11 April 2011

Once Upon a Quarter

My first job out of college was working for the youth ministry at my home church. Part of my job as the administrative assistant for the Sr. High group was to keep track of our department budget and make sure we weren’t overspending. Being as about as financially and math savvy as a squirrel, this part of my role intimidated me, but I tried to suck it up and keep track as best I could.

At one meeting with my boss man, the youth pastor, he mentioned that he wanted me to print out our current financial status on a quarterly basis so that we could review the figures together. Already feeling flustered by the budget analysis, and remaining true to my blond roots, I replied, “Right. Can you define quarterly?”

Matt blinked at me for a second, then responded, “Every three months.”

Desperately trying to save face, I said, “Oh, yeah” and left his office not too long afterwards.

A few days later, once I realized just how stupid I’d sounded, I reminded Matt of this incident and he burst out laughing. He admitted that he’d desperately wanted to laugh at the time, but didn’t want to offend me because he could tell I was serious. This remains a favorite joke for us to toss at each other from time to time, though I still blush at the memory.

31 January 2011

Light on the Subject

JUST because I believe in honesty...and because I dearly love to laugh, even if it's at my own expense...I present to you Embarrassing Moment #1,456. (Calculating the corresponding number for this particular embarrassing moment is an inexact science...I assume that I've embarrassed myself at least once a week during my lifetime, x 52 weeks in a year x 28 years of life = you get the idea.)

A few months ago, I purchased some lamps at IKEA in an effort to make my cubicle at work feel a bit cozier and a bit less, well, like a boring old cubicle. I was particularly stoked about the larger of the two lamps that I purchased, which is adjustable in height and therefore perfect for sitting behind my computer monitor.

Now, if you've ever been to my apartment either in Austria or the U.S., you'll know that I have an incredible affinity for Most Things IKEA, and I've assembled a fair number of IKEA articles over time...though, to be fair, I'm not the most technically minded person on the planet and rely heavily upon the written and drawn assembly instructions included with each IKEA article.

Anyhoo, I was super excited to unpack and assemble my new lamps. The smaller one was no problem at all - a very straightforward assembly (I hardly needed to consult the assembly instructions/pictures, but did anyway because that's the way I roll). The assembly of the larger, adjustable lamp went smoothly until it came time to put on the lampshade. When I went to screw in the energy-efficient light bulb, it stood a full three and a half inches above the shade, which in turn obviously did very little to "shade" the light bulb from my eyes...or the eyes of others who came by my cubicle that day. The unshaded bulb spotlighted everyone as if my cubicle had become an interrogation room.

Since the energy-efficient light bulb seemed to be quite taller than other bulbs, I at first blamed it for the lamp malfunction. "Energy efficient it may be, but practical it is not!" I thought. That evening, I ran out to Target and bought some plain, old-fashioned GE light bulbs, thinking that would fix the problem.

Imagine my dismay, however, when I screwed in the plain, old-fashioned GE bulb the next morning only to have the exact same problem - the bulb still stuck out above the top of the shade! I consulted and re-consulted the instructions, but they didn't seem to shed any light on the subject (Ha - pun intended). Not knowing what else to do (and not having many other lighting options, as the fluorescent light above my desk had been extinguished at my request), I left the lamp as it was for the day, feeling discouraged and disgruntled. "You've disappointed me, IKEA!" I groused. "You normally produce pieces of such flawless design, but BOY have you ever screwed this one up!" Adding to my puzzlement was the fact that I didn't remember the lamp's floor model having this problem. I resigned myself to the fact that I'd have to make a special trip to IKEA (the closest one is in Charlotte, a couple of hours' drive away) to return it.

A couple of days later, after my boss was nearly blinded by my faulty lamp upon entering my cube, I was explaining my predicament and pulled out the lamp to show her its faultiness. She took a good look at it and asked, "What if you turned the shade upside down?"

- PAUSE (wait for it...wait for iiiiiiiiiit....) -

Absolute hysteria broke out. Of COURSE! I quickly flipped the shade upside down and EUREKA! The problem was solved, and the shade turned the cornea-scorching eyesore (literally) into the warm, ambience-creating piece that I wanted.

In my defense, the lamp shade is of a uniform width from top to bottom, unlike other shades that are narrower at the top and grow wider at the bottom, so the fact that I had the shade upside down wasn't obvious in that regard...though it SURELY should have been obvious from the way the bulb stuck out at the top. For whatever reason, however, my brain didn't connect those dots, and we now have this little gem of a story because of it. If it amuses you even 1/18th as much as it has me, then all the frustration and subsequent embarrassment was well worth it. :)

13 December 2010

There's No Place Like Home

My concept of home has become quite ambiguous over the past few years. Those of you who have lived in multiple locations over the course of your life (especially if one of those locations was outside your home culture) will understand what I mean. They say that "home is where the heart is," but what if pieces of your heart are scattered all over the world? I have left pieces of my heart in various locations worldwide, and I've felt at home in Georgia, Tennessee, Austria, and North Carolina, but today wouldn't classify any one of those places as the one above all others where I feel at home. I've heard from a few different sources that "home is where your stuff is," and that's the definition that I've adopted at this point in my life. For right now, North Carolina is where my stuff is, so it's home. Fair enough.

The concept of home can get particularly tricky when you start talking about a home church. I'm currently "church searching," a process that I have found simultaneously exhausting, encouraging, discouraging, nerve-wracking, and emotional. I've driven away from churches in various moods - cheerful, tearful, somber, and shocked. (The shock came mostly from one church that employed the use of smoke machines during worship. Oh. My. Goodness.) Yesterday, as I drove home from the sixth church I've visited in the Triangle area, I realized that perhaps the reason I'm struggling so much to find a home church is because my definition of HOME is so "squishy" right now. While I don't doubt that the Lord has me in North Carolina for the foreseeable future, and while I deeply value the concept of putting down roots and becoming part of a community of believers here, the uprooting process I went through in leaving Austria is still fresh on my mind (and those roots were only three years old).

With all of that being said, I'm giving myself some grace to let my new roots come in gradually, especially while my soul settles into the fact that North Carolina is home for now. I'm also relearning (and cherishing) the concept that nowhere on this planet was meant to be my eternal home. The Lord is my Home, and He never changes, though my physical location may change a dozen more times before my life is over. He is the safest place in which to put down roots, and I trust that, in His timing, He'll show me the right church family to join as I walk through this part of my journey.

19 August 2010

Shocking Blue Mouths

Overall, Vienna is one of the safest cities that I’ve ever experienced. As in all cities, however, there are certain parts that I wouldn’t venture into by myself. Karlsplatz, a main U-bahn (underground/metro) station, is one of those places that I tried to avoid as much as possible. It just seems to be a magnet for the unsavory…if you’re going to be pickpocketed in Vienna, it’s most likely going to happen at Karlsplatz, and the lower level of the station (aka the underbelly) is a popular hangout for drug addicts.

The Karlsplatz drug addicts are easy to spot for a number of reasons. First of all, there’s their location – the druggies like to hang out right across from the Starbucks where the U3 and U4 lines intersect. (Why they chose to put a Starbucks in the underbelly of Karlsplatz is beyond me…but that’s another story for another time.) Secondly, there’s their bizarre behavior and dress. And then there are the blue mouths. Apparently, there’s a popular drug in the area that turns your mouth (lips, tongue, the whole shebang) blue when you use it – as if the user has sucked on about 35 Electric Blue Raspberry Fruit Roll-Ups simultaneously.

Needless to say, when my travels did take me through the underbelly of Karlsplatz, I kept my bag close, my eyes forward, and my stride purposeful. It also helped that my understanding of German was quite limited…so even if a druggie had addressed me (which none ever did, to my knowledge), I could easily ignore him/her.

Fast forward to the 4th of July this year, after I had moved back to the States. I was celebrating the 4th at a Braves baseball game with my dad, sister, and almost two-year-old nephew. Being a toddler means having a relatively short attention span, so the three adults took turns taking my nephew for walks around the stadium when he got antsy. On my walk with him, as we wended our way through the crowds (and of course stopped to inspect trashcans, giant baseballs that comprise the stadium d├ęcor, and other things that captivate a two-year-old), I began to get a vague feeling of unease that almost began mounting to panic. I noticed a number of people around us –mostly teens and tweens – with blue mouths. What is going on?! I thought. These kids are so young…where did they get the drugs?? I thought Turner Field was family friendly!

It was then that I had the “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto,” moment. It wasn’t drugs that were turning the kids' mouths blue...it was blue snowcones! Welcome back to the land of artificial colors and food dyes, Anne! The only thing these kids are ODing on is sugar.

21 June 2010

A Random Request

One day in recent history, a summer intern and I were visiting the botanical gardens at UNC Chapel Hill. An old log cabin that was once the home of playwright, botanical enthusiast, and North Carolina native Paul Green sits on the garden property. It seems a little random, but inside the cabin visitors can read about different plants that were native to the cabin's original location and their various uses, so it has botanical ties.

Soon after entering the cabin, we were joined by a young family with two small children. They sat down on the benches in the cabin and talked as Kate and I read about Persimmon Beer and other interesting uses for local plants.

All of a sudden, Kate and I heard the dad say to his children, "Maybe these two ladies will sing for us."

"Maybe we'll WHAT?" I thought. As soon as they walked in, I was totally prepared to take a family picture for them, but a request to sing was quite unexpected. Dad, however, asked if we knew "Baa Baa Black Sheep," and so, realizing that we couldn't gracefully excuse ourselves, I turned to Kate and said, "Well, ready for a duet?"

Then, standing in the middle of a 19th century cabin that now sits in a botanical garden, four adults broke into "Baa Baa Black Sheep." (To my relief, the parents didn't expect a duet and jumped right into the song...which all four of us sang in pretty perfect unison, I might add.)

When our song ended, the parents explained that the kids had been singing the song all the way to the botanical gardens and had apparently just requested it again (I hadn't heard the kids' request, only the dad's). I laughed and said that I have a 21-month-old nephew and know that you just have to roll with the whimsy of a kid.

As we walked away and I was trying my hardest not to laugh, I reminded myself that I am once again living in the South, where people are more open about sharing certain parts of their lives with friends and strangers alike. At the same time, the random request struck me as odd...which has since been confirmed by other southerners to whom I have told the story.

So, future note to self and all my readers - if a small family requests that you sing them a song, it's strange (though funny), not southern!

14 June 2010

Video Tour of my NC Apartment

For any interested parties, here's an 8-minute tour of my new space in North Carolina. (Yes, eight minutes...apparently, I love to blab about my living space.) Enjoy!


10 June 2010

The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of Transition

The dust is beginning to settle. Now that I have successfully arrived in North Carolina and begun my new position with TWR's HR department, I find myself looking around and wondering, "How did I get here? Is this really my new reality?"

On some level I'm quite happy to be here, but I'm also sad not to be there. I enjoy telling people about my new little apartment and what the transition has been like thus far, but I also grow sick of talking about it. (It's kind of like when you're at Freshman Orientation at college, and everyone wants to know where you're from and what your intended major is. After a while, you just get tired of talking about it, even though you're thrilled that people are interested.) I want to establish roots, make friends, and be invited out places, but I also just want to go home, curl up in the fetal position, and be alone.

It's almost like I am my own strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. My Dr. Jekyll is all smiles, nice-to-meet-you-yes-it's-great-to-be-heres, and thinking that he (she) should start making some social plans and setting up lunches out. My Mr. Hyde, on the other hand, is wildly emotional, anti-social, and full of I-can't-believe-I've-uprooted-my-life-AGAIN self-pity. It's that strange beast of transition, I'm afraid. No matter how many times you deal with it, it just can't be tamed, though it seems to behave for some better than others.

Don't read this and think that I'm cracking up or in the "depths of despair," as Anne Shirley would say. Most of you (probably those of you who have been through a major transition in recent times) will just realize that I'm being honest. There will come a day when Dr. Jekyll will be seen (or felt) more often than Mr. Hyde. It's just that today is not that day. I have hope that "the day" will come sooner rather than later, but in the meantime I'll take one day at a time and live in the fullness of God's grace.