The Fabulous Familiar

Taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sing and Be Happy

The past week has been a very emotional one for me. I have parted ways with two beloved friends, one who was my roommate for the past four years. Considering most celebrity marriages don't even last that long, it was quite hard to see a U-Haul drive off carrying years of memories with it.

The distraction of graduation and the chaos that surrounds it kept me an arm's length from a true emotional reaction. When I returned to the house on Sunday, however, I opened the door to find a giant space in my living room and kitchen. When I peered into the room that used to be hers, I only saw two mattresses against the wall. You can probably only imagine the cry fest that ensued. Luckily Justin (poor fellow) was there to pick me up out of the puddle of my own misery and assure me that everything was going to be okay. In between bursts of sobs, I let him know that a big chunk of my young adult life had wandered off without my consent; it was like a vapor that finally disappeared and left a gaping hole behind.

Before she moved back to Indiana, we had a karaoke party finale. Moving into the house, without any furniture to our name, we set up our karaoke system first. We invited friends to sing with us and we had a ball in this vacant house that would soon be ours. Singing "How Do I Live?" on Saturday, however, found itself to be bittersweet. How in fact do you say goodbye to the person who taught you how to change your oil, parallel park and not take yourself so seriously? Will driving around with my windows down singing country at the top of my lungs ever be as enjoyable again?

I realized that throwing yourself a pity party is always the easiest option, but that it is no way to live your life. Instead, like we did the other night, you should go out singing.

After all, I have so much to sing about.

Especially considering that sophomore year I cried to my mother claiming that I was never going to make any true friends in college; that they were all superficial and surface relationships. That is when God began to work in my life and paired me up with a very unlikely candidate.

She came from a very large family, mine was small and compact. She grew up doing hard labor, I grew up painting my toenails and writing in my diary. She knew how to change her alternator, I didn't know how to pump my own gas. We weren't friends-at-first sight. As she likes to remind me, I supposedly snubbed her during an attemped interaction freshmen year and on a sophomore mission trip my thoughts were consumed by the cute boys on the trip (that is probably accurate, unfortunately).

Yet God had a plan for us. He knew that I needed someone to guide me as I came into my own; and that she probably needed to find a passion for scarves and accessories, as well as learn to deal with girls who often cry for no good reason at all. The combination created a circus act that I wouldn't have traded for anything in the world.

Some call us sisters. Some claim we resemble an old married couple. Whichever is the case, we were a duo.

The duo may have been split by distance, but in our hearts, our friendship still remains as strong as ever.

Whenever I pick up a microphone, no matter how many years down the line, the dedication automatically goes to the girl in Indiana who understands that a karaoke machine is the only furniture you need.

And that singing is the avenue to happiness and the bond of a long-lasting friendship.

Love you Loramy Jane! Love you Ashley :) Thanks for all the memories!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Life with an iPhone

Ever since the iPhone’s release, I have adamantly turned down the offer to get one. They were too flashy, had more apps than I could possibly need and they created cell-phone addicted zombies.

One by one, members of my family began to get one. It started off with the technologically-savvy Kelsey and slowly trickled down to Dad, who upgraded from a black brick with duct tape on the back to hold the battery in place.

It was when I began to sit in on family gatherings while they playfully bantered about the latest “Words with Friends” defeat that I began to feel left out.

It was like family game night, yet I wasn’t awarded a game piece.

My mother saw this unfairness and bought one for me for graduation. People would say that opening that box and laying eyes on that shiny, black rectangle of joy is not anywhere comparable to peering into the face of your newborn in the delivery room for the first time.

I have yet to look into the face of my own baby so I am going to, for the time being, say it was fairly equivalent in initial excitement and pride.
Though I felt slightly hypocritical for buying into a device I previously scoffed at, I still promised myself that it would just be like any other phone; and would not subsequently fill up my thoughts.


It changes you.

My dad now plugs in what he eats into his iPhone calorie calculator. He plays “Words with Friends” on his bathroom breaks at school.

Whereas previous daydreams may have involved the next time I was going to eat, promotion to the job of my dreams or ways I could change the world, it now involves the next time I will be able to launch a bird via slingshot to kill green pigs for 5,000 points.

I readily await my mother’s 10 consecutive questions by way of texting so that I can work up my typing speed on the touch-screen keyboard.

Someone please check for a fever.

The funny thing is, I am way behind on this phenomenon so my amazement often elicits a “That’s so six months ago” shake of the head. At least I’ll be fairly cool until the next big thing comes out.

This device will in no way overtake my entire being; I promise. I will still communicate with the outside world and maintain friendships. That is, if you don’t mind getting beat with a 100-point, two-letter word on Words with Friends.
Otherwise, you may just find me huddled by my space heater flinging birds until I reach 3 stars.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Joyful Janitor

I apologize immensely for my lack of writing lately. I blame the usual culprits: school, work, graduation. More than anything, though, I blame a state of self-pity.

With graduation looming and unemployment with it, I have dug myself a hole and climbed in it, toting my bag of "Woe Me's" behind me. I realize that sadness and a tinge of uncertainty is normal when you are parting ways with friends and a life you have become accustomed to.

A constant looming cloud of doubt and anger, however, is not an acceptable response. But it was the one I chose. I half-heartedly filled out job applications online, knowing the whole time that I was not going to be chosen. I detached myself emotionally from friends because I knew I was about to lose them to distance.

My inspiration to take back the written word came today from an unlikely source: the janitor.

We have always had very kind janitors, but we have recently been sent a new one. He is an older man, with a Santa Clause beard and a hearty laugh. He happily talks to himself as he scampers from one area to the next with a vacuum or broom.

I was buried deep in my Corporate Strategy book when he appeared at my desk. He smiled really big and told me that his German Chocolate cake and cookies had won first place at the fair recently. I knew I should probably finish my homework problem, but something about his spirit instead caused me to recount the humorous story of the time I attempted to make a three-layer German chocolate cake myself. Before you could say "new friend," I learned that he was one of three boys and that his mother insisted that they all know how to "cook, clean and do the dishes."

As he left, he caught me off guard. He said, "Have a good day, Ashton." This parting phrase is not out of the ordinary except for the fact that I don't have a name tag or nameplate on my desk. He somehow took the time to find out what my name is and use it to make me feel special. It's something so small, yet so significant.

I don't know this man's story. I don't know if he's ever been married or if he's lost someone he loved dearly. All I know is that he has a job not many would envy, but he does it with a cheerful heart. He even remarked to me, "I'm so glad I took the janitorial position because the food service industry isn't doing so well." He is so thankful for where he is right now, yet I can't even muster thankfulness to God for the opportunity to finish my master's degree.

You see, a week or so ago, I wouldn't have even noticed him or made a correlation to my life. I would have shrugged off the silly old man who mumbles about my snack selections as he grabs my trash can.

But today, as my heart is beginning to make a turnaround, he is a lighthouse with a broom in hand, pointing me in the way of non-circumstantial joy. It's easy to be happy when things are going right; it's simple to be thankful when you feel you have been given everything you asked for.

It is in the silent times that this joy is most needed, yet those are the moments that I tend to toss it to the wayside-- only to replace it with sadness and regret.

He will probably never be aware that he blessed my life today, but I want to take this chance to let the rest of you know that you have. I realize, for those close to me, that it hasn't been the easiest time to be my supporters and confidants. I appreciate your kind words despite my pessimism and your encouragement to press on when I wanted to give up.

Consider this my new motto:

Ecclesiastes 11:9

"Be happy, young [wo]man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment."

I am young, so loved and -- most of all -- cared for by a God who is concerned for the sparrow. Why I felt that he wasn't concerned for a living, breathing, talented daughter of his is beyond me. He cares about the wellbeing of a silly bird for goodness sakes.

This isn't going to be an overnight process; years of negativity and venting aren't easy to overcome. I do see a need for a change though; a need for a constant state of thanksgiving -- thanksgiving that does not depend on specified conditions in order to take residence in my soul.

It just took a little bit of nudging from those I love; and an encounter with a sweet man who empties out more than just my leftover granola bar wrappers; with it, he helped me empty out selfishness, pride and a lack of gratitude.

And for that, I am truly thankful.