Monday, November 29, 2010

Church Parking Lot Wisdom

{Scarlett here}

I had the most insightful conversation in the church parking lot yesterday. It was with my new, absolutely wonderful friend who had invited me to Thanksgiving dinner. After we gave each other hugs and said how nice it was to spend Thanksgiving together, she paid me a huge compliment. (I'm not trying to toot my own horn, but this story won't make sense unless I tell you what she said.) She said, "You know, for a young person, you have so much poise. Most people wouldn't come to Thanksgiving dinner at the home of someone they barely know, but you seem like you'd fit in anywhere."

I was a little embarrassed, and told her thank you, then tried to explain that I've been traveling for many years and it's taken a lot of practice with homesickness, loneliness, and figuring out how to make friends quickly before I could get to that point. It doesn't just come naturally.

She nodded. "And I think that's your testimony."

My testimony??

With those words, she made something click. It's NOT just about me and my coping skills, whatever they may be. In the grander scheme of things, those skills, such as they are, are a gift from God.

She continued. "When you have God, you are home anywhere you go. He gives you a little push out into the world, and you can go anywhere and do anything because you're never truly alone. It's a wonderful assurance."

Coming from some people, that might have sounded like yet another shallow bumper sticker cliche. From her, it was anything but. She's right.

I could live in the same small town I grew up in and not be "home" if I'm not able to take into account the One who made me and where I fit into the universe He created. Or, I can go to an almost-stranger's home on Thanksgiving and make friends with everyone there, all because I am confident in myself because I know where and how I belong.

That doesn't mean that fear goes away, or insecurity never creeps in, or doubt never casts a shadow. It just means that there's something bigger beyond that, and a peace that really does pass all understanding that's greater than all the bad.

In this week of giving thanks, I'm so thankful for the wisdom of a new friend, and for her pointing to the One who makes all blessings possible.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Giving Thanks

A recap of my very blessed Thanksgiving:


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Guest Blogger: Work Girl

{Scarlett here}

I have a special treat for you tonight, ladies. I'm unveiling the talents of one of my favorite people in the whole world. She goes by Work Girl. I'll let her introduce herself to you more later on, but let me just tell you that not only is she fun, smart, wise, and beautiful, she also coincidentally was born in the same town that Scout and I grew up in.  I didn't meet her till many years later when we shared an elevator ride in downtown Denver, then bonded over hot wings and cute clothes, and have been friends ever since. Here's a little something from her to get you in the holiday mood. Enjoy!

My best friend, we’ll call her Pinkie, is in a committed and delightful relationship with a young man who has amazingly managed to survive thirty-two years of life as a relatively normal guy.  He has never been married, has no major hang ups, is successful at his job, and carries no skeletons in his closet.  In fact, I am not sure he even has a closet.  Yes, he is fairly amazing, and I am so grateful he was saved for my bestie, who deserves the perfect guy like no other.  Since I am plowing forward like a freight train as a single spinster, I love to live vicariously through Pinkie and Perfect’s relationship. 

As you know, the Christmas season has budded and is about to fly into full swing.  The other day, Pinkie carelessly let slip what Perfect wanted for Christmas this year.  Apparently, she had to tease it out of him, but he finally confessed his Christmas wishlist:  an adult-sized beanbag.  With a little more coaxing, she managed to pull out of him that if she really wanted to make all his wildest dreams come true, she could throw in… a bag of socks.

I do not know if I have ever heard of a more ridiculous combination, and it got me to thinking of all the silly, silly songs about Christmas wishes.  While nothing beats asking for a bag of socks, I thought of some others that made my…

Top Five Stupid Christmas Requests
5.      Santa’s Brand New Bag.  A group called “Shedaisy” thought they’d get cute and revisit this theme with some new lyrics re-creating Santa into a cigar-smoking, Latin-dancing, limo-riding, Tinseltown-living, Socratese-reading, skinny dude who sports purple trousers.  And they want him and his big, fat kiss.  Someone shoot these women. 
4.      Santa Claus Lassoed.  I’m against wanting Santa in a brand new bag, but I’m also against wanting Santa at all.  He’s got Mrs. Claus back at home and enough to do already, leave him alone and let him get his work done.  Geez.
3.      Milk and cookies.  So, I know I’m ragging on Santa pretty hardcore, but I have to admit I’m ashamed all he could think of is a glass of milk and some lame cookies.  At least request a gingerbread house, for crying out loud.
2.      A partridge in a pear tree… and while we’re on that topic, most of the items his true love wanted make me want to throttle her.  Eight maids-a-milking… seriously?
1.      My two front teeth.  If you are a young child, and all you are thinking about is your dental health during Christmas, something is severely wrong.

On the flip side and to be fair, there have been a lot of great Christmas requests, too.  Peace on earth, joy in children’s eyes, let it snow – big fan of all these.  But, neither of my lists are comprehensive and make me wonder if you have any ridiculous Christmas requests, or any particularly great ones?  We would love it if you shared…
~ Work Girl

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Best Day

{Scarlett here}

Why is it that we only seem to really appreciate things once they're almost over?

Last night I had the BEST night in DC, and it was to bid farewell to a good friend who's moving off to greener pastures. (Well, at least I hope the pastures are still green. At this time of the year in TX, they may be yellow, but that's beside the point.)

We didn't have any scripted plans. We just wanted to enjoy her last night and each other's company. Another one of her best friends came over, and the three of us started the evening by drinking champagne and eating cheese and pretzels while giggling on the sofa. Then we got dressed up and went to a neighborhood dive bar where we met another friend. We laughed and kicked back with Blue Moons and cracked each other up by making up fake stories to the guys who tried to come talk to us. (Someone out there now thinks I'm a flight attendant from Baltimore. Little known fact: I'm not.)

Then we went to the grocery store and got turkey, fancy cheese, sourdough bread and yummmm salt and vinegar kettle chips. We piled back in the car and headed to downtown DC, destination: the Washington Monument. As anyone who's ever driven in DC knows, it's next to impossible to get where you're going without accidentally circling down a side street you didn't intend to take. Last night's detour led us to a street by the Sculpture Gardens. When we peeked inside, we saw a beautiful, tiny ice rink with maybe twenty amateur skaters gliding across it under twinkling white lights. The three of us just sort of gasped. We parked the car, and without any real discussion whatsoever, we walked into the garden in unison and rented skates. It was about 9 pm.

The rink wasn't too crowded and nobody was really very good at ice skating so we fit right in with the crowd. We made several loops around in the crisp night air. It was wonderful. Then we got back into the car, and resumed our journey toward the Washington Monument. As it happened, we ended up more on the Lincoln side, with a view of the monument from across the reflecting pool. We spread out a blanket and had our makeshift picnic right there. It was ... perfect.

Throughout the course of the evening, we each said what we like best about DC. A year ago, that would have been harder for me to say. My first year in this city was tough. I didn't have a good job and I felt like an outsider. I had friends, but all of us felt like we were just hanging on by our fingernails. We were all struggling. This year, actually, sometime within the last two months or so, something finally clicked. After 23 months of living here, I finally feel like I belong.

What's my favorite thing about DC? I love the milkshakes at Good Stuff. I love the way the monuments and museums still sometimes take my breath away. I love all the different ethnic restaurants and the hipster vibe that rocks along with all the buttoned up politico types. I love that I don't have to explain where I live by giving the nearest big city that's only 3 hours away. But my favorite thing is the Passion. Passion with a capital P. It's everywhere. People come do DC because they want to change something, they want to work for something, they want to make a difference. Every single one of my friends has it. I've got friends who are passionate about politics, passionate about international affairs, passionate about the environment and passionate about their faith. I. LOVE. IT.

What about you? What's YOUR passion?

~ Scarlett

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Dixie Chicks Would Scoff at Me...So What?

 When I left for college, it was with the intentions of studying international relations, graduating, and then bidding the US "adios" and living in a major European city.  This country girl was going to live the fast life, rub elbows with international political superstars, and remember fondly, those back home who were probably eating a chicken fried steak as I was enjoying my fancy, five course dinner, blocks away from any notable European landmark. 

  You know the quote, "If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans"?  Well, God laughed large at Ole Scout.  I am everything the Dixie Chicks sing about.  I live in the same zip code as my parents, married my high school sweet heart, and had a baby that will graduate from the same high school I did.  For whatever reasons, my lifestyle is one media types either think is quaint in a cutesy, simpleton way, or pathetic.  I disagree.  Perhaps, this thinking is dirived from lack of experience with a small town, other than them being a stopping point for fuel.  Let's face it.  Small town gas stations aren't exactly the accurate representation of what one will find hidden within Small Town America...but sadly, and humoursly, sometimes they are!
  Even if we do not understand at the time, God knows exactly what he's doing. I have a huge love for all things urban.  I feel so alive wandering unfamiliar streets, strolling through notable art museums, overwhelming my senses window shopping, and surrounding myself with those who are nothing like those "back home".  I agree with Scarlett.  Every one of us has something to learn from someone who may be the total opposite of everything we know and hold to be true.  Yes, unfortunately, there are those in my small surroundings who are so set in their ways, and unwilling to accept an opinion that differs from their own, they miss out on any opportunity to make this world a better place by embracing, or at least, educating themselves on the differences others are blessed to possess.

  Instead of riding in a cab with an argumentative Parisian taxi driver, I ride shotgun, with my high school love, a baby in cowhide print car seat, and a loyal dog in the bed of the pickup.  We pull up to our home, on a ranch, that just so happens to be home to the most beautiful show cave in the world.  Even though I live in the country, I constantly have new neighbors who stay and camp overnight.  New neighbors who arrive on my front porch from every corner of the globe.  Imagine that.  It was not for me to live abroad, but to come home, and have the world come to me.
 I love to create and learn.  When I learned I would be moving back home, I vowed to myself to never become complacent and to continue creating and learning.  My silent promise has been met with artists, professional photographers, and even college professors who instruct class, right in my front yard.  Scarlett does hear ten different languages on the metro.  And, on a peak tourist day, I too can hear unfamilar languages as they filter in with the breeze through my open windows.  Not from a busy city street, or crowded cafe, but from the Wide Open Spaces of the place I now , once again, call "home". 




Thursday, November 18, 2010


Yesterday I accidentally smashed the side of my car into a wall.

It was one of those split second, STOOPID accidents that make you feel like a TOTAL idiot. I was coming down the ramp in my own parking garage, had a car full of groceries to unload, and just wanted to get up to my apartment. I had my eye on a parking spot around the corner and was headed toward it when all of a sudden I heard the sickening sound of metal on concrete that can only mean one thing. The scrape left a pretty big dent in the side of my beautiful white Mustang.

I LOVE that car. Maybe it's silly to admit, but I'm so proud of it. I am proud to (finally) be making enough money that I can AFFORD a decent car. I'm proud that I picked out a fun car, something I always wanted instead of something that's overly practical. Even though it's been almost a year since I bought it, I still get a thrill from getting behind the wheel of my sporty, sleek 'stang. So I was (and maybe still am) about as crushed as my passenger side panel from making such a stupid mistake and damaging it.

But yesterday's date also brings to mind another far more tragic crash, one that I'll remember on the night of Nov. 17 for the rest of my life. Early on the morning of Nov. 18, 1999, at 2:42 am, a bonfire crashed at the Texas A&M University campus in College Station, TX. Twelve students, some of them not even old enough to drink, were killed.  My brother was a sophomore at A&M at the time, and he was assigned to work on the Bonfire on the night it fell. Strangely, he said he felt like he should stay in and study instead. Thank goodness for that instinct of his or he might have been among those injured or killed.

I don't think I'll ever forget that next day. I was still in high school, but had already made up my mind to go to A&M and already felt a kinship for the people and spirit of that university. My whole family and our community were relieved of course that my brother was OK, but the images of students, just barely past their teenage years, having to remove logs to look for bodies, and seeing a whole campus in mourning for the loss of 12 brothers and sisters who died too soon was just heartbreaking. In fact, it still is.

Some people have asked me since then, why were they building a bonfire anyway? And why were they building it so high, and why in the middle of the night? How could something like that have happened? As more time passes from when Bonfire was a living, breathing tradition, it gets harder explain, especially to someone who's never been to A&M's campus or had the experience to see the Aggie spirit up close. The Bonfire was built over a period of several months, starting with a bunch of guys going out to a forest and cutting huge trees down then hauling the logs back to campus. It was lit the night before the big rivalry game against the University of Texas on Thanksgiving. But it was about so much more than a rivalry. It was about unity. It was about a bunch of different people from completely different backgrounds coming together and working on a massive project that could only be accomplished through sweat, grit, determination and the swagger that's unique to 18-22 year olds.

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night and had trouble falling back to sleep. I started thinking about my car, and being upset again that I smashed it. But then I thought about the magnitude of the other crash. I thought of how grateful I am that my brother is OK, but how fragile life really is. How there are 12 families who will never be the same because of that night, and one larger university family that mourns with them still. How those students, so young, showed such poise and resilience in the face of grief and tragedy.

I want to slow down. I want to not be in such a rush to get to a parking spot, or to get anywhere else for that matter. I'd like to acknowledge, if only to myself, how grateful I am for the days I've been given, no matter how many the Good Lord gives me. I'd like to not get bent out of shape even if my car does, because at the end of the day, it's just a thing, and things can be replaced.

If there has to be tragedy, I'd like to let it help me keep a proper perspective.

Still bleeding maroon,

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I Hate Colored Lights

  "I hate colored lights."  What? I thought.  I just spent all day pulling my holiday decor from storage and adorning our modest Christmas tree with strands of pink, green, yellow, blue and orange lights, and you not only dislike, but hate colored Christmas lights?   Geez, Scrooge.  Way to kill my Christmas spirit even if it's not even Thanksgiving, and even if I still have the Halloween decor displayed.  Don't you know, nothing says, "Welcome, Baby Jesus!", like hot pink lights? 

  My husband was just being honest admitting his distaste for my (lack of?) taste.  He didn't say it mean, or hatefully, just simply stated his thoughts.  I had two options:
A.  Be a witch and get my feelings hurt.
B.  Turn this into an opportunity to involve my husband in my favorite time of year.

  Normally, my first reaction would be 'A'.  'A', I am tired of you and you don't do anything for me, so I'm going with 'B'.  I'm glad I did.  ECM (My husband) lost both his mother, and is aunt last year during the holidays.  We also had our first child, Sweet P.  It was emotional, and not in a good way.  We found ourselves grieving, anxious, and stressed over the loss, and then over the splitting of holidays between our two families.  It was a disaster and left us both drained and in tears.  Unfortunately, this is how I will remember my daughters' first Christmas.

  Not this year.  After learning ECM's hatred of all things fun colored, I asked him what he thought would look nice.  "White lights...and a bigger tree."  A bigger tree?  This surprised me.  I have done the decorating for Christmas the last four years, and this is the first time he has ever said anything about our tree.  I just listened as he continued.  " Growing up, our tree had white lights.  And little doves.  There were red hearts, too.  We would also hang the ornaments we made at school on the tree."  It sounded so simple, and beautiful.  I want to make this tree happen for him this year, and every year God blesses us with.

  This is why I am choosing 'B'.  This is why I am taking half of my Friday to travel the 80+ miles to the nearest big city to buy my husband and daughter a new Christmas tree to symbolize our new family.  It will be my "Wild and Precious" tree.  This is why I am bowing out of the self inflicted holiday stress game, and having our own, three person Thanksgiving dinner, lovingly prepared by me this weekend.  (No turkey per EMC's request, but Elk meat.  ELK?  I now have a freezer full, thanks to a generous rancher who thought enough of my dear husband to share his kill with us.  One of the many perks of living in a small, rural town, might I add.)  This is why my holidays will not be filled with haves and wants, but filled with our new, family centered traditions and cookies.  Lots of Christmas cookies.

  I'll probably put the colored lights in Sweet P's room.  It may sound silly, but this season, I am thankful for the wisdom to choose 'B'.  I think I'll choose it more often.


The Case for Nuance

I never used to fit in well.

Sure, that was painful as a teenager, but I think it actually helped me in the long run. The benefit of being an outcast was learning from an early age not to place too much weight on other people's opinions (they didn't like me anyway) and to chart my own course and make up my own mind about things. I'm not really sure what it's like to be popular, but I suspect that once you're in the "in" crowd, you'd try to do whatever it takes to stay in, even if it means subverting your will to the group's. Bye bye independence.

But enough about junior high politics. The point I'm trying to reach is that I really hate the one-or-the-other classification system that seems to be prevalent in our country right now. I think it creates false choices and unnecessary divisions among us.

We've got:

Republican or Democrat

Rural or urban

Rich or poor

Liberal or conservative

Intellectual or "real"

and so on.

I think most of us are far more complex than any of these categories can contain. I know that I'm a little bit of all of the above. Of course, such complexity wouldn't fit into the 3 minute sound bytes we see on cable news, so we all have to get smashed into categories that will generate the most attention. That creates a vicious cycle which puts us all on the defensive, and makes us see the "other" as an opponent, instead of just another person with a different viewpoint.

Republican or Democrat?
I went to one of the most conservative universities in the US, I believe in fiscal responsibility, but I have left-leaning social views.

Rural or urban?
I'm from a tiny town of 2,000 people but now I live in the most powerful city in the world. I used to honk at people as I drove by because I knew them and wanted to say hi. Now I use my horn to try not to get smashed on the Beltway.

Rich or poor?
I'm still paying off student loans and am not going to make the Fortune 500 list anytime soon. But compared to most people in the world, I'm filthy stinking rich.

Liberal or conservative?
In West Texas, most people automatically assume I'm liberal (as if that's a bad word) though I'm not really sure why since I haven't discussed my politics with many of them. In DC I'm moderate. To Europeans I'm George W. Bush's niece.

Intellectual or "real"?
Building up an expertise in something isn't a bad thing, right? Whether it's auto mechanics or Russian poetry, can't we all just agree that maybe, just maybe, we need each other's skill sets?

Contemplating nuance,

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Our First Time

We really shouldn't be doing this.

We've had too many jelly beans and too much hot chocolate. Things could get really out of hand.

Of course, out of hand for us would be a Golden Girl marathon till midnight.

We are Scout and Scarlett. We are best friends who lead two vastly different lives, but we hail from the same small hometown in rural West Texas. We want to showcase our everyday lives because they're emblematic of two vastly different routes that American women can take: pursuing a career, or remaining at home and raising a family. Though our lives are different, we relate on many levels and we both live vicariously through each other.

Scout is a small town insider by default. She never thought that at this stage in her life she'd still be here, but now she can't imagine being anywhere else. She loves to travel, but for her, the best part of traveling is coming home, and knowing exactly where home is. So what if it's on top of a show cave in the middle of a tourist attraction on a working ranch?

Scarlett left this small town to travel the world and pursue a career in Washington, DC. But beneath the Ann Taylor suits and despite the rooftop parties and after work wine tastings, she's still a wholesome girl next door. Next door just happens to be a swanky apartment near the Pentagon.

Scarlett lives on a busy road with sirens blaring outside her window day and night.

Scout hears sirens and knows it's a police escort for the high school kids going to a regional cross country meet.

Scarlett walks to the grocery store: the Latin American one, the Ethiopian one, or the Thai one...they're all on her street.

Scout drives 18 miles to the grocery store. They may or may not have romaine lettuce.

Scarlett dresses up for inaugural balls, dinners in Dupont Circle, and, of course, work.

Scout pulls out her finest for high school football games. She can almost always be found wearing a pair of Converse low tops with a baby on her hip. That's her main accessory.

Scarlett is a deacon in a church with a female pastor.

Scout is exchanging her Baptist roots for the Episcopalian scene.

Scarlett's friends love to talk about current events and politics.

Scout's friends love to talk about their children and husbands.

Scarlett sometimes hears 10 different languages on the Metro.

Scout sees more stars and animals than she does people.

On the surface we are different. Deep down, we're really not. We've made different life choices but we're both chasing our dreams and following our hearts the best way we know how.

Come with us...we'll tell you how we plan to spend our wild and precious lives.