The Right Kind of Car

Back in 2009, I bought a 2005 Nissan Altima. It took me a little bit of deciding to actually bite the bullet and get it, but it turned out to be a great purchase. I drove that car around for just about a year and I never had any trouble with it at all, which was a real relief after my last few years with Bela Corolla, who I was always having to take into the shop, for brakes and new tyres and starters and back wheels falling off and leaking oil (which never did get fixed) and all kinds of things like that.

The only thing I ever had to take Brown Altima (poor car–never got a name) into the shop for was oil changes. It was great. Then I smashed it into the back of a Silverado, you may remember, and got Kermit (plausibly also called “Green Altima”).

I tend to anthropomorphise almost everything (thus the car names, for example), and I have to say it really does seem like some malignant force in the universe just took notice one day and said, “Hey! Why does she have a car that actually runs without sinking money into it? That’s just crazy. She’s supposed drive almost-lemons. Quick! Kill it!” I don’t know why there would be a rule in the universe like that, applicable to only me, but it feels like it, because in the six or so months that I’ve had Kermit, the routine is starting to feel a lot like the familiar Corolla one.

As you know, he was making weird engine noise from almost day one. He also had this weird issue where, when the engine was warm, it would take him a while to start up. I took him to my mechanics. They couldn’t find anything wrong. I took him back to the dealers. They fixed the window that was messed up, but they claimed nothing was wrong with the engine, and anyway, if it were, the check engine light would come on.

A few weeks later, the check engine light came on.

The diagnostic for the light was saying that the catalytic converter was messed up, and apparently, since the car is still (though not for much longer) under factory warranty, a Nissan dealership should have fixed it up at no charge. I took it to a Nissan dealership. They said nothing was wrong either, except a factory recall of the computer chip setting off the engine light. They reset the chip, the light went off, and I drove home. But my personal inner check engine light was still on.

Over the last month or so (besides nailing a pothole and having to replace two tyres) Kermit’s start-up troubles have been getting more extreme. And then last week the engine light re-illuminated. Great, I thought. I sure hope this is a warranty-covered issue. Like it was supposed to be the first time. I took it back to the Nissan dealership.

It was not an issue under warranty. I don’t have a buffer for these sorts of things. Why couldn’t I have just not crashed Brown Altima? I’m told I’m going to need to get my brakes redone this month, too. That may not be happening. Let’s hope I don’t crash Kermit, too . . .

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Dudes, Really?

There’s definitely a dating website “culture” of sorts. I should know. I’m part of it, evidently. There are things you can talk about with other website daters (yes, sometimes it pretty much is like just dating a website) that people who haven’t gone this route just don’t get. Kind of like when you’re single with no children and you go to a baby shower with a bunch of friends who are married with kids. You can join in the conversation, but sometimes its hard to get the in-jokes.

In case you have had little exposure to the strange and wonderful world of internet dating, here are some mostly innocuous observations. (We’ll leave the horror stories to other blogs, conversations and newspaper headlines.)

According to some of my male friends, it is customary for them to receive multiple emails a day from women from other countries, mostly looking for visas, and probably money. Apart from that, I can’t really say much about what goes on in women’s profiles because (shocker!) those aren’t the ones I’m reading. I can tell you that I personally don’t get multiple emails a day, but maybe some women do. I just can’t tell you what it is about their profiles that increases their traffic. Oddly, none of my male friends have intimated to me what profile details motivate them to get in touch with the person behind the profile in question, although I guess I could figure it out by what they say they want in theirs. I just don’t think I’m that girl, most of the time.

As for male profiles, well–listen up, guys! Here is how to get your profile to stand out in a crowd . . . at least, if you’re hoping to attract an excessively tall, intense, quirky, brainy, impractical and scatterbrained woman like this one:

1. Do not say, “Looking for a good women.” If you are, indeed, looking for multiple women, you might be on the wrong website and you might not want to employ the indefinite article a. If you just meant one woman, the singular is woman. Also, presumably most of you are looking for a good woman. And presumably most of us think we are. So . . . you can say it, but it doesn’t narrow down the field much.

2. What are you saying when you put “Drama free” in your tag-line? Are you trying to tell me that you will not break down and cry at every little thing? Or are you trying to tell me you can’t handle it if I get emotional? And if you can’t, why not? There’s “burned before” and there’s “afraid of one’s own emotions.” Probably in either case, we all need therapy. I usually assume that if I have to wonder about this, the guy in question would consider me dramatic and therefore I should steer clear.

3. The Matchmaker likes to tell me with a laugh about a woman whose profile he viewed once who put as her first qualification for a partner that he be clean-shaven. He said he thought men might be more shallow, but women are probably more open about their shallowness. This is probably because, as I do not read women’s profiles, he doesn’t read men’s. He has, therefore, never seen the profile I saw in which a man, in answer to two separate questions mentioned specific qualifications for body parts. Just because I happen to match the qualifications, did not mean I felt even remotely inclined to communicate with this person. And then there’s always Mr. Crest White Strips.

4. If you tell me you’re laid back and positive, I’m going to assume that I will feel judged and inadequate around you all the time, since I am intense and not necessarily negative, but definitely contrary. Besides, I have a sneaking suspicion “laid back and positive” are often just things people say.

5. On the other side of the coin: I totally get the self-deprecation thing (as evidenced by parts of this post). I also get the dismal feeling of having “lived” on a dating website for a large part of your adult existence. But probably screen names like “unlucky” and “tryingagainforever” and “itsgottaworkthistime” are not the best choices.

And yet, there are some great profiles out there, too. Like there was one guy who said, “I don’t believe in putting your kids before your spouse. I have seen it damage relationships. The greatest gift a man can give his kids is to love their mom 100%.” Yay! Good for him! I heartily concur and why don’t more people see that–and say it?

Or there was the guy who said, “Everybody always talks about how great they are, so how ’bout I start with some of my downsides?” Somehow the way he did this was way funnier and more upbeat than the pessimistic screennames above.

Since I’m on Christian websites these days, I like when the reference to Christian faith is overt but not too perfect. Like, “As with most people, I’ve had my time on the rollercoaster of faith, but my refuge and trust is in Jesus.” That resonates! Also, it’s way more concise than I would be.

In the end, of course, it’s all kind of a personal thing. I guarantee guys could go nuts dissecting my profiles. I’m just saying–this is stuff I’ve noticed . . . more than once. Anybody else got stories?

Escapist

(Somebody's sale item on ebay)In spite of all the lovely sentiments I wrote down a week ago, sometimes I wish I could just get “reconciled to my hermitage” and not bother with the rest of the stuff, because forgiveness and reconciliation, while supernaturally possible, are, I find, still usually also something of a long hard slog.

Ever since I used to curl myself into small spaces as a toddler in Costa Rica, I’ve rather liked the idea of tiny habitats. Ever since I got to go inside an Airstream trailer as a young child in Honduras, I’ve had something of a hankering for mobile living. You might also know that I have this sort of perpetually nagging wish to be what I call an “abridged hippie.” So maybe it’s not so surprising that this week I spent a lot of time fantasizing about purchasing a vintage 1970’s Volkswagen Vanagon (with what money? I have no idea, but I was just imagining) and driving around and . . .

“. . . selling mescaline out of it?” suggested a fellow Starbucks customer from my side of the counter when I was telling Star-becca about this travel-hankering of mine. Um, no, that wasn’t really the plan. I just want a Vanagon with a pop-top to live and travel around the Western hemisphere in. (The downside, besides having no money, is the lack of showering options, as well as the fact that it probably wouldn’t do so well with some of the weather we’ve been having lately,  but as I’ve said, I was imagining, here.) There have been all these male writers who basically lived roadtrips. Why not a female one, for once? The Matchmaker thinks I should be a truck-stop evangelist (I’m not sure how that’s supposed to happen if I’m also hypothetically supposed to be getting married, but whatever)–this would be a great way to keep “sharing Jesus” and living out some sort of vocation (whether or not it’s actually mine is debatable) while not having to commit to any community. Because, as we know, I love the idea of community, but find the practice of it a little problematic.

Then my friend Fortune’s Gale invited me to one of her folk music gigs on Friday. All I knew about this gig was that it was at a “mansion” at which there was an outdoor pool and an Indian sauna. She has invited me to this event in previous years and I have never gone, but, as I’ve just been telling you, I’ve kind of been feeling like escaping this week, so, after ascertaining that I could bring Oscar, I told her I’d go. Never mind that Friday dawned and stayed dark and stormy. I packed a swimsuit just in case the unlikely happened, and an overnight bag because Fortune’s Gale had offered her guest-room for afterwards, and my dog, and drove down through sometimes dark clouds and sometimes pelting rain.

I had thought I was running late, but when I got to the venue, Fortune’s Gale hadn’t arrived yet. I pulled into the parking lot behind the large house (I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a mansion) and sat there for a while to get my bearings. Finally we got out of the car and went through the door with the sign in front of it that said, “Music here.” It was, evidently, some sort of studio (yoga, it turned out later), with a big mirror along one wall. Not many people were in there, but they all seemed to know each other, and they all stared uncertainly at Oscar and me as we went in. I hoped Fortune’s Gale’s friend would make himself known soon, so I could validate my own presence as well as my dog’s.

Probably because of the rain, and the age of the poorly-ventilated building, the atmosphere in the studio was somewhat dank, and smelled of “all natural products.” As a would-be hippie, I have a sort of idealistic view of things like homemade soaps and cleaners and such, but I confess that some such products really do have a kind of funky smell–like decomposing flowers. That’s what it smelled like in there, and maybe some other things, and when the host finally did approach me where I sat in a tall chair at a tall table near the door, I thought I could smell yet more things.

“Hello,” he said. He was tall and thin, probably in his early fifties, with curly brown hair and wide blue eyes. At some point in my existence I might have thought he was “alt-attractive,” but when, after greeting Oscar, he remained sitting on the floor, staring at me unblinkingly with those eyes and asserting, “I am kneeling at your feet,” I just thought he was mildly alarming. This impression did not dissipate on further interchange, or even when he went off some minutes later to help the first musician set up for his set; as the musician was setting up his mics and stands, Hippie-J got down on the floor again and began doing yoga stretches and rolling around on the floor in front of the performance space.

The complex, it turned out, was not only Hippie-J’s domicile, but also a New Age therapy center; I couldn’t tell if some of the other people there were other therapists, and if they also lived there, or what, but Hippie-J certainly wanted me to know about the different therapies they offered in case I ever wanted to drive all the way down there again and avail myself of any of them. Especially his, most likely.

Gale finally arrived, and the music was great. Between the first act and Gale’s set, there was kind of an open-mic and I got to read part of a chapter of Trees in the Pavement and managed to sell two copies. Hippie-J bought one of them, so I can’t be too hard on him. In the end, I had to admit I had had fun. But I also had to admit that, if Hippie-J and his entourage were “real” hippies (and I’m pretty sure they couldn’t get much more authentic–I kept thinking things like, “I like Bob Dylan. Is this what he would act like in real life? Is this what hippies act like?”), becoming the kind of hippie I envision really will take an awful lot of abridging.

Happy (?) Birthday, Church!

Today, 49 days after Easter, is the feast-day of Pentecost in the Church calendar. This is the day we commemorate the Holy Spirit’s first coming to all followers of Jesus Christ–average Joes and Marys–instead of just specially-picked-out guys like Moses and Samson. (Yeah, really–Samson. I know, right?)

Lots of people call Pentecost the birthday of the Church. I heard someone say within the last year or so that that is not an accurate descriptor, but I can’t remember what his reasons were for this, so until I hear them again and decide they sound reasonable, I’m going with it. Happy birthday, Church!

Today is also, in Now Church, Confirmation Sunday. I grew up Baptist, and although I don’t think salvation hinges on this issue, I still and probably always will think that believer’s baptism by immersion at an “age of accountability” (i.e. when you’re old enough to make some sort of decision about this yourself–and I realise there could be some discussion/disagreement about what that is and how you determine it) is the way to go. And if you do that, there’s no need for confirmation because it’s built right in to the baptism ceremony. But I work for a church that does infant baptism and confirmation, and confirmation falls under the auspices of Christian Education, and I guess I don’t think it’s a big enough deal to start soapboxing about. If people are making a public confession of faith in and desire to follow Jesus, it’s awesome, no matter what you call the ceremony, right?

We had two young men making this confession today, and they each had somewhat older men as their mentors, and although I didn’t have a great deal to do with this process (because I didn’t need to, as the mentors were fully capable and devoted to these guys), I was excited. It’s Pentecost and two guys are getting confirmed and it’s a party!

They were all excited, too, and also a bit nervous, and on top of all that there was a lot of other stuff going on, and a lot of other people going around, and in the hubbub, it was discovered that I had not accomplished something in preparation for this day that most everybody had expected. It was due more to lack of communication on a few fronts than, say, forgetfulness or neglect, but let’s just say that a furor was caused which startled me more than I can say. Angry words were exchanged, incensed and hurt feelings were felt, and as I stormed down the hall in one direction while another person stormed away in the other, I thought wryly, “And this is Pentecost.”

Yeah. The birthday of the Church. Happy birthday, Church. Welcome, Confirmands, to your new dysfunctional family.

This is not the first time I’ve had such kind of bitter thoughts about the Church, and I know (and know of) people, both lovers of Jesus and deniers of Him, who have even bitterer thoughts about her, on a more regular basis. There are so many times when I think, “Why does the Church fight so much? And over such usually stupid stuff?” I felt like this morning was a microcosmic picture of the sin and disease which have plagued the institution Jesus called His Bride ever since He went back to the Father. (Ever wonder how an institution gets to be a Bride? Or even more, how a Bride gets to be an institution?)

But also, as I was storming down the hall, I muttered under my breath, “Help, Holy Spirit!” Because I knew, and I know, and so do the people with whom I was angry, that the Holy Spirit of God, whose coming we were observing today, doesn’t will for this kind of thing to happen in Christ’s Church. I try not to give too much credit to the other elemental spirits that wish to subvert what the Holy Spirit is doing, but every once in a while, the burst of discord is so strong and yet so senseless, that I can’t help but think something like what I thought this morning which was, “Well, wouldn’t it just be a score for the other side if anger and disharmony instead of love and celebration and unity took precedence today, of all days? Wouldn’t they just love that? That can’t happen!”

Within the next few minutes, things had calmed down to a workable level, and by the end of the morning, we had agreed that a sorting-out discussion was in order, a few days hence, but in the meantime we could still laugh and talk and joke.

And this is why I still celebrate the Church, and still fight for her, and still love my family there: because Jesus came to give forgiveness and reconciliation, not just between people and God, but between people and people. Since the Church is made up of people and we are so easily distracted by our own self-interests or blinded by our own histories and perceptions, we don’t often avail ourselves of this two-fold, life-giving, absolutely supernatural distinction that the Holy Spirit of Jesus holds out to us every day of our lives. But we can. Forgiveness can happen anywhere in the world, but I truly believe that real forgiveness is only supernaturally obtained, and that, as the supreme expression of it, Jesus Himself, by His Holy Spirit, is the one who grows it in us–even gives us the ability to want it rather than retaliation.

The thing about forgiveness and reconciliation, though, is that they necessitate community. You have to forgive and be forgiven by somebody, and you don’t get reconciled to your hermitage. It’s a good thing they’re supernatural, because I don’t know that I would continue to be motivated to face the hard slog of daily (or at least weekly) community with a bunch of forgiven sinners who are so often distracted from their Lord and their vision as I am. But this is what we commit to when we commit to following Christ–we commit to following Him along with all the other pilgrims, past, present and future, local and further afield, and most often, I believe, this following simply means forgiving and forgiving and forgiving, being forgiven and being forgiven and being forgiven, by our fellow travelers closest to us at any point and time along the trail.

Drizzly and cold out, it still ended up being a beautiful day. The confirmands and the mentors looked great and did a great job expressing what they needed to express in the service. There was joy on many faces. Including, I hope, mine. After all, we were celebrating the reconciling Holy Spirit’s coming, and the birthday of the Church.

 

Pearly Yellows

There comes a time in the life of every dating website membership when you decide to narrow down your options or they decide to narrow themselves down for you, or sometimes a little of both. I’m pretty much at that point with both of my memberships right now, so I was sort of surprised about a week ago when the notification in my inbox told me I had mail at one of them.

Intrigued, I clicked on the link. The mail, it turned out, was from a white-haired guy between the ages of 55 and 60, who lives in Hawaii. He was certainly dashing-looking, but I have to say my first thought was, Seriously? 60 and in Hawaii?

Then I read the email. The subject line said, “TIP.” The body of the letter said, “CREST WHITE STRIPS.” That was all.

I used to be the kind of person who took absolutely every little thing personally–even the things you wouldn’t think were possible to take personally–and usually I would cry or get defensive about them at some point, or cry while getting defensive. Within the last six months, mercifully, God and I have been working hard on that (well, and mostly God kindly answered a really serious prayer about it), so that now, even if I might still take personally more stuff than necessary, it’s not as personally, and I hardly ever cry about it anymore. Thus, although the email took me aback, I rolled my eyes at it and then, instead of replying to the sender with a long and detailed description about how White Strips make me gag and then sick, I simply deleted it.

Clearly though, since I am writing a blog post about it more than a week later, I’m still thinking about it. Here are some of the things I’m thinking:

Are my teeth that bad? Okay, so I drink coffee and tea on a regular basis, and red wine on an occasional basis, so it’s pretty much impossible that my teeth would be naturally pristinely white. Yes, I guess I’ll come right out and say it–they’re yellow. There was a while where my mom was also getting on my case about whitening my teeth. Was this another instance of her being (gasp!) right? On the other hand, I still have all of my teeth, and they’re in very good shape. (Yes, I do have an artificial one, but the real one got knocked out when I was seven, so are we really going to quibble? And a note about that one. If I were able to use white strips without becoming ill, the fake tooth would remain yellow, and then I would have this nice glaring fake tooth for you to look at when I smiled. How would you like that?) On the third hand, I was going to talk to some friends about this at a party the other night and then noticed that both of them had very white teeth. They probably use Crest White Strips. I know they Zumba. I suddenly felt very frumpy and decided . . . not to tell them this story.

Is this why I don’t get more “winks” and “sparks” and “messages”? Here I thought it was because I described my personality type as “intense.” Really. Are guys looking at my profile and saying, “Well, she’d be okay but she’s intense and she has yellow teeth”? Maybe they’re all more polite than Mr. White-Haired Hawaii. He probably thought he was doing me a favour. Was he? I don’t know, but even though random Starbucks customers used to come up to me and say, “You have such a great smile,” and the guys who do make contact on these sites regularly say, “I love your smile,” somehow because I got one email from one guy approaching elderly, on the other side of the world, whose sole insight about me consisted of being able to divine from three small photos that my teeth might not be as white as Julia Roberts’, I feel like I have this major flaw to overcome which is limiting all of my romantic options. It’s overflowing into how I feel about the rest of my appearance.

It’s getting into my subconscious, too. I recently had a conversation with a friend about ideals. “Well yeah,” he said, “Everybody has ideals. I mean, every Christian guy wants a supermodel who loves Jesus and will crank out as many children as he wants, but I’ve never met anybody like that. Everybody has a dark underbelly. You just have to decide what kind of dark underbelly you can live with, and they have to decide if they can live with your dark underbelly.” He said the word underbelly so many times in the same sentence that it started to make me uncomfortable (underbelly makes me think of dragons, and belly just sounds kind of risque to me, and is there such thing as an overbelly?). Also, they do? All of them? I was not a fan of what he said about supermodels.

I’m pretty sure he was trying to say that no one person embodies every trait that a person thinks they want in a mate, but what my subconscious did with that conversation (and Crest White Strips, probably) was give me a dream last night that I was dating some guy I’ve never seen before (and trust I shall not see again) who made it a point to tell me on a daily basis that really he thought I was ugly but that my personality was okay and he probably wasn’t going to do any better.

To top it all off, this week I also got an offer from Trubates for

$59 for $157 Deluxe Home Teeth Whitening Kit + Touch-Up Whitening Pen at My Life My Smile

I have less than $0 right now, but I do have a credit card that isn’t going away any time soon. Should I invest? Whitening my teeth will surely solve all my problems. Right?

Tornado

Wednesday was sunny and hot hot hot, and I was driving to work later than usual because I could, on the highway, from one end of Our Fair City to the other. At about the halfway mark there is brand-new digital signage for one of the many institutes of higher learning, and, due to things like trees and other obstructions, as I approached at first the only word I could see on there that morning was Tornadoes.

This is not very unusual for that particular spot, even though tornadoes are, because Our Fair City hosts a baseball farm team of that name. I’ve got to be honest, though. After the weather disasters in places like Tennessee and Missouri this year, the baseball team was not the first thing that came to mind when I saw that sign.

After Tennessee and Missouri came to mind as I carried on my way to work, my thoughts went something like this:

After a year like this one, what a dumb name for a team . . . Not that anyone was anticipating a year like this one when they named the team . . . Because we never have tornadoes out here . . . I wonder why teams try to come up with ferocious or scary things as mascots . . . they’re not opposing knights or anything anymore . . . But tornadoes? We don’t even have those out here . . . They should have called the team ‘The Nor’Easters” . . . except probably someone would have objected because the word Easter is in there . . . Tornadoes is just random . . . I bet we’re going to have a tornado.

(In case your wondering if my brain normally sounds like that, the answer is yes.)

Sometime in the early afternoon, the Man With the Eyebrow of Truth (long story–just go with it) texted me, “yay tornado watch!” Since I couldn’t view the eyebrow in question (and for the record, he has two, not one, but only one of them seems to be the truthteller), I couldn’t ascertain if the “yay” was sincere or sarcastic. I certainly didn’t feel any sort of yay about it, but I did think, What? Weird.

Apparently the Man with the Eyebrow of Truth had a nice sunny evening up where he lives, but by the time I was driving home, the sky was that impossible slate colour which is always what I imagine it to have looked like when everything went dark on Good Friday, and rain was pelting out of it like it couldn’t get to the ground fast enough, and then hail started pelting, and it sounded like I was driving a tin can and one of the hailstones was going to puncture through. I ended up pulling over about two thirds of the way home and waiting in a CVS with Oscar in hopes of avoiding the wind-monster’s path; all reports had it touching down very near my town, if not even my house.

In the end, the morning dawned and nothing around my house looked like much had happened except a lot of rain. But other people did not fare so well, and even though the casualties and destruction were nothing like people experienced Down South, still, they were casualties and destruction for the people who experienced it, and numbers don’t really matter a whole lot when you’re a person touched by it.

I’m not really one to change all the masculine references in old hymns to more gender neutral ones to make them more politically correct, nor am I into censoring fairy tales (although some of the older censorships make for delightful stories). But I’m still feeling a little weird about the name of that baseball team.