Friday, September 30, 2005

Middle America is Facinating.

(Note: I’ve written some stuff over the past couple of days – flying home, funeral, etc. I’m skipping ahead to today. I might go back to the last few days soon.)

Day Two of being back in the Motherland. Everytime I’ve come back to Missouri the last five years, it’s always been a welcome novelty, and it’s always felt like coming home, even back to St Louis which has never really been my home. This time feels different, though. The only reasons I can pin-down are 1) that last time I flew back to Edinburgh, it felt equally like coming home, and 2) this time, I’d booked a plane ticket at 12:30am, and was on a plane 12 hours later, leaving less time look forward to it, and no time to idealize “homecoming”. Add the fact that this time, it's coming home to say goodbye to Grandpa and hello to relatives I haven’t seen for 15 years. In all, it’s just very different.


Drove back to St. Louis from Kansas City, get in at midnight. The garage door opener (The House Key of the Millenium) has gone missing from the “secret hiding place”, so Grant climbs in his bedroom window to let us in the house (Mom and Dave are still in KC with Grandma).

Mmm. Home, and I feel so safe.

Turn on our American-sized TV Of 200 Channels, to happily find The Daily Show is on. If there’s one thing a girl can count on, it’s the enduring hilarity of The Daily Show. And it's so informative. Tom DeLay has been indited, apparently, and a couple of hurricanes recently caused some trouble.

Once again, condiments outnumber actual food in our house, 4-to-1. The condiments are winning.

The dog is still old, cute, and slightly smelly. The cat is still old, cranky, and refuses to even try to be cute. I like them both this way.

After The Daily Show and some unfunny awkward show with Adam Corolla, I fall into a bed that has never been mine, in the “guest” room.

(Tuesday, or, "The Day of Caffination")

There are a few things that always, always must be done upon arrival back in St Louis – Arby’s, Taco Bell, Borders, and favorite Starbucks. Today is that day. But then, so will several other day in the next few weeks.

Wake up late morning to the sound of loud machine – a carpet cleaner, thanks to cute old (senile) dog mistaking the master bedroom for The Great Outdoors. Thankfully, Sharon (the family business’ secretary) took care of letting the cleaner in.
I take a shower, (aaahhh…I’d forgotten how great the shower was) and come out of the bathroom to excited “HEY!!!” from at least two fuzzy blobs in the living room. (I didn’t have my glasses on.) I assume one is Sharon. I have no idea which one.

One of the blobs comes rushing towards me. “I’ve been waitin to meet you FOR-EV-A! At least 25 YEARS!” It is, apparently, Chris Rock.

“That’s funny, since I’m only 23!” I join in the Chorus of Exclaimations from my new short African-American friend. Chris Rock hugs me, and introduces himself as Michael, a good friend of Mom and Dave’s from the bowling league on Monday nights, and the man cleaning the carpet. (I guess Chris Rock must be his stage name.) Chris/Mike makes more exclaimations about how much he’s heard about me, and how pretty I am and how much I look like my mother and how great and funny and nutty she is, etc. I apologize for my not-so-minty-fresh breath, having not yet brushed my teeth. He says it’s not a problem, since he’s got coffee breath. ( And all this time, I too Mr. Rock for a “Foty of BUD”/ Cristal kinda guy. And all this time he’s actually a coffee-swiggin carpet cleaner.) I tell him I need to get my glasses, because I can’t see a thing. “I’m a seven-foot tall white guy!” says ChrisMike. Chris, along with Jon Stewart, is still funny, particularly since he’s about 5-ft-tall and not-at-all Caucasian.

Throw my hair in a ponytail and grab the keys. Sharon and Mike Rock wave goodbye at the porch, as if I’m being shipped to the Middle East.

Chris shouts that he’s-a-gonna come visit me in Scotland, and I’m-a-gonna show him around. I would, of course, because I like to be associated with famous people. And that way, I can talk to him about my one-woman comedy revue, “White Girls Can Like Collard Greens Too!”.

It’s a BEAUTIFUL day today. The kind that Scotland only gets in August, when it’s being ruined by the Festival anyway.

Enjoy the drive to Borders (with a stop for lunch at Arby's), where I make my rounds for reads (Wittenburg Door, Entertainment Weekly, Paste Magazine, etc), order a Pumpkin Chai, sit in the sun in the café and catch up on American culture.

I leave a few hours later, with a $3 copy of Best American Short Stories (2002) from the Bargain Bin, and some Burt's Bees Lip Balm, which my poor lips have missed.

More driving, more singing along to Alison Krauss with the windows rolled down. Purposefully head to a Starbucks further away, one of my favorites, which looks like an old house, complete with rickety porch.

Stop for new pencils and a lighter at 7-11. “Are you 18?” I get asked, for the second time in two days. Seriously….What? Do I look 17? (When this happened yesterday, Mom was sure it was only because the cashier wanted a date. He didn’t ask for one though, so apparently that guy only dates under-18s. Pretty creepy, since he looked about 35.)

And there was more stuff after that, but….I’ll write about that later. I’m tired now.

It’s good to see you guys here again. Thanks for sticking around while I’ve been gone.


Michaela @5:50 AM :: Comment

Saturday, September 24, 2005

I'm sure you understand.

Well hey folks, it's Michaela again. (I don't know who this Micaela person is that people keep asking for.)

Here's the deal.

Many of you know all this, many of you don't.

I'm really glad you miss me and all. Really. Thank you, and I appreciate the love. But my friends here have been doing me a big favor, filling in for me here at TBM. This has been the hardest month I've had in a very long time, and the last 24-hours have been the hardest 24 hours I've had in a long time. (And I've had a lot of crappy experiences before.)

In the past month, Peter and I broke up - which immediately sends the rest of my life (staying in Scotland, jobs, etc) as it is into a spin, for a variety of reasons. I still have a lot of decisions to make, about what to do and where to go and when. I haven't been able to get a temp job since getting my visa a month ago, and I have very large bills to pay.

In addition, my family learned that my grandfather had stage four cancer, and my grandmother almost died from other illnesses. All this and I'm still in Scotland.

In the last 24 hours, I (effectively) have lost two of my best friends, and I got a call to say my grandfather has passed away. And we aren't sure if there is enough money to fly me home right now.

So please excuse me if I don't feel up to blogging right now, and my friends have been wonderful to keep this place running with both the silly (animals, farts, and face masks), the not-so-silly (death, marriage, and reconciliation). I hope to come back here again soon, but I can't really make any promises either.

And seriously, folks. It's MicHaela.

And the duct tape is coming in useful for holding me together right now.

Michaela @7:14 PM :: Comment

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

(Hi, it's Kari again!)

In the past few days, I've had a couple of different reasons to go back and look at some of my old writing, mostly old journals. I was looking for insight about a particular situation, one that has gotten surprisingly complicated in the past week. It's interesting to see how, even though I am still dealing with many of the same things that I have been dealing with for years, my responses are markedly different. I'm glad to report that I'm not nearly as passionate about things as I was four to six years ago (read: I use fewer exclamation marks), that I'm more patient and less impetuous. I don't panic quite as much as I used to. The flip side of this, I suppose, is that I'm less sure about things than I was, less sure about what my responses should be, less confident that I know how my friends and acquaintances will react to me. I have always been someone who tried to make amends as quickly as possible, and while I would still say that I am usually quick to recognize my own mistakes in relationships and apologize for them, Mike pointed out that I seem to have learned that reconciliation is one of those things that can't be rushed or forced.

Reconciliation is a weighty topic, one that has meant different things at different times in my life. In high school, my church talked about racial reconciliation and I thought a lot about my own prejudices and tried to make changes. In college, my IV chapter took up the subject, which I found frustrating at times, because it seemed that the leaders were assuming I had never thought the issue through before. As I was getting married, reconciliation meant, "What do we do to get Mike's parents to like me and agree to come to our wedding?" By that definition, we remain unreconciled to this day. Since then, the definition has moved to a realization that even if all the parties involved are Christians (or believe themselves to be), being reconciled doesn't mean that we have to be friends. In fact, in some cases, I think reconciliation means admitting that you just can't be friends. That doesn't mean you don't give it a strong effort, or that you are allowed to trash people behind their backs, but understanding that there are times when it's best for both parties to let things be.

I say that as if I woke up one morning and found these things to be easy, but that's not the case at all. I desperately want people to like me. I desperately want to be understood. And so learning about reconciliation has also meant learning that people won't always like me and won't always understand what I am thinking or feeling. In a way, I've had to become reconciled to myself, to accept that I am the way that I am, and while I am (hopefully) learning and growing and changing, some people aren't going to respond like I had hoped. But that I am still okay the way I am.

It makes me wonder what the next lesson about reconciliation will be. I would give a lot to be able to believe again that it's easy for Christians to be reconciled, that God can help them see each other's points of view, that their rough edges and sensitive hearts don't have to mean that they can't be friends. Maybe I will be able to believe that again, that miracles like that do occasionally happen. Maybe I'll get to a place where I won't worry as much about my own feelings, but instead focus on the feelings of others. Maybe I'll be less self-conscious, which would make it easier for me not to get as defensive as I do. More likely, it'll be something I can't even comprehend at this point, something I never even considered before.

I'm a pretty cynical person when it comes to a lot of this stuff. It's hard for me to speculate and be hopeful. But I am going to try to hope. To believe in reconciliation, even when it seems impossibly naive. To keep learning how to be comfortable in my own skin. And to trust that hope does not disappoint us, even when reconciliation seems a long way away.

Kari @11:19 AM :: Comment

Friday, September 16, 2005

Hi. I'm Chrissy. And this evening, I've decided to write a little postage for my good friend Michaela.

After reading Mark's post (which was wonderful, by the way) I feel a little guilty bringing this up, but I thought I'd go after the subject that has been placed before me since it is one that Mic and I discuss often...


I had a very eventful year this past year and in the middle of it, I met my friend Kors, who just happens to be Dutch and extremely unaware of many, many things...including this very subject...when it come to women. Now let me state for the record that Kors did grow up with his mother and two sisters, yet would say that he NEVER heard any of them emit a "foul smell" or a "bodily function" (those are his words). In his conclusion, women do not burp, fart, or defecate. And let me tell you, people, he was as serious as my grandfather when he talks about the proper way to make his afternoon martini(s). Needless to say, we had a hearty debate this summer over one question: do girls really fart? After spending a few days with 30 women, Kors not only knew the answer to that question...he experienced it first-hand. Everything that he had believed to be true in his life was shot down by a few gaseous emissions. Kors would later recall them as "smelling like the decay of rotting flesh".

This situation highly amused me...and maybe that's mean...*pause*...okay, I'm still amused. But it seems that it isn't uncommon. While Kors and I had our debate going, we decided to chat people up and find out what they thought about the subject. Sadly, most of the women I talked to said, "Oh! I would NEVER fart in front of a man, especially one that I was dating!! I wouldn't want to scare him off, right away." So, the scaring off comes later? I'll move on.
After Kors faced up to the hard reality about women, we talked about experiencing a woman when she felt the freedom to let her bodily functions go. Now, we're not talking a constant freedom. But a freedom to be real and let things "slip" every once in a while, if you know what I mean. Kors said, very plainly, that if a woman he were dating ever farted in front of him, he would be rid of her in a heartbeat. Ladies and gentlemen, how sad is that?! Do men not fart, as well? Why can't we all accept that we're not perfect human beings and let the burps and farts free at will?

When you feel the freedom to let go, your relationships learn more, personal things about the people you can blame it all on the dog and then have a good can sing a song, perhaps "Linger" by the Cranberries, and then have a good can free-up your bowels from imploding.

The point of all of this is, I could think of nothing better to write about on Mic's blog than this particular subject. She and I are very close...our relationship has blossomed...we've learned more, personal things about each other...put 2 & 2 together, people.

And if Michaela ever tells you it was me, it was her. Hands down.

(And if this post made you feel awkward, then I've done my job.)

Thank you and goodnight.

Chrissy @2:40 AM :: Comment

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Hi, I’m Mark (the Foolish Sage), today’s guest blogger for Beautiful Mess.

As the tragedy and chaos that has been the aftermath of Katrina unfolded on my TV screen these past two weeks, it made me reflect on what it means to stare death in the face. I never remember being particularly afraid of dying, even though psychologists and sociologists tell us that it is by far the most pervasive fear among humans. I’m not sure how much my lack of fear of shuffling off is due to my Christian faith and how much can be attributed to just how abstract death still seems to me. That’s why moments of “staring death in the face” can actually be beautiful, if somewhat terrifying, gifts.

Over the summer I picked up a book from the bargain shelf at Barnes & Noble that managed, despite that humble genesis, to worm its way into my favorite reads of all time. In The Way of a Ship, Derek Lundy alternates chapters between a fascinating non-fiction account of how life was aboard the wooden, square-rigged ships of the 18th and 19th centuries with a semi-fictionalized story of the first sea voyage of one of his own ancestors. The climax of the story comes at the much-dreaded “rounding of the Horn” through the world’s deadliest waters off the southern tip of South America. At one point he takes us inside the head of the ship’s first mate as the craft seems on the verge of giving up its battle with an overwhelming gale. The mate finds himself curiously detached, fascinated with the idea that he is about to experience the story no man lives to tell. He is going to experience the last few moments of his own life. He wonders what will he feel? What will he think about? When the ship miraculously survives, he is actually disappointed that he was robbed of that experience.

This past summer I came one step closer to the staring death in the face experience, if still only vicariously. While staying with our daughter Hannah up near Moosehead Lake, Maine, I heard that the remains of a crashed B-52 bomber could still be found up on a nearby mountain side. I drove over rugged logging roads up the side of Elephant Mountain to a trailhead, now marked with a memorial sign posted by the Strategic Air Command. Within a few steps on the trail I began to see pieces of twisted metal everywhere, most unrecognizable as to origin. About a hundred yards farther on, however, I came upon the giant plane's immense landing gear with tires still attached, a bit of wing or stabilizer, and the still largely intact rear gunner's cabin. Suddenly, I was no longer just a hiker walking among garbage strewn across a wilderness mountainside, but I was transported inside a story.

It was a cold night in the Cold War. The nine men aboard the huge B-52 bomber shivered as the plane's cabin heaters gave only limited opposition to the sub-zero cold inches away through the aluminum skin. All of them were glad to be making the turn south, away from the frozen Maine wilderness ripping by just 500 ft. beneath them. They were finally heading toward their base in Massachusetts. They all knew that the turbulence and thick air so near the ground put unusual strains on their flying behemoth, designed for fast, high-altitude runs. However, they had all accepted the slight added danger, knowing that their practice was preparation for a radar-evading raid on Moscow they hoped would never be necessary. However, in those tense post-Cuban-missile-crisis days of 1963, the possibility that they would have to actually use these skills was all too real.

Just as the plane crossed Blue Ridge Mountain in the Moosehead Lake region, the crew heard an enormous boom, like an explosion from the rear of the craft. Suddenly the bomber lurched to the right and began to descend. The pilots fought valiantly to bring the craft back up but there was no response to their controls. The captain immediately punched a button which lit signals throughout the aircraft: "Eject!" In the ten seconds between the horrific bang and the B-52's total disintegration across the western slope of Elephant Mountain, life or death decisions were made. All three of the crew members seated in ejection seats managed to pull the levers that sent them rocketing out into the frigid Maine night. From all their training they must have known that they had almost zero chance of survival. Their chutes were not designed to be effective at the extreme low altitude of their ejection. Still, they at least got out. The other six crew members without ejection seats would never have a chance to get to the aircraft’s doors and make a jump.

One of the ejected crew members died of a broken neck as he plunged through thick tree branches. The captain’s chute was carried by the wind over the top of the mountain, giving him time to maneuver safely down to a relatively soft landing not far from the burning wreckage that had been his command responsibility just ten seconds earlier. If the captain’s ability to land safely was amazing, then the experience of the third ejected member, the navigator, was nothing less than miraculous. His chute never opened. However, the five to six foot snow drift he landed in was apparently enough cushion to keep him alive, although severely injured. To this day, his ejection is considered to be the most peculiar scenario ever survived by a member of the U.S. Air Force.

The two surviving crew members spent a horrific night in 40 below weather on the mountain side, but were rescued alive the next day. They later learned that a structural defect had caused them to lose the five-story-high vertical stabilizer (“tail fin”) off the rear of their plane. Unfortunately, the only personal accounts by them I’ve been able to find relate the incident in the sparse terms of military reports. But I crave to know: what did they think, what did they feel in those seconds between the big bang and their explosive heaving out into the night sky, moments in which they surely thought they were about to die?

I’ve had that same strange vicarious experience in other places as well. One was the first time standing in the room in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall where the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. In the summer of 1776 the war was not going well for the rebel army. These men knew that they were possibly signing their own death warrants. Another time was standing at the “Bloody Angle” in Gettysburg where Pickett’s Charge met a hail storm of close range grape shot from the Union canons. I was shaken to my core as I gazed across that stretch of open field. How did men do that? How could they keep marching forward toward almost inevitable death?

Not all my brush-with-death experiences have been second hand, however. I’ve had a couple of car accidents that I probably shouldn’t have walked away from (but did). Another time I slid all the way down a roof I was working on, only being saved from plunging over the edge when my shirt caught on a nail. But the time that stands out most in my memory was a certain hike in the Adirondack Mountains.

If there is any spot on earth where the “soul” of the Traphagen family resides, it is definitely the High Peaks of the Adirondack Mountains in New York. My wife had grown up going to summer camp in this largest stretch of wilderness east of the Mississippi. As soon as our youngest daughter was four, Karyn got us back to the mountains she loved. That summer vacation the four of us climbed Algonquin, the second highest peak in New York, and we were all hooked. Soon we were on our way to becoming 46ers, the name given to those who had climbed the forty six Adirondack summits over 4000 feet.

A few summers later we were working our way back up our first mountain in our quest for Iroquois Peak, a high knob on the far side of Algonquin, just high enough to count as its own summit. After four hours of climbing from our base camp at Heart Lake, we crested Algonquin for the second time in party spirit. Though the valleys all around were filled with clouds, the summit rocks were glowing with bright summer sun. After celebrating our return to our first peak, we set off for Iroquois, looming a half mile away. As we descended the southern side of the summit cone, heading for the saddle between the peaks, we noticed the valley clouds were rising to meet us. Within minutes we went from blazing sunshine to cold, driving rain. The temperature plunged like a rock kicked from the nearby cliffs. Before we could get our rain gear on, we were already soaked to the skin.

Then deep in the muddy col between the peaks, older daughter Sarah stepped in a deep puddle. Water filled her boots just as a bitter wind gusted in. In those high peaks, where arctic tundra flowers grow, summer can change to winter in a matter of minutes. Soon we noticed Sarah shivering almost uncontrollably. Well aware of the dangers of hypothermia, we headed for a small rock outcropping that offered some protection from the wind and broke out our reflective space blanket. A change of socks would do a lot to warm Sarah up, but to our horror we discovered that all the spare clothing had already been soaked. All thoughts of attaining Iroquois were abandoned as Karyn and I exchanged worried looks. We knew we had to get our girls down off the tops of these mountains. We turned around and headed back over Algonquin. As we struggled back up the summit rocks, the wind began to drive the rain completely horizontal. We could see the fear in our little girl’s eyes as they looked into ours for assurance. We each picked up one of them, held them close underneath our rain ponchos, and began to sing songs they’d learned in Sunday School. After what seemed like hours, we reached tree line where the wind died and the rain became just a gentle summer shower. It was only then that we felt like we could breathe again…and even laugh.

Staring death in the face…it’s usually a phrase that is used to evoke a devil-may-care, hard-jawed approach to life, a willingness to tough out whatever comes. But the truth is that it really means the opportunity to learn one of life’s most important lessons: we are finite and we won’t be here forever. If you walk away from that face-to-face encounter, you realize you’ve been given a gift. You’ve learned the incredible value of each day you have. And, one can hope, you’ve also learned that your most important preparation is for the day when you will take that look and not come back.

Mark Traphagen @4:00 AM :: Comment

Saturday, September 10, 2005

(Hi. I'm Joshua.)

So i'm typing this while wearing a beauty mask. Specifically, my face is coated with Mary Kay's Revitalizing Mask Formula 2, which the gal in pink tells me is "[a] multipurpose mask for combination and oily skin [that] absorbs excess oils and helps remove impurities from the skin's surface." I don't really know what that means, because I am male. What I do know is that at approximately 7 minutes in, the mask is drying quite well and i'm enjoying the sensation of contorting my face in multiple bizarre ways that not only crack the mask a bit (exhilarating feeling, really) but occasionally drop bits of the EXFOLIATING CRUSHED WALNUTS on my desk.

Whew. We went there quick, didn't we? I can say with about 99% certainty that none of you emerged from your slumber this morning expecting to read the phrase "EXFOLIATING CRUSHED WALNUTS" in a sentence. I thought about getting you flowers, but I figure why be so ordinary when I have the whole of the English language at my disposal?

Let's back up a bit. A few days ago, I wrote about the cosmetic company in question (and on face) and of course a few ladies who sell and/or use MK commented. Somehow, this led to a conversation with my friend Suzanne in her living room that culminated in leaving her house with said MK product (and some Cleansing Soap, too) after the following words had strung themselves together into a sentence, held each other's little invisible word-hands, and jumped out of my mouth into the void of conversation in the form of:

"Yeah, the real problem is my combination skin type and how my pores are so ridiculously gianormous in my t-zone."

Woah. I want to clarify a few things. 1. I really, really like women. I'm so heterosexual it's almost an overtly comical stereotype. 2. My sister owns a swanky, hip salon, so by virtue of familial association and geographical proximity, I think i've picked up some decidedly feminine vocabulary when it comes to discussing beauty products and skin and such. 3. I find it odd that wireless provider T-Mobile refers to their calling zones as T-Zones. Ew. 4. Did I mention I like the ladies?

Note to self: Focus. Go wash face. Reassess. Gather thoughts.

It's somewhat ironic that i'm using a product from a cosmetic company. It's not that I think it isn't manly for "real men" to use product to make themselves pretty. Nor am I part of that other group of "men" (cough) who take longer to get ready for a night on the town than it would take their lady friend to actually BUILD a suitable date using Legos, a non-click-wheel iPod, and some used chewing gum. I'd like to think i'm somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. That being said, the irony has little to do with gender and everything to do with my (previously) rigidly held beliefs on cosmetics in general. In short, I just don't really get it. I never have.

I don't understand why women spend so much time and money on them. I personally (generally) think you look just fine without them. At the heart of it, I probably think it's vain. And yet... here I am basking in the glow of an excess-oils-and-impurities-free t-zone, courtesy of MK. Don't you hate it when you sniper yourself with your own arguments?

I wonder where the line is? When does vanity become pride? When does "taking care of yourself" become making an idol out of your appearance? (And seriously, who wants to bow down at the altar of what we look like? That's a weak, insecure god and a boring worship service.) One day, it will be lovely to have a lady friend to call my very own, and i'm sure that both of us will bring our share of personal baggage on that trip when it comes down to how we view ourselves and how we think and act out of those perceptions. I'd love to know what "right thinking" looks like in this regard.

I don't have any answers yet, but I do have a one or two photos of myself in a Mary Kay Revitalizing Mask, which i'm fairly sure is NOT what "right thinking" looks like.

Joshua Blankenship @3:53 AM :: Comment

Friday, September 09, 2005

(Hi, I'm Kari.)

I thought married sleeping would be a little different than it is. More romantic. In movies and in novels, couples often wake up with limbs entangled, but in my house we usually wake up on our respective sides of the bed. With our feet touching in the middle. It just gets too warm to be able to sleep all snuggled together for the entire night. Plus, you know, morning breath. Our sleeping (like many other things in our lives) tends to be more silly than romantic. Like the time that Mike's foot scratched mine while we were sleeping, and I said, "Ow, get away from me! That hurt!" and he replied in his sleep, "No, our feet are friends!"

Before we got married, Mike imagined that we would get up every morning and eat breakfast together while having our devotions. We have gotten better about eating breakfast together (meaning, it happens occasionally), but we still haven't gotten the hang of daily devotions.

Another one of my crazy imaginings was when I believed that we would go to bed at the same time, even though he's a night person and I'm a morning person and we had never been known to go to bed at the same time before being married. The fact that we don't go to bed at the same time has led to incidents such as the following: Mike comes to bed and finds me asleep on top of the comforter. "Kari, time to get under the covers." My response, in my sleep: "I AM under the covers!" (He decided just to let me freeze.)

There are a million and one examples of how our ideas and fantasies about marriage don't live up to the expectations given to us by media (both Christian and non-Christian). A month or so ago, Michaela linked a post by a friend of hers that asked, "What's so great about marriage?" I am definitely one of those people who is guilty of saying, "Marriage is really hard . . . but it's good, it's worth it, I swear!" And since reading that post, I've been wondering if I have a really good reason for doing that. I mean, sure, we've had some difficult times, and maybe I feel as if I didn't go in completely prepared for how hard things might be. But I knew it was going to be hard. I had had those same kinds of conversations with my friends and relatives.

I suppose that when I say things about how hard marriage is, it's because I want to help my friends understand that, no matter how much fun Mike and I have, it's not all (or even mostly) breakfast in bed mushiness. My instinct is to let them know that all this knowing and being known stuff is harder than I thought it would be. The longer I am married, the more I realize that I had no idea what I was getting into or how strong my defenses are or how selfish I am.

At the same time, several things have happened in the past week that made me want to talk about how great marriage is. They were just little things, like reading Book Lover's Trivial Pursuit cards while eating dinner and answering the questions at the same time, teasing Mike at the lake, cutting his hair for him, the Jeopardy! answers that we both get wrong with exactly the same answer, the long dinners with friends, the way he holds me when I'm upset, the way he smiles after he's said something particularly clever. The good part about knowing and being known is that I know how to make Mike laugh and which joke he is going to tell and when to push him and when he thinks I'm out of line. I've got someone to talk things out with, someone who will spend hours deconstructing the latest Harry Potter book with me, someone to plan parties for, someone who rents movies for me when I don't feel well, someone who loves my peach cobbler. I think I take those things for granted too much, because I am so concerned with letting people know that merging two lives is harder than it might seem. It's a beautiful and holy thing to see how the merging has changed me and challenged me not to live so much for myself. And that should be enough to say, because there aren't words, really, for me to convey my feelings more than that.

I'm going to leave you with this quote from Before Sunrise, which I saw for the first time this week. It seems a wonderful thing to hope for and very similar to how I am feeling these days.

"When you talked earlier about after a few years, how a couple begins to hate each other, by anticipating their reactions, or getting tired of their mannerisms. I think it would be the opposite for me. I think I could really fall in love when I know everything about someone. The way he's gonna part his hair. Which shirt he's gonna wear that day. Knowing the exact story he'd tell in a given situation. I'm sure that's when I'd know I'm really in love. "-Before Sunrise

Kari @2:47 AM :: Comment

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Hello. My name is Casey, and I'm blogging for Michaela. It took me a little while to decide what to write about and in the end I settled on something random but not uninteresting. I hope. I hope?

Animals. That's right. Animals. You see, there are an awful lot of them. Some call them friend. Some call them food. Some call them names. Some call the pest control.

Vast are these creatures of the earth, sky and sea, but today I would like to call your attention to, I believe, the most underappreciated of the kingdom. I present to you THE UGLIEST ANIMALS IN THE WORLD.

Exhibit One: The Warthog

I would venture to guess the Warthog's ugliness is uncontested. While they can possess certain likable qualities (we've all seen The Lion King), they're not the sort of animal that says "Look at me! I'm cute! Let's cuddle!"

Exhibit Two: Fish

Okay, lets be honest. Most fish are not good-looking. They have those eyes on the sides of their heads and you KNOW the first time you looked at a fish closely you thought those slits on the side of their body were GASH MARKS from being savagely attacked by a bigger fish with sharp teeth (when in fact, those were gills and they come that way.) The ugliest fish live in the deeper parts of the ocean because they cannot bear the humiliation of being seen. They are often vicious and unpleasant, but can you blame them? Nobody loves a Lantern Fish.

Exhibit Three: The Turkey

Disgusting, right? I know it's hard to believe, but people actually eat these things. (Note the little black hairs extruding from the mass of bubbly red flesh. Can I just say, "EW EW EW"?)

Exhibit Four: The Almiqui

Look familiar? The Almiqui shares a resemblence to the now-extinct R.O.U.S. in its snarly shape, but the snout is remeniscent of the Giant Anteater (which coincidentally receives Notable Mention in my list of THE UGLIEST ANIMALS IN THE WORLD).

Exhibit Five: The Barn Owl (and pretty much all other owls)

Owls are not famous for being particularly unattractive or intimidating (unless you are a small woodland animal). They are often equated with academia. Why this is, I do not know, but I do know that the Icelandic word for "owl" is "ugla" from which we get the word "ugly." I think that about says it all.

Exhibit Six: The Hawaiian Hoary Bat

I could not bring myself to post a picture of this bat. It is SO UGLY that I want to cry looking at it. Bats are pretty ugly in general, but this one is just disgusting. If Hell were an animal, it would be an Hawaiian Hoary Bat.


I could go on and on, but it gets more and more painful as you probably know. Why are there so many ugly animals in the world? Is it sin? Is it some cruel joke? What is it to be ugly...and for that matter, what is it to be an animal? To be of this world? TO BE BLOGGING!?!

I'm too deep for myself sometimes.

Casey Dukes @4:15 AM :: Comment

Saturday, September 03, 2005

That Beautiful Mess

Let's take a trip, back to before the dawn of time, into that era only dimly remembered as, the 90's. I was just a lad then, I still lived with my parents and apparently, was a slob. I prefer to think that I was a collector of incredibly unimportant things, but I seem to be alone in that.

I'll describe my room for you now, have you ever been to or seen a McDonald's Playplace with one of those net, cage things full of balls? Well, replace the "balls" with "empty Coca-Cola bottles" and you've pretty much got it. Depth would range from ankle to just below the knee deep, depending on which part of the room you were standing. The bed was the only clear spot in the room.

My story takes place in the summertime and some friends and I had decided to go swimming and I was looking for my sandals, one was where it was supposed to be, the other......was not. I began wading around the room in search of it, destroying drifts that had been in place for weeks and creating new ones, but it was not to be found. Then I thought to myself, "What about the closet?" from time to time I would get a slight cleaning bug and it didn't seem altogether unreasonable that I would place a piece of footwear in there, so off I went.

The closet had no door, I can't remember why right now, and the bottom half of it was filled by two enormous trash bags, stacked one on top of the other, filled with old clothes that I meant to give to Goodwill, at one time it was the family cat's favorite hiding place, but she and I had had a falling out and she now spent her time behind the washing machine in the laundry room. Realizing that this would be the first time I was wearing my sandals this year, I figured that the missing one could be under the bags.

I grabbed hold of the top bag and lifted, revealing my other sandal in the corner of the closet...... and a dead squirrel. Apparently Daisy, the cat I previously mentioned, had stuffed it between the two bags as a trophy. It was smashed absolutely flat, the slow and steady weight of a giant bag full of clothes to blame I'm sure, and was spread-eagle. It looked almost fake, like someone had painted it on there instead....anyway, as I said, I saw my errant sandal, grabbed it, put the bag back on top of Rudy The Amazing Two Dimensional Squirrel and went swimming. Two months later I remembered to get rid of Rudy.

What's the point of me telling you all this? I just think of it every time I see Mic's blog and wanted someone to know.

Jim @3:51 PM :: Comment

Friday, September 02, 2005

"My Lips Are Sealed" Episode: #4.21

Well, inspired by some friends (Joy, included), I've decided to take a little blog break.

But have no fear. I have blogsitters! I'm excited that some of my closest online (and in person) friends, and some of my favorite bloggers, are stepping up to fill in for me for a while. I don't know exactly how long I'll be away, but I can assure you it will still be worth a visit here.

If you want to contact me, feel free to email me at


P.S. I don't know why my comments are dead. I'm wondering (though I have no basis for it) if the servers for ReBlogger are in or near New Orleans. Anyone know? Anyone else having trouble with ReBlogger?

Michaela @4:30 PM :: Comment

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Welcome, to the hardest week I've had in a long while.

So my visa came back last week, just before I left for camping over the weekend in South Wales (not England, as I think I previously stated). I now have a two year resident permit. It's an odd feeling. But that's one weight off my chest that has been there a while.

Otherwise, life is slightly overwhelming right now. Overwhelming to the point of not journaling, which is a rare phenomenon in my life. Funny, how we spend so much time praying for one thing, and then when that one thing comes through, we realized we've forgotten to continue to pray for the rest of our lives. Money, health, jobs, bills, family, relationships, and hearts, all manage to collide in one week. I don't particularly want to go into it all right now, largely because I don't like the idea of processing life in front of an audience. There is a line to be drawn, I think, in blogging, in order to keep it on this side of reality TV (or, reality internet, I suppose). Here's that line.

In other news, I want to introduce you guys to Summer, just because she's still the coolest 14-year-old I know. And I know a lot of 14-year-olds. She's breathtakingly honest, and mature. And she likes camping. And she introduced me to a lovely poem, via Lauren Winner:

"Prayers for Our Daughters"
By Mark Jarman

May they never be lonely at parties
Or wait for mail from people they haven't written
Or still in middleage ask God for favors
Or forbid their children things they were never forbidden.
May hatred be like a habit they never developed
And can't see the point of, like gambling or heavy drinking.
If they forget themselves, may it be in music
Or the kind of prayer that makes a garden of thinking.
May they enter the coming century
Like swans under a bridge into enchantment
And take with them enough of this century
To assure their grandchildren it really happened.
May they find a place to love, without nostalgia
For some place else that they can never go back to.
And may they find themselves, as we have found them,
Complete at each stage of their lives, each part they add to.
May they be themselves, long after we've stopped watching.
May they return from every kind of suffering
(Except the last, which doesn't bear repeating)
And be themselves again, both blessed and blessing.

And to make things worse, someone in an adjoining flat is practicing the ACCORDIAN.

Accordians are not meant to accompany crisis weeks, dammit.


P.S. Hannah, I know you're there. And the rest of the Hollywood/Wythall crew. YOU CAN'T HIDE FROM ME! Show yourselves, youngins! (That's what comments are for.)

Michaela @7:43 PM :: Comment

"In the city you will find that the poor and the broken are often much, much more open to the idea of Gospel grace and much more dedicated to its practical outworkings than you are." (Tim Keller)

"Always On Your Side" by Sheryl Crow