Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Day With the Babies

Today I had the great privilege of watching the babies so Todd & Lisa could go out for a while. We went to the park, had a picnic in the back yard, watched and acted out Cinderella, and just generally had a good time. One of the most fun things was watching Ian take his first series of multiple steps. He's been inches from walking for about a week now. The funny thing is that he'll be sitting down and then just stand up, but then he starts to congratulate himself with vigorous applause and knocks himself down before he can take a step. Sometimes he'll shuffle one foot forward, but that's about it. This time he stood there, bouncing up and down to a music video that was on, and then took about 5 steps and then dropped down. Very exciting.

That was, however, not the best thing. The best thing happened when Chloe and I were watching Cinderella and Ian was playing with his new basketball hoop. Without provocation, he monkey crawled over to me, climbed up my arm, and gave me a kiss and then just cuddled up for a hug. So cute! I think we've officially bonded. This visit has also seen a definite shift in my relationship with Chloe as well. Most of the time she wants to be with my mom and she includes me to a point. This time she's seeking me out and really into hanging out with me, which is great fun. The auntie gig is truly the way to go.

Friday, December 28, 2007


Interior: We open on Chloe and Auntie Tiffy shopping at our local Fry's, picking up a few things to get us ready for our baking day. Chloe notices that I'm wearing a sweatshirt around my waist, points to it quizzically and asks,

Chloe: Auntie Tiffy, why are you wearing that there?

Me: To cover up my big bootie

Chloe tilts her head and thoughtfully considers my bootie, as it is eye-level for her. After a pause, she says:

Chloe: It's not SO big. At least it's not way out there (at this, she bends forward at the waist, extending her arms behind her, palms up.)

Me: Thanks, sweetie. You can sit by me.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry Fabulous

My obsession with shoes is well-documented and needs no further development. I give you my red Christmas shoes that worked the party circuit with me this year. While I would never preach in them, their fabulousness is of biblical proportion, n'est pas?

Winding Down

It's a chilly winter morning and I'm getting ready for the road trip home. I've completed my last day of work at the KK for 2007, and what a day it was. More on that in a moment. Tomorrow marks the annual road trip home. I drive every year b/c dad does maintenance stuff on my car. His preference is that no one touches it - ever - because auto maintenance is his love language. He's a bit concerned this year b/c I have a power steering fluid leak happening right now and he's afraid the whole thing will bust out on the road. That would suck, so here's hoping that doesn't happen. The sucky thing is that I have to drive it straight through after church on Sunday, so that will put me there about 3 AM on Christmas Eve. Awesome.

We do our Christmas on Christmas Eve, and have the great tradition of attending an early service, home for a supper of chili and tamales, a birthday cake for Jesus, and then gifts. Dad grew up opening gifts on Christmas Eve and is unable to open gifts in daylight. He feels it's wrong somehow and I'm inclined to agree. Then on Christmas Day, we pretty much do nothing. I got to a movie, usually, b/c a lot of stuff is released that day. This year, I'm feeling Charlie Wilson's War.

I'm very excited for New Years' Eve. I usually don't do much, because I think it's a crap holiday, but this year I'm going to be in San Diego with a dear college friend whom I've not seen in about 7 years. She lives in Alabama, but will be out west visiting family so I'm going to drive up on the 31st and spend the night with her there and then mosey on back to the Bay Area on the 1st. Then, it's back to work on the 2nd...

Work. We received some news yesterday at the KK that our department would be relocating from down the peninsula to the main offices in downtown SF. Obviously, that's brilliant for me. I have a ton of friends from my neighborhood who work down there and we can commute together, work out at lunch together, hang out after work - it's all good. The vibe down there is a lot of fun, high energy, lots to do, very cool. However, this was not good news for a lot of folks there and the day was filled with drama and emotion. Many of my co-workers live near work or farther south and this will add hours to their daily commute, not to mention the child care issues involved. The leadership has said that they will be creative and flexible in addressing people's needs and I believe that they will. My personal challenge is to let people be angry about it in the short term and not go on about how good it is for me so as to appear that I'm minimizing their legitimate complaints. They've set the move for the end of January.

When I get home, there will be family stuff to do, friends to see, dinners to attend. Mom is having surgery on her hand, and I'll be taking care of her as well, but before that, we'll be hitting the after-Christmas sales pretty hard. It will go quickly, but it will be fun. My January is already a whirlwind of activity with friends in town, the aforementioned office move and church stuff. The year is already promising to be one of significant movement, and, as always, change.

Today I have decided to have a day of preparation - getting ready for my trip, ready to preach on the 6th, ready for worship tomorrow, etc. This year I've been getting from activity to activity and not really in the Advent frame of mind, and so I'm taking today as a focused Advent day to read some of the devotions I've stockpiled, read scripture and focus on the season. And then I'll watch the Cowboys beat Carolina.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

She's one of us!

My little Chloe has a very vivid imagination and loves to play pretend. Often, she pretends to be Diego or his cousin Alicia. This past Sunday, Dad picked her up to take her to their church for their kids Christmas play. When he got there, he took her into the kitchen for some reason and some of his friends were in there. When they saw her, they all said, "Oh - is this Chloe?" Her response: "I'm Alicia." When they all were confused by her response, she looked at them and said, "That was a joke." They'd been had by a three-year-old. Love it.

Grocery Bag Day @ Glide Memorial

Today a group of us from the KK went to volunteer at Glide Memorial's Annual Grocery Bag Giveaway. It was one of the biggest of the program's eighteen-year history and a lot of folks received food. There were a lot of thoughts knocking around in my head as I processed what was going on. I was part of the Security team, you know, because I strike such an imposing figure.

1. The TL is a difficult place. At one point we were stationed along the line in front of a corner store. There was a sign posted near the door that stated that dealing drugs there would not be tolerated and would be reported. However, at the time we were standing there, the guy from Miller was unloading case after case of beer, Colt 45, Olde English, etc. Just because they're legal doesn't make them beneficial, and in that neighborhood it's feeding addictions the same way pushing heroine would be.

2. I wonder what happened to people to have them living like that. I saw people who were clearly on drugs, mentally ill, prostitutes, and one pregnant woman who was smoking and looked stoned. My parents have a friend who was on drugs for most of his life and his mother had been a dealer and he's always said that he never knew he could choose a different way. I wonder if that's the case in some of these situations. It makes me so sad and I want to fix it all, but I know that they have to have both the desire and the opportunity. But, I feel as Christians, we are all called to create the opportunities for people to step out into a better life, regardless of their response.

3. Because I was working security, I saw the side of the event where people were taking advantage. I saw people who would go through the line and get their food and then run around and go back and try to get more. Then, they would take their food right down the street, in full view, and sell the groceries to other people. Again, another situation where we have to do what we're told and not try to control the outcome, but that is so difficult. It is so natural for me to want to withhold from someone I believe won't appreciate my efforts, but it's not about that. It's about being who I'm called to be.

Monday, December 17, 2007

L'année du chapeau

I have decided to declare this the Year of the Hat.

The hat and I have a checkered past. I've always loved them and there are several style that I feel I can rock, primarily the cloche and the bucket. There's a very cute red hat at Gap right now that I simply must have. Unfortunately, they only had it in a small size and I have a huge head, so when I tried it on, it was so tight that I started wanting to vote for Mitt Romney.

My mother's favorite childhood humiliation story of mine (and there are several) is the infamous Hat Day incident of 1979. I was in the third grade. My brother was 3 and we were attending the Light & Life Christian School. The preschool where my brother was kept was a separate building at the other end of the parking lot, but they were always bringing the little ankle-biters over and foisting them on us older, and clearly more sophisticated elementary school types. One of the things we always did as a whole school is special emphasis days, spirit weeks, etc. This particular incident occurred when my brother brought home a colorful flyer announcing "Hat Day," detailing a contest with prizes for the most outrageous hats. In my third grade wisdom, I deduced that since it was Hat Day for the preschoolers, it must be Hat Day for us older kids as well. Makes sense, right? I urged my mom to help me create the most fantastic hat we could conjure from bits of kitsch around the house. The result was a white Gilligan hat festooned with souvenirs, pins, toys and pretty much anything we could affix to the sad little floppy hat. I was ready.

My distaste for mornings began early in my life and my morning tardiness has persisted for the whole of my life. I was always a few minutes late every morning for school and this particular morning was no exception. I remember this being a damp morning, and either it was raining or it had rained that night, so I was gingerly picking my way across the basketball court so as not to slip on the concrete, one had holding the atrocity on my head. I ran up the stairs into the classroom just making the bell so I wasn't technically tardy. As I eased into the bustle of children removing coats and backpacks, stowing lunch boxes, my keen powers of observation detected that there were no other hats in the room, whimsical or otherwise. I quickly swept the hat off my head, into my bag, and went on with my day. When mom came to pick me up, she asked me how it went and I told her. She's still laughing.

I made another foray into hat land in the eighth grade when I chose to wear a soft pink hat, that I can only describe as kind of a swinger but not totally. I was the only one wearing a hat, but I didn't care because I loved it. It was my last brave fashion act in a while. The rest of adolescence was spent in dutiful trend-following and primarily safe choices, with the possible exception of bright teal Converse high tops. It was the '80s, after all.

I have declared this the year of the hat, partly because I live in a cool, damp climate, but also because, I look good in some hats and, damnit, I'm 35. If I want to wear a hat, I'm wearing a hat. Welcome to the year of the hat.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Pot & The Kettle Go to Union Square

Last Sunday evening was The Rock, an annual Christmas carol singing event in Union Square. It was led by the Open Door band and they did a great job. The energy in the crowd was great. People were dancing, singing, sipping hot beverages, and generally having a good time. Of course, it wouldn't be a church-oriented event without a few complaints.

Let me begin with a qualifier: I am an imperfect person. I don't take criticism well, and I have a hard time disguising my disdain for hypocrites. The situation I am about to describe is one that I will not say that I handled perfectly, but I did handle it honestly. Not always the best policy, as it turns out, but gets the job done.

The e-mail comes from the chairperson of the board of trustees at a church where I used to be involved. For our purposes here, we'll call it Former Community Church (FCC). K, the chairperson, e-mailed me to let me know how disappointed she was in this year's event. Fair enough. There's just no way that with an event that size that everyone will be pleased. It was different from last year. We didn't read the Christmas story and we *gasp* sang secular songs. Her e-mail was long, well-thought-out and well-organized, with numbers. However, all of it boiled down to a couple of issues that I think the Church needs to examine.

K comes from a church that is what I affectionately call a toxic cesspool of dysfunction, and I told her as much in my response. Staff and church-goers alike have jumped ship. Those who have left have gone on to cause some mild havoc in the new communities they have joined because of the wounds inflicted on them at FCC. Those who have remained have scratched their heads in dismay, wondering what went wrong. Puzzled, they consulted an expert and had their church evaluated. In all areas but one, they scored in the extremely unhealthy range. Taking their advice on matters of ministry would be tantamount to me taking voice lessons from William Hung.

My point in bringing up FCC's record, is to show that it's so easy to sit in one's glass house and throw stones, and I could stand to work a little harder on that lesson. It's a good reminder that the right to speak truth is earned through mutually respectful relationship.

Another attitude reflected in this communication that irked me is that of consumerism. My particular needs and expectations were not met so you're going to hear about it. If you don't do what I want the way I want it, I'm going to make it an issue of theology so I don't look so shallow. Whatever. It's not about you.

My biggest issue comes from the fact that K was assuming that we all share the same definitions of "worship" and "outreach." From what she wrote in her e-mail, the terms "worship" and "music" are synonymous. Beyond that, "worship" is an event that you attend, rather than a life that you live. If I were to bring this to her, she would argue that she does in fact believe in the definition of worship as a lifestyle, but everything in her e-mail suggests the contrary.

Living a life of worship is outreach. Singing songs about Jesus around people who don't share your beliefs isn't. I'm always amazed at Christians who believe the Holy Grail of evangelism is getting someone to attend church. They eagerly squire their poor, sad non-believing friends around the sanctuary, introducing them to their church friends as, "This is Brenda, my friend from *wink* work." Everyone gives a knowing smile and then watches them with great anticipation, like middle school kids who eat Pop Rocks and drink Coke to see what will happen. I love the church, I work for one, and I still acknowledge that there is no other context where you are encouraged to gather in a room and sing without alcohol. It's weird. I get that.

What bothers me about this particular high horse is that what she's saying is that outreach is only her job to the extent that she gets the people to attend the event. After that, the people up front better make a good sales pitch, otherwise the people she brought are destined for hell and it's ALL THEIR FAULT. If K and the other Christian people were really doing their jobs and loving folks the way Jesus taught us, there would not be nearly so much weight put on those deal-closing gatherings.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Introducing Tarquin

Christmas Cheese

Ok - I'm choosing to out myself as one of Bruce's friends who is all about the cheese this time of year. I'm seriously on it. The house is decorated and I have a REAL tree. While there are exceptions, the fake tree is generally not ok, and if you choose to get one, I will judge you. One of my co-workers was looking for a fake tree on the interwebs and wasn't having much luck - I told her to Google, "the death of all Christmas spirit." I think she found it.

Following Bruce's lead, and because I generally have better taste in music than he does, here is my list of my favorite Christmas albums in no particular order:

1. James Taylor - At Christmas
2. Barenaked Ladies - Barenaked for the Holidays
3. Christmas by the Fireside - a best of with Nat, Bing, Peggy Lee, Dean Martin, etc.
4. Christmas Songs - Diana Krall
5. George Winston - December
6. First Call - An Evening in December, vols. 1 & 2
7. Harry Connick, Jr. - Harry for the Holidays
8. Handel's Messiah: A Soulful Celebration
9. Selah - Rose of Bethlehem
10. Sarah McLachlan - Wintersong
11. A Winter Night's Song - Various

UPDATE: On Ladyburg's recommendation, I purchased the Sufjan Stevens album. LOVE IT!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Apparently, the answer is "hot"

Your Score: Garlic

You scored 25% intoxication, 75% hotness, 75% complexity, and 0% craziness!

You are Garlic! No offence, but you stink. Pretty much everyone loves you, though. You're smart and pretty hot and you fit in with about any culture. You're a total cut-up; in fact, the more cut-up you get, the hotter you become. But be careful, when you get embarrassed, you turn really sweet.

Link: The Which Spice Are You Test written by jodiesattva on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Hot or Not

There are some things that I don't like about being a girl, and that is the tendency to attach emotion to inocuous information. Most of the time I'm pretty good about that, but sometimes when I'm feeling less secure about myself things get blown up in my head that shouldn't. I recently went on Weight Watchers (again) and the initial weigh-in numbers were enough to cause me to hurl myself out of the sixth-story window where we have our meeting. Of course when I went to weigh in, the scale just shut itself off as I was approaching. When the sweet little retired school teacher who was supposed to weigh me wondered aloud about the inopportune shut-off, I assured her that it was because the scale saw me coming and powered-down in protest. The good news is that I have now lost 5.6 pounds with Thanksgiving all in the middle of that, so that's good.

What started the shame spiral was a very, VERY harmless comment made by a very kind person who had no idea that I'm a wreck. He made a comment about another person's girlfriend and that he would need to stay away from her because she's hot. What happens in my head - "Clearly, I'm not hot," I say. I know. I know. Normally, I don't care, but for some reason, I was in that place. I've never thought of myself as particularly "hot" and really never aspired to be so. Just had a moment. Turns out, he thinks I'm totally hot. Well played, sir.

In general, I do not respond well to hearing about my shortcomings. I'm so acutely aware of them that when someone else tells me that my flaws are showing I want to curl up and die. Case in point, I had a little family drama this weekend. Apparently, I wasn't as well behaved as I'd hoped over Thanksgiving and I heard about it from the parents. Some of what they said was fair, but some was completely unfounded and I was pretty furious. I had a good talk with my brother and then later with my mom, and we got things ironed out, but I was pretty much a wreck. I cried all morning on Monday, resulting in a very puffy afternoon.

Also just preached a sermon on inner peace and the importance of being anchored at the center. Yes - that was me. I don't know why they let me get up there and say that stuff.