Monday, September 14, 2009

Pinch Me

Some people dream of winning the Lotto, or owning an exotic sports car... but me, I dream of ovens. Strange, I know, but for years now, I have harbored a [not-so-secret] fantasy of owning a big, clunky Cadillac of a vintage oven-- the kind with the built-in salt and pepper shakers, the fold down counter top that covers the burners, and storage space on the sides. They make me swoon, they make me drool, they make me squeal & talk in a high pitched voice-- the way I do when I see puppies walking down the street. It's obnoxious.

Well, friends, dreams really do come true, because (with the help of some friends and a very strong, very generous husband), I am now the proud owner of a 1943 Tappan oven. All it cost me was the price of a U-Haul, a dolly, a Saturday afternoon, and some baked goods (to bribe friends with). Let me tell you, it nearly cost some lives (or at least some backs), trying to get that beast down three flights of windy, marble stairs, but in the end, we got the oven & two tired men back in one piece.

Actually, to be totally honest, I am the proud owner of a 1943 Tappan china cabinet, since our tiny little apartment has an electric stove (ick), and we can't actually use my dream oven until the glorious day when we have a house. So for now, the oven has replaced our kitchen table, and will store our dishes, pots & pans until we can put it to a more practical use.

That's not to say that I don't wake up giddy every morning, and walk into the kitchen just to make sure it's still there. Let me tell you, it's adorable. Even better, it's oh so very functional-- with two side cabinets for storage, drawers (one that holds built-in salt & pepper shakers!), a tiny pull-switch light on the back splash, a scrolling chart of times & temperatures for baking (it is currently set to "Fruit Cake: 2 1/2 to 4hrs, 250 degrees"), and little burner covers that convert the stove top to a counter top.

While I can't actually bake a fruit cake in it quite yet, I can at least hold all my fruit cake making utensils in it. I can also die happy now...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Not Eighteen

Beets have never been something that intrigued me. They always looked mushy & canned-- suspiciously like that jellied cranberry "sauce" Chris likes at Thanksgiving with the concentric aluminum circles still imprinted on it's giggly flesh. Beets are the kind of thing that old people eat, along with prune juice and mueslix.

At a cooking
class I attended earlier this summer, I politely decided to give beets a try. I figured we went through all the trouble of learning how to make them, I might as well. However, the whole Beet part of the meal was overshadowed by the Israeli couscous, with which I became obsessed, and I soon forgot all about beets. But tonight, for some reason, they popped back into my little brain, and I couldn't get them out, so I gave 'em another go... and let me tell you, they are really sensational little veggies-- subtly sweet, beautifully purple. I can say now that I am a big fan.

Along with my random beet craving this week, I've also had a strange urge to try eggs Benedict.
Things like this happen pretty often in our home, and Chris is sweet enough to indulge me. I remember tasting hollandaise sauce as a little girl and being completely disgusted by it, but I recently looked into the recipe, and thought to myself, "What's not to like?" I am a little less convinced about the poached egg, but something tells me that my feelings might have changed on that too. And that little something has more to do with the renegade gray hairs that pop up every now and then, or the dark circles I've been noticing under my eyes than finding the perfect recipe.

My mom used to always make us soft boiled eggs mixed with buttery little cubes of toast for breakfast. It wasn't really my fave. She confessed that she used to complain about her mother making her the very same breakfast every day of her childhood. It seems, though, that somewhere in the conversion from a little kid into the mother I knew her to be, she had begun enjoying soft boiled eggs (unless, of course, she enjoyed torturing us kids, like some sort of Freshman h
azing process). I remember she used to tell me that I might even end up liking vegetables one day, "when I got older". Well getting older, to me, didn't seem like a very sane or reasonable thing to do, if it meant I would lose my mind and end up willingly eating spinach.

But now, here I am, staining my fingers purple over some roasted beets, making myself soft boiled eggs for breakfast, and even flirting with the idea of trying my hand at hollandaise sauce-- for poached eggs. What has become of me?

It wasn't that long ago that students I met on campus would ask me what my major was-- in fact, that happened frequently even last year. The first week of school this Fall, I met some darling little Freshmen who had just come to San Francisco from my own home town. When they asked where I went to high school & when I graduated, I laughed as I gave my answer. "Oh," they replied, "I was just thinking that my mom's friend went to that high school & I was wondering if you would have known her." Your mom?? Ouch.

It's funny spending my days with 18 year olds-- it's not the typical "work crowd" for most 30-somethings. Recently, I have been realizing how much older I feel around them-- even how tired I am coming home some days. Crossing a generational gap is more work than it seems.

But the funny thing is that I don't really mind. It doesn't bother me that I'm not 18 any more-- in fact, I like myself and my life a whole lot better now than when I was 18. It feels good to be comfortable in my own skin, to not always be so concerned with what other people think of me, to know myself, and to know that I don't know everything.

Personally, I think our culture is way too obsessed with youth. Is growing older really such a
tragedy? I think of other cultures where age is prized, and associated with wisdom, depth & experience. Here, we pay thousands of dollars to perpetually look 25. But I suppose in the end, I would rather have a few wrinkles paired with contentment & self awareness. That's not to say that I am looking forward to gravity taking over, and watching my face & body sag-- but if it means that I get to enjoy things like roasted beets & eggs benedict, I guess that's not so bad afterall.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Perfect Success

You've thought about it before-- admit it. You've had secret day dreams about walking down the red carpet, giving an acceptance speech dressed in fancy clothes, thanking everyone that "got you there". Or, if not the red carpet, than maybe a victory lap around the stadium, or crossing the finish line, or scoring the winning point/goal/touchdown.

Deep down inside, we all want a little success, a little glory, a little acknowledgment-- maybe not in front of TV cameras, but even some small compliment or way of being set apart as special. I mean, it's nice to be thought of as special.

When I'm in San Francisco, I don't really stand out in a crowd. There's always someone edgier, funkier, more fashionable, & hip than me. But plunk me down in the middle of a conference with my big, conservative Christian organization, and my black nail polish & funky h
air make me seem oh-so sophisticated and urban. Somehow, people always remember my hubby's lip ring & tattoos, and our "forward-thinking, innovative" approach to ministry with college students in SF.

And let me tell you, it sounds pretty good on paper, or in a presentation. I almost start to believe that I'm somebody who knows something-- who maybe got something figured out, or is onto something new & good. But, les
t I start to think too highly of myself, reality always has a way of setting in.

Yesterday was our first weekly meeting of the year with our students. Driving home last night, I had the strange (but all-too familiar) feeling of mild embarrassment, confusion & defea
t. Cool, Edgy, and Innovative weren't exactly the words running through my mind. Instead, I was asking myself, Are we going anywhere with this? Do we just keep taking one step forward & one step back? And will all those new students ever come back?

It's not that last night was a total failure... it just didn't quite work. After our training this summer, I had such high hopes of creating something beautiful & wonderful here
in San Francisco. And I realized, after we didn't get off to a glorious start yesterday, that there was even a little part of me that was hoping to validate myself through that marvelous success-- that maybe I could get all the accolades that other directors got, or at least have something to show for myself at those conferences besides black nail polish & a husband with a lip ring (as cute as he is).

I had a little conversation with God about it this morning. Is something wrong with me? Am I not spiritual enough? Do I not have what it takes as a leader? Am I messing this up? Are we just going to keep spinning our wheels here, making progress only to have everything fall apart or change every single Semester? Will I ever feel like I know what I'm doing?

I actually felt a little bit of envy for those people who get to show up to a desk job in a cubicle everyday and do a menial, tedious job. At least they know what they're doing, what's expected of them-- they have a routine & a rhythm to life. It's a pretty rare day when I don't fe
el stupid, stretched, unsure, or unprepared. It's not that I don't work hard, or that I'm unqualified (I think); it's just that there is no manual for a job or a life like ours, and that there doesn't seem to be any rhythm to this ministry.

I had a visual image of my college days, when I decided to brave the Gospel Choir. I'm not really sure how I got in, but once I was there, it was wonderful, humiliating, fun, and so very challenging all at the same time. The very hardest part for me was singing harmony while swaying back & forth, clapping on beat, and incorporating hand motions & dance steps to everything. It was then that I realized how White I really am.

I feel a little like the white girl in the Gospel choir right now. I'm sure that there's some sort of rhythm here, some sort of purpose-- and it can be really fun, interesting & exciting finding it out, but it can also be humiliating and awkward. I know there is a part of me that needs to be trying new things, to be innovating, and stretching myself. But the flip side of that is constant discomfort, familiarity with failure, and a lot of trial & error.

As much as I don't need or want to fit in with the "Christian crowd", there is still a part of me that really wants to be accepted & acknowledged by them. Ironically, this morning I needed to process my thoughts, and having run out of room in my organic, recycled cotton journal, I pulled out the Christiany gift-journal I had received at our conference this summer.

I wrote & reflected on the fact that if we had experienced wild & smashing successes already, I might just start to believe I was something pretty amazing. But this way, I can learn humility through our mistakes, and remember who really brought about beauty, life & restoration that is to come. I can live in hope for the future goodness, knowing that this time of... um, less-than-wild-success... will only make the goodness to come that much better.

I was about the close my little journal when I noticed that there were personalized Bibl
e verses written on the bottom of each page. Not my usual style, but I read it anyways, and as I did, I laughed & cried at the same time: "My grace is sufficient for you, Christine, for my strength is made perfect in weakness." No joke-- it even had my name in there!

Those words used to sound inspiring & comforting to me. But when
you're actually in that place of weakness, most of us would rather hear God say things like "You can do it! You're the perfect person for this job! It's almost over-- and after all this, I'll bless you with a brand new car, and a big house with a picket fence." When God tells you that He's not going to take you out of your situation or even make you spectacular in it-- but instead keep you weak-- it's a little less exciting.

Strangely, though, despite my embarrassment, my weakness, my constant feeling of being unprepared or insufficient, I'm okay-- a little overwhelmed at the moment, but okay. I'm still where I'm supposed to be, and I believe I still am the person I'm supposed to be. The rest will work itself out.

This may not be the most glamorous life, but it's Home, and it's right. I probably won't ever be famous or popular, but me being me-- in all my strengths & weaknesses-- is somehow just right. You might even call it perfect.