Snap Judgment

snapjudgmentOne of my earlier posts was about how podcasts have changed my life. I stand by the vast majority of podcasts I recommend there. But one I’ve discovered lately is not on there. It’s called Snap Judgment, and you should all listen to it. Now. Ok, here’s a few teasers:

Let me know if you listen to any of these. I think I love them because they are about ordinary people going through extraordinary things. These stories make me think twice about the people I see every day on the bus or in my office. They remind me that I just never know what someone has experienced in their life.

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What I Will And Won’t Blog About

My friend Jenny has encouraged me in my blogging. So in return I’m stealing one of her post ideas. I’m pretty sure she won’t mind. She wrote about things she never talks about on her blog. Like all her posts, it’s pretty great. And it got me thinking about this. Because blogging is a little tricky. I want anyone to be able to read it if they are interested. But “anyone” could include my colleagues, or a guy I’ve gone on a few dates with. Things can get complicated. So, here’s my “to blog or not to blog” thoughts:

1. I’ll blog about dating. But not about current dating situations. Dating is tricky. It can be fun. It can be meaningful. I can be un-fun. It generates some thoughts in my head, not just about dating, but also about my experience being single, being relational, being human. I’ll blog those thoughts and ruminations. But that date I went on last week (month? year?) with the guy who may stumble upon my blog…no way. You’ll have to know me and have a conversation with me to find out what happened. I’m sure it was very exciting, whatever happened.

2. I’ll blog about life choices related to work, where I live and why I make some of those choices. But I won’t write about my current work situation. No-brainer. I’m an academic advisor at GW, in case you were wondering. Phew, now you can sleep at night. It’s pretty fun actually, and I like it. But I’ve got a respect for student privacy and a healthy unhealthy fear of litigation.

3. I’ll blog about God…kind of. I believe in a Triune God who is active in my life and the world. And what this God is up to makes a big difference in how I approach things. I hope you’ll pick up on some of those currents underlying my writing. But I won’t blog about the latest religious controversy. It’s just not my style. The closest I’ll come to that is perhaps listing some resources or articles that I have found helpful.

4. I’ll blog about biking, and other athletic endeavors. I always learn so much when I sign myself up for an endurance challenge. Yes, you’ll hear about this. Yay! (for some of you)

5. I’ll blog about books. Duh.

6. I’ll blog about friendship. I think it’s completely underrated in our culture. And I have great friends. So…easy one.

So these are some of things I’ll blog (or not) about. I’m sure the list will grow. I haven’t got a long enough track record to really figure out categories and themes, etc. But maybe it’s interesting to hear how I think about it. And maybe not. In which case you have wasted 5 minutes.

The Century That Was

One of the first blog posts I wrote was about my participation in the Seagull Century ride with Team in Training (the endurance event fundraising arm of The Leukemia Lymphoma Society). My post was about how I was struggling in my training due to a prior biking accident. As a result, I was having to cut back on my regimen and was facing the reality of not getting to do what I had hoped. It was also forcing me to examine why I was doing the ride in the first place.

A happy me after the century

A happy me after the century

Well, those of you I know and/or donated to my cause are aware that things changed. After more aggressive physical therapy and some bike adjustments, I was able to do the longer training rides and complete the full century! It was awesome. We had almost perfect weather and I thoroughly enjoyed the event. 

Since I’m picking up blogging again, it just seemed like it would be false advertising to not follow up on that initial post. I’ve already got my sights set on a triathlon in fall 2014 so you’ll probably be hearing about that!

A Very Good Valentine’s Day

V-Day cards from a few thoughtful friends

V-Day cards from a few thoughtful friends

A few Fridays ago it was Valentine’s Day. Any single person knows this day affectionately as S.A.D., Singles Awareness Day. For it to fall on a Friday makes it worse. Your married and dating friends are making plans and there you sit with House of Cards streaming on Netflix (brilliant marketing move and I am NOT criticizing such a way to spend a Valentine’s Day evening). NOTE to the marrieds with kids: I know, I know, you are lucky if you can get out of the house. V-Day isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I get it. 

I did not have plans until I got an email from a married couple I know, inviting some people over to play games. So I went over. There were seven of us. Two singles, two couples, and a married guy whose wife is out of town. We ate spaghetti and brownies and drank wine and played Apples to Apples. It was awesome, spending time with people I love (Except for the married guy without his wife, I don’t know him well enough yet to say I love him. But he does seem pretty cool.). We didn’t pause to reflect on the love in the room because there was a “no V-Day reference rule”, but in my head I kind of did. I’m not sure if my friends who hosted quite realize how special it was to be a single person invited somewhere on V-Day.

I also received a few Valentines from some thoughtful friends. My friend Ginger makes her own wonderful Valentine cards, and I was so thrilled to get one in the mail. My friend Amber gave me a very kind and thoughtful note. And a coworker handed out little Snoopy Valentines to everyone in the office.

I hope all of you reading had a good Valentines Day. And whether or not you did, I hope you know you are loved.

Learning To Not Finish What I Start

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, for all the typical reasons. The timing of them is kind of arbitrary (what’s so special about flipping from 2013 to 2014, really?). They can create unnecessary pressure. They are rarely kept anyway. So, for all these reasons (and probably more) I didn’t officially make any.

But, as I was talking to a friend about not making new year’s resolutions, I remembered an email I got at the end of the year from Goodreads. If you aren’t familiar with Goodreads, it’s basically an online forum for keeping track of books you have read, are reading, and want to read. And you can connect with other people and see what they are reading. At the end of 2013 they sent me an email which read, “Congratulations! You read 3 books this year!” Talk about a downer. Three books? Really? That’s all I could muster? Now, before you judge, it actually was 5 because my Goodreads app didn’t sync properly and I had added two books at the end of the year. Additionally, in my defense, one of my books was Infinite Jest, a very long and complex and amazing novel by David Foster Wallace.

But really what set me back (besides being completely undisciplined and wasting way too much time on Facebook) was reading a few books last year that I didn’t enjoy. But, I started them. And what did my parents teach me? That’s right. Finish what you start. So I slogged through two not-very-long-but-uninteresting books and it took me FOREVER to finish. By the time I got more than halfway through and realized it just wasn’t going to get better, the only reason I continued was to get it over with. Talk about a terrible way to read a book.

My book, on the couch, not being read

My book, on the couch, not being read

So, I’ve kind of made a new year’s resolution. And that is to stop reading books I’m not enjoying. And it’s actually proving quite difficult! I’m currently reading Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose. It’s pretty good, but it’s not really pulling me in. This becomes apparent when I put the book on the couch with the intention of reading it and it sits there all day while I do other things. But, I started it, and my impulse is to finish. Because that’s what Serridges do.

We’ll see what happens. This book is long, so I think I will go to at least the halfway point. To be continued. I’m sure you’ll be on the edge of your seat. In the meantime, are there things you need to give up even after you start? I’d like to know!

My Scientific Marriage Poll

My grandparents still crack each other up. Just kidding, this is a random picture.

A few weeks ago I posed some questions on Facebook of married couples. They were:
1) Do you & your spouse have a similar sense of humor?
2) Did you think your spouse was funny when you first met them or did their sense of humor have to grow on you?
3) Who’s funnier, you or your spouse? Bonus points if marital squabble ensues.

This highly scientific poll yielded some interesting results. With 23 responses, it was hard to comb through all the data, but I will do my best to make some sweeping and largely unfounded generalizations nonetheless:
1) Women are funnier than men. Some men agree.
2) Men have a more juvenile sense of humor. Duh.
3) Most spouses did not really appreciate their counterpart’s sense of humor at first, and it had to grow on them. Some still don’t.

A few people asked me, “Why this poll Amy?” Well since they asked, I’ll tell all of you poor people reading this.

I go on dates. Some of them are fun. Most are a bit on the lame side. Over the past few years I’ve decided that a good sense of humor is super important in my hoped-for-future-spouse. So often after a date I will think/say something like this — “Well, it was ok. But he’s not very funny.” Lately I’ve begun to wonder if I am a little bit too fixated on this aspect of a potential-father-of-my-advanced-maternal-age-born-children.

Right after I put those questions out I reunited with a former-colleague-now-friend who did standup in New York for two years. I mean, this woman is F-U-N-N-Y. I asked her if she thought her husband was funny when they met and she did not skip a beat. “No. Definitely not.” And he didn’t think she was funny either. Amazing! I was really surprised. Since then, he has developed more of a sense of humor. And yes, he now sees that she is very funny.

So my poll was instructive for me, and it reminded me of something my spiritual director has said. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s just someone wiser than me with some training to guide people in listening to what God is doing in their lives. If you aren’t a Christian or a little spiritual I guess it sounds wackadoodle, but just go with it for now. Anyway, she has advised me to pray that I would recognize my future husband when/if I encounter him in my life. She has said this several times, and in the back of my mind I have thought it’s kind of dumb. I mean, c’mon, of course I’ll recognize the guy! I’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR HIM FOR YEARS!

But that thinking assumes I know what this guy will be like and that he will conveniently fit into my life without major adjustment or disruption. I’m no expert on marriage or anything, but from what people tell me there can be some major adjustment and disruption that happens. If marriage really is about growing and developing together rather than finding the “perfect match” maybe I’m not as open-minded as I thought I was. Maybe I DO have a pretty defined version of the kind of person I would marry. Yikes. So I’ve decided to ease up on the funny evaluation after a date. I mean, there are more important things. And (gasp) he might not think I’m funny either. We may have to get used to each other’s funny. And that’s ok.

The Century That Wasn’t

I signed up to do a century ride (100-miles) with the Leukemia Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training (conveniently referred to as TNT rather than the other, more- straightforward-but-really-awkward acronym possibility). TNT gets people together to do endurance events as a way to draw attention to and raise money for their research toward a cure for blood cancers. I decided this would be a great way to hasten my return to a higher level of activity and training since my bike accident last September, while also honoring a mentor of mine who died after a tragically brief battle with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Her name was Robin. She was 40 and full of spunk and wisdom, and she should not have gone so quickly or early.

What a wonderful combination, right? Doing what I love (riding, or “cycling” as I say when I want to be a snob) at an intensity I love for a great cause. Problem is, my body wasn’t ready. My recovery from my bike accident last year has been hampered by some pesky whiplash leftovers that affect my neck and back. If you’ve ever ridden a bike you know that you kind of need a healthy neck and back.

So I’ve had to scale back and I am training for the “metric century” which is 100K, or 62 miles. This means that on Saturday morning training rides I do the shorter of the two rides while others tackle more significant challenges and enjoy the satisfaction of meeting big goals. I don’t know how to say this without sounding like a total elitist jerk, but it is much harder for me to train for a 62 mile ride than a 100 mile ride. I like big goals. I like to test myself. I like to accomplish things, like that like that super pumped woman in the TNT promo image. This wasn’t my plan.

I’m pretty sure Robin would have some things to say about this. She may get a chuckle out of it in fact. She’d probably say something like “Well, it’s not about you anyway.” When she said stuff like that it stung at first, but I knew she loved me and I needed to hear it. And she wasn’t my mom, so I listened.

Now when people who are doing something charitable say “It’s not about me, it’s about the kids/poor/Jesus, etc.” it kind of makes my skin crawl. I’m suspicious of people who say that so easily, as if it’s no problem to just live life selflessly. The fact is, it is a problem. Well, I don’t know about YOU, but for me it is. So I don’t know if I can say “It’s not about me.” It kind of still is I think. But I guess I’m being forced to let go of some things…to slow down on my bike and focus on the relationships that are developing with TNT folks who are much wiser than me, who I can learn from. I’m being forced to ride, not in order to show off or get in better shape or meet some big goal, but for something larger than myself.  This is making more space for me to think about people who bear anxiety about their counts every day, who are missing out on a quality of life that I take for granted, who hold their life with a much looser grasp than most of us.

So I’m not crazy about this post. I’m worried it sounds moralistic. But writing about it is helpful (don’t ask me why I have to write it out for an audience, that’s a whole other issue/blog post). And just so you know, some people have been asking for more posts. So what do ya know, it’s not about me after all 😉

Excuse me, are you on a first date?

dating cartoonI’m stewing on something more significant but that may take a while to lay out in blog form. So, for now, my top five date quotes. And if you are thinking “It seems like these are taken out of context.” Well, of course they are! That is what makes them funny, duh…

So here goes:

#5 Any time I see someone with a soul patch I think to myself, ‘He has nothing to contribute to the world.’ This date didn’t last long. For starters, the planned-upon coffee shop was closed. So his choice from that point? Bruegger’s. You want a date to start off poorly? Just go to Bruegger’s for some total lack of atmosphere. Anyway, this was something the dude said, shortly after saying, “I don’t go on dates with teachers. They aren’t on the same level of thinking.”

#4 Have you ever been in love? This might be ok to ask on a fifth date. But a first? No siree. Sorry. Too much, too soon. Hold yer horses. Let’s talk about TV shows or something.

#3 Have you been to that museum with the body parts? Enough said.

#2 Excuse me, are you on a first date? Yep, you guessed it, I was. Note to self: don’t go on a first date to Folger Theater for standing room only tickets, because you will have to wait for a long time in a very quiet waiting area where everyone can hear your awkward Q & A. At least the play was good, but please, lady, keep your thoughts to yourself and stay outta my bizness.

#1 Will you help me with my rap video? I am not lying. And, I can’t believe I am admitting this, but, yes, I did help him with his rap video. In an extremely crowded market. Near my house. Where the chances of seeing someone I know were very high. This quote really deserves a blog post all to itself. So I will leave you hanging until then.

Dating is often un-fun. It is sometimes painful. But, it is always an adventure! (At least, that’s what I tell myself after a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad date.) Do you have a quote to share? I would love to hear!

Ode To Jenny

So I’m a late bloomer. First pedi? Probably 33 (maaybe earlier, but only because I was in a wedding). First eyebrow wax? Mmm…34 or so. First pair of shoes that are not black, brown, or tan? Around 36. First massage? Last year.

birk

The Birkenstock

I just never really learned about fashion or the fun pampering, self-care things that are out there. My mom was never into that stuff, and I stand by that being a very cool thing about her. But as a result I was kinda behind the curve. A few middle school friends taught me how to wear makeup at a slumber party once. That lasted a year or so. By the time I went to college I was fully embracing baggy jeans, Umbros and Birkenstocks. Even Birkenstocks with socks ladies and gents. I kinda ran with the “You don’t have to care how you look just cuz you’re a girl…beauty is within blahblahblah” mentality.

Fast forward to DC. I had improved, slightly. No more Umbros. Definitely no socks with sandals. Even threw out my baggy jeans and cut down on my T-Shirt collection. I started spending time with other single women. (Prior to DC I had been in Pittsburgh. Love that town, but not too many single peeps and I was doing campus ministry for an organization that, though awesome, was a little on the granola side and not too fashion-forward.) And I started realizing that taking care of how I look might be a good thing. I started wearing heels, painting my toenails, and buying clothes that fit. And it felt kind of good. But I still had a ways to go.

Then I met Jenny*. Jenny was just out of college and moved in with me and my two other roommates. She was a breath of fresh air for our stale, mid-30s “I’m getting older” mentalities.  She coordinated her clothes and always looked awesome and sharp and put together. She knew how to wear makeup. She also made amazing ginger cookies.

We all wanted to be like Jenny. I mean, who wouldn’t?

jenny3

Jenny, looking awesome as usual.

One of Jenny’s favorite shows was TLC’s What Not To Wear. For those of you not familiar, in WNTW Clinton Kelly and Stacey London ambush people whose friends have nominated them for a style-makeover. Clinton is gay, so it is ok for he and Stacey to hold hands occasionally. But I still think it’s awkward.

I started watching WNTW with Jenny and pretended that I too was simply laughing at “those people” with terrible, awful wardrobes while secretly I was taking mental notes for myself. Hmmm, maybe I should get rid of that boxy, mint-green sweater I’ve had for five years. Ohhhh, that’s how you say Empire waist! Huh…so blue shoes are a “neutral”…amazing! Fortunately for me the show was syndicated and we had TiVo. So there was much wisdom to be gained on a Monday night after a long day at work.

One part of the show that I love is when this woman Carmindy does a makeover for the participant. She is super nice and tells people they have beautiful eyes or cheekbones or whatever. Then she makes them look awesome in about five minutes. And she swears they can make themselves look awesome in the same amount of time.

Doesn't she look like such a nice person?

Doesn’t Carmindy look like such a nice person?

So one day I worked up the courage to ask Jenny (who, if you will remember, knows how to wear makeup), “Jenny, will you be my Carmindy?” I asked in a kind of silly sing-songy voice in case she looked at me funny and I could just be like “HA! Just kidding! I know how to wear makeup, just gotta go to the store and get some!” But of course Jenny was happy to be my Carmindy and we did a little makeup session. One of my roommates took some video footage and Jenny took a before and after picture. If I recall correctly, there was a lot of giggling. Then Jenny and I took a field trip to Sephora and Target and I bought my very own makeup. It was SO much fun. The makeup tutorial I never had in junior or senior high, finally happening. At 36.

So now I wear makeup almost every day. And I try to dress well. In fact, a few years ago, probably shortly after my little session with Jenny, I resolved to never go anywhere looking less than my best pretty good. Those of you who know me well know that I fall down on the job from time to time. Well, often. But I try. I still have a hard time trusting that anything can go with a neutral. And I have to restrain the urge to only wear colors that match, rather than embrace the idea that they simply have to compliment one another (whatever that means). I’ll admit it, I’ve looked up color wheels online. I’m not perfect, people.

But if you’ve got a Jenny in your life…you know, someone who just knows how to do something you never learned — someone who could help you with something you’re embarrassed to admit you’re terrible at. Work up the courage. Ask them to be your Carmindy (maybe in a sing-songy voice, just in case). You won’t regret it.

*Jenny also has a blog and I think her post from a few days ago is hilarious. And of course, she even has a style section!

What My Bike Taught Me One Day

me right before my accident

Me right before my accident – just kidding, I always wear a helmet.

About four years ago I was riding my bike through Eastern Market and going through the intersection of N. Carolina and Independence. I was making a soft left and a guy* driving his car the opposite direction made a (semi-illegal) hard left. We collided. Fortunately the driver was only going about 10 miles an hour and I was probably going about the same since I saw the imminent crash and was slamming my brakes. Due to some basic laws of physics a car always beats a bicycle no matter the speed, and I popped off my bike like a champagne cork.

Fortunately, I was totally fine. A cop came over and asked some questions, the driver and I exchanged information cordially, and I actually rode home. I took a few Advil and went to bed (I know, I know, probably not the safest thing to do).

The next day I called the driver to, 1) tell him I was fine and, 2) let him know my bike would need a few minor repairs, since he had offered to cover any damages. He was super relieved to know that I was ok. I knew after we hit each other that he was probably more shaken up than me, and my call was more about reason #1 than reason #2. The damages and a new helmet would amount to maybe about eighty bucks. But he was so effusive in his promise to make good on any fallout. He told me to absolutely get my bike fixed, get a new helmet, or even get a new bike if that what was needed….whatever it was, he’d cover it. At that point the wheels in my head started turning. And it was an ugly inside-my-head scene.

“I could get a new bike out of this,” I thought. Road bikes aren’t cheap. I’d had mine for about 8 years at that point. By American roadie-snob standards, it was old. An upgrade would be awful nice. I was making peanuts at my job. And this guy was scared. He thought he had caused serious harm. He was vulnerable. In our litigious culture, I bet he would have gone to great lengths to keep this out of the courtroom. Plus, he was a semi-public figure. He had a reputation to protect. All I’d have to say was, “Well I thought my bike was fine, but it turns out the damage was significant. Looks like I should just get a new one.” I even went over the dialogue in my head.

The inside-my-head scene lasted a few brief seconds. But for the first time I understood the temptation to take advantage of a situation. I really had never encountered this before, and my response, though fleeting, surprised and shocked me.

This experience was instructive for me. I’ve always thought the human heart  (And when I say “heart” I mean the core of who we are, not just our emotions or feelings…something deeper that directs us and catches us unaware in moments too transitory to think through.) is complicated and conflicted. I’ve always thought it to be capable of both good and evil. This “diagnosis” of being human is to me one of the most compelling pieces of the Christian story. But I’m not sure I really believed that about my heart if I’m totally honest about it. I mean, in a few seconds I had thoughts of taking advantage of a situation as well as the realization of that being very, very wrong. I don’t think I realized how tangled it can get in there.

So I know in a way I didn’t fully appreciate before that things can emerge from me that don’t necessarily match the kind of person I think I am…that I’ve got some pretty negative potential energy brewing inside. But I don’t think this is a bad thing. Better to be aware and sobered than regretful on the other side of blissful naivete. Maybe this can be instructive for you too in some small way. Or maybe you’ll just pay a little more attention to the cyclist coming your way across the intersection. Either way, thanks for reading, and be careful.

*I’d like to keep the identity of the driver private. Some of you know who it was, but please exercise restraint in your comments.