Excuse me while I cry into my matronly cardigan...

A conversation held over microwavable lunches:

Me: ...so anyway, I think we can all agree that a place is really not a true breakfast establishment unless they have a variety of flavored syrups. Obviously. I mean, come on, Denny's, who are you kidding?!
My Brutally Honest Friend: Totally. Wait a second--[points to the curiously foamy orange liquid I was currently pouring down my throat with a face of utter disdain]--what is that?
Me: [after un-pinching my nostrils and attempting to regain composure] What? This? Oh it's Airborne. I know, I know...it's just a scam and really just pumps your body full of Vitamin C...blahblahblah...whatever. All I know is that I'm popping these tablets like candy because I cannot afford to get sick--I must see my B-F-F this weekend!
MBHF: Mmmhmm...yeah...ooh! I like your earrings!
Me: Oh! Thanks!
MBHF: Yeah, it goes with your office-y attire. You are becoming quite the office lady these days, by the way.
Me: Whoa...what? Why? Because I'm wearing a cardigan?! I mean, I'm sorry, but it gets drafty in this place!
MBHF: Well, that and you just seem to have embraced it as part of...I don't know...your identity.
Me: [in a horrified whisper] My...identity?
MBHF: Yeah! I mean, your earrings, for instance. I really like them. But they are so...office like.
MBHF: I don't know exactly. It's more than the earrings. It's like you have entered a whole new phase of life.
Me: What phase? The middle-aged, I-wear-my-keds-with-my-pencil-skirt phase?! Because I am SO NOT THERE (yet).
MBHF: No, no, no. It's not a bad thing--
Me: Excuse me, but I fail to see how being FRUMPY is not a bad thing!
MBHF: Oh you aren't frumpy! You look polished but...comfortable.
Me: Great...every woman's dream...
MBHF: Anyway, it's not just your wardrobe. It's more...a bunch of little things that reflects you are adapting to this place. This time. This new season of life.
Me: [crisply] Like what?
MBHF: Like...the fact that every time I eat lunch with you, you have the perfect office lunch. Microwavable soup. Or salads in your Tupperware containers--
Me: --It's just I have to pack it every day and these soup bowls are so convenient!--
MBHF: --And you carry around your water bottle. Everywhere. And have your own coffee cup--
Me: Um actually, I have four. Four. FOUR FREAKING COFFEE MUGS OKAY?! And if you want to know the truth, I even have my own creamer in the mini fridge...LABELED IN PERMANENT MARKER! Oh my gosh. This is depressing.
MBHF: And I mean, hello, you are drinking Airborne at lunch!!! Yep. Definitely an office lady.
Me: [mouth drops open in protest then promptly closes as I see my clipped ID badge hanging smugly from my cardigan] Crap.

And so, if anyone needs me, I will be raiding the office fridge in search of leftover cake from last week's retirement party. That is, right after I remove the highlighter stain from my blouse...with my own personal Tide-to-Go pen.

Lord help me.


(Cue Mariah Carey here)

So, I know the discussion of heroes is not an entirely fresh idea but this article certainly made me pause.

For those of you who hate to read links (this is me judging you), here's the basic gist:

According to a recent Harris Poll, Americans ranked this guy as their number one hero--followed by this guy and this guy. Hmmmm....

Also, check out the list of those who dropped in rank over the years. Personally, I'm disappointed she has fallen. Your thoughts?

Finally, for those of you who do not get the title, I offer you this and a big "Where the crap WERE you in 1993?!"


*image credit: http://tinyurl.com/bvhgmb


Cushy pews

I am taking a class on American culture this semester and the past two weeks, we have been discussing B. Traven's The Death Ship.

This politically charged novel tells the story of an American sailor suddenly left stateless as his ship leaves him stranded in a Belgian port without any form of identification and according to society, without any identity at all.

Traven tackles larger issues of patriotism, nationalism, capitalism, and many other -isms that make it well worth a read.

But the statements that stuck out to me most regarded the role of Christianity among a society of bureaucratic systems.

Traven's harsh criticisms were penned in 1934, but unfortunately, I think his words still strike a chord of truth today (emphasis mine):

"Each protects his own kind. Internationalism is just a word that sounds fine from a soap-box. Nobody ever means it...That's why we call ourselves Christians--because we love our neighbors dearly; so let them go to hell or heaven, wherever they want to, so long as they don't try to eat their daily bread with us" (34).


"One must not expect clean speech from a man compelled to live in filth and always overtired and usually hungry. Well fed, and sitting in a deep soft seat in an Episcopalian church, it is a godly pleasure to listen to a high-powered sermon about the wickedness of an ever unsatisfied working-class. Make all the wicked sailors and restless workers, after a good meal, sit in the same soft seats, and they will listen with the same joy as do the others to the sermon about the lost proletarians who won't believe in God or heaven" (198).


"Money is always useful, no matter how you make it. The point is to have it. As long as you have it, no minister will ever ask you where and how you got it; just rent, or better buy, a church seat, and pay something for the missions in China" (289).


A second chance

I was having one of those days.

You know, one of those suddenly-your-world-is-reeling-and-you-wonder-if-everything-you-do-is-meaningless kind of days.

I found myself staring at my computer, taking deep breaths and willing myself to think good thoughts. Instead, I felt a rising panic-mixed-with-frustration welling up inside of me and threatening to explode.

I took a deep breath in...a deep breath out...and promptly grabbed my wallet for an emergency Diet Dr. Pepper run (because I can no longer in good conscience drink my old standby since the company is morally disgusting).

As I trudged across the street to the vending machine, my thoughts raced.

What am I doing with my life anyway? Where am I going? I have no direction. None. Am I wasting my life away? Oh crap. I'm wasting my life away! ...Don'tfreakoutdon'tfreakoutdon'tfreakout I'M FREAKING OUT...Why am I making a big deal about this? I mean, sure, I'd love to do something "worthwhile" and "meaningful" and "pursue world peace" blahblahblah, but let's be honest. Can I really do anything beneficial from my little windowless cubicle in Kansas? Ugh. Such a Debbie Downer...Maybe I just need some caffeine. That's it. Okay caffeine and maybe some chocolate. Okay caffeine and DEFINITELY some chocolate...and then maybe--

"'S'cuse me, does anybody have a few quarters to spare?"

Startled, I looked up.

A middle-aged woman slouched unassumingly before me in the entrance of the cafeteria, a shabby black duffel bag slung over her shoulders.

"I just was needing some food is all," she said apologetically.

I glanced around.

Streams of people were milling about in all directions. Heads down. Arms crossed. Eyes anywhere but on her.

"Hmm-mmm, nope, no change," said the woman to my left, her heels clicking confidently as she strode away.

"Uhhh, no. Nope. Sorry," a gruff bearded man replied and ambled down the hall.

She looked at me.

Without thinking, I began shaking my head sympathetically and stepped closer to the vending area.

Mid-step, by face flushed with shame.

For while my purse was empty, in my hand I tightly held one crisp dollar bill.

I tried to argue with myself.

But this is the only dollar I have! And I have had such a crappy day...the caffeine is so close I can almost taste it! I must have it! Lord knows I deserve it!

And I mean, how am I supposed to know what she will really spend this on? Sure, I would love to sit with her and buy her some food and hear about her life. But I need to get back to work! And if I just gave this money to her, well, she could take it and spend it on anything! It could very well be contributing to some vicious cycle! So really, I'd be part of the problem.

And anyway, it's just a dollar! One measly dollar. It wouldn't do much. I'm sure someone else will help her.

Then I recalled the countless conversations I had this past year about social justice. I remembered the passion and vigor with which we had all proclaimed our dedication to working towards this greater good. I heard the sermons echoing in my head about living for "the least of these."

And then I saw the face of the weathered man begging for change who I pass every Tuesday on my way to class. And I remembered all too quickly that icky, squirmy feeling I always got when I was stuck at the red light for too long. And he'd look at me. And I'd look anywhere but at him. And then drive away as quickly as possible.

And as I stood staring at the dollar squeezed in my clenched fist, something finally connected.

This moment--this tiny speck of a segment in time--I had a choice.

I could choose to see the woman in front of me. I could choose to recognize her presence and value her life as much--or maybe someday, even more--than my own. I could choose to believe that we truly are equal. I could choose to see her humanity.

Or, I could choose to walk away. I could choose to dismiss her, to write her off, to give myself the freedom of excuses. To snuggle into a cocoon of ambivalence or perhaps even resentment towards those in need. I could choose myself above all.

I dashed breathlessly into the hallway, searching frantically, desperately for this hungry woman. I saw no one.

Crestfallen, I turned to walk away when suddenly, I saw her shuffling slowly around the cafeteria.

And as I met her gaze, my fingers slowly uncurled into a small, uncertain wave.

Note: I want to be clear that I do not believe giving money is the best answer in combating tough world issues. However, I do believe that our eyes are closed to the small ways in which we can make a positive impact on the world around us even in our day to day life. For me, this was one of those times.