Is Recuperation Like Mourning?

I’ve been to the gym exactly twice since we got back from New Orleans. Yes, that gym that I pay to be a member of. Twice. And while I’m starting to feel a small tinge of guilt for the money that’s being wasted every day that I don’t go, I don’t want to go.

I’m actually supposed to be over there now for a meeting of the “Wellness Challenge” group. I can’t remember if I’ve told y’all about this or not, but basically, we all set individual goals six weeks ago. Then they broke us up into three groups:

  • people who LOVE exercise
  • people who like exercise ok
  • people who would sacrifice limbs to get out of exercising

I’m in the last group. I mean really, they can’t actually expect us to keep showing up at the meetings, can they? We are self-proclaimed haters of all things exercise-related, and that includes the gym. If they wanted us to meet weekly, they should have held the meetings at IHOP.

So instead of going to the meeting, I’m blogging about how I’m not going to the meeting. But also, Amaris and I were talking yesterday, and we agreed that we’re just not ready to start exercising again. In the month or so leading up to the race, we were SO gung-ho about it, so focused, so determined. Then we got there, and it was all fun and exciting. Then we got back, and our bodies had to just keep going because we had obligations to fulfill.

We’re pretty sure we were running mostly on adrenaline until a few days after we came home. Then we started to come down off that high, and we needed a break from all non-essential activities. I’m still taking that break.

I’m starting to have thoughts here and there about going for a run, but I’m not yet to the point of being excited to put my running shoes on. I think it’s a little bit like a mourning period.

  1. First, there’s denial. Nope, nothing’s sore. I feel great! I’ll be at the gym tomorrow!!! (Now let me go to bed. Is it 8:30 already?)
  2. Next up, anger. Why won’t these stupid blisters HEAL ALREADY?! I NEED TO GET BACK OUT THERE!!!
  3. Bargaining: Maybe if I “take care of” these blisters, they’ll heal right up, and I’ll be able to run by the weekend.
  4. Depression: What’s the point? I’ll just give up running forever and spend the rest of my life on the couch watching 3rd Rock from the Sun on Netflix.
  5. I’m not sure how the acceptance phase is going to play out yet as I’m not quite there, and I think the parallels start to break down there anyway, but I hope it will involve running.

The plan right now is to (at some point soon) start back up with Chubby Jones and finish that Couch-to-5k training. Somewhere in there, I want to sign up for a 5k so I can have a new goal to shoot for. Once I get there, I’m going to work on 10k training and ultimately work my way up to finishing a 1/2 marathon in three hours, running/walking regular intervals (3:1?) the whole way. In a tutu.

I just don’t feel like it yet. Maybe when I’m 31.

An Open Letter to Jon Bon Jovi

Dear Mr. Bon Jovi,

If you’ll indulge me for a moment, I’d like to tell you a story. In 1988, a 14-year-old girl from Wilkesboro, NC got the best Christmas present EVER – tickets to your February 17, 1989 show in Charlotte (I believe this was the New Jersey tour). This girl was not me, but having grown up in Wilkesboro, I can tell you that this was an extraordinarily stellar gift. We didn’t even have concerts in Wilkesboro until MerleFest started in 1988. MerleFest didn’t become really popular for several more years, and even then, it was Bluegrass. Now I’ve got nothing against Bluegrass, but let’s be honest. It’s no Bon Jovi.

So this girl was stoked to say the least. She already had New Jersey on heavy rotation, but she threw Slippery When Wet back into the mix just to make 100% sure that she knew ALL the words to every song. “Livin’ on a Prayer,” check. “You Give Love a Bad Name”  – yeah you do. “Wanted Dead or Alive” – She could sing it IN HER SLEEP. And the songs from the new album were quickly becoming new favorites. (I don’t know about her, but “Lay Your Hands on Me” is still one of my favorites.)

As the day of the concert approached, she got more and more excited, and then, without warning, winter happened. On the day of the concert she’d been looking forward to for over a month, a snow storm hit western North Carolina, and the girl’s parents couldn’t drive her the two hours to Charlotte for the show.

She was so crushed that her bangs deflated.

And I don’t know why – perhaps to remember what might have been, perhaps out of devotion to you, perhaps out of a bitter sentimentality, perhaps to present you with a desperate plea through her sister’s blog 22 years later  – she kept her ticket.

So here it is, JBJ. The girl lives in Raleigh now, and she would absolutely pee her pants with excitement to be able to see you in concert after all these years. Could you make it happen for her? She couldn’t go in 1989, but I’ve ridden with her through some pretty bad winter weather, and I can tell you that absolutely nothing would stop her from going this time…if only she had a ticket.

Come on, Jon. I bet I could even talk her into teasing up her hair real big for you just for old times’ sake.

What do you say?


Book Review: Water for Elephants

Y’all seriously, I don’t know where time comes from or where it goes. On the one hand, I have no idea how I’ve gotten done the things I’ve gotten done this week, and on the other hand, I feel like I didn’t have a moment to spare until yesterday evening. I am thankful for both hands, though, because I like being productive, and I like a week that goes by quickly in a good way like this one did.

I stayed up way too late every night reading Water for Elephants, which I finished on…Wednesday? Geez, I have no idea. Anyway, I finished it, and let me just tell you, it is good. It has a few racy parts and a lot of cussing, so if you’re not comfortable with either of those, I might not recommend it to you, but if you don’t think you’ll be bothered by them, the story is just really great. It’s told well, it’s interesting, it’s engaging, and the ending, I thought, was perfect. It doesn’t give you the feeling that the author is intentionally trying to keep you guessing, but it also doesn’t reveal everything up front. The timing is just right.

It’s also really interesting to read about the circus in the 1930s. I don’t know how accurate a portrayal it is, but it does seem that the author did a lot of research on it, and a lot of the characters and events were based on true stories from the time, which is neat.

I had a little bit of trouble keeping the minor characters straight. A lot of times it felt like when you’re talking to a friend who’s talking about his/her co-workers, but instead of explaining who they all are every time they’re mentioned, your friend just uses their names as though you know them, and you piece it together. In the end, it doesn’t really matter most of the time whether you know exactly who’s who or not. That’s why they were minor characters.

Anyhoe, the story is about a kid named Jacob, who is in his last semester of veterinary school at Cornell when his parents are killed in a car crash. In his despair, he sort of accidentally winds up on a circus train, where he pretty quickly becomes the show’s vet even though he didn’t finish his final exams. I won’t give anything else away, but from there, you get love, betrayal, murder, schizophrenia, friendship, loyalty, lots of animals, and an old man who can never remember if he’s 90 or 93 years old.

Read it before the movie comes out (in April, I think) because I’m not convinced it’s going to be good. I’ll see it, no doubt, but I’m really just not sure about the casting. I’m excited to see Christoph Waltz in something new because he was so incredibly amazing in Inglourious Basterds, but I’m not crazy about Robert Pattinson or Reese Witherspoon in their roles. I pictured Jacob more, I don’t know, alert-looking and less brooding – more wide-eyed and innocent. And I thought Marlena was closer to his age (Pattinson and Witherspoon are 10 years apart in real life).

If given the choice, I think I’d put Rachel McAdams in the role of Marlena and maybe Ryan Gosling or Jake Gyllenhaal in the role of Jacob. But we’ll see.

Oh! And it seems that the film has done away with Uncle Al entirely and maybe merged him and August into one character? I don’t know, but I do not care for that at all.

Oh well. Like I said, we’ll see. But back to the book.

I’m giving Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen four out of five stars. If I could give it another half, I might (because I think I liked it better than The Help), but I don’t have the ability to type half a star, so four it is. Once again, I wouldn’t say it’s my new favorite book, but I thought it was beautifully and fearlessly written, and I would highly recommend it to anyone. ****

This Is My Life

The students in the classroom next to mine are always learning American idioms. This makes my students jealous, I think, because I rarely teach them idioms. I used to teach them all the time. I have lots of units on idioms, some of which we use today, but many of which left the corpus of American speech a full generation ago. That’s one reason I don’t teach them any more. I don’t want to be responsible for dozens of immigrants saying things like, “Today is a red-letter day,” or, “Good bulgogi is as scarce as hen’s teeth in the U.S.”

The other main reason I hate teaching idioms and slang is because a lot of times, they are so generational and/or subcultural. It just doesn’t sound right when a 60 year old says that something is “dope,” or when a 19 year old guy exclaims, “heavens to Betsy!” My job is to help them assimilate, not get them beat up.

But by golly, they just love learning those idioms. It’s fascinating – dare I say, seductive even. Learning an idiom in another language opens up a whole new window through which to view and understand the culture, and there are SO MANY of them, it’s ridiculous. I mean, idioms ARE English. If you don’t know them, you don’t know squat. Unfortunately, they’re like the secret English that only native speakers and a few lucky learners are privy to. Others might learn them intellectually, but they may never be able to use them in a way that sounds natural. Not all of them anyway.

Here is exactly what happens when you teach an ESL class a list of idioms and new vocabulary, and then have them make up skits to practice using them.

I LOVE Getting My Money’s Worth

Oh friends, tonight was so enlightening. Please allow me to share with you what I learned from the Eric Kearns show.

  1. When something is free and you go ready to be entertained no matter what, you ALWAYS get your money’s worth. I’m telling you, for sheer entertainment value, this show definitely ranked in my top ten free concerts somewhere below Kelly Clarkson, Kelly Clarkson/Reba McEntire, The Avett Brothers, Dolly Parton, and Coldplay, but above the Laney High School marching band. And yes, I’ve seen all of those for zero money.
  2. There are really only six types of male singing voices. They can be combined a little bit, but in essence, they are as follows:
    – the scratchy voice (Jimmy Durante, Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart, Bryan Adams, Neil Diamond, Steven Tyler, Elmer Fudd)
    – the Kermit voice (in higher or lower registers to sound like Rick Astley, Michael McDonald, Cher, Sammy Davis Jr. and of course, Kermit)
    – the falsetto (Johnny Mathis, Barry Gibb, Chris Martin, the guy who sings “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” and Frankie Valli…sometimes)
    – the high-but-not-falsetto (Dennis DeYoung from Styx and Frankie Valli the rest of the time)
    – the normal voice with a New Jersey accent (According to Eric Kearns, Billy Joel, Frank Sinatra and Barry Manilow all fit squarely into this category. Jimmy Durante overlaps here as well, but only because of his accent.)
    – the crooner (Perry Como, Al Jolson, and pretty much everyone else who doesn’t fit into one of the other categories. However, noticeably absent from Eric Kearns’s crooner list, in my opinion, are Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole.)
  3. Hearing really is the first thing to go.
  4. It’s totally cool to break copyright laws at the Holly Springs Cultural Center. Through the whole show, Eric Kearns had pictures projected behind him of the singers he was impersonating. We are 100% sure that these images were Googled and pulled from the images Google returned. They were mostly concert shots and album covers. My favorite by far was a Nat King Cole album entitled “Lo Mejor de Nat King Cole.” For those of you who don’t speak Spanish (Ron Burgundy), that’s “The Best of Nat King Cole.” Eric Kearns was singing a Nat King Cole song in English. Incidentally, he was also singing it in sort of a high, scratchy voice, leading me to believe that he has never actually listened to Nat King Cole.
  5. Eric Kearns has never listened to Frank Sinatra. Ever.

Overall, we really feel like the show has potential. The problem is that Eric Kearns takes himself WAY too seriously. I mean dude, you are a vocal impersonator. Embrace that. If he had just a few little costume bits and some of the mannerisms of the people he impersonates, if he’d just ham it up some, it would be really funny (on purpose). As it was, however, we were pretty glad we went and very glad it was free.

I’m the Big Weiner

Sooooooo…I was listening to a local oldies station this morning when they said to call in and finish this candy bar jingle:

“Sometimes you feel like a nut…”

Clearly I had to do it. I mean, you tell me to recall lyrics, and I just do it. There’s really nothing I can do to stop it. Plus I never thought I’d actually get through to the DJ. But I did. And I won tickets to see Eric Kearns tomorrow night at the Holly Springs Cultural Center.

What? What’s that you say? You don’t know who Eric Kearns is? Why, where have you been? Don’t you know he’s New Jersey and Pennsylvania’s premiere vocal impersonator among those performing at senior adult living centers? Yessiree Bob. Tomorrow night, L-Josh and I will have the pleasure of seeing Eric Kearns impersonate the vocal stylings of over 40 artists in an hour. We’ll hear him as Rod Stewart, Cher, Jimmy Durante, Frank Sinatra, Al Jolson, Perry Como and a host of others whose songs we won’t know (click here to hear samples). And it will be glorious, and it will be FREE.

And I’ll update you next week.

“If that guy doesn’t look like a good time, I don’t know who does.” ~L-Josh

This productivity is wearing me out.

Well, it’s been a very productive few days full of fun, friends, surprise visits and getting things done. Rock-o-Ween was a huge success. The only thing that didn’t happen the way I wanted was that my hair didn’t turn blond despite the fact that I left the dye on it for at least a full ten minutes longer than I was supposed to. Oh well. I think the costume worked anyway.

Yesterday was beautiful, and I got to hang out with two out-of-town friends. I also got a lot of work done and did my weekly grocery shopping. BOOM. Productive.

Today, I figured out how to change the light bulb in my headlights. I also got my oil changed and my tires rotated. Now I’m blogging. See? Productivity. But the big news is that L-Josh and I registered for the 1/2 marathon yesterday!!!

So the race is ours to run, and now we just have to prepare for it.

Phil, Paul and Bret: My New BFFs

I’ve been having really vivid dreams lately that involve everything from celebrity sightings to grand theft auto. A week or two ago, I dreamed that I stole a van and ended up in the van INSIDE a building at a camp. I don’t know exactly how I got the van in the room, but no matter how many points I tried to make, I could not turn the thing around to get it out. And last night, I had sort of a loosely strung together dream involving the following musicians: Phil Collins, Paul Simon and Bret Michaels. Here’s how it went down…

L-Josh and I were at a restaurant. There was someone else there with us, but I’m not really sure who it was. We were sitting in a booth, and the wall of the booth was probably 10-12 feet tall because on the other side of it, there was another level of the restaurant. If the wall hadn’t separated us, then our heads would have been right at the feet of the people on the other level. There were stairs leading from one level to the other by the entrance, and this was the kind of place where you give your name when you order, and they call your name when your food is ready.

So we’re sitting there in our booth, and we hear the name-caller say, “Bret Michaels,” and we all look at each other and kind of laugh, probably thinking that someone was being funny when they gave their name. And then the name-caller says, “Phil Collins,” and we’re all like, “What??” And we look over to the stairs just in time to see Bret Michaels coming down from the upper level to get his food. The first thing we notice about Bret is that he’s not wearing a bandanna, which is a relief at first because we think, “Oh good. That means the bandanna isn’t holding his hair on,” which was our previous belief. But then we realize that he’s wearing a really awful mullet wig.

Phil Collins looks like Phil Collins.

Well, after Bret and Phil (who are apparently dining together) pick up their food trays, they turn around to realize that they can’t go back up the way they came down. I’m not sure why. So they start looking for another way to get up there, and we suggest that they climb through our booth.

Josh demonstrates, and Bret Michaels immediately follows her up and over, but Phil Collins is standing there looking at me uncertainly, and he says, “Are you sure that’s ok?” I reply, “Look. If Lauren thinks it’s ok, then it’s fine.”

Then I was in a house, which I won’t go into because it got really weird at that point, and this post is long enough as it is. The important thing that happened there was that Paul Simon came in, and I said, “Ok. I just have to ask. What is a roly-poly little bat-faced girl?” to which he replied, “She was a prostitute named Marilyn in the town where I grew up.”

So now you know. Bret Michaels is actually bald but hiding it, Phil Collins is very concerned with propriety and restaurant etiquette, and Paul Simon sings about a hooker named Marilyn in “Call Me Al.” You want answers. I dream ’em up.

About “About You”

I’ve just finished reading a book called About You by Dick Staub, and although the subject matter is exactly the kind of thing I love to talk about, the whole thing left me wanting more and feeling like I could have done a better job of writing it. No offense, Mr. Staub. I just didn’t find it very compelling, I definitely didn’t feel like I was a member of your target audience, and seriously, you need a new editor.

The subject, like I said, is great. It’s about becoming fully alive as humans while still here on Earth. Staub was inspired by the words of Dutch art historian Hans Rookmaaker: “Jesus didn’t come to make you Christian; Jesus came to make you fully human.” And I think that’s a good place to start. Jesus didn’t come to Earth to start a religion. He came to repair a relationship, and when that relationship is restored, everything changes for us.

There are lots of things Jesus didn’t come to do that we seem to think he did come for as evidenced by our lifestyles. A couple of weeks ago, my pastor said, “Jesus didn’t die so you could be really good at Halo.” I’m not addicted to Halo, but if he’d said, “Jesus didn’t die so you could always have the newest styles from H&M,” that would have hurt.

The things we spend our time and money on show very clearly what we think is important in life. Jesus didn’t come for most of those things. He especially didn’t come to make us work in jobs we hate because of the financial security they afford us, associate with people who make us shallow, depraved and/or boring, or suppress our true desires because they’re “impractical” or “unrealistic.” And yet, many of us live as though those things are our purpose, or worse, God’s purpose.

God’s true purpose, however, is not to make us religious, shallow, boring, legalistic, miserable or otherwise broken. It’s to bring glory to himself. I know that sounds terribly arrogant of him, but it’s not because he deserves all that glory. That is another conversation, though, so we’ll leave it at that for now. So if God’s purpose is to bring glory to himself, and if he created us, then it follows logically that he did so to fulfill his purpose.

About You attempts to explain how we fulfill our purpose of bringing glory to God with our lives. The thesis is that we must become fully human and fully alive; we must become the best possible versions of ourselves by developing our spiritual, intellectual, moral, relational and creative selves holistically and synergistically. Or by letting Jesus develop us in all those ways. Staub seems to go back and forth a bit on that point.

Now. I do not disagree with any of these things. I think all of creation brings glory to God best when it is simply and exactly what it was created to be. A mountain that tried to be a riverbed would not be nearly as majestic, and an ocean floor that tried to be a desert wouldn’t hold the same magical mystery. And when we try to squeeze ourselves into places in society where we just weren’t cut to fit, we diminish ourselves and the God who created us for something much more unique and special.

Wouldn’t it be better for everyone if we became simply and exactly what we were created to be? We’d be happier and more satisfied with our lives, we would be able to contribute to society more effectively by knowing exactly what we have to offer, and God would be glorified by his creations fulfilling their given roles instead of the roles their guidance counselors advised them to pursue.

I guess the big issue I have with the content of the book is that it states the thesis over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again without a whole lot of solid practical application. Staub says that we need to develop intellectually, spiritually, morally, creatively and relationally several times in each chapter, thus becoming the best versions of ourselves, fully human and fully alive. But he very rarely offers practical suggestions as to how to go about it. At best, we get a bit of encouragement to go and figure it out for ourselves because we’re all different.

In fact, I didn’t even find Staub’s argument for how Jesus demonstrated what it means to be fully human very strong. I believe that Jesus did demonstrate what it means to be fully human. I just didn’t think Staub backed up the argument very well with the Scriptures he chose.

But the most frustrating thing about the book was the horrid editing. Y’all, it’s so bad. On the big scale, there are a few problems. First of all, there’s the incredible overstatement of the book’s main idea. If we don’t get it after the first 20 times, we ain’t gettin’ it. On a smaller scale, there were lots of very poorly developed and supported paragraphs and ideas. If I didn’t already agree with everything the man was saying, I would have been largely unconvinced.

And finally, there were the typos. Oh dear God the TYPOS! There were duplicate words, weird spacing, and worst of all, a reference to Alec Baldwin as ALEX BALDWIN. I mean for real, somebody should have caught that.

So here’s what I recommend. If you want to read something of this nature, just come talk to me instead. I’ll give you a shorter version with more appropriate Scripture references and the correct names of any celebrities I mention. Show tunes optional.

My Life in Song Titles

As if my life weren’t already lived in songs, song titles and movie quotes, here’s a fun challenge my sister was telling me about earlier. Apparently this has been going around the internet, but if you haven’t already done it and want to, feel free. Here’s how it works:

Using only song names from ONE BAND OR ARTIST, answer these questions. Try not to repeat a song title.

I will also be including the album and year it was released in parentheses. This is not a requirement, but I’m going to do it anyway. Ok, here we go…

Pick your artist: The Beatles

  1. Are you male or female: Girl (Rubber Soul, 1965)
  2. Describe yourself: (Currently) I’m So Tired (The Beatles, 1968)
    (In general) I’m Happy Just to Dance with You (A Hard Day’s Night, 1964), Paperback Writer (Past Masters Vol.2, 1966), and Wild Honey Pie (The Beatles, 1968)
  3. How do you feel about yourself: Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey (The Beatles, 1968)
  4. Describe where you currently live: Back in the U.S.S.R. (The Beatles, 1968) – Clearly U.S.S.R. here stands for “Up in the South Side of Raleigh”
  5. If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Here, There and Everywhere (Revolver, 1966)
  6. Your favorite form of transportation: Flying (Magical Mystery Tour, 1967) OR Yellow Submarine (Revolver, 1966)
  7. Your best friend is: In My Life (Rubber Soul, 1965) OR The Sheik of Araby (Anthology 1, 1962)
  8. Your favorite color is: For You Blue (Let It Be, 1969)
  9. What’s the weather like: Sun King (Abbey Road, 1969)
  10. Favorite time of day: Mr. Moonlight (Beatles for Sale, 1964)
  11. If your life were a TV show, what would it be called: Free as a Bird (Anthology 1, 1995)
  12. Describe your love life: Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby (Beatles for Sale, 1964)
  13. What is life to you: Magical Mystery Tour (Magical Mystery Tour, 1967)
  14. What is the best advice you have to give: Act Naturally (Help!, 1965) AND Leave My Kitten Alone (Anthology 1, 1964)
  15. If you could change your name, what would it be: Eleanor Rigby (Revolver, 1966)
  16. Your favorite food is: Strawberry Fields Forever (Magical Mystery Tour, 1967) OR Glass Onion (The Beatles, 1968)
  17. Thought for the Day: Why Don’t We Do It in the Road? (The Beatles, 1968)
  18. How I would like to die: The End (Abbey Road, 1969), which will hopefully NOT be When I’m Sixty-Four (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967)
  19. My soul’s present condition: Glad All Over (Live at the BBC, 1963)
  20. My motto: We Can Work It Out (Past Masters Vol. 2, 1965)