Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Too Much of a Good Thing

There is something inside of most children that asks itself, "What do I want to be when I grow up?" Somehow, little kids know that they will not always be as they are now-- and yet the closest that most young minds ever get to comprehending their grown-up selves is to stand in front of the mirror wearing Mommy's heels & lipstick, or a Fireman costume.

This week, we had a short training conference downtown, and I had to play the part of a real, professional grown-up . Considering the fact that I do most of my work either in a coffee house, a college lounge, or in my PJ's at home, looking grown-up and professional isn't usually a top priority in my day. In fact, if there was a goal in my appearance, it would probably be to look like a college freshman in the dorms, rather than a 30 year old married woman with a dog & a subscription to Martha Stewart Living.

It was quite a stretch for me to blend in with the power suits & ties on Market St, and as I balanced my way to BART on my high(ish) heels, I felt a little bit like a six year old, trying to walk in my mom's shoes. Thankfully, no one stopped and asked for my ID, or gave me a pop-quiz on the meaning of the words "Dow Jones Industrial Average".

Getting dressed up in my skirts & uncomfortable nylons (okay, fine, they were tights-- but there were no hearts or ruffles on them anywhere. Trust me, they were very grown-up tights) was a physical manifestation of the way I've been feeling inside lately.

I say this with a smile on my face, but in all seriousness: I think this is my year to "grow up".

Yes, I have been
paying my own rent for almost a decade now, have managed to keep the same plant alive for approximately 6 years, have a dog & a brand-new car that was purchased without the presence of parents, and my very own business cards with the word "Director" on them... but on most days, I still feel far from being grown up.

Our goal in the giant, international non-profit we call Work has always been to fly under the radar. Becoming a Director was at the bottom of the list of career options, and seemed synonymous with sitting at a desk, raising funds and planning meetings all day. I enjoyed my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants college ministry, running life through intuitive sense, and the adventure & hard work of squeaking by on a wing & a prayer. That's not to say that everything I did was haphazard & chaotic... but I admit that advance planning, details & organization (i.e. living like a responsible adult) have never been my strongest points.

But I can feel a shift happening-- something new that is taking form and gaining energy & life, and I can see that my place in it is different than anything I have done before.

In short, this big experiment we set out to do in San Francisco is... well... it's working. There is growth that we can't keep up with, opportunities that I couldn't have imagined, and very real plans for the future that... scare me to death. When I stand back and take it all in, it feels too big for me. I can see very clearly that the person I am today-- the way that I think & plan & live my day to day life-- needs to grow in order to meet & fit into this new creation.

Thinking forward into the next several weeks, months and years, I can see what is expected of me (something coming from our director-- not just my over-active imagination!), and picturing myself there seems much like the little kid playing dress-up in front of the mirror.

I believe with my whole heart that this new creation is something that I am meant to be a part of-- despite the fact that see myself as being a child in a grown-up world. My fear of failure is very real, but I am walking forward knowing that even though these things are far bigger than I am, it is (or will be) a perfect fit.

It is amazing to feel as though I am in the right place, doing the right thing at the right time-- to see a reflection of the things I have been hoping and praying for lived out right in front of me. I suppose the frightening thing about dreaming big is being a part of those dreams once they're realized. And life does have a bit of a dream-like quality to it-- rushing ahead of me faster than my mind can keep up with, moving in rhythms I don't understand, and yet somehow familiar and a part of me.

It's messy, full and a little chaotic, but very, very good: too big, yet somehow a perfect fit.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Forsaking My First Love

I am seriously considering cheating on my childhood sweetheart.

I'd say that, in general, I am a fairly loyal person. My tastes & styles may change a bit, but the usual loyalties-- my family, my husband, my country, my faith-- all those have remained pretty rock solid.

When it comes to cheating, I have quite an overactive conscience. I can remember in High Shcool, accidentally seeing the answer to a test question on a neighbor's paper and agonizing over whether or not I would have known the answer on my own. In the end, I decided that I wasn't sure, so I left the question blank. Jiminy Cricket's got nothing on me.

So when I say that I am considering cheating on a childhood sweetheart, you can imagine the gravity of my statement. Especially when I tell you what exactly I just might be cheating on: my mom's chocolate chip cookies.

I know, I know: I might as well tell you that I'm considering drowning a puppy, but it's true. If you are not familiar with the history of said cookie, you can follow the link to the loving back-story & the delicious recipe. Let's just say these cookies are practically a part of my soul.

But tonight I made a cookie(ish) recipe that made me swoon just smelling it. As I write, the tempters are cooling on the rack, awaiting a verdict.

These rivals are called Coffee Toffee Crunch bars, and they came from my favorite blogger & food writer, who claimed that they were the best cookies she had ever tasted. When I read her tantalizing article, I thought to myself, "Well, clearly little Miss Molly hasn't tasted my mom's cookies... but I'm willing to give them a try."

I did, actually, give them a try, but sadly, the recipe that was published in Bon Appetit had them baking a full 15 minutes too long, resulting in Coffee Toffee Biscotti. But tonight, I gave them another whirl, and after almost melting at the taste of the dough, I began seriously considering an affair with my first love.

Here is the recipe... and I will hold you in suspense over the outcome.

ps. If you try them at home, make sure you bake them for 30 minutes, not 45-50, like the recipe says!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Rhythm and Balance

Spontaneity, surprises, traveling, adventure, exploration, new experiences: the kinds of things that great stories are made of. And I want my life to be a good story in the making. I want to be living out a story that is worth telling, worth listening to, worth joining in on. I want all those elements of risk & adventure to be woven into my conversations, my relationships, my job & my daily life.

But-- BUT-- the parts of the story that are rarely ever talked about, the routine aspects of life that never show up in the movie, are the mundane, daily activities that (I believe) hold the whole thing together. They are the elements that I am craving right now.

I know that I could never survive a desk job-- I've tried it before, and felt like a plant withering under the fluorescent lights. Having a career that required me to be in at 9 and out by 5, doing the same thing every day would probably be a stretch for my personality. I love that I can be a Jack of all Trades-- that in the last month, my job had me making chili for 40 people, writing articles, stuffing envelopes, leading meetings, planning Spring Break trips, speaking, crying, praying, laughing, sympathizing, traveling & working in my PJ's.

The trade off to all of that variety, all that spontaneity & adventure, is that it's almost impossible to establish any sense of rhythm. It doesn't help that I am, by nature, a pretty unorganized, hap-hazard type of person. Keeping my ducks in a row is not my strong suit. Neither are paying bills, remembering details, making schedules, being on time, or planning ahead-- but I'm learning. And despite the fact that I'm not good at it, I still crave it.

I want a pattern and flow to my life that makes sense, that keeps me balanced and helps me to live out my Story better. In a way, they sound almost mutually exclusive-- how can planning & organization help me to be more spontaneous & adventurous? I think, though, that balance & rhythm are what keep me centered-- what helps me to fully live out of who I am, without the clutter of chaos that occurs without it.

And it's the little things that help: taking the dog for a walk around the same time everyday, having routines in our weeknights, making healthy food in bulk (rather than binging on the left over 5lb bag of mediocre chips from our student SuperBowl party), and keeping our apartment from looking like a conflict zone.

After traveling 4 of the last 10 weeks, the desire for a routine is heightened. I started today by washing all the dishes & baking some healthy breakfast bars (another failed baking experiment, but at least I tried!). Next up: laundry, house cleaning and a nice, long bike ride with Chris before the rain returns. Not exactly blockbuster-worthy, but very needed.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Imagine yourself walking down an empty street and finding a dollar on the ground. What would you do? I think most people would look over their shoulders, and after finding no one there, pick it up & consider themselves lucky.

Now imagine you are walking down the street and hundreds of dollar bills are littered on the ground. Now what would you do?

I encountered a similar situation the other day that left me unsure. Sometimes there can be too much of a good thing...

I am one of those people who walks along the beach with my nose to the sand, searching fo
r tiny treasures. God help me if, someday, I end up with a metal detector & a bucket. I'm not looking for diamond rings, or anything of actual value, but I have always hoped to find a perfect sand dollar.

The beach that we often take our mangy
mutt to always has interesting treasures. One day, as we walked along the shore, I discovered millions-- literally millions of lady bugs on the sand, stretching out for at least 1/2 mile. As a little girl, I always thought I was sort of set apart & special if a lady bug landed on me... but millions of them in sand was a little too strange.

Another time, we discovered endless pieces of ruptured jelly fish. One jelly fish washed up on the shore is interesting (in a slightly morbid way), but miles of clear, slimy gel is just gross.

But Tuesday-- Tuesday as Chris & I walked along the beach & watched Gavin play in the waves, we discovere
d not one, but hundreds of perfect, whole sand dollars! I could hardly contain myself! After picking up a handful, I stopped and wondered, What am I going to do with a handful of sand dollars?

When I realized I could bring home several bucketfuls, two things happened:
1) I faced the moral dilemma of whether or not its wrong to take buckets of sand dollars home? Will I bring imbalance to the entire ecosystem here? I envisioned tsunami's, global warming, & a million other life-threatening scenarios. Maybe all those lady bugs had been on the beach before because someone had taken too many sand dollars away, and it disturbed a ladybug migration somewhere?

2) One perfect, whole sand dollar is special-- but what about hundreds? It no longer seemed like such a treasure. And besides, where am I going to put a hundred sand dollars? Do I want to be that old lady that collects shells & miniature porcelain dogs, displaying them in window sills, atop lacy doilies?

In the end, I brought home about 10 perfect, beautiful, unique sand dollars. Somehow, one still seems more special than 10, but I just couldn't stop myself. And I guess there's a small lesson for me there in simplicity & contentment. I don't need 10 when one is enough. As Americans, we live in such abundance-- food, clothes, entertainment...Oh that I would learn take only what I need, and to be content with what I already have.