Saturday, November 29, 2008
It’s a rare occurrence in our first-meets-second-shift worlds, and when we learned Brett would get the full four-day weekend off, we almost fell to the floor in happy disbelief!
We celebrated Thanksgiving with Brett’s family (and Mom and Gary) in Geneva. We spent most of the day Friday reading and sleeping. We called up Brett’s dad in the evening, and he invited us to a MASSIVE all-you-can-eat buffet at the Grand Victoria in Geneva. It was delicious.
I had my Saturday all planned out. Brett and I would go out to eat at Chili’s, using the generous gift certificate from unnamed sources, and then I’d go put some hours in at the office and try to get caught up. My plans were unceremoniously changed when I developed a head-splitting migraine halfway through our meal.
Brett drove me home where I reveled in Excedrin and my bed for almost four hours. I felt like a new woman upon waking, and Brett and I decided to do a little window shopping.
One of Brett’s favorite places to visit/shop/live is Border’s. I, myself, am not a big book store fan.
My long standing policy is to only buy books if a.) they are a gift for someone or b.) I’ve already checked the book out from the library and loved it so much that I know I will read it over and over again and want my own permission to get the pages dog-eared, read guiltless in a steamy bathtub, and get cream cheese smudged in every 20 pages or so.
I would never, never do that to a borrowed library book, for those of you now terrified you’re reading a rouge paperback I managed to get my grubby hands on.
I agreed to subject myself to the snobby bookstore crowd, only because Border’s is lodged precariously close to my greatest weakness. Hallmark.
Oh, I love Hallmark. I love the style. I love the trinkets, candles, cards, and the imaginatorium that virtually swirls in the clouds above my head every time I visit.
Brett agreed to drop me at Hallmark and proceed on to Border’s where he could read brand-new materials to his little heart’s content.
I practically danced into Hallmark. I took a sweep through the new ornament display, disappointed at the lack of cute rabbit ornaments this year.
I perused the Christmas card case, where I was delighted to find two boxes of Marjolein Bastin’s “rabbit in the snow in front of a watering can” series. It was buy 1, get 1 half off, and a very British salesperson handed me a coupon for $5 off at that VERY moment, which I considered an encouragement from heaven to buy those cards.
Who am I to pooh-pooh signs from heaven?
As I continued my minuet around the store, I found the perfect gift for my co-worker, Nancy. It was an $8 trinket, but it spoke volumes to her kind-hearted personality and the way she mixes a good deal of love and compassion into our business environment.
I was waltzing past the frame section – offering tiny prayers that I will have a frame-free Christmas this year – when something brought me to a solid stop.
It was a simple white and brown tin frame. Around the scalloped edges was a saying written in impressive calligraphy. “This face makes me smile.” Inside, a photograph of a child with wide-eyes and a mischievous grin.
I was embarrassed to find my eyes misting over. I felt two fat tears roll down my cheek, and I furiously wiped my eyes. Determined to avoid a spectacle, I soldiered on to the next section, where I found myself awash in pink butterflies and blue elephants.
The children’s section.
The tears came anew, as I stared at little boxes designed to hold money from the tooth fairy. Tiny stuffed princess dolls, and plush choo-choo trains that whistled when hugged tight. Bright, happy walrus’ grinned at me, and a 3-foot-tall giraffe leaned against my leg. I couldn’t help the tears that were now flowing freely.
Most of the time, I think I’ve got this infertility thing licked.
I breathe a sigh of relief when I’m out and hear a baby screeching. At Wal-Mart, I crack a little smile when I see a parent driven to distraction and toss a coloring book in the basket just to avoid a meltdown. When I was at Olive Garden with Alice and a toddler tried to crawl under our table, I found myself thanking God for His blessing of a quiet car ride home.
So, when people inquire about how I’m doing, I’m honest. I speak the truth.
“We’re content with what God has given us.”
“We trust God to do His will when His timing is right, not ours.”
“Things are tough right now. Kids would compound everything.”
But, right there in Hallmark, with tears running free-range down my face, I succumbed to the quiet moment of despair, helplessness, and - much to my chagrin – envy and bitterness.
On days like this, in moments like this, I’m surprised to find myself NOT angry at God. Instead, I’m angry at myself.
To me, fertility is like a test I can’t pass. I study, and study, and study, and watch as kids who’ve never even BEEN in class, hand their papers in for an +A every time. While, I sit and stare at my paper, angry red X’s, and a giant F marked at the top.
It takes me back to the familiar embarrassment of being last. Of being the last to learn, to do, everything.
I was a miserable eight-year-old when I learned that the bunny went around the tree and in the hole. I wore Velcro shoes until that very moment. My other friends learned to tie their shoes years earlier, and I felt the hot shame of falling behind.
I was eleven before I could ride a bike. The neighborhood kids, five and six years my junior, raced by on their ten speeds, as I played in the yard and waved bravely. I still remember my unfettered joy when Dad raced down the sidewalk behind me, suddenly disappearing, and I braked to a hard, unflappable stop in front of my friend Shannon’s house like I’d been born riding a bike.
It was years later that I would learn my left-handedness, which was responsible for my creative streak and my straight A’s, was also a culprit in my learning common motor skills at a slower pace.
Still, I was always last. I got my period last, my training bra last, and my driver’s license months before I went to college. Infertility swells the familiar feeling of failure. Those dreaded red X’s translate into one dull pink line.
I clutched a furry frog to my heaving chest and couldn’t even draw on the familiar Midwestern tradition of being proper to stop making a scene. As people walked around me, intent on Christmas shopping, they probably just saw a fat woman crying over a stupid stuffed frog.
I tried to hold back the bitterness as it throttled through my chest. Bitterness is the foul odor that permeates my infertile soul.
People jump into my mind, and I try to fight the ire that crawls up my backbone.
I try, I really do, to be happy for pregnant people. I express the joy I feel I should express, although so often the thoughts shooting through my head are hateful and vile.
I once knew a pair of barely-marrieds that announced they were “surprised” by pregnancy. As I shook hands with one and hugged the other, my thoughts were jumbled. Of course, I was happy for them. I’d have to be a little inhuman not to be happy for them, right?
And yet, all I wanted to say was, “That’s not fair! You have no experience in this. You’ve not been on your knees, faithful as a prayer warrior, begging, pleading, promising to be like Hannah. You need more years of hoping and praying and waiting. It’s not right. It’s not fair.”
I hated her for her fancy, pretty, efficient reproductive system while mine sits unused and broken like a rusted, out-dated iron lung. I wanted to shake her little perfect Barbie head till it snapped off with the urgency of my message. I’m not proud of this, you understand, but it’s undeniably true.
Another acquaintance recently confided she and her husband have decided to have another baby. It will make five for their family. She said, “I thought we were done, but we prayed about it and just feel God is leading us to have another baby.”
I stood, mouth agape, at the news. She spoke casually, as if having another baby was as easy as picking up the phone and adding a second pizza to her Domino’s order. I clamped my lips shut and smiled in broad, fake congratulations.
The thing is - I really do try to feel happy. And sometimes I do. And then I get sucker punched.
Another friend and I were talking recently. She told me that a shared friend of ours was hoping to have another baby to add to their current only child.
“She really wants to have the baby pretty soon,” my friend said.
“Why the rush? She’s still so young,” I asked, thinking of our lovely 26-year-old friend.
“Well, she wants to have the baby before she’s thirty. You know how if you have babies after thirty, there’s more of a chance of….” Her voice trailed off as the devastated look on my face registered in her brain. She fell to silence, not sure how to offer comfort against cold, hard medical facts.
I find myself fighting fury and praying like a torrent against bitterness in my infertility.
By this time, I’d put the stuffed frog back on the shelf and returned to stare at the white and brown tin frame which seemed to hold me in its mesmerizing grasp.
I thought of my sweet niece Brielle and of a snippet I’d read in a book only hours before, “Aunt and uncles have one of the best jobs on the planet and a great responsibility to their young charges.”
I found myself imagining a future where Candice would ask me to take Brielle to tumbling, or pick her up from volleyball practice, and even arrange the occasional sleepover.
I remember, very well, my own sleepovers as a five year old at my then-childless Aunt Judi and Uncle Tim’s. I slept on the fold-out couch, ate the world’s best homemade spaghetti, and got a Barbie on a surprise Toys R Us shopping trip. I never wanted to leave their little house.
I tried to imagine my own life without the laughter and love that flowed from my Aunt Kathy, or the humor and heart for others of my Aunt Louise, or the special spiritual truths spoken in love from Aunt Jan.
I dreamed in that moment of Brielle. I prayed and hoped that when she reaches thirty, she’ll remember me with a measure of the warmth and regard I have for these amazing women who shaped me into the person I am.
I consoled myself with Brielle’s brown eyes and a sappy minds-eye rendition of an eight-year-old Brie, Candice, and I singing Mama Said complete with hairbrush microphones, jumping up and down on a king-size bed.
As I circled back to the ornaments, I found myself in a sad, lingering moment. I find these often in the day, when I dream of my life with a child.
I’ll be driving in the car and glance in my rear view mirror. I envision a car seat and her sweet face. On the return trip, I see a young child in the passenger seat beside me, swinging his legs and singing to the radio, note for warbled note.
I make chocolate chip cookies and see someone leaning against the counter wanting to help. I browse through the library and resist the urge to smuggle Green Eggs and Ham out under my coat.
I imagine setting up the Christmas tree and explaining each ornament, breathing life into the stories I fear will die untold. Truth, honesty, and love that will turn to dust, not given the air to breathe or the child to treasure.
I think sometimes I want a child just so I can stop being afraid of children.
I sat beside my second cousin, Zachary, as he slept in his coma. I watched as his aunts and other, random people from his church stroked his arms, tousled his hair, or simply held his hand. I found myself unable to move.
I was afraid at my touch he would sit up, disgruntled, look me straight in the eye, and say, “Hey, look, lady, I only see you at Christmas. Don’t be touching me.”
Watching other people doing it with such ease left me befuddled. They might well as been covered in butterflies and dancing a highland jig. Something else I can’t do.
I stood at the check-out counter as the British salesperson rung up my rabbit cards and co-worker’s Christmas gift.
“You might want to let that frog dry out,” I said with a smile, trying to keep my voice light, knowing my recent crying jag was visible in my red-rimmed eyes.
She smiled back at me and reached across the counter to pat my hand. “It’ll be all right, dear,” she said, her voice drenched in tea, crumpets, and caring.
I walked to the door holding my bag and took a deep breath before immersing myself in the vibrant cold outside.
Praying that she was right.
Praying that, someday, it really will be all right.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
There I was - proudly blogging my amazingly detailed, action-packed dreams – envisioning the reason I was so blessed was due to my innate creativity and right-brained wired mind.
So, you can imagine, it came as quite a surprise to me yesterday, as I sat in my doctor’s office, to be told a side effect of my new blood pressure medication is…extremely vivid dreams.
A side effect? Of boring blood pressure medication?
“It’s quite common,” my doctor told me as I sat there in stunned silence, seeing my reasons for intriguing dreaming reduced to a tiny, two-tone blue pill.
It’s not so bad. I suppose it’s not totally unthinkable that Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, and Stephenie Meyer might also be on blood pressure medication?
Hey, a girl can dream.
Friday, November 21, 2008
I knew I was taking that risk when I decided to follow in my parent’s footsteps and attend Moody Bible Institute.
At my high school/church, there were only a few “officially” endorsed colleges, and Moody was not among them.
Moody was and still is hailed as a liberal college where drinking, dancing, and debauchery is king. (Legalistic, cult-forming, brain-washing, uneducated, and uninformed lies – let me just state right here and now.)
In fact, my high school principal asked if it was okay for him to omit where I – the valedictorian – was going to college when he read my name from the stage.
I flatly told him, “No, it’s not okay. If you don’t say it, I will.”
I had lived and breathed legalistic fundamentalism my entire scholastic life. When I set foot, as a high school sophomore, on MBI’s bustling Chicago campus, everything felt poised to change. The air crackled with enthusiasm.
I spent the weekend orientation meeting other prospective students. There were kids from public school in awe of going to a college where God was mentioned in the daily curriculum. There were non-denominationals, Lutherans, Anglicans, Mennonites, and many, many more. There were kids from mega-churches, country farms, overseas, and inner-cities.
There were smiles at every turn, and I felt swept up by the sound of whooshing Chicago traffic along the college sidewalks. I envisioned myself in a high-rise dorm, storming the underground tunnels in the dead of winter, and reflecting quietly in the woodsy parks embedded in the big city college.
Over the weekend, I went to chapel, tagged along on a Practical Christian Ministry assignment in Cabrini Green, and met scores of other Christian teenagers who weren’t legalistic in the least. I sat in classes where the professors snagged my attention for the whole hour. I was disappointed when the buzzer rang announcing the end of classes.
I spent the night in a high-rise dorm with girls who made me laugh so hard, I cried. By the time I met my parents back at the River North Hotel, I had already decided. It was like God had handed me this giant gift, this treasure, and I had instant peace about enrolling as a student in two short years.
My years at Moody are among the most precious time in my life.
For the first time, I learned about God away from the surface, the external, the right-and-wrong rules. I learned about a true relationship with Jesus Christ. I learned what I believed and why.
I participated in ministry – real, life-changing ministry. I led Sunday School classes, tutored Hispanic children in deteriorated neighborhoods, ministered to female inmates at the Cook County Jail, and spent time on my knees praying with unwed mothers at the massive Cook County Hospital.
Say what you will about big city temptations – a big city offers ministry opportunities like no other.
Moody prepares students and lifeguards them into the ministry waters, even as freshmen. They don’t spend four years force-feeding and then thrusting students into a harsh, real world with no ministry experience.
Moody excels at providing real-world ministry experience.
If it isn’t obvious already, I spent my four year at Moody deep-breathing, after nearly suffocating to death in the staid halls of IFB prison. I was a free woman in the most amazing city in the world.
I’ve been back in Rockford for eight years now. In that time, the only other Moody grad I’ve encountered is my mom.
When Alice and her family showed up at Mom’s church, the pastor announced they were Moody grads. Mom’s antennae quivered happily, and almost instantly, she and Alice were fast friends.
In short order, Mom introduced me to Alice, via her blog. We started out on how-are-you’s and have progressed to a frantic, writer-y, e-mail relationship that is a continual high point in my life.
Last night, we went out to dinner at Olive Garden. We stayed so long; they practically had to kick us out.
Now, I have no problem imagining we’d still be friends if Alice had gone to Maranantha, Northland, Bob Jones University, Pensacola, Pillsbury, Ambassador, Crown, or Hyles-Anderson (although the thought of Alice there makes me smile). I’ve friends from all those learning institutions who I respect and love dearly.
But there’s just something about a sister Moody grad.
It’s made even more interesting, because Alice didn’t grow up as an IFB. She’s just now navigating the trails where I became an expert tracker. Every so often, she’ll throw questions at me and ask “Why do Baptists do this?” Lately, she bestowed on me the title of Baptist Translator.
I plan to put that on my resume. Just FYI.
We barely talk about Moody. It’s just an unspoken, underlying gratefulness for our education and unique ministry experience that permeates our conversation. Your house rests on a strong foundation, but how often do you reflect on it?
Alice’s friendship has been a joy to me, and the fact she is a sister Moody grad is really just icing on the cake.
But that icing is oh-so-delicious. Sort of like something you might find in a bakery. In Chicago. The best city in the world.
Not that I’m biased or anything.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Sometimes it feels a little headachy, and sometimes it feels strangely good. Like I’m gently drugged. It’s the whole wavering between pounding pain and slight euphoria.
Euphoria. What a word. I always picture myself standing in the middle of a gigantic, pale pink flower as multi-colored gum drops rain down from a cotton candy sky.
I’m so tired today. I find myself unable to focus on work (of which I have plenty, let me assure you). I want to wander around and talk to people. I want to wrap myself in companionable conversation like a warm blanket on a frosty day. I love laughing with loved ones, commiserating with colleagues, and alliterating my annotations.
I find my muse has re-inspired me with words. I race to new ideas, character development, and story arcs that threaten to shoot off the page.
I drag myself to the predictable, the ho-hum, the boring. The balance between love and money rarely tips toward love, if you ask this humble scribe.
And, well, onward. Off to work I go. Hi Ho Hi Ho.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
I decided to remove Stuff Christians Like. It has drifted away from good-natured mocking of common Christian or “churched” idiosyncrasies, toward more abstract spiritualization that (frankly) I don’t find helpful or grounded in Scripture.
I wish the blog creator had stuck to what he knew best and kept the funny topics and wry observations. Either way, it’s off my list of must-reads.
As an avid follower of pop culture, I am adding Pop Candy. I’ve been checking it out over the past few weeks, and it always provides a laugh along with an inside view of what’s going on in our entertainment culture. I like that it provides quick and easy link lists, and there are usually four of five topics that immediately snag my interest.
If there are other comic-lovers out there, I still highly recommend the *Comics Curmudgeon. Josh, the author, has never let me down with witty comments and undertones that often have me rolling on the floor laughing.
Also worth checking out is the awesome *Television Without Pity. If you like TV AT ALL, and you have a sense of humor, you will love this site.
*these sites are not recommended for people who might be easily offended. Just sayin’.
Last night, a younger version of Simon Baker (from the CBS show The Mentalist) and I were getting a little frisky in the house from The Sound of Music.
Nothing happened, at least not until we got caught, and our parents forbid us to see each other.
The next part of my dream was fraught with drama.
I was part of a small group that was fleeing our other-worldly city. We were trying urgently to get to safety.
We were traveling in an old Buick. My Uncle Jimmy (my dad’s only surviving brother) was driving the car. There was another man in the passenger seat, but his face was obscured, and I couldn’t see who he was.
My cousin Charity and I were in the backseat. Charity had rescued my Aunt Laurie’s baby (!) and had the little girl wrapped up tightly against her.
Uncle Jimmy was driving at breakneck speed, but the flood waters were rising rapidly. Charity and I were holding hands and screaming, as the car careened one way and another, all over the road.
As Uncle Jimmy tried to get the car under control, I was able to get a good look at the city we were trying so desperately to leave.
The buildings were tall and steel-colored. There was a ring of light surrounding the city that refracted gorgeous colors back onto all the shiny surfaces.
A lovely deep purple wall surrounded the city. Water was rushing over it from all sides.
Uncle Jimmy was forced to pull the car off to the side of the road, and the five of us abandoned the car and raced across the street. We climbed into a double-decker bus, and Uncle Jimmy gunned the engine, as we held on to the seat rails.
The baby was crying, and Charity kept whispering that everything was all going to be all right.
Eventually, we got to the edge of the violet wall. Uncle Jimmy yelled up to us – we were on the second level – that he wasn’t going to make it. He told us to leave him behind, and get the baby to safety.
Charity and I climbed out the back window and stood for a second on the top of the wall, the baby still wrapped securely in Charity’s arms.
We stood there in long flowing dresses. The blowing rain and wind lifted the tattered gossamer material into the air, whipping it around our ankles. Water bled over our bare feet.
I gazed at my cousin, so strong, so bold, so maternal. She stared deep into the baby’s eyes and then back at me.
“It’s time to go,” she whispered. We looked down, over the edge of the wall, and saw a turbulent ocean writhing with inky black waves. Above us, the night sky was full of blinding multi-colored stars.
I caught Charity’s hand in my own. She covered the baby with her other hand, and we jumped.
Then, I woke up and just had to write all this down.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
My friend Cindy posed a question on Facebook yesterday. She asked if any of her friends had ever received a book as gift and how they felt about it. I answered, and today she mentioned me in her blog post.
So, I’m encouraging you to wander over there and read about this rather interesting topic. Not just because she included me (well, mostly), but because Cindy is a gifted writer, and you’ll be sure to enjoy yourself!
Monday, November 17, 2008
Okay, I have several irrational fears. Most of them are unlikely to ever happen. For instance, being eaten by a shark. Still, I can’t watch underwater films without freaking out.
“Is this the ocean?” I’ll ask annoyed moviegoers, peering though my finger. “Could there be sharks? Please tell me they shot this movie on a lake!”
When I was in high school, I worked in a daycare. Every Wednesday was movie day, and when I found out they were watching Free Willy, I feigned illness and got the heck out of Dodge.
Mom and I went to see Finding Nemo a couple of years back, and when the toothy sharks swam on screen, I screamed like a little girl. Toddlers all around me gave me annoyed looks, not scared themselves in the least.
I know I’m not the only one.
I have a dear friend who is scared of her car getting stuck on the railroad tracks. She has this horrible vision that a train will appear out of nowhere and mow her car down. It’s such a serious, irrational fear that she has the train tracks mapped out all over town and routes to get everywhere without having to cross any tracks. In fact, she doesn’t even like to walk across train tracks. When I’m driving her, she’ll briefly grit her teeth and close her eyes until we’re over the tracks.
I have another fear, and it’s pretty irrational. Ready?
Okay, I have a fear that the doorbell will ring; I answer the door, and promptly get shot in the face. I TOLD you it was irrational.
I blame it on all the news coverage of the Amy Fisher case. She’s the teenager who was having the affair with the married man, and then tried to kill his wife, via the above scenario. The man’s (now ex) wife survived, but now I live with the irrational fear that someone is going to ring the doorbell and shoot me in the face.
I don’t know how long I’ve had this fear, but it’s been a while. I don’t mind answering the doorbell if I’m expecting it to ring. Say, if we’ve ordered pizza, or Mom’s called to say she’s coming over. I get spooked with the doorbell rings, and I’m not expecting it.
Some little kid selling candy might stand on the other side, or in my warped mind, a twisted and sadistic gunman who knows my husband works second shift.
When Mom and Gary were living with us, Gary worked second shift. Around midnight one night, Mom was asleep downstairs, and Brett and I were sawing logs upstairs. I thought I heard the doorbell. I shook Brett awake to see if he heard it.
“Ghnoring blascanman,” he said, which I took for, “I didn’t hear anything.”
I tiptoed downstairs, prepared to scream my guts out, and saw Gary waiting patiently in the dark. We had accidentally locked the glass door from the inside. I let him in and took a quick glance around the dark to see if any twisted, sadistic gunmen lurked in the dark corners, before locking the door behind us.
The next morning, Mom and Brett declared they’d heard nothing. Gary was grateful for my super-hearing, and I was still hyperventilating from the experience. I hate answering the doorbell.
What makes it worse is that Brett also hates answering the doorbell.
“Honey, door,” he’ll yell, even if he’s standing five feet away.
“So? You get it,” I’ll yell back from the safety of the couch.
“It’s probably no one,” he’ll say, as he ducks out of range of our front windows.
“What if it was somebody,” I’ll ask from the couch. “What if it was important?”
“Nah,” he’ll say and wander whistling back upstairs, hoping to be far away if the valiant bell ringer tries again.
There have been many times, I’ll admit it, that we just don’t answer the doorbell. Me, out of liking my face the way it is, and Brett who’s afraid he’ll have to shell out $5 for some neighbor kid’s band candy sale.
Several times, we’ve been sitting in the living room, hear the doorbell, and then look at each other. We do a mental debate over who it might be, and if neither of us can identify a possible known bell ringer, we absolve each other of our responsibility to answer the door.
“We could be in the shower,” I say for the first excuse.
“We could be taking a nap.” Brett joins in.
“We could be so sick, we can’t answer the door!”
“We could be hearing impaired, recently diagnosed!”
“We could be away from home on a long vacation.”
“I’ve got it!” Brett snuggles in close to me. “Doorbell’s broken, and can only be heard on the outside.”
“I love you,” I declare and kiss my never-ending excuse-maker.
The only problem I deal with is that allowing my irrational fear to continue leaves me with a very unpleasant sensation.
I feel so unbelievable guilty for not answering the door. Now, I know that it’s most likely a lobbyist trying to get my vote, Jehovah’s Witnesses, little kids selling candy, etc. But, there’s always the chance, it’s some fresh-faced teen running from a serial killer and seeking shelter in our house.
But, then again, there’s always the chance she’s going to shoot me in the face. So, really, it’s a wash.
The reason I bring all this up is because our doorbell MAY have been rung at 6:15 this morning. I woke up from a solid sleep next to my snoring husband. I waited to see if I’d hear the sound again, but to no avail. I shook Brett awake.
“Did you hear the doorbell?” I asked anxiously.
“Ghnoring blascanman,” he said lightly.
“I think I heard the doorbell,” I fretted, wringing my hands, totally awake and feeling guilty.
“What time is it?” My husband muttered something unintelligible before resuming his snoring.
I snuck out of bed and tiptoed to the laundry room window which overlooks our front door. I peeked over the window, but I didn’t see anyone.
I climbed back into bed. “Maybe it was just the garbage truck. It kind of dings back and forth when it moves down the street. Besides, who would ring the doorbell at 6:15 in the morning? I mean, who!”
Besides a twisted, sadistic gunmen who might be a neighbor.
Still, I remained sitting up in bed. I felt guilty. What is someone had been out jogging and was being chased by a gun-toting, one-armed man? What then? Had I shirked my duty?
My husband was distracted by me sitting ramrod straight in bed. He leaned to one side and considered me out of one sleepy eye. “Are you okay, hon?”
“Just worried about that stupid doorbell,” I confided.
“It’s okay, baby.” He patted me knee. “It was probably just in your dream.”
“Right! Right!” I got comfortable once again and tried to drift back off to sleep. In the back of my mind, I saw all the people who could have been up and ringing doorbells at 6:15 and decided that if it had been that important, they would have rung more than once.
So, if it was you, I’m sorry I didn’t answer the door. But, word of advice, always call before you stop over.
I like my face the way it is too much to risk it, even for you.
Friday, November 14, 2008
I don’t know if it comes from watching my Pollyanna VHS tape non-stop as a pre-teen (we didn’t have quality shows like Gossip Girl back then).
My parents may also be to blame with their constantly chirpy announcements on the importance of thanking God for the things in our lives while I was growing up.
Or, it could have been the life-changing excerpt from The Hiding Place where Betsie thanks God for the lice in her concentration camp barracks.
But, I really think it comes from a high school chapel sermon.
As you know, I attended a very conservative, legalistic, Christian school. We had hour-long chapels four days week. Most of the chapels were a complete waste of time. You could have put a monkey with a flaming stick at the podium, and it would have been a better investment in our lives.
A few chapels in particular stand out to me, such as a challenge set forth by a rather rotund “preacher” (this was an honorary title bestowed on men not ordained, trained, or often mentally-balanced, who were featured as guest speakers in our chapels).
The only reason I mention his weight is because he should have had some sensitivity about outward appearance, but he went on to prove he had no such conviction.
He reminded “us gals” that we needed to be “pretty on the inside, too.” I believe his exact illustration was, “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.”
My friend Amy leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Did he just refer to us as livestock?”
“Yep,” I deadpanned. “I’m not sure he should be bringing up pigs. Invites comparison.”
She stifled a giggle, as our belligerent preacher bellied back up the podium. He thumped his Bible against the microphone. “Now, I’m not saying that women shouldn’t try to be pretty. After all, if the barn needs painting…” His voice trailed off into knowing nodding, as the boys and men in the room laughed.
I took stock of my sister classmates. The more devout supplicants - the ones with breeding, bare feet, and brainwashing in their futures - gave slight smiles, unable to completely suffocate the tiny sliver of their self-esteem gasping for air.
Others of us, would-be feminists (at least in that setting) along with the well-balanced kept straight faces. The same expression was valiantly favored by the female teachers in the room.
For the rest of the semester, the boys reminded us we resembled poorly painted agricultural architecture.
College chapels were also often favored. Young, handsome college men would visit our humble gathering and shill for their school.
I remember two of these colleges, quite clearly. The first one was Bob Jones University. I heard a BJU rep speak at least twice a year from my freshman through senior years. Somehow, I also ended up on the BJU mailing list.
Now, I knew I wasn’t going to BJU. I didn’t know where I was going. I just knew I wasn’t going there. A simple flip through the catalog had confirmed my suspicions that it wouldn’t be a good fit for either institution or individual.
By the time I was a junior, I was getting way more mail from BJU than necessary. I believe entire forests were depleted just so I could be solicited as a student. I was fed up with it, but no matter who I called, I kept getting mail.
So, when the BJU rep came back to the school for his second pass-though, my friend Amy and I brainstormed ways to get off the mailing list.
Finally, Amy hit on a brilliant idea. When the rep passed out the cards asking for our addresses and inquiring about our majors, I copied from Amy’s card:
“Dear BJU – I’m so excited to come to your college! Can you please send me all the information on your pastoral ministry? I just can’t wait to be a female pastor! Sincerely, Ann-Marie”
Neither of us ever got another piece of mail from BJU. Message, apparently, received.
One of the more bumbling college reps was from Ambassador College. For the first fifty minutes of chapel, he talked only to the boys.
He extolled the virtues of the college’s pastoral ministry. “Us gals” were bored and ignored. Near the end of his speech, he seemed to remember there was another gender in the room.
“Now, you girls will be excited to hear we’ve just added a secretarial program, so our young men can have some girls to marry!”
I turned to Amy, incredulous. “That’s it? Secretary or spouse? They think that’s some kind of a draw for the college. Please.”
Amy shrugged. We were both battle weary in our fourth year of high school. “Well, at least we know where we’re going to college. Let’s just hope our underclass groundlings choose wisely for themselves.”
But, as you’ll recall, I mentioned there were a few truffles tucked in the mud.
The one I credit with instilling my gratefulness meter was an older man who preached a message on being thankful for unusual things.
He asked us to name the things we normally thanked God for – food, family, and friend, etc. Then he asked us to start thinking of things we had never offered thanks towards. His example was our senses.
“When was the last time you thanked God you can see a sunset, smell cinnamon rolls, pet an animal, sing, and hear a baby’s laugh?”
It became an inspiration to me.
Even now, every day I try to think of something new. Today, I found myself grateful for words and the ability to communicate through a diverse and bountiful language. Words like palatial, exuberant, physicality, gargantuan, and revolutionary.
In looking back, I know I can even be thankful for those many years of chapels, and the absolute truth of Isaiah 55:11.
“So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”
And, yes, of course, I used the King James Version. For those of you who might have been concerned I learned nothing in chapel.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
I think it EVERY day when I read Facebook. Since I can’t say it there without sounding like a pompous blowhard, I’m going to say it here, on my little ‘ol blog.
Here we go:
There. Their. They’re.
All DIFFERENT words with DIFFERENT meanings. They are NOT interchangeable.
Also, different words. Also, different meanings. Also, not interchangeable.
I hate it that most of my time spent on Facebook finds me hunting for a red pen.
Whew! I feel so much better now. Thanks!
I’ve put the link to his Caring Bridge website on the right. Beth and Brad have been great about posting updates as soon as they happen. The latest of the good news is that Zach is now walking, playing with toys, and even shooting hoops in the play room on the Pediatric Floor – only 6 days after his life-altering injury. What a blessing!
I’ve been having pretty bright and florid dreams lately, so I’ll get back to blogging what I know – a little bit of the crazy.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Julie gives a very stirring account of what happened during the accident. She perfectly captures what went through her mind as everything around her was occurring at light speed. I was moved by her story and her testimony. I’m sure you will be, too.
If you are moved, please let her know. She was the glue that held so much together when everything was coming apart at the seams.
As a member of Beth’s family, I am eternally grateful for the super-human strength God gave Julie during this time - mentally, physically, emotionally, and (most importantly) spiritually.
I’m so thankful she is such a dear friend to Beth - a most kind, compassionate, and caring friend.
I imagine Julie is the kind of friend spoken about Proverbs 17:17 - "A friend loves at all times, and a brother (or sister, in this case) is born for adversity.”
Thank you, Julie!
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Julie has posted an update on her blog. Zachary actually got up and went to the bathroom, showing he could obey commands although in a sleep state! This is a good sign he is closer to coming out of the coma-like state. Praise the Lord!
Here is our local newspaper’s story on the accident.
I was encouraged to see several commentators outraged that the drunk driver was released on $100 bond after:
Driving under the influence
Creating and fleeing one hit-and-run
Being involved in another hit-and-run that sent two adults and six children to the hospital
Sending one little boy to the hospital with a life-altering injury
If there are enough public outcries, maybe the politicians and prosecutors will sit up and take notice!
Beth asked me to “put the word out” on my blog and Facebook saying they’ve deeply appreciated all the wonderful visitors but are now requesting people call before coming to the hospital, so they can schedule Zach’s visitors.
If you need Beth’s phone number, please feel free to e-mail me or leave a comment.
The Molanders have also set up a site where you can read updates on Zachary’s condition, and sign a guestbook with your get well wishes. The website is www.caringbridge.org. Type zacharyjames in the search bar to go to Zach’s site. The site also gives a detailed explanation of what happened to Zach and how the neurologists describe his condition.
Please stop by, and sign the guestbook. Your thoughts and prayers will mean so much to them!
Monday, November 10, 2008
Please check out Zach’s sweet smile and transparent joy.
Deb has posted the latest on Zach’s journey which now includes an MRI.
Your prayers are still deeply felt and appreciated.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
My Cousin Deb, Beth’s sister, has chronicled the details of the accident on her blog. Scroll down a few posts to read from the beginning.
Brett and I stopped by the hospital after church this morning to see Zach, and let Beth and Brad (her husband) know we were thinking about them. It was moving to see Zach looking so healthy, like he was sleeping, and yet know he is in very critical condition.
Beth and Brad have three other children as well, so please pray for them, too. Please pray for the entire Rehfeldt family as we surround them with our love, and pray for the recovery of one of our own.
Your thoughts and prayers are deeply felt and appreciated.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
It was THE audition, and everyone was nervous. My friend Valorie and I were trying out, but we weren’t very good. We knew we’d been cut when a stern lady in a gray suit came by and sneered at us in our tights.
I was disappointed. Valorie became enraged and threw herself at the woman, biting and snarling. I watched in shock, as two armed guards came and wrestled Valorie away. She was being taken to the servant’s dungeon, and it was clear she had gone quite mad.
I threw myself at the lady’s feet and begged for my life. She nudged me with her toe and sniffed that I would be allowed to stay on as a servant in the royal household.
My position was garment servant. I was to work in the large wing of the castle devoted to clothing, along with another servant named Klaus. We worked our fingers to the bone designing dresses, doing fittings, and appeasing the many royal ladies of the castle.
Each night after work, I’d go down to the servant’s kitchen and talk my friend and kitchen servant, Cordelia, into giving me some table scraps. I’d take the scraps down to the servant’s dungeon, and share some of the scraps with Jojack, the servant in charge of the dungeon.
We’d talk for a while and then walk down to Valorie’s cell. Jojack would thrust the food into the cage-like cell, and we’d back away as Valorie would rant and scream at our retreating backs.
Then, one day, gun-toting terrorists took over the castle. They imprisoned the royals in the large garment room where I worked. The terrorists paid us no attention, since we were lowly servants.
I remembered there was a back way to the servant’s dungeon through a hidden door in the garment room. I pressed the door and slipped quietly away. I told Jojack what was going on. He had a row of guns behind him that could be used to restore order in the dungeon if things got out of hand.
Jojack released several prisoners and told them that if they helped free the royals, they would surely receive their freedom. The men joined Jojack and me as we snuck back into the garment room and brazenly freed the royals from the terrorists!
Afterwards, the royals were reluctant to give complete freedom to their servants. Instead, they allowed us to live outside the castle walls in a deserted town that had once been overrun by zombies.
Brett and I decided to be the first ones to live in the new town. We found an empty Wendy’s and started a restaurant catering to servants after a long day of working at the castle. There was also a room in our house, and in the restaurant, just for (still quite mad) Valorie.
Some interesting notes from this dream:
The stage was the same stage inside the gym of Memorial Baptist Church where I grew up.
Valorie is the college friend who introduced me to Brett.
I think the “garment” theme and “Klause” was planted by watching episodes of America’s Next Top Model while I’ve been sick.
The stern lady in the gray suit was my second grade teacher, Miss Bull. Later in the dream, she showed up in a gorgeous gold gown along with the gaggle of girls who aced the audition.
Joe Jack is the name of the baby in The Incredibles movie which I saw advertised on a commercial recently.
The garment room was GIGANTIC. Like the biggest walk-in closet you could imagine. And it was beautifully decorated in cream and gold, so the ladies could enjoy the surroundings while they had fittings. In contrast, the dungeon was horrid. It was dark, dank, and the cells were like dog cages that held human beings.
There were still burgers and supplies in the giant freezers inside the abandoned Wendy’s restaurant. I asked my husband why the zombies hadn’t taken it. He said, “Zombie only want fresh meat.” Which makes sense in a creepy sort of way.
As for the rest of it, I’m not really sure what my subconscious was aiming for, but it made for a pretty exciting dream.
Well, there's nothing like being sick to remind you what is really important in life. Like, say, for instance, your stomach lining.
My week started off a little crazy, a little hectic, but nothing foreshadowed what was to come.
Over the weekend, we noticed Hannah was acting a little lethargic. With rabbits, you have to watch for lethargy, since it is a major sign of illness. Unfortunately, the rabbit vet wasn't available over the weekend. So, I planned to take advantage of my office's flexibility plan and take Hannah to the vet on Monday.
Eventually, Brett and I decided all three rabbits should be examined. Hector needed a nail trim, and Peyton needed a tooth and nail trim. With Brett still on probation at his temporary job, I knew he couldn't take off work to help me. And I knew, as one person, I would need help handling all three carriers. So, I called Mom, and she graciously agreed to accompany me.
I woke up on Monday feeling a little strange. I thought it was just the Monday doldrums. I felt guilty about calling in to work and asking for a last minute vacation day without having given my boss any prior notice. But, as a responsible pet owner and the only spouse with flexible office hours, I couldn't see a way around it. So, I called in, left an apologetic message, and then drove over to Mom's to pick her up.
Before I left the house, I told Brett I felt "strange." There weren't any concrete symptoms, but I felt different than normal. I dismissed it, and Mom and I headed to the vet.
Once we were inside the exam room, I started to feel faint. We had Hector, scared to death, out of his cage and anxiously awaiting the vet. Mom noticed I had started to sweat and sway a little bit. She told me to sit down. I took a moment to sit down and blamed the whole thing on low blood sugar.
The vet came in and trimmed Hector's nails. She was ready to start on the other two, but then she was paged to return a phone call. As she left, Mom and I extricated a non-helpful Peyton from his cage. I started to calm Peyton but found myself drained of the energy to stand. Mom went to get me orange juice, since we were both still operating on the assumption that this was all the result of low blood sugar.
While she was gone, I was swamped by a wave of nausea. I crawled across the clinic floor on my hands and knees and was violently ill in our vet's trash can. Twice. In between, Mom came flying in with the orange juice and – in the most calming thing any child's ear can hear - said, "Oh, baby!" in her sympathetic, concerned Mom voice. I was never so glad to have my mom with me. Suddenly, I was ten years old again, as Mom helped me sit back up, leaning against the bunny carriers for support.
By this point, our vet had returned to find me half-laying on the floor. I told Mom I had to get horizontal pronto. My body was sending me urgent messages to, "Lay down, NOW!" So, Mom had to half-drag me out to my car where I crawled gratefully into my back seat and smartly cracked my head against the door handle. It felt so good to lay down; I didn't even care.
Concerned and little frantic, Mom was running back and forth between the vet's office and the parking lot, checking on the bunnies, and then checking on me. We decided (actually, Mom decided. I moaned in agreement.) to call for reinforcements. Mom called Gary who dropped everything and drove right over.
By the time Gary got there, the vet had finished with all three rabbits (three cheers for our valiant vet). Gary loaded the carriers in my car, and Mom got me situated in the back seat of her car (which Gary drove over) where I gratefully zoned out.
We had no more than just pulled out of the parking lot when I felt another wave of nausea. Frantically, I looked around Mom's car for something – any type of receptacle. But Mom's car was spotless. It could have passed a military inspection. So, I used the only thing I had - Gary's favorite flannel shirt he had given me to use as a pillow. I was violently ill again, about five times.
Mom was driving, yelling comforting statements over her shoulder, and (I'm sure) trying not to freak out about how I was desecrating her still-pretty-new car. Thankfully, Gary's shirt was super-absorbent. The car emerged relatively unscathed.
We got back to my house, and Mom and Gary unloaded the carriers and got the bunnies back in their areas. I changed quickly and grabbed some sweatpants and underwear and crawled right back into Mom's backseat where I nearly passed out again.
Once we got back to their house, Mom helped me lay down in the spare room, with a bucket this time.
I stayed with Mom and Gary from Monday to Wednesday as I battled nausea (thankfully, I didn't get violently ill again), severe stomach cramps, sweats that soaked my hair, aches, dizziness, and skin that felt like it was on fire. Brett called each night, concerned, and even drove over my medication after his shift.
I had all but given up on the idea of voting on Tuesday. I was overwhelmingly dizzy if I stood up for more than a minute. But, Gary persisted, until I couldn't say "no" any longer. With Mom on one side, and Gary on the other, I walked into the polling place to exercise my right to vote for the candidate who would not be President.
There was some concern at the judges' table over my age. Apparently, with no make-up and my hair undone, I look "entirely too young to vote." I had to verify my age before they let me near a ballot. Not the most unflattering thing to hear as sick-as-a-dog 30 year old.
So, I voted, swaying a bit near the end from all the standing.
Gary was very persistent, to the point of agony, that I vote. I found myself thinking if John McCain had Gary as his campaign manager, he might not have lost.
I was out of it most of the time. I remember watching part of the election coverage and feeling giddy near the end. Just because it was really finally over. I might have been a little hallucinatory. I mean, I'm assuming Obama didn't have a koala bear on his shoulder, right? Because I saw one.
Brett picked me up on Wednesday night, after his shift was over, about 11:30 p.m. I'm still not up to snuff, and as much as I hate it, I think I'm going to have to call in again (4 DAYS!). Right now, I'm still moving pretty slowly and having to take everything at a slow pace.
But, as a dear friend once said, "Sometimes God catches your attention in unusual ways."
During my stint in Mom's spare room, I found myself reexamining my life. I don't know if it is sickness, the reminder we are mortal, which makes us take stock of our lives. I took stock of mine and (per my humanness) found myself wanting. I prayed over those few days and asked for guidance on the tough road I'm currently traveling. I asked for help, for contentment, for the peace that passeth all understanding.
So, I thanked God for the reminder, for Mom and Gary's kindness, and especially for my stomach lining.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
I’ve had the whole thing crammed down my throat on the internet and on my beloved TV.
I think the only time I was this disgusted was…okay, I’m this disgusted every year, right about the time they start advertising the Super Bowl. I hate sports with just about as much passion as I hate politics.
And do you know WHY I hate politics? Because I am part of an ignored majority! Who ministers to us? Who caters to our vote? Who promises to serve us in office? WHO, I ask you! Who!
We, the apathetic, in order to seek a more perfect union wish to get back to normal. Give us the remote, dial up a black and white movie, turn on a thumping bass, and let us rock out. Bring on the same old, same old, and let’s all just get along!
Maybe it’s because we don’t like conflict.
We don’t like it when people get in each other’s faces. We’d rather not destroy relationships over something as simple, trite, and often pathetic, as political parties.
If you stab a Republican, does he not bleed? If a Democrat gets breast cancer, does she not don a pink ribbon?
We are all flesh and blood and in this crazy, mixed-up world together. We do NOT feel exhilarated by yelling ourselves hoarse in order to smash another person’s opinions, thoughts, and dreams to dust.
We are tired of being bashed for “not caring”, when really we are just trying to help the rest of you not kill each other. We cherish close relationships, time together and world peace.
So, that’s it. I leave you to it.
Wax happy, sad, or spiritual about the election, if you so wish. Call me when you’re done, and I’ll head over with the chocolate, movies, and bandages for the wounded.
Because I love you and want you to be happy.
Because that’s just the kind of person I am.
Because, we, my friends, shall overcome.
Saturday, November 01, 2008
I’m sure my three readers missed me – or would, if I didn’t talk to Mom and Candice daily. Or clog Alice’s in-box with anxious e-mails three times a day.
My life has been a soap opera for quite a while now. And - as much as I’d like to change the channel - I’m not the one in charge of the remote.
I might be able to be more specific in the ways my life is starting to mimic a badly-written, self-help book in a little while. Right now, I’m just waiting for spousal acquiescence and my level of humiliation to compress.
God bless Angie for knowing me well enough to recognize I was in desperate need of escape. Of course, our escape has always been a dark theater, buttered popcorn, and some action flick where everything blows up at the end and our favorite characters walk away unscathed.
Some of my personal drama involves finances, so we were frugal enough, patient enough, to wait until our choices hit the $5 club. Tonight, we ran away together to see Max Payne, starring (MMM)Mark Wahlberg, and Pride and Glory, starring Colin Farrell.
“If seeing Mark Wahlberg shoot bad guys or watching Colin Farrell get down and dirty in a fist fight doesn’t make you feel better, you’re too far gone.”
Truer words were never spoken by any friend of mine.
We popped for the jumbo popcorn combo and drinks large enough to drown in. We added in salty pretzels and that delicious melty cheese and headed to see Max Payne.
I don’t know what it is about watching a movie in the theater, sitting next to my sister action flick freak, that makes me feel all is right with the world. Right now, I’d have to assume it’s because it’s not my life I’m watching on the big screen.
Mark Wahlberg’s character is out for revenge after his wife and baby are murdered during a purported robbery. He devotes his life to searching street alleys and deserted back roads for the murderer.
In the movie, which moved at a glacial pace, Mark spends most of his time brooding and sending smoldering glances to the suspected bad guys. Not that I’m complaining, but he definitely didn’t collect his paycheck for learning many lines. In fact, for being such good actor, I don’t think I’ve heard him speak less in a movie.
I have to give props to Mila Kunis (Jackie from That 70’s Show) for showing up and performing very well in an underutilized (and poorly explained) role.
I was worried she’d overact or (worse yet) that I wouldn’t be able to watch her without thinking about the vain idiot she portrayed in that show. I was pleasantly surprised, as she turned in a nuanced and non-stereotypical character representation.
The steamy Chris O’Donnell was also good in a throwaway role. I complained to Angie about it, but she pointed out he hasn’t been in movies in a while, so perhaps this was him putting his toe back in the water.
He has always been a favorite actor of mine, so I’d be thrilled if he threw his hat back in the ring. It infuriated me that his role was so tiny. He’s destined for bigger and better. We shall see.
One of the bad guys was…Sucre from Prison Break. And, I’m sorry, but he’s forever Sucre to me. So, even as I watched him crush some guy’s finger underneath his boot, I found myself waiting for the smarmy smile and a Puerto Rican accent to come bursting out.
Plus, darn it, he’s just too nice for me to hate. Sorry, Sucre.
The movie itself was blah. It moved very slowly, and there just wasn’t a lot for the actors to do.
A very important plot point was revealed by….a video. That’s right. The characters sat around and watched a video that basically delivered exposition for like 5 minutes. Angie and I were like, “Really? They used a video…not the actors to tell us about this? Hmmm…”
There is a part near the end where Mark executes a very fly scissor kick while swimming/drowning. It was basically like the scene at the end of The Bourne Ultimatum, only instead of Matt Damon, they used Michael Phelps for the stunt man. Nice scissor kick, buddy.
After the movie, we went to the bathroom. As we do, we analyzed the movie by talking to each other over the top of our stalls.
At one point, I elicited a laugh from the non-Angie side when I said, “The only thing better than watching Mark Wahlberg shoot at people while running is watching him shoot at people while running under the fire sprinklers.”
Next on our list - after a pop, popcorn, and pretzel refuel – was Pride and Glory, starring Ireland’s favorite son (and yes, I know you think he’s skanky, and I don’t care).
Now, here was a good action flick. We had good cops, bad cops, snitches, and Edward Norton – who ALWAYS brings it.
Of course, the problem with Mr. Norton is that no matter how kick-butt his role is…he’s got that Fight Club monkey on his back. His best work – and Brad Pitt’s, too, as far as I’m concerned – is the beat-each-other-bloody buddy flick.
At one point, Mr. N and Colin throw down in an old fashioned good-cop-on-bad-cop fist fight. And, even though I was thinking it, Angie leaned over and whispered, “The first rule of Fight Club…”
To which I retorted, “When is Tyler Durden going to show up? I didn’t know Brad Pitt was in this movie!”
Accolades to Jon Voight for turning in a solid performance as the slightly alcoholic father to his two police officer sons. And delivering a great one liner that had our audience in stitches during an otherwise serious movie.
Speaking of serious, Colin showed some moves toward the dark and twisted side during a particular moving scene involving him threatening a family – using a newborn and an iron. It was nail-biting suspense and not at all clear what was going to happen.
It was good acting all around, with a satisfying, solid, and even believable (not always important) ending. Definitely worth the hard-earned, high-in-demand dollars we paid.
The ride home was spent analyzing the second movie. We were in agreement it was the better of the two.
We debated over the casting, as I prefer to see Colin play the good guy. Mr. Norton has dabbled in some of the best evil roles I’ve ever seen – see American History X, Primal Fear, and The Score - so maybe the casting directors thought we (informed moviegoers) might smell a rat. Either way, we were in critique heaven all the way home.
Angie dropped me off, and I found myself breathing normally again.
Thank God for the company of a good friend, the escape of fantasy, and intricate shoot ‘em ups that have nothing to do with me.