying to purchase our first home.  Turns out no matter how orderly your affairs are, the banks and the government can still sneer as you squirm under their magnifying glass in the sun.

Dealing with mortgage paperwork today grew so simultaneously intense and depressing that I had to leave work.  Granted, leaving at 3:30 when I show up at 7:15 isn’t that big of a deal, but it felt dramatic.  I hurried out of the building and then walked slowly through the rain to my car.  And then I wet my face with my own tears for the entire ride home.

It seemed the tears and the rain weren’t enough to rinse my attitude, so I thought a run would be more effective.  It didn’t feel like exercise; it felt like survival.  I ran straight into the wind and dared it to take me down.  I thought surely it would.

It’s funny how much faster my thoughts come when I’m motoring down the sidewalk.  It’s like my legs force my brain to crank out negativity at twice the going rate.   That might sound counterproductive, but in fact it serves to cut my overall catharsis in half…thirty minutes running equals one hour of crying.

“Hey!”

I glanced up quickly to see who had hollered at me.  I saw a man with long dark hair, holding a Coors Light in one hand and a bag of his possessions in the other.

“Hey…”  I barely replied, since speaking to strangers on the street tends to freak me out.   He was standing under a busstop for protection from the rain and I was approaching, about to pass by.

“Beautiful,” he said quietly.  I looked at him again.  What?

“BEAUtiful,” he said again, this time more emphatically.  I’ve been called various lewd things by people on the street before, but this word wasn’t among them.  And oddly, this didn’t seem creepy, because he didn’t seem to mean it to be.

It took me a couple of paces to consider this, but by then I was past him so I hurridly glanced back.  He gave a small, humble smile.  Somehow, incredibly, I felt it was fully intended for me to feel loved — not by him, of course, but by God.  I know that comes across as though I am on my fourth martini to be writing that, but I really believe it.

Sometimes I put God in too small a space and then I lecture Him by saying He can only reach out to me in three specific ways: prayer, the Bible, and trusted friends.  Then He promptly ignores my lecture and shocks me by using a scraggly stranger to call me beautiful on the street.

And let me tell you, beautiful I was not.  My hair clung to my face from the rain, my clothes were soaked in water and sweat, and I was probably as red as a cosmo in a cold glass.

I started to cry as I ran, which is just as awkward as it sounds, especially when there are forty cars crossing Mercer in rush hour traffic.  I imagined them in their cars saying to their passengers, “What’s with that girl?  Running must be REALLY hard for her if she has to bawl just to get through it.”

It occured to me as I ran that this is just one day.  I am moving through life with burdens and struggles like anyone, but I am running.  I’ve got legs to carry me and a heart that’s still pumping.

It doesn’t really matter where we live, if we get the condo we’re trying to get, or if we rent for the next ten years.  That doesn’t define us.  Just like the man under the busstop, we’re essentially homeless in this world.  But that’s not so bad when one of your own calls you beautiful.

I rounded the corner onto Fairview with a refreshed ferver.  I abandoned my hostility, looked at the sky and sprinted all the way home.

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Filed under The WORD (Faith)

Respecting the Non-Voters

Normally I avoid politics on Words Become One because I do not want to polarize readers.  However, with all the election craziness today and yesterday, a non-partisan issue spoke to me above the din.  Don’t worry…we’re nowhere near soapbox territory, and you won’t catch me shouting at you in all caps.  This is just an interesting topic, and I would love your opinion on it.

For the last two weeks I’ve felt inundated with TVs and billboard advertisements touting “Get Out the Vote!” or “Don’t Forget to Vote!”

This makes sense because most people are extremely offended by informed citizens choosing not to vote.  I am one of those people.  But I am also offended when uninformed citizens blindly cast their vote.

Consider: voting is a right that should never be taken for granted, but sometimes voting is a privilege we shouldn’t employ.

Why?  Sometimes we aren’t informed.  And voting when we’re uninformed disrespects that right.

Voting is the every-man’s power to affect change, and when involved citizens know the issues and vote to elect chosen representatives or approve initiatives, that is American democracy at its best.  It’s enough to make you want to set your alarm clock to “America the Beautiful” and wake up beaming every morning.

However, if we haven’t researched issues, read statistics on candidates or listened to debates, our vote has the same power to affect change.  Imagine the impact of millions of people skimming through a ballot and half-mindlessly filling in bubbles; those votes count just as much as the person who spent hours learning the referendums and initiatives.

Scary, right?

While some will say that choosing not to vote is akin to letting the right to vote be taken away, I am convinced that many voters are uninformed, and therefore dangerous behind the lever.  An article in the Democratic Strategist quotes data that approximately a third of the public is largely uninformed (for instance, they can’t name one of their own senators).  If I’m a part of that third, choosing not to vote could be the most responsible handling of my rights.

NPR reported yesterday morning that since Seattle has switched to voting through mail-in ballots only, people are delaying voting until the last possible minute (this most definitely includes me; I mailed my ballot on its due date…it still counts).  They reported that this shows a rise in voter consciousness, because citizens are changing their minds on issues and candidates as news about each emerges.  This is good news, because it seems to show people are paying attention.

I am as guilty as the next person.  I remember being 18 and so excited to vote, but I was too preoccupied with college applications, social activities and sports to pay attention to the details of what I was voting about.  I pulled out my ballot at the kitchen table and hollered over to a parent to ask what the issues were and how I should vote.  Clearly I didn’t appreciate the privilege.

This is why MTV’s “Rock the Vote” and “Vote or Die” campaigns tend to freak me out.  To be fair, they claim to provide access to information on the issues on their website.  But they are speaking to millions of 18-year-olds just like me (at the time), and while many of them are far more informed than I was, there are just as many who will vote just because P. Diddy told them to.

diddy

Fast-forward seven years and I am doing my best to watch mayoral debates, read my voter pamphlet, and read news articles and endorsements before I grab my pen to vote.

Yesterday I was stuck in 520 bridge traffic and I looked up to see about twenty impassioned people holding picket signs with names of their favorite candidates and “Vote Yes on Ref 71” (it passed) or “Vote No on Ref 1033” (it did not pass).  At first I was encouraged at the sight of such activism, but then I stopped to consider: what about those who do not know what Ref 71 or 1033 are about?  It’s possible the picket holders are convincing uninformed voters through word recognition.  Later, someone might look at their ballot and say, “I’m not sure what this is about, but I remember all of those people holding “No” signs…”

zhallsigns

An LA Times opinion article suggested testing voters before allowing them to vote, to ensure they understand the basics of US government before they decide how to change it.  I am not supporting that idea, but I applaud the concept behind it (and I really hope I would pass it.  Otherwise I would have proved my own point, and I will definitely be staying home next election cycle.)

There are only four types of people when it comes to voting.  To prove that point, take the following quiz:

Did you vote yesterday?

A.  Yes
B.   No

Were you informed about that which you were voting?

A.  Yes
B.   No

Answers:

— 1. A and 2. A = Informed citizen who voted
—  1. B and 2. A = Informed citizen who didn’t vote
— 1. A and 2. B = Uninformed citizen who voted
— 1. B and 2. B = Uninformed citizen who didn’t vote

When it comes to voting, the first and last results are the only choices I respect.

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Filed under One WORD (Current Events)