And now, a Christmas Story...

It's that time of year again.

The stockings are hung. Carols abound. And the smell of all things delicious is continually wafting through the air.

It is said to be a time of peace. Of joy. Of forgiveness. Of hope. Of tradition.

While Christmas (excuse me, holiday) traditions vary from home to home, most include the belief in a gift-giver of sorts. Of unabashed over-indulgence. And of quality time spent with those you love.

In my family, such quality time begins with Grandma telling an often-inappropriate story around the Christmas tree (last year's topic: necking) and inevitably ends with my father reminding everyone about The Year Sara Was Duped...which goes a little something like this:

It was the most wonderful time of the year and I had just reached that age when the magic of Santa was beginning to wear off. While part of me desperately wanted to ignore any inklings that shed doubt on that jolly old soul, I couldn't help but feel a bit wary of it all.

So when my four-year-old brother Brian suggested we mail our lists off to the North Pole, I played it cool. Sure, I agreed to record his requests for Legos and a bicycle and any super-powered, turbo-engine item he could find, but I had no interest in including a wish list of my own. No matter how bad I wanted that American Girl doll.

I dutifully wrote down each item, sealed the envelope and gave it to my father to mail--expecting absolutely nothing in return. Time went on and within a few weeks I had all but forgotten my letter.

One Saturday afternoon, I found myself tapping my foot impatiently outside of Santa's Workshop as I waited in line to see the big guy (or the big guy's helper, I suppose). Surrounded by tufts of fake snow and smiling elves, I tried to mirror my brother's enthusiasm, but instead found myself squirming uncomfortably in my scratchy Christmas sweater as the runny-nosed toddler in front of me let out a piercing wail.

Three sticky candy canes later, we were finally--mercifully--at the front of the line.

As Brian tugged on my father's coat sleeve in eager anticipation, it was all I could do to paste a wan smile on my face and hope that the visit was over quickly. Brian bounded up the stairs as I trudged sulkily behind him until--

"Well come on up, Sara and Brian!" The Claus bellowed heartily. "So great to see you!"

I stopped in my tracks. Wait. Hold on a second. Did he just say...

"Dad!" I hissed. "He knows our names!"

My father smiled from underneath the (enormously cumbersome) videocamera. "Go on and say hello," he urged.

I continued up the stairs and as I approached, I heard Brian peppering Santa with questions.

"Don't you get hot in that suit? Did Jacob the Horrible make the Good List this year? Are you sure you know how to get to our house this year? We moved you know..." he said breathlessly.

"Ho! Ho! Ho! You sure are a spirited fellow," Santa chuckled. "So nice of you to join us, Sara!"

"Um, hey Santa," I mumbled.

"Santa! Santa!" Brian interrupted. "Don't you want to know what I want for Christmas?"

"Of course!" Santa said with a twinkle in his eye. "But Brian, I already know what you want for Christmas."

And to my complete and utter amazement, he proceeded to remove an envelope from the inside of his breast pocket.

MY envelope. With MY handwriting. It was the very list I had written!

Impulsively, I snatched the envelope from Santa's hand.

"But...but..." I spluttered. "But I wrote this! How did you--? I mean, I thought you weren't...I mean, Christina said that you were..." I trailed off, the color rising in my cheeks.

Delighted and oblivious, Brian rattled on with his latest additions to his list as I sat dumbfounded.

"...and Hot Wheels...and a parachute...and a Ninja Turtle!" he finished triumphantly.

"You sure will keep those elves busy this year! Ho! Ho! Ho!" Santa said, a bit of spittle gathering around his yellowing beard.

"And you?" Santa asked, turning towards me. "What do you want for Christmas?"

I slowly and dazedly began recounting the items on my wish list, still unable to take my eyes off the envelope.

"...and a Barbie Dream Home." I finished. "Please." I added in a small voice.

"Well ho! Ho! Ho! Looks like we've got a believer after all!" He smiled revealing coffee-stained teeth.

"Yeah..." I said decidedly, gaining more resolve with each passing moment. "You're right!"

"Ho! Ho! Ho!" he chortled again. "Merry Christmas to you both! You kids be good now!"

And with that we scurried off to join our parents.

As I recounted the tale, my voice full of wonder and increasing volume-- "You don't underSTAND! He knew our NAMES! That was MY HANDWRITING! MINE! Did you SEE THAT?! DID you?!"--my dad gave a knowing wink to the jolly, happy soul and whispered, "Thanks man--see ya at work tomorrow."

In that moment, I decided to push aside my doubts, ignore my questions and blindly embrace my belief in the magical. The fantastical. The imaginative side of life that some so quickly dismiss as improbable.

...that is, until I found the packaging from all the Easter candy sitting on top of the trashcan a few months later.

As Michael Scott would say, "Fool me once, strike one. Fool me twice, strike three."



How to Talk to Girls: Chapter One

Snippets from the 9-year-old love doctor*:
(courtesy of my B-F-F)

Chapter one: The facts of life

Sometimes, you get a girl to like you, then she ditches you.

Life is hard, move on!

Tip: About 73 percent of regular girls ditch boys; 98 percent of pretty girls ditch boys.


You also have to be aware that girls win most of the arguments and have most of the power.
If you know that now, things might be easier.

Finally, if you try for too many girls, you will have jealousy
issues and might end up with nobody.
It is really best to go for just one.


If you do get a girl to like you, that is victory.
Winning victory is a dream for most boys, but it is very rare.

What does it take to win victory?

Read on and find out!


Many boys who have crushes don’t know how to act around a girl. Some boys tease girls they like and are mean to them. Some boys say silly things to girls and act goofy. Some boys think they are acting cool by showing off.

This is not a good approach.


The right thing to do when you have a crush is:
  • -Never show off too much
  • -Don't be silly and goofy
  • -Control your hyperness (cut down on sugar if you need to)
  • -Make sure you have good friends who won't try to take the girl you like.

    Finally, you have to be able to get over a crush if it doesn't work out. A crush is like a love disease. It can drive you mad.

    Try not to let it get you down.


  • 12.05.2008

    For those that think Christians can't be trendy:

    Think again.

    Angelina Jolie or green highlights?
    Tough call.

    I would love to hear your thoughts on this whole idea.

    But I'm not really interested in your thoughts about Angelina.

    Just so you know.


    For the haunted:

    Soft grey ghosts crawl up my sleeve/to peer into my eyes/
    while I within deny their threats/and answer them with lies./
    Mushlike memories perform/
    a ritual on my lips/
    I lie in stolid hopelessness/and they lay my soul in strips.
    -"Remembering" by Maya Angelou


    When Heartache splinters you into a million messy pieces,
    Know that you are loved.

    When Tragedy leaves you reeling in its devastating wake,
    Know your prayers are heard.

    When Loneliness becomes your faithful, sole companion,
    Know you are not forgotten.

    When Anxiety steals your confidence and ransacks your dreams,
    Know that you have worth.

    When Hopelessness stings your cheeks with an unexpected slap,
    Know that tomorrow will come.


    Love/hate relationship

    Let me just preface this by saying I am not exactly what you would call technology-trendy.

    I've never posted on YouTube.
    I don't have a Twitter account.
    And I'm pretty sure you will never find me involved in Second Life.

    This was also true for me as a child.

    I missed the MySpace rampage.
    I never owned a Giga Pet.
    And the lure of video games was completely lost on me.

    So it should come as no surprise that when I received an e-mail from a co-worker informing me that we had a Wii in the staff lounge, I wasn't exactly clamoring for the first use.
    (A far cry from my immediate outburst of sheer joy every time they announce brownies/cookies/cake/donuts anythingwithamilliondeliciouscalories in the break room...but I digress.)

    Curiosity eventually got the better of me, however, and I eventually found myself meandering towards the lounge, timing my visit just right so the lounge would be empty and I could embarrass myself (for once) without any onlookers.

    I decided to give bowling a whirl because seriously, how hard could it be? It took me a couple times to figure out which button means "Go" (I mean, really...it's the 21st century people. Stop labeling big gray buttons "A" when it is basically the all-knowing ENTER BUTTON. I don't think it's too much to ask. Rant over.).

    But eventually I got the hang of it and started bowling up a storm! Strike after spare after strike after spare...I'm going to be honest, I was AWESOME! I became an immediate fan of the Wii and knew that the fun couldn't stop with just one game.

    I decided to continue my Wii experience and through a series of various tests, discover my Wii Fitness Age. First baseball, then tennis, then bowling again, I did my best to bond with this newfounded piece of technology and embrace the entertainment wave of the future.

    After the tests ended, I stood there waiting for my score to be calculated.

    I felt energized.
    I felt trendy.
    I felt barriers breaking between me and the modern world.

    The Wii does its thing and the result?

    Wii Fitness Age: SIXTY-THREE?!

    I freaking hate technology.



    • Arguing about how to say this
    • Getting a kick out of this
    • Trying my hand at this


    We the People

    This is the duty of our generation as we enter the twenty-first century -- solidarity with the weak, the persecuted, the lonely, the sick, and those in despair. It is expressed by the desire to give a noble and humanizing meaning to a community in which all members will define themselves not by their own identity but by that of others.
    Elie Wiesel


    Growing up, I was the goody goody of the classroom. If the teacher asked a question, my hand was in the air. If the teacher left the room, I was the one put in charge. I learned early on that to excel in the classroom meant to be timely, studious, organized and compliant. And so I was.

    As I entered high school, academic success shifted to include the ever-increasing obligation of extracurricular activities. Due to my inability to say no and my innate desire to meet expectations, I became the ultimate joiner. I juggled schoolwork with cheerleading, volunteer work with youth group and my sanity with the growing pile of multi-colored PostIts sticking out from a well-worn planner. All the while, I was assured that this kind of lifestyle was necessary, it was worth it, and that someday it would pay off. And I believed.

    College hit full-force and with it, the constant push to focus on My Future. So, I got the grades, I landed the internships, I stayed involved...I played along. But at the end of the day, as I fell into bed, mind-whirling with never-ending To-Do lists and flitting from one worry to the next, I couldn't help but feel I was simply spinning in circles. Dizzying myself with relentless expectations that made me believe I could never do enough. And I began to question.

    And now I've entered the workforce. And feel almost...betrayed. Tricked into believing that all of my sacrifices and scribbled lists and carefully-contemplated decisions should have resulted in something more. Something bigger than a 9 to 5 cubicle existence. Is this what I've been waiting for all this time?

    I suppose this could be considered a mid-mid-life crisis. A sort of "rite of passage" into the working world as I transition from my glorified college years of exploration and independence into a more mature phase of responsibility and obligation. That it will pass.

    But maybe this is proof that these traditional ideas of success do not apply anymore. Not to my generation. That we are searching for our place in society--not to arrive at a dream job and buy the house with a picket fence and live the comfortable, insulated, isolated existence--but instead, to use our passions to improve this broken world.

    Our heightened global awareness has created a feeling of responsibility--a responsibility to build community instead of division and to consider others when society tells us to look out for ourselves. We are struggling to make traditional molds fit into this transformed way of thinking, and as a result, we are continually fighting feelings of frustration, dissatisfaction and overwhelming confusion.

    Alone, we will likely falter. Succumb to the voices of doubt and reason that find us charmingly naive, endearingly hopeful but ultimately impractical.

    But together, our uncertain whispers will unite to form a murmuring chorus. And our difficult questions may not be answered but neither will they be ignored.

    May this be the new American dream.


    Take heart

    I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33


    It is hard for me to watch the news these days.

    Articles like this dash my hopes in the economy.
    Reports like this taint my trust in world leaders.
    Stories like this shake my faith in my fellow man.

    And before long, heart sinking and mind whirling, I find myself teetering between choking anxiety and cynical complacency.

    At times, I become weighed down with worry.
    What will happen to us all? I wonder.
    Can we really trust anyone anymore?
    How will things ever be okay?

    Round and round these thoughts tumble, leaving me with nothing but an unshakable heaviness and a desire to escape.

    So sometimes I do.

    I turn the channel to something easier, something safe, something to help me forget.
    Why should I care? I scoff.
    There will only be more hurt, more scandal, more pain.
    What can I do about it, anyway?

    And so I find myself stuck.

    For fear is crippling.
    And to choose a life of fear is to accept its choking chains of endless worry, doubt and indecision.

    But complacency is defeat.
    And I may turn my television as loud as it can go, but it will not drown out the global cries of injustice.

    So I must choose Faith.
    A faith that believes that just because it's hard doesn't mean it's not possible.
    And just because it's painful doesn't mean it's not worth the fight.

    We cannot shut ourselves out of this broken world.
    Sometimes we have to question. Sometimes we have to protest.
    Sometimes we have to refuse to accept what the world presents as truth.

    But neither can we allow our wringing hands to be tied behind our backs.
    For the world can be ugly, but it can also be beautiful.
    And while there is much hate, it does not overshadow love.


    Highly recommended...

    • For those that can't get enough politics
    • For the unfortunate souls that missed the premiere (or for those that want to relive it)
      ***note: this is a spoiler so beware!***


    Born in the U.S.A...

    Food for thought in this season of political frenzy and media mayhem (and just for the record, I have no ulterior motives in swaying your vote one way or another):

    1. "Democracy is neither a possession nor a guaranteed achievement. It is forever in the making: it might be thought of as a possibility--moral and imaginative possibility. For surely it has to do with the way persons attend to one another, care for one another, and interact with one another. It has to do with choices and alternatives, with the capacity to look at things as though they could be otherwise."
    -Maxine Greene

    2. "Citizens in a democracy have the convictions and enthusiasms of their own responses, yet they are willing to keep an open mind about alternate points of view, and finally are able to negotiate meanings and actions that respect both individual diversity and community needs.

    To overcome our tendency to follow authority blindly, we need to develop confidence in our own ability to interpret and judge what we observe around us in the world. But confident and out-spoken individuals must be complemented by a tradition of conduct for reconciling differences among their responses."
    -Gordon M. Pradl

    3. A Small-Town Mayor Vs. A Community Organizer

    Does Race Matter In '08? The View From York, Pa.


    Light in the dark

    "Ring the bells that still ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." ~Leonard Cohen

    There comes a time in everyone's life when one must grapple with the unsettling reality of tragedy. When each of us must wrestle with the sobering thought that unforeseen, uncontrollable events can swoop into even the most unsuspecting lives and threaten to rattle one's very core.

    Left alone, it is all too easy to drown in these questions and flounder under feelings of sorrow, anger, bitterness, disappointment, and hurt. But it is also during these moments of extreme vulnerability and brokenness that one experiences sudden moments of clarity.

    Over Labor Day weekend, I found myself tiptoeing gingerly across what little remained of my aunt and uncle's farmhouse. While visiting their grandchildren one typical Sunday afternoon, they received a call from a neighbor reporting their home was ablaze. They rushed home to find that they had literally lost everything.

    I was unprepared for the extent of the damage. Insulation hung in tufts from the ceiling. Light filtered in through cracked windows. A bizarre combination of glass, dishes and various old toys I remembered from childhood lay strewn about what used to be the living room. It was a surreal experience to be standing in such a charred skeleton of a home--the air dense with smoke and grief--yet the birds still chirping outside. At first, it was almost too much.

    My family and I had driven down in old t-shirts and worn tennis shoes eager to jump in and take action. Willing to get grimy and sweaty and covered in ash with the expectation that somehow through hauling out salvageable possessions and laboring all day, we would be making a difference and perhaps even ease the pain of our relatives.

    Instead, we were faced with a situation in which there was very little to be done. And we found ourselves looking at each other, helpless.

    We trudged across the country road for lunch, bracing ourselves for a heavy afternoon. Coolers were unpacked and we all squeezed around a table full of casseroles, vegetable trays and plates and plates of sugary concoctions.

    We sat around that table for a long time. At first in quiet small talk. Occasionally in silence as tears rolled down my aunt's face. Sometimes in outbursts of laughter over an inside family joke.

    And we sat and we ate and we did very little. But somehow, when we pushed our chairs back and began clearing the table, life seemed a little brighter, a little less bleak.

    And I found myself thinking that while there is certainly a place for physical labor and breaking a sweat in the name of service, sometimes all a person really needs is someone walking right beside them in their time of need.

    Because at the end of the day, isn't that all that really matters?



    1. To send a much-overdue package to D.C.

    2. To learn how to make a knock-out coconut cream pie
    (just to prove to my dad that I am not a complete domestic failure)

    3. To make a habit out of calling my spunky grandma, who is hands-down one of my favorite people.
    (don't get her started about how much she loves this place)

    4. To head south. Soon.

    5. To remind myself every day of how much I have to be thankful for. (...and to quit ending sentences with prepositions. Ick.)

    Note: For those more ambitious than me, check this out.


    Got my lunch packed up and my boots tied tight...

    Humanity does not pass through phases as a train passes through stations: being alive, it has the privilege of always moving yet never leaving anything behind. Whatever we have been, in some sort we are still.
    -C.S. Lewis


    I have always found this time of year to be full of possibilities, particularly when armed with a bookbag full of fresh school supplies. Something about cracking open that new notebook, sharpening that new set of pencils and breaking the seal on that (outrageously overpriced) textbook that excites me. A new year. A fresh start. A clean slate. (which I realize makes me A Total Dork.)

    So in the spirit of August, and as a nod to those who--in one way or another--find themselves back in the classroom, here's a list of my back-to-school favorites: (feel free to add your own)
    *note: these were actually BANNED at my school. Ridiculous...


    A time to mourn and a time to dance

    “For there is hope for a tree,
    When it is cut down, that it will sprout again,
    And its shoots will not fail.
    Though its roots grow old in the ground
    And its stump dies in the dry soil,

    At the scent of water it will flourish

    And put forth sprigs like a plant. "

    Job 14:7-9

    In the spirit of Friday, I fully intended on writing something lighthearted. Something funny. Something easy to read.

    But then I read Dani's story.*

    It is one full of pain, heartache and unimaginable sorrow. One that embodies the darkest side of human life and threatens to destroy the fragile fibers of hope. One that makes you immediately forget your own daily trials and recognize instead how infinitely blessed you are, and as a result, how much you have to give.

    I will probably never meet Dani. In fact, I can offer her very little.
    But I can share her story.

    And pray for the day when Light will overcome the darkness.

    *courtesy of dooce.com


    Be still my heart

    I'll be honest. If you're a man over the age of 70, chances are you can melt my heart in mere moments. Throw in a cane, a little top hat or suspenders, and I immediately turn into one gigantic, squealing gush of "Ohhhhhhh how freaking cute is HE?!", and it is all I can do to keep myself from running right over and pinching ol' Grampa's leathery cheek.

    So it is really no surprise that during my trip to D.C., amidst all the rich historical monuments and memorials, I found myself drawn to a small suspender-clad gentleman milling about the sidewalk, an American flag sticking out the back of his little black ballcap.

    After recovering from said gushing, I met Mr. Wesley O. Niccolls, Sr. His movements were slow and his voice a bit wobbly, but his story was anything but.

    A proud World War II veteran, Niccolls carried a binder with him, held tightly to his chest, which contained several laminated black-and-white photographs of his military service. A copy of his military ID, revealing a young, handsome Niccholls preceded a photo of the ship on which he served so many years ago and one could not help but see the patriotic gleam in his eyes.

    The more Niccholls talked, the more intrigued I became. I asked him about his life after his service and he explained he was an inventor who was best known for inventing a motor used in NASA space equipment (okay...he gave more specifics, but I was toooootally out of my element. Insert the nod and smile trick here.). He even said his invention was recently on the cover of a magazine, but when asked if he was quoted in the article he shrugged and said, "Well, you know, I sure don't do it for the press."

    Now, I'll be honest with you. At this point, I found Niccolls completely charming, inspiring even...but perhaps a little off his rocker.

    After thanking him for his time, I got my photo and turned to head on my merry way. Before I could go, however, Niccolls called out, "Wait!" and began fumbling around in his binder.

    "Here is my business card," he said in his slow, shaky voice. "If it isn't too much trouble, could you send me a copy of the photo?" (AS IF I COULD SAY NO!)

    Somehow, I was able to leave without packing him in my suitcase right then and there and set about to see the rest of the sights, but nothing quite compared to that little exchange on the sidewalk.


    A few days passed, and I found myself sitting at my cubicle and remembering Niccolls and his poignant story.

    I pulled out his card and shook my head as I recalled his invention claims.

    Being the savvy 20-something that I am, I decided to turn to the all-knowing Google for answers.

    Yep, I googled him. Get over it.

    Honestly, I was a little afraid at what I might find. For even though I had my doubts about Niccolls, I just did not want to believe that there had been anything but truth behind his unassuming smile.

    But lo and behold, he checked out.

    Not only that, but he has survived quite a bit of trauma in other aspects of life.

    And as if that were not enough, he is even a YouTube star.

    So, here's to Mr. Wesley O. Niccolls, Sr.

    Thank you for reminding me that everyone does indeed have a story.

    p.s. Your picture will be in the mail soon.


    For your perusing pleasure:



    *Thinking I would totally live on a college campus if I could.

    *Wishing Kraft would stop pretending this is any different from this.

    *Wondering what a girl's gotta do to get a library named in her honor.

    *Chewing on this and this.

    *Wanting nothing more than to get on that plane.


    Dear Betty, can we be B-F-F?

    Okay, so I know I have quite a few ridiculous stories of my own, and maybe it is lame for me to share one that belongs to someone else...but OH MY GOSH I AM LAUGHING SO HARD RIGHT NOW!


    Viva la revolution!

    It happens to everyone.*

    The worst kind of wardrobe malfunction that naturally seems to hit at the most inopportune moment.

    As you're just getting out of the car on your first date, for example. Or during your evening jog as you dart across that busy street. Or perhaps-my personal favorite-as you cross the crowded room with all eyes fixed on you.

    And so you are forced to evaluate your limited choices, none of which are very promising:
    -You can try to grin and bear it (but oh! the discomfort!).
    -Or try to [literally] wiggle your way out of it (a feat I have yet to accomplish).
    -Or pray for some Divine Intervention (but the odds of Flava-Flav making such a timely appearance are slim-to-none).

    Yet what you cannot do--at least not without the fear of social scorn or even worse, having your etiquette likened to that of Ozzy Osbourne (post-bat-biting, but still...is that really saying much?)--is to just go for it. To look everyone squarely in the eye, make your adjustments and say to the world without embarrassment,
    "Yes, I DID just fix my wedgie. SO WHAT?!"

    And so I ask you, friends, let us rally together. Let us leave our wedgie judgment by the wayside and forever change this ridiculous social stigma. One wedgie at a time.

    Who's with me?

    *And by everyone, I mean everyone who does not go commando. Which totally grosses me out. I hope this doesn't damage my credibility but seeeeeriously. Ew.


    Rainy day tidbits

    ...Listening to pandora.com (and loving it!)

    ...Missing summer days of flashlight tag, lightning bugs and sleepovers after T-ball games (I played purely for social reasons. Okay, and for Squeeze-Its.)

    ...Thinking Lois may be onto something:

    "A writer is often a lonely person, I think: Our worlds are populated by
    the things we imagine, the things we remember or dream."
    Lois Lowry



    Because Y2K was just a warm-up, apparently:

    Don't forget to purchase your 5- year personal planner.

    ...You've got to be kidding me.


    Note(s) to self:

    • Cabbage and lettuce are sold in deceitfully similar packages. Next time, pay attention!
    • While it is slightly embarrassing you spent equally as much on bath and body products as on groceries last week, know that YOU SMELL REALLY GOOD RIGHT NOW!
      (Remind yourself of this as you are eating nothing but peanut butter and jelly for the next week and a half.)
    • Listen to more Jon Foreman!
    • If you ever need a dose of humility, try to swing a hammer again.
    • Finally- and I repeat- you do have the willpower to resist this giant bowl of M&Ms. You do. You do. You do...


    Don't close your eyes

    We have the idea that God is going to do some exceptional thing, that He is preparing and fitting us for some extraordinary thing by and by, but as we go on in grace we find that God is glorifying Himself here and now, in the present minute.
    -Oswald Chambers


    I am carving out a space of my own. Unpacking those forgotten boxes. Storing away my suitcase. Settling in.

    I have a routine, even, and places around town that are beginning to feel like mine. A coffee shop, a walking trail, a local pizza place, a church pew.

    And it's not terribly exciting and it certainly doesn't align with my romantic notions of life as a twentysomething. But as simple as it may be, it is mine and generally, I am--dare I say?--content.

    But just as I begin to let my guard down and catch my breath, it finds me.


    That sneaky, snarky, shameless, spineless, oh-so-pervasive menace to the human spirit. Its whisper tickles my eardrum with maddeningly inescapable questions to which I have no solid answer.

    Gleefully, it watches as my confidence unravels and my certainty disappears, and I am left clinging to my one and only defense against total and utter despair.


    In the unknown. In the fuzzy and unfamiliar. In the purpose of the present moment--no matter how messy or mundane.

    May we continually remind each other to live each day with open eyes. And be that voice of hope for those who have lost it.


    Clownfish and sea anemones


    Sure, they can be sources of thumping headaches and unbridled fury at times, but like I've said before, they are often the key to surviving the daily grind.

    In fact, I'm becoming more and more convinced that one's interactions with fellow keepers-of-the-crappy-coffee pot should resemble a symbiotic relationship of sorts.

    For example, they smile and nod as I rattle on about how they will not beLIEVE how close to death I was while attempting to cross the street because of the nerve--the NERVE!--of arrogant city drivers and their blatant refusal to stop at pedestrian CROSSWALKS for crying out loud...and--would you believe it?--that after risking life and limb, the bookstore DIDN'T EVEN CARRY Sweet Cinnamon Stride gum, which was the whole point of the journey away from the glaring fluorescent cubicle lights to begin with!

    In return, I let them borrow my stapler (hey, it's office GOLD people) and even squeak out an "ooh" and "aahh" over their favorite cat website (while secretly seeing nothing but pure evil in those beady little feline eyes).

    At any rate, I've been collecting tidbits of such cubicle conversations that I cannot help but share. Best enjoyed while nibbling on day-old donuts snuck from the conference room and slurping lukewarm coffee with no less than fourteen packets of Splenda added out of pure necessity.

    Say Whaaaaaaaaat?

    1. "So, Sara, not to bring up a sore subject, but how tall are you?"
    Funny...I didn't know it was a sore subject...but 5'8 and 3/4 if you' d really like to know. I can't help it that sometimes I want to wear heels, okay?!

    2. "What I really want to know is what the government did with the millions of dollars they invested in Frisbees back in 'Nam!"
    Don't we all...don't we all...(??!)

    3. "Spiff!"
    Spiff (adj.): To describe something in an appreciative way.
    Synonyms: Cool. Sweet. Awesome.
    Example: "That's spiff!"

    4. "That really cheeses me off!"
    Said with a scowl and shaking of the fist.

    5. "Sarcasm is unbecoming..."
    Said in a very disapproving tone after someone rattles off an obviously-unappreciated quip (often that someone happens to be yours truly). Makes a girl feel really good about herself.

    Never have I ever...

    • watched Mary Poppins in its entirety.
      Tragic? Perhaps. I've seen the chimney scene if that counts for anything...
    • understood the lure of video games in any form.
      I'm sorry. I just don't get it. I blame my lack of hand-eye coordination. And my lack of desire to master a virtual world of any form.
    • supported the idea of pick-up lines.
      <Insert eye roll here.>
    • seen a Hardees thickburger commercial and thought, "Mmmmm...yes, please!"
      I'd rather spend my daily calories eating fresh Rice Krispies out of the bowl, thankyouverymuch.
    • looked back at my middle school yearbook pictures without cringing.
      Not sure why. I mean, frizzy hair and colored braces is a pretty killer combo.



    Anyone else ever wonder:

    is stalking you on facebook right this very moment?

    What we are supposed to eat for breakfast now that cereal costs more than life itself?

    When Jim Halpert will freaking propose already?!

    Where it is ever socially acceptable to wear a long-sleeved, monogrammed denim shirt?

    Why ice cream tastes SO GOOD--always?

    How much more entertaining life would be as a choose-your-own adventure?

    ...or is it just me?


    If Oprah can do it, so can I

    Welcome, everyone to the first edition of Sara's Favorite Thi-iiiiiiiiiiings!
    (said in a deep, bellowing voice as the crowd goes wild)

    While I may not be able to provide each of you with the following treasures I have discovered as of late, you can rest assured that I stand by my endorsements and will be happy to provide you with additional gushing recommendations at your request.

    ***Note: The items listed here are not necessarily new to the rest of the world. My only qualification was that said items had recently made quite the favorable impression on yours truly. (which--let's be honest--really isn't that hard to do)***

    Without further ado and in no particular order, I give you:

    Sara's Favorite Things

    1. Household product: Tide To Go
      I cannot say enough good things about this brilliant device. It's small, it's light, it's cheap, yet it is oh-so-powerful. For anyone out there whose clothes double as a walking billboard for all you have attempted to consume in a given day, get ready to meet your new best friend.
    2. Drink: Coke Vanilla Zero
      Cast aside all previous judgments of Coke Zero. For even if (like me) you think regular Coke Zero is nothing more than carbonated crap, you have to try the refreshingly crisp taste of Coke Vanilla Zero. If it doesn't make you want to sing in perfect harmony on a hilltop, I don't know what will.
    3. Game: True Colors
      I did not discover Milton Bradley's 1990 self-described "social game" until this winter, but let me be the first to say that I thoroughly enjoy it! If you're looking for a way to learn how you are really perceived in your circle of friends, check it out. Prepare to be pleasantly surprised (unless you are super-competitive or an ultra-gamer, in which case you will probably be bored out of your mind).
      --Sidenote: In case you are wondering, I was unanimously voted The One Who Has the Hardest Time Saying No (not a shock) and also received several votes for The One Who I Would Clash With Most Regarding Political/Religious Views (which surprised me quite a bit actually). Interesting.
    4. Gift: Photos on canvas via http://www.updone.com/
      Updone.com is a one-stop shop for those of us that want to be creative, thrifty...and maybe aren't so tech savvy. Upload your photos, choose your size, print them on canvas and have them sent directly to you on one website.
      Love. It.
    5. Author: Wendell Berry
      Hailed by the oh-so-reliable Wikipedia as "an American man of letters, academic, cultural and economic critic, and farmer," Wendell Berry uses his eclectic background to criticize several issues regarding Americans and our relationship to the environment, each other and even God. He doesn't sugar-coat it, he calls for many changes, but throughout it all, he weaves a message of hope. Definitely worth a look.
    6. Bonus: GPS
      Okay, I actually don't own one. And I am well aware of the dangers that exist with relying too much on such a product. But believe me when I say that I have no doubt that this little sucker would be a lifesaver. Because some of us are born with natural direction, and some of us get lost on our way to the mall. (Hey, it can happen to anyone...right?)
    7. Runners-up: Tostitos Flour Tortilla Chips, Bermuda shorts, headbands, Culver's custard and Flannery O'Connor's short stories*
      In an effort to conserve space, I limited myself. However, if any of these would come up in conversation, don't be surprised if my face lights up and the words, "That's my favorite!" fall from my lips.
    ...Did I mention I'm easily amused?

    *edit: And Blistex fruit smoothie lip balm. Thanks friend.


    The perils of gluttony

    Sunday morning. St. John's Lutheran Church. 1990.

    After an hour of Playdough, Father Abraham and feltboard Jesus, I gleefully wriggled next to my best friend Marissa and settled in for a long service. As the organ blared, we rejoiced at our successful cajoling efforts that resulted in our families sharing the same long wooden pew.

    Crayons in hand, we critically scanned our Disney Princesses coloring books to select the subject of our latest and greatest artistic achievements.

    "Oooh! Cinderella! My favorite!" I squealed with delight as I haphazardly ripped out the selected page.

    "She's okay," the ultra-cool Marissa sniffed. "But she's no Ariel."

    "Girls! Shhh!" my mom hissed, eyes flashing.

    I meekly bowed my head and resumed scribbling.

    After a few moments, Marissa began rummaging around her Minnie Mouse lunch box in search of a snack. I heard my own tummy grumble and watched with piqued interest to see what would emerge from her fumbling.

    She eventually produced a crinkly red package covered with several colorful dots. "Yesssss!" she cheered quietly. "My favorite!"

    She glanced at me, expecting me to share in her glee, but was met with a blank stare.

    "What's the matter?" she whispered. "Don't you love them?"

    "Um...I don't know," I said. "I've never tried them."

    "WHAT?!" she said incredulously and breathed a small sigh of pity. I could feel the color steadily rising in my cheeks.

    "Here," she said, sticking out her hand while popping a few of the colorful discs in her mouth. "Try some."

    Obediently, I plucked a purple circle from her hand and after dubiously inspecting it, placed it on the middle of my tongue.

    I crunched through the sugary shell as my mouth exploded with fruity flavor. My eyes lit up with approval.

    "Good, right?" Marissa said with an all-knowing confidence. "Here, have another."

    I eagerly grabbed another piece of candy--this time red--and tossed it in my mouth. Again, my senses were awakened with delight.

    "Yum!" I said, mouth full of sugary goodness.

    Before I could even swallow, Marissa handed me more. Again, I accepted the candy without hesitation.

    "Thith ith good!" I said thickly around the ball of goo as I reached for more.

    Crayolas in hand, we continued our feast. But no matter how quickly I chomped on each delectable treat, Marissa was always waiting with more. As I added fruity flavor after fruity flavor, the growing glob of sugar between my cheeks ballooned at an alarming rate.

    Suddenly, I didn't feel so good.

    I focused intently on chewing, but the gummy ping-pong ball of infinite cavities didn't budge. Wide-eyed, I turned to Marissa in panic.

    "Hchlmf!" I spluttered.

    "What?" she asked.

    "HCHLMF!" I repeated, sugary spit flying everywhere.

    "I can't understand you," she said, peering at me with a furrowed brow.

    Out of pure sugar-induced terror, I burst into tears, stopping only when safely perched on my mother's lap and with her coaxing, successfully deposited the fruity goo in a Kleenex.

    Just in time for confession.

    -end scene-


    Life in transition

    When your eyes are wide with fear and your heart is beating fast, some comfort:


    "It doth not yet appear what we shall be." 1 John 3:2

    Naturally, we are inclined to be so mathematical and calculating that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing. We imagine that we have to reach some end, but that is not the nature of spiritual life. The nature of spiritual life is that we are certain in our uncertainty, consequently we do not make our nests anywhere. Common sense says - "Well, supposing I were in that condition . . ." We cannot suppose ourselves in any condition we have never been in. Certainty is the mark of the common-sense life: gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness, it should be rather an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. Immediately we abandon to God, and do the duty that lies nearest, He packs our life with surprises all the time. When we become advocates of a creed, something dies; we do not believe God, we only believe our belief about Him. Jesus said, "Except ye become as little children." Spiritual life is the life of a child. We are not uncertain of God, but uncertain of what He is going to do next. If we are only certain in our beliefs, we get dignified and severe and have the ban of finality about our views; but when we are rightly related to God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy.

    "Believe also in Me," said Jesus, not - "Believe certain things about Me." Leave the whole thing to Him, it is gloriously uncertain how He will come in, but He will come. Remain loyal to Him.

    -Oswald Chambers


    My Generation

    We're a mishmash
    A hodgepodge
    A ragtag bunch.

    We're uncertain
    Yet passionate--
    Resolutely hopeful.

    Call us young,
    But do not dismiss us.

    For we are restless
    We seek justice
    And together, we are strong.


    For s and gs...

    ***For the record: I don't usually do these things. But it's Friday. And I'm bored. So why not, right? Don't judge me...

    Tagged by: Luke

    The rules are:

    1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
    2. Each player answers the questions about himself or herself.
    3. At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

    1. Ten years ago I was doing . . .

    everything very awkwardly. I hadn't discovered hair gel. I was in love with Leonardo DiCaprio. And I was beginning to discover my passion for the English language thanks to my favorite teacher ever, Ms. Schaefer.

    2. 5 Things on Today’s To Do List

    1. Wear better shoes to work (check)
    2. Watch last night's episode of The Office (check...over my lunch break. I swear!)
    3. Manage to get through a day without using Tide To Go (so far, so good)
    4. Power through some more of Love in the Time of Cholera (sidenote: if I ever write a book, I will do my best to use short paragraphs. I think it is ridiculous to have page after page of single, very detailed paragraphs because I constantly lose my place and have to re-read it and end up getting ticked. Okay. Rant over.)
    5. Um...that's really it. Is that sad?

    3. Things I’d do if I were a billionaire.

    Ohhhh... I don't know. Honestly, I find the idea completely overwhelming...

    Maybe I'd open a bookstore/coffee shop. Or land a guest spot on The Office...and while I'm at it, a Sonic commercial(with the two guys, obviously).

    Or maybe I'd just have all my favorite people get together and brainstorm really great things we could do with a billion dollars and then vote on the best idea. My friends are a lot cooler than me anyway.

    4. 3 Bad Habits

    1. I'm painfully indecisive.
    2. I worry way too much about things I can't control.
    3. I'm really awkward when ending phone conversations. Or so I'm told.

    5. Five Places I’ve lived

    1. Topeka!, KS
    2. Overland Park, KS
    3. Manhattan, KS
    4. Kansas City, Missouri
    5. ...sorry. That's all I've got.

    6. Five Jobs I’ve had in life

    1. Kansas Department of Transportation intern (yep, I earned that infamous reflective hat)
    2. Christ Church Summer Staffer
    3. Community assistant at Ford Hall
    4. Student news writer for K-State Media Relations
    5. Assistant librarian/marketing guru at KU Med's health sciences library

    7. Tagged Ones

    I don't want anyone to feel pressure to do this, so I'm not tagging anyone. Is that cheating?


    Some say it's the Promised Land...

    Ahhh...Manhattan, Kansas.

    Known for its purple pride, wide-open spaces and okay, maybe an occasional whiff of cow, there is something about the small-town charm of my alma matter that just can't be replicated in big city living.

    I realize much of my fondness for the Little Apple hinges on the quality relationships I built while experiencing life as a college student and not particularly on the settings in which this chapter of life occurred. But something about this springtime weather has me itching to drive west and hit all my favorite hot spots, including (but not limited to) the following:

    *Note: This is by no means an all-inclusive list of why I think Manhattan is fabulous. I don't even mention the Derb, Kenny Ford Hall, anywhere near John Schwartz, Call Hall, So Long Saloon, etc. etc. etc.

    ...in no particular order...

    1. Bob's 24-Hour Diner. Now, you may be thinking, "Really? A 24-hour truck stop? That sounds more than sketch." And, to be completely honest, it is. But the Bob's Diner experience at 12 a.m. is guaranteed to give you something to talk about for months. And before you know it, this rite of passage may just worm its way into your heart and keep you coming back for more than just heartburn. Quirky? Yes. Shady? Probably. Worth it? Definitely.

    2. Top of the World. Okay, so it sounds like a cheesy make-out point... and maybe it is (but aren't all scenic overlooks? I mean, really...). At any rate, if you're looking for an excellent storm-spotting location in Manhattan, Top of the World is the place to be. In fact, I think it's one of Manhattan's best-kept secrets. You can quote me on that.

    3. The Blue House. This ultimate bachelor's pad is hands-down one of my absolute favorite places in Manhattan. Sure, a hideous Native American carpet adorns the wall (it kind of grows on you, I swear) and yeah, you are taking quite a social risk by using the bathroom that notoriously locks unsuspecting users inside, but there is always something going on at The Blue House...and if not, just camp out in the living room and watch Seinfeld. Just don't move the hot pink stapler.

    4. Java. [cue the Cheers theme song] Ross and Rachel had Central Perk. George and Elaine had Tom's Restaurant. And for much of my college experience, my friends and I had Java. Over coffee (okay, lattes with lots of Splenda) and gooey cinnamon rolls, we allowed each other to peek into our crazy, mixed-up lives. And somehow, by the time that coffee cup ran dry, the world seemed a little brighter.

    5. Here and there and everywhere. Next to coffee talks, my favorite memories of Manhattan consist of the various power-walking adventures I had while exploring the streets of the Little Apple. It is how I learned the city, but more importantly, how I formed some of my strongest friendships. My travels took me from Manhattan Hill to University Gardens, from City Park to Old Stadium and countless Dara's stops along the way. I wore out more than one pair of shoes on the sleepy streets of Manhattan, and I am more than okay with that.

    So, if you are lucky enough to find yourself in Manhattan for any period of time, please enjoy one (or all) of these for me.

    If you doubt that Manhattan, KS can provide anything close to entertainment, I will prove you wrong with a guided tour...as soon as I finish planning a hometown showcase of Topeka. But that's another story.

    --And yes, I am one of those people that still calls it Java instead of Bluestem Bistro...and probably always will.

    p.s. If you'd like to give a shout out to your favorite Manhattan location that didn't make my list, feel free.


    One With Nature

    I dash home from work, throw on my sweatpants and hurriedly lace my shoes. I glance furtively at the overcast sky and plead for the brewing spring storm to withhold its fury for just 30 more minutes.

    I click on my mp3 player and sigh as I discover it is out of battery.

    I begin walking. But without any music to distract me, I find myself lost in my own troubled thoughts and unable to squelch an elusive yet rising panic.

    So I start to run. And suddenly, it's just me and the gravel crunching beneath my feet. With each straining step, it becomes harder to concentrate on anything but placing my next foot forward, and I am finally able to find a momentary escape from the never-ending swirl of questions bouncing around my distracted mind.

    Lungs burning and breathless, I eventually slow to a walk and instantly become very aware of the silence.

    My senses heighten and I begin to notice the little details of my surroundings that had previously escaped me. The bees eagerly buzzing around my ankles. The smell of freshly-mowed grass. The laughter of neighbors as they christen spring with their first barbecue. The cluster of quaint park benches nestled under a nearby shade tree.

    I turn my attention to those sharing my path. The old couple out for an evening stroll. The middle-aged man huffing and puffing miserably as he makes his way down the trail. The young mother pushing her cooing infant. The giggling teenage girls squealing as they try to untangle themselves from a mess of leashes.

    And before long, I begin to see the beauty of a near-forgotten world that values silence more than endless clamor and even find myself resolving to spend more walks engaging rather than escaping.

    And just as I am really beginning to soak up the experience and bask in the glory of all things nature...


    Huge bug. Directly in the eye.

    Happy freaking Earth Day.


    Tip of a Hat

    It was a typical Tuesday morning, which meant that I inevitably was running late.

    I flew out the door, tossed my over-stuffed bag in the car and quickly scrunched my damp curls. As I pulled out of the drive and took off down the street, I made a mental note of all the things I should (but probably wouldn't) accomplish before a new day dawned.

    I brought my car to a hurried stop at the end of my street and waited impatiently for an opening in the sudden surge of traffic. As I prepared to join the snaking train of over-caffeinated 9-to-5ers (yes, I just made that a noun...get over it), I saw him approaching the nearby crosswalk and inwardly groaned.

    A pedestrian. Naturally.

    He was a small man with slow movements. Old but not feeble. A bristly white beard poked out from under his hat as he ambled in front of my car.

    Then suddenly, just as I was releasing a small sigh of frustration, he turned towards me with an appreciative grin, tipped his gray hat and continued on his morning stroll.

    His face will soon fade from my memory and mine is likely already gone from his. But for a brief moment--a mere blip in our journeys--we allowed each other into our worlds.

    And suddenly my to-do list really didn't seem that important.


    Out of my element

    Expressing myself through writing is not an anomaly in my life.

    In fourth grade, I was determined to dazzle the world with a best seller. Unfortunately, my drafts never made it past four hand-written, labor-intensive pages on lined notebook paper, complete with arrows and various scratchings that even I can no longer decipher...but the dream was planted nevertheless.

    As a junior in high school, I began the almost-nightly ritual of scribbling away in a journal. Snuggling under the covers in the soft glow of my bedside lamp, my pen would come alive as I struggled to make sense of an increasingly complicated world.

    About a month ago, I decided to explore this new form of communication I know so little about--blogging. It has allowed me to re-discover my love of language and the power of communication. It has introduced me to a new facet of people I thought I knew. It has allowed me to push my own boundaries as I willingly opened myself up before an unknown audience.

    However, in talking with a friend, I realized there is still much to learned about this postmodern venue.

    For example:
    1. Say someone comments on your post and you would like to respond. Are you expected to respond on your same post or choose one of theirs and type away? Is there a courtesy length limit to comments? (if so, I guarantee I broke it repeatedly)
    2. Is my blog totally lame if I do not include several links to other sites and/or audio/visual content? (if so, I apologize for my lack of technology skills)
    3. How do you tell people you have a blog? For some reason, I found this to be very awkward and quite presumptuous--as if I thought what I had to say was really that important. (In fact, I still have yet to tell some of my very good friends that this even exists out of some self-imposed lack of confidence. Weird. I know.)
    4. This one is especially for aforementioned friend: is it ever appropriate to mention someone's blog in public?
    5. Is it breaking some cardinal rule to blog about blogging?
    6. Is it breaking an even bigger rule to attempt to make rules for this communication form whose entire identity is based on existing outside previous conventions? (I can't help it! I like guidelines, okay?!)

    ...Have I mentioned that I tend to over-analyze everything?

    Maybe I should just buy this.


    From T-town to Tinsletown...High-five!

    Brace yourself, ladies and gentlemen. I am about to reveal some ridiculous news. Even for me.

    First, a little background.

    My uncle hails from the great land of Topeka. (jealous? I know...) By day, he works at Hallmark. By night, he is a taxi driver. I'm not sure why he chose to pick up this as a part-time gig, but his interactions with the Topeka night life has certainly spiced up our family Thanksgiving dinners. Let's just say that taking taxis in T-town is a little more than sketch.

    Anyway, I was home visiting a few weeks ago and my dad mentions offhand that Uncle Jay has been asked to be in a German documentary. As you can imagine, this strikes me as quite unusual since a) Topeka doesn't exactly seem like a logical filming location for such an endeavor and b) my uncle (though German) isn't who I would consider a prime source for said documentary. Needless to say, I was quite intrigued.

    A week or so passed and over Easter break, I again was home. As we're sitting around the living room, my dad tells me he has quite the update with Uncle Jay. I snapped to attention immediately. And I was not disappointed.

    It seems that Uncle Jay had been in the lobby of the cab business when a woman walked in looking lost. My uncle offered his assistance and she proceeded to tell him she was looking for someone to be in the aforementioned German documentary and that, in fact, he would be a perfect candidate. My uncle wasn't initially thrilled with this idea, but after a bit of persuasion, he agreed to the interview.

    Originally, the interview was scheduled for T-town. But some bug hit the film crew which caused them to reschedule and before he knew it, my uncle was headed to KCI Airport to meet the elusive documentary crew. In a parking lot. By himself. (apparently he missed out on McGruff growing up)

    So, he's waiting...and waiting...and waiting. And the parking lot is pretty much deserted and he's kind of getting ticked because time is going by...when suddenly, two 15 passenger vans arrive out of thin air and a flurry of activity follows as people are jumping out of vans, setting up cameras, mic-ing my uncle (is that a word? mic-ing?), mic-ing each other...it is all Uncle Jay can do to keep his head from spinning. Within a few minutes, he finds himself in his taxi with a European man in the passenger seat who appears to be the interviewer, a European gentleman hunkered down in the backseat with a camera and another European tech guy who tells him to drive slow and follow the van ahead of them so they can get it all on film. And so the adventure began.

    As they're driving along, my uncle grew increasingly frazzled. His German passenger would pepper him with questions then break into rather heated German exchanges (or what my uncle thought was German) with the rest of the crew, leaving my uncle almost constantly bewildered.

    To make matters worse, his strict orders to drive slow was not exactly winning him friends on the road. As he found himself going 45 mph on the highway and causing a snaking line of angry travelers behind him, he tried desperately to distract himself. Being a big fan of pretty much anything with an engine, he called out at one point, "Oh, check out that '53 Chevy!" to which the entire carload of German passengers erupted in almost sheer panic. "THE PAPARAZZI! IT'S THE PAPARAZZI!" the interviewer shouted, ducking down frantically. Completely caught off guard, my uncle paused as he tried to explain that the paparazzi certainly wasn't common in the middle of Kansas, and furthermore, there was no evidence that anyone in the Chevy was paying any attention to the Topeka taxi. But the Germans were quite convinced, shouting again, "THE PAPARAZZI! THEY ARE ALWAYS AFTER US! QUICK! YOU MUST TURN HERE!" The camera man, now curled into a ball in the backseat frantically tapped Uncle Jay's shoulder and insisted he take his next left. Realizing he was in the company of completely irrational though albeit very passionate strangers, he finally obliged.

    Headed back towards the airport, Uncle Jay struggled to remain civil. His nerves were ragged. His patience was wearing thin. And to make it worse, his interviewer kept referring to his clothing and what famous German designer he was wearing. To which my uncle most certainly had nothing to say as he clenched his jaw and continued to drive.

    As he pulled into the parking lot, he had the most maddening exchange with his feisty passenger yet.
    Crazy Interviewer: Now I'm sure you don't know this, but I am actually famous in my country.
    Uncle Jay: Oh, really? That's nice.
    CI: Yes, I make movies. And I am famous...but I am sure this does not interest you.
    UJ (absentmindedly): Mmhhmm. Wow. That's great.
    CI: In fact, I have won many big awards for my performances. But you probably do not care.
    UJ: Yeah...Oh, no, I mean, that's cool. Congratulations.
    CI: I actually have these awards here. Today. In the trunk. But I am sure you do not wish to see them.
    UJ: What? Oh. Um...sure. I mean, yeah. I guess I'll look at them. (trying to mask his annoyance at such leading questions)

    The trunk was opened and lo and behold, several large, impressive looking awards are sitting there bubble-wrapped. Uncle Jay is not only expected to "oooh!" and "aaah!" but is also asked to take several pictures with said awards as his passengers continue their German exchanges.

    Finally, Uncle Jay reached his breaking point.

    "Look fellas," he said, "I am cold. I am tired. And it is getting late. Can we just wrap this up so I can get the hell out of here?"

    Within minutes, the party is over and my uncle headed home, head spinning, as he tried to make sense of the madness he just experienced.

    The next day at work, Uncle Jay is relaying this surreal experience to his co-worker, who, for reasons still unknown to me, gets an idea.

    "Wait a minute," his co-worker said. "This sounds like something straight from Borat."

    My uncle gives him a blank stare.

    "You have seen Borat, right?" his co-worker asks.

    My uncle shakes his head no.

    They jump on a computer to google and pull up photos of Borat and his alter-egos, including Bruno, a gay Austrian fashion show presenter (at least according to Wikipedia. I am no Sacha Baron Cohen connoisseur).

    Suddenly, my uncle gasps.

    "That's him! That's the guy!" he says, pointing at the photo of Bruno. "That is the German passenger that interviewed me!"

    Yep, that's right...as it turns out, Sacha Baron Cohen is following the success of his 2006 hit Borat with a similar film using--you guessed it--his Bruno character. So the interview Uncle Jay had for a "German documentary" was actually footage for the upcoming Bruno. And the pesky "German" interviewer was actually Cohen himself.

    Which means, my friends, that in a few short months my uncle may be hitting the big screen (the movie is currently slotted to debut in October 2008).

    Uncle Jay is currently racking his brain to remember exactly what he said. My brother is currently the coolest person in his frat house. And I am currently holding my breath and praying that Uncle Jay's big debut is not completely mortifying.

    Holy. Crap.

    I couldn't make this up if I tried.


    Death and taxes

    ...And games that never amount
    To more than they're meant
    Will play themselves out...

    ["Falling slowly" from Once. See it if you haven't.]


    Change. It’s not a dirty word. But sometimes it sure seems like one.

    I naively assumed that once I graduated and settled into the "real world," life would magically fall into place and this roller coaster ride of transition would suddenly become a gently winding Yellow Brick Road (what? I'm from Kansas. Aren't I supposed to dream in terms of Dorothy?).

    But life doesn't seem to work that way, as it turns out.

    There's the whole job thing, for starters. After the painstaking process of choosing a major and earning that expensive piece of paper, I am quickly realizing that I am no more certain about my life direction with a degree and than I was without it. And while I can definitely appreciate the cash flow that comes with life in the working world (or perhaps cash trickle is more appropriate), I still recognize this as a mere stop along my journey and not as a final destination.

    With the new job came a new roommate in a new city among a new community--at times it feels like a whole new life. And it can be exciting to venture out into this new place and discover that even someplace so initially foreign can eventually start to become home. But just when I begin to think I am settling in and gaining acceptance from this big city, I take a wrong turn. Which turns into another. And another. And another. And suddenly, I am lost and alone and feeling very betrayed as the harsh city lights offer little comfort. And I am left with a sinking feeling that perhaps I will never really belong.

    But all of this would be manageable if change didn't bring with it such a never-ending string of goodbyes. I know that friendships are different--that some are a short burst, some are for a season and some will remain throughout the journey (that's a bumper sticker phrase if I've ever heard one). But it is still painful to realize that one minute the very person that is walking next to you may reach that same fork in the road and choose a different path. And that your journeys may never again converge.

    My search for the certain has left me empty-handed. But maybe that's okay. In fact, maybe that's how life is supposed to be lived. Because living amongst uncertainty keeps one from getting comfortable. From becoming stagnant and stale. From losing sight of one's dreams. From giving up hope.

    And ultimately, from living a life that has no need for faith.


    Workin 9 to 5…

    It has come to my attention that surviving life in the working world—specifically one spent in the cubicle environment—is no small feat. The transition to cube existence can be particularly difficult after one is used to the on-the-go lifestyle of the typical college student and at its most extreme, can even trigger a momentary mid-mid-life crisis at the ripe age of 23.

    In an effort to alleviate the shock such a radical change in lifestyle can often produce, I have decided to offer a few suggestions for those making the switch.

    (By no means is this an all-inclusive list. It merely reflects my experience thus far.)

    Without further ado, I offer you:

    Sara’s Guide to Surviving Cubicle Life

    1. Chat it up. If I could give one piece of advice to the up-and-coming office guru, it would definitely be this—get to know your co-workers. Sure, they may come off as a little strange at first and you may not agree with their choice of hairstyle, but don’t let that intimidate you. There is no telling what gems lie hidden amongst those never-ending cubicle walls. In fact, I could write a whole post on office characters I’ve encountered—Big Trent, RenRon, Lunch-Date-Disaster Lance, Julie the Workout Queen...I could go on and on. The point is, you won’t discover how quirky these people really are unless you make a little effort. Besides, what else do you have to do?

    (Note: If you choose to nickname your co-workers, please be advised that while this makes for entertaining references, it can put you in quite the awkward social situation if the nickname manages to slip out in everyday conversation.)

    2. Stop! Hey, what’s that sound? If you are planning on excelling in the office environment, it is imperative that you heighten your sense of hearing. This will come in handy on several occasions. First, while chatting with your co-workers will teach you a lot, over-hearing their cubicle conversations with others will teach you even more. Just remember they are most certainly returning the favor. Consider yourself warned.
    But an acute sense of hearing has far more meaningful purposes than mere office entertainment—it is your link to these two magic words: office treats. Donut Mondays, Bagel Fridays, birthday cake, Christmas cookies, and all the trans fat sprinkled in-between, it is that listening ear that is your key to being the first to know.
    So strain those ears, my friends. The essence of your very existence depends on it.

    3. Caffeine? Yes please! Will it stain your teeth? Yes. Leave you with bad breath? Mmhmm. Possibly cause stomach ulcers? You got it. However, it is time you throw caution to the wind and embrace this fact—you (yes, even you) will likely become a caffeine addict. Think of it as a right of passage.
    Don’t like the strong-and-super-crappy-office coffee? No worries. Add a few (or five) Splenda packets in that bad boy and you’re good to go. Cheers!

    4. Cardigans and keds—so hot right now. As with most things in life, survival in the workplace often hinges on wearing the proper attire. In an office, this consists of several wardrobe necessities.
    First and foremost is the cardigan. Start stocking up now, ladies, because this is one staple you can’t live without. No matter what the temperature may be outside, the cube temp is almost always guaranteed to raise those goosebumps faster than the donuts disappear from the break room. Unless you are planning on permanently planting yourself in front of a space heater, a cardigan is the way to go.

    Second, and perhaps most heartbreaking, get over your high heels (or at least be prepared to bring a change of shoes). I know what you are thinking. “I will never fall victim to the skirt and tennis shoes combo! That has my mother written all over it!” You’re right. It’s not pretty. But as painful as this fashion disaster may be, it’s a whole lot better than hobbling around the office with massive blisters because you wore your sky-high heels while walking into work. Believe me, it is not worth it.

    Note: I am not sure what the equivalent of this fashion tip would be for men. However, I do know that despite the trend, no work environment warrants the existence of the mullet. Sorry, but no.

    5. Office space. Sure, it takes a little work. Okay, a lot of work. But if you’re going to be completely surrounded by dull gray walls every day, you must throw yourself into making it the best-looking dull gray walls known in your cubicle community. So go ahead, plaster that cork board with as many photos as humanly possible. Tack up a few posters with cheesy inspirational quotes. Display that Dwight bobble head next to the Kleenex box and germ-X. And when you’re finished, lean back in that ergonomically-correct office chair of yours and swivel around in satisfaction. Welcome home.

    And finally, when all else fails…

    6. Start a blog.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I just overheard something about day-old cookies in the conference room…