Yes, this is a post. No, it’s probably not worth reading.

So now that I’m not taking the metro to work anymore, I no longer have the fallback post I always resorted to: metro. Whether it was crazy people on metro, or a general diatribe against public transportation and all its evils, I always had something I could write about. Now I’m a driving commuter, and who wants to read a rant on DC traffic? Okay, maybe three people do, but I don’t want to write it.

I have been having a fascinating conversation with some friends revolving around the Big Question of Our Times: can men and women be “just” friends? At some point, I may decide I feel like spending half an hour with the topic and I’ll post something. Until then, I leave you with the question.

Another question on the man/woman front: how do you, my dear readers, feel about blind dates? I find myself faced with my second (2nd) offer this year to be set up on one, and I admit it leaves me feeling a little cynical. My proven track record aside, I react to the offers with some resentment and a lot of embarrassment. You don’t think I can get a date on my own? I want to ask with all sorts of righteous indignation. Only the indignation isn’t righteous at all, really. Clearly I can’t, and maybe this is the way it has to be, but the shattering of all my long-held illusions leaves me feeling a little flat.

And finally, related neither to men nor dating, I realize I’ve once again fallen into the terrible habit of not cooking. I buy the same items from the grocery store every time, and I eat the same meals every day, and I’m bored and lacking in certain essential nutrients. Maybe some of my local friends would be up for a weekly cooking date, where we hang out and prep meals for the coming week. We could even do swaps at that point. I’ll make lasagna, you make chicken, and we’ll split and freeze. I’m half kidding, but would love to hear if you’ve developed a system that works and allows you to try new foods without taking up your whole weekend.

This concludes today’s disjointed ramblings. Next time, a real post. I promise hope.

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As promised …

At this point, reader, you have probably forgotten both that I went to Jamaica earlier this summer, and that I promised to write about it. I have not forgotten. I have, in fact, started at least four posts on the trip, and I’ve deleted every one about three lines in, with exasperated sighs and much eye-rolling. I guess one reason why I haven’t been able to write about it is that I can’t remember (or describe) the trip as a cohesive whole; I remember it in pieces, like snapshots, and the best I will ever be able to do is assemble them in some jumbled sort of order for other people to squint at and try to make sense of.

The first moments, flying in low over the mountains into Kingston, an endless, rolling line of green mountains that look soft to the touch, and here and there a large white house and smoke drifting up into the sky. A woman behind me, frantic with excitement, just kept saying over and over, “Pretty. So pretty.” On the tarmac, waiting for the aisles to clear, I watched the cleaning crew assemble beneath the plane’s wings, half a dozen young people all laughing and dancing with their mops and buckets.

We slept beneath mosquito nets and listened to barking dogs and the odd siren out on the Kingston streets.

My first morning, my first “work,” the brothers sent me to their home for sick and orphaned children. I was so afraid and so ashamed of being afraid. A small boy in a stained T-shirt sidled up and put his arms around me before I’d even made it through the door. The tiled floors echoed the assorted sounds of children laughing and crying and adults talking and laughing and the constant sound of music. It stank. The whole house smelled of urine and sweat and spicy food.

One little girl who couldn’t walk or even leave her bed sat and held my hand and bounced up and down and up down to some song only she could hear. Another lay very still and hardly seemed to notice what went on around her, but she smiled whenever she heard her name.

Another day a sweet teenage girl with Down syndrome twirled me ’round and ’round in a crazy dance. When I tried to stop, she’d only shake her head and laugh, and we’d dance even harder.

Of course, the inevitable Great Guy among my fellow volunteers, who sat next to me once during mass and talked to me another time for a few short minutes. Then I went away to my day’s work and a three-day retreat, and he went off to his work and an early flight home, and that was most emphatically that. God, I mused often over the course of that long week, has such a mean sense of humor.

There were long afternoon moments spent sitting in doorways, waiting for a cross breeze, letting the empty moments drift by. Sometimes the emptiness of those moments scared me. I’ve never known leisure like that, where I couldn’t put some kind of work or activity or something into the stillness if I really wanted to. This was rest, and it was frightening.

And of course, in each center, the brothers–in their bright white habits, their blue scapulars, the gentle clinking of their rosaries and their shy smiles… The quiet shuffle of feet coming in to morning prayer… the sweet restfulness of vespers… above all, the steady reassurance of the red sanctuary lamp.

I went there to serve. Maybe in my pride I wanted to do something great, though I swore I knew better. Maybe I had questions and wanted answers. To be honest, I’m not really sure. All I know is I came away knowing as I have never known before that I am so terribly small. And I got to see as I have never seen before how Christ works through that, regardless. All he needs or wants is a pair of feet willing to go when and where he asks, and a pair of hands that he can use as he needs them. I certainly didn’t change any lives performing my few small tasks over a few short days. I doubt even the good brothers remember me, dealing as they do with a constant flow of volunteers from around the world. But I know I came away a little bit better. And while I can’t put most of it into words or write a decent blog post about it, it’s another something I can tuck away with my other life-changing experiences, and hopefully continue to grow from it as I reflect on it through the coming years.

Maybe it won’t take me two months to finally get around to writing about my next life-changing experience. But I’m not holding my breath…

True confessions of an awkward wedding attendee

“You go to a lot of weddings,” a friend of mine commented on Friday night, after I announced that my Saturday would be taken up with attending a wedding about an hour and a half away.

I was glad to hear someone else say it–I feel like I go to a lot of weddings, but I have always assumed it was in my head. Isn’t it normal to go to at least five weddings in a summer? At least at this age? It really depends on the year, of course, but as I head into the latter part of my twenties, I do find the weddings have begun to pick up. And it’s a beautiful thing. I love seeing my friends settle into their vocations, love seeing the look of restful joy that comes over them when they finally take that step, love hearing the brides’ voices waver as they say their vows. I particularly love wedding ceremonies. There’s nothing quite like a nuptial Mass to make you ponder the goodness of God and the mystery of human love.

But I’m going to admit out loud that aside from the Mass, weddings aren’t my favorite things.

I’m really, really bad at them.

First of all, I never have a gift. I am the worst gift-giver in the world, because I really want the gifts I give to mean something, and until I find the “perfect” thing, I just won’t give anything at all. More than anything, I hate compulsory gift-buying and I loathe wedding registries. What this means is I show up to every wedding empty handed, and about a year and a half later I send along something that doubles as a wedding gift and a “congratulations on your first kid turning 6 months old” gift. I don’t see myself pulling out of this bad habit any time soon, but I still feel awkward about it. I’m always convinced in my deepest soul that even if the bride doesn’t notice, her mother will…

I also always struggle with what to wear. “Wedding attire” has become such a fluid concept these days. Long dress? Church dress? Slightly nicer-than-Sunday-Mass church dress? Shoes? Don’t wear white, you detract from the bride, but don’t wear black, it’s bad luck…make sure you don’t match the bridesmaids…Whatever I put on, it’s a gamble. Men, you probably don’t get this, but ladies, back me up: figuring out what the heck to wear to a wedding is some stressful business!

And after yesterday’s wedding, I discovered another reason why I always feel a bit off-kilter at weddings (especially wedding receptions). You see, I’ve never been much of a “group” person, and especially in college, I tended to befriend random individuals from all sorts of groups and backgrounds. This makes for some amazing and very diverse friendships, but it also means I end up getting invited to weddings alone, and I spend the whole time basically alone, because the only person I’m close to is…the bride. The bride, the focal point of the day, who has to be available for pictures and conversations with distant relatives and old family friends, and beyond all that is incredibly distracted by the fact that she’s just gotten married. I always struggle with figuring out the best way to show her I love her by being present, without being that awkward person who sits alone in the corner for hours and hours. My modus operandi for the past several years has been this: show up at the reception site, find my seat, make stilted conversation with the people on either side of me, as soon as toasts are finished make a beeline for the bride, give her a big hug, then grab my purse, sign the guest book, and leave. I’m usually out before the cake.

But yesterday I didn’t even do that. I attended the Mass and then…I ran away.

Is that bad? In my defense, the reception site moved and apparently the time got pushed back, and by the time I got out of church the bridal party had entirely disappeared (I guess they picked an off-site location for pictures). So I decided I’d just head home and send along a loving letter of congratulations later. But I admit I’m still worried by a nagging doubt, that perhaps I was rude, that I might have hurt the bride’s feelings, that it was, quite simply, poor form.

I don’t know, my fellow single wedding-going friends. How do you handle weddings, especially when you have to go alone? What’s proper protocol when you’re really not close to a single person there, when you feel out of your depth? I only have one more wedding this year, and fortunately I’ll be going with several good friends. But other weddings like yesterday’s are bound to come up in the future, and I want to be ready for them.

 

 

Sorry for the silence…

Starting a new job feels a lot like going to the orthodontist to get your braces tightened. The end result will be quite nice I’m sure, but for the time being I need a strong dose of Ibuprofen and a bowl of vanilla ice cream.
(I may be exaggerating a little.)

Either way, sorry for the dearth of posts. It will continue for the next few weeks while I get my feet on the ground, but never fear: we’ll be back up and running in no time.

And I’m still working on a new design concept. I admit it’s very much in the seedling stages (i.e., only in my brain), but it’s coming along quite nicely.