Saturday, January 26, 2013

Blog Bit: Stuff My Cats Do (Part Four)

Oh, Loki.

You are probably a very normal cat, but since Thor is not a normal cat and we only have him for comparison, you seem like a very, very strange little lady cat.

I mentioned before that the cats don't typically sleep with us.  Maybe once a week.  However, apparently, even that brief amount of time spent cuddling under the covers, purring, joyful and content, has spoiled Loki to anything else.

She has gotten into the absolutely horrifying habit of pressing her tiny mouth to our (closed) door in the middle of the night, clawing at the frame and screaming something terrible.  For hours, if we let her.

Maybe we should have named her Banshee.

This is all even stranger because, when we adopted her, Loki was a very, very quiet cat.  Unlike Thor, who, as a kitten, mewed and chattered to himself ad nauseum, Loki rarely made a peep.  She didn't meow, or cry, or hiss.  She only purred like a perfectly-tuned little sportscar.  As she has grown older, she has incorporated strange sounds into her vocabulary.  She squeaks and chirps a lot, chuttering at the birds or when she is woken up. She growls and hisses violently when we trim her claws. 

And now, she cries piteously when we go to bed.  She howls.  She weeps.  She shrieks.  She has made up for those few months of silence with a torrent of shrill howls that are, of course, designed ultimately to show her affection for us.

Of course.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Silence Has Fallen

I've been quiet on the social media front lately. 

At first, it was for a very good reason: a phenomenal apostolic and prophetic conference at my church in early January caused me to do a lot of reflecting and thinking - in a good way.  I don't plan on getting into an explanation or defense of prophetic teaching at this point; suffice it to say that I got a lot of encouragement and really, some of my joy back.  I began to hope again.  The reminder that God is bigger than anything I am facing - well, that was much-needed.

But, alas, as often happens with big events and experiences, we must return to our daily (often dull) lives, and some of that sparkle fades.  Now, what I took away from the conference - renewed hope, the belief that I will someday (soon!) be a mother, and that God will provide for us - is still living in my heart.  But two weeks of continued failures on the job front, a (still) busted television, unwelcome side effects from medication, frigid weather, the challenges of a (voluntary and temporary) vegetarian lifestyle, and a general sense of apathy have combined and left me feeling a little...


I can't think of a better word than that, but anyone who's experiences what I have knows exactly what I mean when I say 'lumpy'.  I mean...kind of useless.  Unneeded.  Not depressed, exactly, not sad...but aimless.  I haven't been working on my novels.  I have been counting my calories.   The good news is, I've lost four pounds.  The bad news is...

...I'm still unemployed. 

My little sister got me a lovely insulated lunchbox for my birthday, complete with a monogram.  I haven't gotten to use it yet.

When I lost my job at Starbucks in 2008, I had an interview with Dollar Bank within 6 weeks and was back on my feet with better hours and a shorter commute (most of the time).  My move to Fenner allowed me even better hours and an even shorter commute.  I guess the only reasonable move is to work from home.  But doing what?  I've always felt iffy about earning money for my blogs.  And I am no eBay queen like my stepmum Deana is.  I thought about selling on Etsy for a while, then compared my poor scrawlings to the work available there, and realized that I am no artist - just a doodler.  I thought about selling my poetry, you know, writing original pieces upon request.  Painters do commissions; why couldn't a writer?  Still, I'm not sure there is a market for that.  Except the one dude I wrote love letters for 2 years ago.  $100 for about 11 minutes' work isn't a bad deal, I'd say.

Fortunately for me, Valentine's Day is coming up and I am in every way surrounded my unromantic males.  Maybe I can profit from this...

I mean, really.  As amazing as my cats are, I can only take 1,340 pictures of them before my phone is full.  Geez.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Real Love?

Today, I heard the statistic that a full 56% of Americans surveyed believe in the concept of "love at first sight". 

I almost threw up.

Maybe that's one the biggest problem with society today.  Maybe it's way bigger than gun control, or marriage equality, or mental disease, or religious freedom, or anything else that we can find to fight about. 

It sounds curmudgeonly to say it, but I think the very idea of "love at first sight" is complete bunk.  Poppycock.  A fable. In fact, those very words are pretty darn curmudgeonly, too, but then "curmudgeonly" is, sadly, an under-appreciated word.  Cur.  Mudge.  On.  Ly.  Curmudgeonly!  Type it - it doesn't even feel natural to the fingers, all splayed out over the keys like that.

Back on topic: sure, it's easy to be enraptured with the idea of locking eyes with an attractive stranger and being swept up in a dramatic, emotional affair.  After all, isn't that what so many bar-hoppers are looking for on Saturday nights?  Pretty sure they aren't in the market for a long-term committment - someone who will attend grandfather's funeral with them, or remember to pick up the dry cleaning after work on Thursday.  At least, not the people I know who bar-hop (or used to). Isn't that what the movies feed us, though?  Isn't that how romance novels introduce us to their "heroes"?

The problem with that concept is this: love is not a feeling.  It's not an idea.  It's a choice.  It's a decision.  I love Disney movies as much as the next girl.  Honestly.  They're pretty.  They're fun.  And full of adventure and romance and animals that talk. 

But reality?  Nope.

Well...that would include a sequel in which Cinderella develops embarrassing corns on her feet, leading to painful surgery; Aurora is given an expensive treatment for her narcolepsy that isn't covered by her insurance policy and Prince Philip needs to refinance the castle's mortgage; Ariel gets mercury poisoning from sushi; the Beast realizes that he needs anger-management classes; Belle's dreams of becoming a writer are dashed by rejections from numerous publishing houses;  Aladdin deals with self-esteem issues over marrying above his station; and Tarzan and Jane's children refuse to wear pants, inciting neighbors to call child services on them.

Kind of depressing, huh?

That's where love comes in.  Love is the decision to fight past the disappointments and remind each other about hope and better times.  Love is the promise of "we will get through this".  Love is the blessing God gave man and woman to help them survive the disasters of daily life.  Everything from burning dinner to losing a child is a tragedy in some way or another, and without love, it's pretty tough to navigate life as all those problems begin to pile up.  Even lots of "little" ones, put together, are practically insurmountable. 

Love gives us strength for the climb.  Sometimes, it gives us wings to soar above problems altogether.  But love isn't a quick fix.

That's not to say you can't fall in love quickly.  I did.  Ross proposed when we'd only been dating three months and I said 'yes' with no hesitation whatsoever.  In two days, we celebrate our three-year-anniversary.  But falling in love with someone purely by looking at them?  That's as shallow as the human race can possibly get.  "I like how you look; therefore, I want to possess you."

That's called "lust", friends.  It means 'wanting something that doesn't belong to you'.  And it's called a sin in most major religions.  Even some minor ones, I'd bet.  It's not a good thing.  Don't get me wrong.  Immediate attraction can certainly lead to healthy, mature, loving relationships.  It can open the door to love.  Desiring something that you don't have can be a way to spur us to action, to change, to another path that better defines us.

But please don't give something so fleeting and fickle as lust the huge and all-encompassing title of "love".

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Blog Bit: Stuff My Cats Do (Part Three)

The cats don't often sleep with us.  We value our own rest too much to endure the perpetual purring of Loki or Thor's grunts as he shifts position.

I go to bed.  Pretty much going to steal
 my soul, I think.
Still, every so often, and usually on the weekends, we let the little buggers curl up with us.  Thor lays on top of me, practically curling up on my neck, until he gets bored, or I move, or try to get under the blanket (Thor is only happy when we are both on top of the blanket).  Then he sighs and leaves.

Loki, on the other hand, is pretty much like that toddler who you are REALLY trying to put in her big-girl bed...but who somehow finds herself wedged between you and your hubby, making weird noises and keeping either of you from falling asleep, while she blissfully slumbers.

She has a super-creepy and borderline dangerous habit of nudging me awake, then positioning herself so that my arm is parallel with her body.  Then she licks my fingers and wraps all four paws around my arm.  My hand usually ends up nestled in her soft belly fur as she purrs, while my flesh is gently enclosed by razor-sharp talons that could pierce my very soul at any moment.

It's pretty terrifying.

So, yeah.  We don't usually sleep with our pets.  And from what I hear about kids' fingernails and sleepy-time fist-pumping, we won't be sleeping with our children, either!

Getting Even!

I guess it's all right to start the New Year with something different, isn't it?  Well, this is my first "blog-by-request" and it's a response to my friend Dawn, who wanted to know more details about S.M.A.R.T. goals, which I referenced earlier this week. 

I was never taught where the concept came from, but the process is used in many, many corporate environments.  But it certainly shouldn't be confined to big businesses, which is why I took it upon myself to teach our teenagers about it.  The basic idea is that a goal cannot be accomplished without first creating a game plan.  The acronym S.M.A.R.T. actually stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Sensitive. 

In order to better explain, let me use a common goal - one of my resolutions, in fact, and one that probably millions of Americans are probably thinking about, especially today: getting healthy!  I don't have a problem sharing my stuggles, so I'll use myself as the example.  The goal of "getting healthy" is a noble one - but doomed to fail unless it is more specific.  For a fourteen-year-old in my youth group, for example, "getting healthy" could be as simple as joining a sports team at school.  For a person recently diagnosed with cancer, "getting healthy" is a completely different vision.  So I need to create a SPECIFIC goal.  For me, losing about 35 pounds and being closer to a normal BMI for my height would be "getting healthy".  (I should note that BMI charts do not take into consideration body type, so even though a girl my height is considered "healthy" at 90 pounds, I have too many curves for that to be an ideal weight for me!  Plus I don't want to have to shop at Justice for my entire adult life.  Sheesh.)

Part of defining your goal includes how you'll realize when you have accomplished it!  This is why a goal must be MEASURABLE.  If it's too vague, you have no way of knowing you've done it.  Since I gave myself a clear-cut goal, the scale will tell me when I have reached it.  Another part of your goal being measurable includes the steps you plan in order to reach it. including actions you'll take, accountability, rewards along the way, and methods of getting back on track if you slip up.  Here's how I made my goal measurable: 1.) I downloaded an app for my phone called MyFitnessPal and it helps me track my calories.  Also, through the network, I can connect with other people trying to lose weight.  Specifically, I am trying to add female friends in the Pittsburgh area around my age, Christians if possible, so we can encourage each other along the way.  2.) I will weigh in once per week.  3.)  I will not "get down on myself" if I overeat one day, but I will also not use it as an excuse to quit.  4.) I want to lose 32 pounds by my 32nd birthday (November 15, 2013).  That gives me a very clear end in sight!

A goal is unreasonable if it's not ACHIEVABLE for you.  For example, with lots of determination and excellent planning, I am certain that a person could lose 30 pounds in just a few months, rather than almost a year.  However, I am not a determined person nor am I an excellent planner.  Giving myself more time allows me the chance to make gradual changes, which I am more likely to keep, moving forward. 

In addition, the goal has simply got to be REALISTIC.  Winning the lottery might be a great dream, but dreams and goals aren't the same!  There is nothing wrong with dreaming.  It's what makes us human and gives us ambitions and desires and imaginations.  But dreaming cannot bring anything to pass.  Unless we're talking Inception, here.  Which we're not.  Unless you know something I don't know.

Hand-in-hand with making your goal specific and measurable, it's got to be TIME-SENSITIVE.  Let's go with the weight-loss example again.  Losing 15 pounds in 15 weeks and losing the same amount of weight in 6 months would require very different plans.  Which suits your goal?

Some other things to consider when setting goals are the same thing your grade-school English teacher pounded into your brain: the five W's!

Who will help you reach your goals?  Who has already reached a similar goal?
Why is the goal important to you? 
What is your plan, and how will you stay on track?  What steps will you take?
Where will you be when you've reached your goal? 
When you rach your goal, how will you celebrate?

It sounds bookish, but once you come up with a plan, write it down - step by step.  Tell someone you trust about your goal.  Put it on facebook.  Whatever you need to do to keep yourself focused on your goal! 

Which reminds me...I should probably have my teenagers post their goals on a board we can all see - so we can all help each other achieve success!

Again, best wishes for an exciting and peaceful 2013!