According to my Words with Friends stats, the best scoring word I’ve ever played was the word quartz for 141 points. Somewhere between all the times I’ve played words like cat, toe, and ran I had a shining moment of impressiveness.
It doesn’t tell me when I did that, and I don’t recall. But one thing is clear: I was able to score that well because I had high-point tiles in my rack, a balance of vowels and consonants (which sometimes feels like a miracle), and there was a great position to play them available on the board.
I wish every game was like that, but most of the time I’m sitting there trying to figure out how to get a, i, i, i, i, o, r to make something that will score more than three points. My personal belief is that if I can spell it and use it in a sentence, then it’s a real word.
The Words with Friends rule nazis beg to differ. Pfft.
It occurs to me that I’m telling you this from the comfort of my air-conditioned home, where I’m tapping away on a computer. I have electricity and wifi here. I had dinner a few hours ago, but if I get a bit peckish I can mosey into my kitchen and open my reasonably well-stocked pantry and get a snack from food I bought at a well-stocked grocery store—no shortages, no lines, no rationing. There’s plenty of clean water; I can drink it straight from the faucet and not worry a bit about getting sick. There’s a spoiled dog curled up on the chair next to me and he eats twice a day, as do the cats, whether they earned it or not. The van I drive is in the driveway, and it’s got a nearly full tank of gas. I am literate. I not only completed grade school and high school, but I have a bachelor’s degree. My neighborhood is quiet. It is not plagued by acts of war or terrorism or even local civil unrest. I can move about freely in my country, I can worship freely in my country. I own multiple bibles, and don’t often use them these days because it’s quicker to consult an app on my smartphone.
I am a middle class American, although by most of the world’s standards, I am extremely wealthy. My tile rack is loaded with high-point tiles. And the planet is chock-full of great places to play them.
I could have been born anywhere, you know. You too. You could have been born in South Sudan where the life expectancy is currently 54 years old. Or in North Korea where an entire country lives under intense political oppression from psychotic leadership. Or in any number of middle eastern countries where there is no religious freedom and women are deeply oppressed. Or in Mozambique, which is currently undergoing a famine due to extreme drought that has led to catastrophic crop failures.
But I was born here. For such a time as this, I was born here, and you were born where you were born. I landed on the planet with some high-point tiles, and I’ve been given opportunity to add more over the years. Perhaps you can say the same.
So here we are with our tile racks loaded. Exciting, isn’t it? Except you have to know one thing:
you can’t score any points unless you actually spend the tiles by playing them on the board.
I used to bake stuff. I was good at baking stuff. And stuff you bake yourself is so much tastier than stuff some factory baked and shot full of chemicals so it would look and smell a certain unnatural but oddly appealing way and also so it would last through a nuclear holocaust.
I’m looking at you, Twinkies.
But then I pretty much stopped baking stuff. It took time and energy I didn’t have. Suddenly, 20 minutes in the kitchen to throw together some ingredients and dump it into a pan and plop it in the oven seemed like an overstretch of my resources. I knew it would taste better. I knew it would be a healthier option, even if it was sugary. But the idea of it made me tired and whimpery.
Nobody likes tired and whimpery, not even the tired and whimpery person.
It seems my energies are shifting, however. And for the past two days, a bunch of nasty browning bananas have been staring at me from the end of the counter. Creepy, I tell ya. So I began to think thoughts of banana-y baked goods. And so I went poking about Al Gore’s internets to find a new recipe for…something.
I found a recipe for a banana snack cake that the originator described as “the perfect amount of sweet”. That sounded good to me, because I didn’t want something very sweet and most banana breads are really sweet, which tastes nice, but sugar isn’t my friend and so I am gradually learning to like things less sweet. Besides, overripe bananas are inherently quite sweet. So the recipe sounded good.
But the problem with baking is that it’s a skill and one can fall out of practice. And by that, I mean one can forget how to effectively read and follow directions, because that is really the crux of most home baking.
I tell you, I re-checked the recipe twice and even though it clearly said “baking powder”, I still dumped in baking soda. I caught it too late to do anything about it, so I went ahead and added the baking powder. Maybe I’d just get a puffy cake.
I forgot that baking soda is also a browning agent, which means that by the time the cake was done, it was deeply browned. Not black, but really brown.
It was still warm when I cut into it. I took the first bite, looking for that “perfect amount of sweet”.
Um, no. Definitely not the perfect amount of sweet. I’d probably have to double the 1/4 of brown sugar it called for to get the perfect amount of sweet. Since my piece was still warm I dropped a few chocolate chips on top and let them melt, and then swirled them around and ate it.
Eh, not exciting. I won’t be making that recipe again, should I get another wild hare and another bunch of shifty-eyed bananas.
And I don’t even know why I didn’t just sprinkle some chocolate chips on the rest of the cake (and I use the word “cake” very loosely) while it was still warm. I may need to frost that imperfectly sweet cake to make it palatable.
Or just pitch it and use the rest of the bananas in some real banana bread.
It’s so strange.
Today wasn’t a day off. Today was the beginning of the new normal.
For the record, I don’t really know what the new normal will be yet. I’m kinda trying out some things and I’m giving myself grace to find a rhythm that works. I’m also recognizing that I’ve got some stuff to catch up on around here, but I can’t do that in one day, or even one week, so I’m aiming to do that a little bit at a time, even if it feels like scratching away at Mt. Rushmore with a dental tool with the intent to take the whole thing down…eventually…
I took a shower but didn’t bother with makeup and just fluffed at my hair a little bit. I put on comfy clothes that were totally inappropriate for work, and at 11pm, I’m still in them as opposed to coming home from work and heading straight for my PJs because I can’t bear hanging out in work clothes. I did a little housework, a little laundry, a little cooking. I spent some time art-ing. I’m not sure exactly how to define the current art gig. It’s not really painting or drawing, although I occasionally use a paint brush. So for now I’ll just call it art-ing, since messing with alcohol inks doesn’t seem to have an official descriptive title.
I’m realizing now I never left the house today, with the exception of a quick excursion onto the back deck to harvest some basil for making pesto. I’m ok with that. It was nice.
There’s quiet. Quiet to think, quiet to listen. I’m not in a rush to fill my space with sound or frenetic activity. I’m over the Western mindset that we have to cram every moment full and schedule ourselves into oblivion. I don’t function well that way. I don’t think most people do, but it’s so expected and accepted that everyone thinks it’s normal. Today I took a deep breath and enjoyed being where I am, in my own space, in my own skin.
I wonder how long until it stops being strange?
On Saturday, June 4th at about 2pm, a season of my life comes to a close. I will be clocking out from my job at the intimate-wear store, and I won’t be clocking back in.
Six years. I had no idea I’d be doing this for six years of my life. That’s more than 1/10th of my life, y’all. Six years of assuring women that what they think is so terribly unusual and weird and unattractive about themselves is simply normal. Six years of battling entropy at the panty tables. Six years of bra-fitting and earning the nickname “The Bra Whisperer”. Six years of making women laugh so they’d forget to notice they were doing something uncomfortable. Six years of being unflappable, unoffendable, and unshockable no matter what I see or hear. Six years of war with the store registers/computers. A six-year stream of people to serve—most of them wonderful, some of them downright precious, a few of them meaner than a bag of snakes, and a handful of them certifiably nuts. Many of them I recognize when they walk into the store even if they don’t live locally (we have many regulars who own second homes here or vacation here regularly), more than a few I can greet by name. And I have been beyond blessed with favor from managers, coworkers, and customers. I will miss them.
But sometimes it’s just time, you know? It is time for the season to shift, even though I’m not totally sure what that will ultimately look like.
I’ve been spending some time considering how I want to reorder my life when a work schedule is no longer part of it. I hope there will be time and energy for more art, more ministry, more investment in relationships. I’ve been asking God about that sort of thing, since He’s really into doing new things. It will be curious to see what He cooks up.
In honor of my last day, I thought I’d dig into the archives for some of the posts inspired by my work at da panty sto’. Some are funny, some are observations, some are thoughtful. Whatever you do, don’t miss What was THAT?!? Five years later and that day is still burned into my brain!
10-20-2010 Thus Far…
3-16-2012 When Love Stinks
5-29-2011 Say What?
3-13-2011 What was THAT?!?
5-16-11 Not quite Santa, but…
9-18-11 What’s under the hood?
3-20-2015 The Nature Of Generous Support
Love is some crazy stuff, y’all.
Love is willing to let others have a differing opinion. It doesn’t need everyone to agree in order to feel secure.
Love is hard to offend. Love understands that if everyone is given permission to be authentic, most folks will be authentically immature or authentically broken in some area of their lives, and it’s all part of the process of growing up.
Love doesn’t need to get its way. At the end of the day, Love will be Love no matter what.
Love chooses empathy over gloating, even when the gloat-ee totally got what was coming to them. Love knows it’s hard to be human, and nobody gets off scot-free when it comes to pain, grief, disappointment, or general bad days in the public eye.
Love is willing to be the grownup in any given situation, even when it’s super hard and it would feel better to snark, pout, snipe, swipe, and be generally fussy and disagreeable.
Love doesn’t need to prove that it’s right, even when it absolutely is. It can graciously overlook the bull-headedness of others, knowing that the truth will be revealed if it matters, and if it doesn’t matter, it’s not worth stirring up a fuss.
I need to get better at Love.
One day all the things that we think are important won’t be so important anymore. We’ll see Jesus face to face, and it’s going to change everything. We’ll see Love differently, because we’ve finally looked Love in the eyes and understood how different it is from the un-Love we’ve been messing around with.
It will be a beautiful day.
What? Did you think I couldn’t see you? Did you think I’d forgotten about you? I know we used to talk a lot more, back in the days before I ran out of words. But we didn’t stop existing when the words flew away. We kept on breathing. Our eyes still saw the world spin around.
Life marched on. Sometimes it even danced on. Life does that if we’ll let it.
You must wonder if the words are ever going to come back. I wonder that, too.
I am surrounded by a sea of noise. Some days it’s hard work to make sure the noise doesn’t invade me. Truth be told, some days I fail. But I have a very high value for the unshakeable calm that holds steady when the waves of sound begin crashing around me, assaulting my peace. Sometimes it’s an expensive priority.
Right now it’s costing me words.
In the bible there’s a story of a man who was crippled, and every day he laid on his mat by a public bathing pool. Sometimes the waters in the pool would mysteriously get stirred up, and when that happened it was said that an angel was stirring the waters, and the first person who got into them when they were all sloshy like that would get healed. Except the man was crippled and slow, and so he was never able to be first. But then one day Jesus dropped by the pool and noticed him. And instead of scolding the man for not trying harder, Jesus skipped the whole get-in-the-pool part and just healed the man on the spot. Told him to pick up his mat and go home. Which he did. You can bet that was a day life danced for that man. Jesus showed up and did for him what he was unable to do for himself.*
I’m not sure why I’m telling you that, except perhaps to say that maybe my words need a dip in the pool, or maybe they just need Jesus to speak to them and heal whatever it is that makes them decide to stay away. If He can heal lame legs, surely He can heal hiding words.
Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I haven’t forgotten you. I see you. You must never permit yourself to believe that my quietness means you have slipped from my sight or lost value in my heart.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
*The bible story of the crippled man can be found in the book of John, chapter 5. It’s a good story. You should check it out.