Nerdy Thoughts That May Be Of Limited Interest

So one thing people might not necessarily assume about me – especially in light of my preoccupations with fried chicken and SEC sports and Bravo – is that I really like trying to figure out what makes people tick. I’m not exactly sure when I realized this about myself, but I feel like it’s directly tied to taking one too many quizzes in Seventeen magazine when I was a teenager. It may also be because I apparently have a sticker on my forehead that says “TELL ME YOUR PROBLEMS,” but don’t think for one minute that I’m complaining. Sometimes I even think about going back to school and getting my degree in counseling, but when I try to imagine adding classes to an already full schedule, I pretty much just picture me looking like this all the time.

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So I think it’s safe to say that I’ve crossed “go back to school” off my long-term to-do list.

Anyway, lately (NERD ALERT) I’ve been thinking a lot about what motivates people. I’m sure I had some class in college where we talked about primary motivators and whatnot, and my guess is I memorized whatever I needed to for a test and then said, “GET THEE GONE” to that particular subset of information. But the older I get, the more I’m aware that I am absolutely motivated by two main factors when I’m making decisions or prioritizing commitments or analyzing a situation that’s driving me crazy. For me those two things are contentment / peace and loyalty. They’re what I value most in my marriage, in our home, in my work / writing, and in my relationships.

And for a variety of reasons, I’ve been thinking about all of this for the better part of three days.

Yesterday our flight back to Birmingham was delayed by a couple of hours, and while we were sitting at beautiful gate 31 (it wasn’t really beautiful) (I don’t even know why I used that adjective), I explained my train of thought to D and asked what motivates him most in the day-to-day. His are fairness, consistency, and stability. I wasn’t surprised even a little bit because 1) we have been married for A LOT OF YEARS, so I know how he thinks, and 2) if there are three qualities that mark his life and his character – well, THESE.

So then I asked Alex. He said fairness, consistency, and adventure. And then he sang a song about toots, so clearly he was very interested in my question.

Obviously there are a bunch of different motivators, and I’ve been mostly focusing on the healthy ones instead of stuff like insecurity, jealousy, greed, etc. Some of the ones I’ve thought about are fun, adventure, tranquility, excellence, power, integrity, passion, well-being, freedom, achievement, ambition, service, legacy, and love. There are two or three in that bunch that might affect my decisions in a very specific set of circumstances, but by and large – in the big stuff and the little stuff – contentment / peace and loyalty are my go-tos. If I take action in a situation without those things in mind, I’m gonna feel some pangs of regret later on.

So I guess I have now shared way more information about my thought life than anyone ever really needed to know. I do apologize. And if you are a real-life counselor / psychologist / psychiatrist, I hope you aren’t horrified by my terminology. I don’t really know the fancy (much less professional) ways to explain myself.

However, if any of you other over-analyzers want to chime in with what most motivates you, I’d love to know, mainly because I’m endlessly curious about this type of thing.

And, well, I’m also a little bit nosy.

We’ve Been Gone, Gone, Gone

By the time most of y’all read this, my little family will be back home in Birmingham. We have been in California for most of the last week, visiting David’s best friend’s family and basically having a big ole time. I haven’t said anything about the trip before now because, well, I thought we would have a house sitter but then I decided not to get a house sitter and then I started to get paranoid about a RING OF THIEVES having Google alerts for blog posts that mention “vacation” and I just decided that I would wait until the end of our trip before I wrote anything about it.

So I guess you could say we have now reached Safe Blogging Territory.

We didn’t have our finest travel day on the way out here, thanks to the Loudest Talker Ever on the row behind us when we flew out of Birmingham, a plane switcheroo / re-ticketing fiasco once we got to Dallas, and someone in front of me who opted to keep her seat reclined all the way from Dallas to LA, which pretty much triggered every claustrophobic / personal space issue I have. It ended up being the perfect opportunity to distract myself with Mindy Kaling’s book, though, so all’s well that ends well, I reckon.

(However, I will go on the record and say that I’m not the biggest fan of reclining seats on planes.)

(We’re all doing our best to sit quietly in our thirteen inches of space without having some sort of breakdown, so the reclining seat feels like an intrusion to me.)

(You may be picking up on the fact that I have some thoughts about this particular non-issue.)

Ever since we landed and settled in our rental car, however, we have had a ball. Here are some of the highlights.

- Noah’s Ark at the Skirball – We did this on Saturday morning, I think, and it was so fun. The Noah’s Ark play area was gorgeous and hands-on at the same time; the kids and the grown-ups loved it.

- Greenlee’s Blueberry Cinnamon Bread – Sweet mercy. This stuff is dangerous.

- Rita’s – David and Alex love the custard, but I am partial to the watermelon and the mango Italian ice. It’s the perfect summer dessert because it’s fruity and tangy and not too sweet. I am certain that I would develop quite the Italian ice habit if there happened to be a Rita’s anywhere near my house.

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- Tempurpedic mattress – Granted, this is a strange-ish addition to my list. But there is a Tempurpedic mattress in the room where David and I slept, and the sleeping was such a magical experience that I now refer to said mattress as Mama’s Little Cloud. David agrees. I looked forward to going to sleep every night like a kid looks forward to Christmas, and I’m a little afraid of my reaction when I have to re-adjust to our mattress at home. I so appreciate that our mattress has been a good’un for 10 or so years, but part of me wants to figure out how to pack that Tempurpedic in a carry-on bag and take it home.

- Trader Joe’s Sea Salt & Turbinado Sugar Dark Chocolate Almonds – Under normal circumstances I do not care for dark chocolate. But these almonds are not normal circumstances. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Because these almonds are a wonder.

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- Maleficent at The El Capitan – I’d never been to The El Capitan before Sunday, so I got a huge kick of being in such a beautiful theatre, seeing the magic show before the movie, and then getting to eyeball the kids’ reactions as they watched Maleficent. What surprised me was how much I liked the movie, too – and how once again Disney has given us a movie with a message that’s way bigger than the movie itself. Really, really good.

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- Time to hang out and visit – Sometimes trips to see friends can get super-rushed and busy. That has not been the case this time around. We have hung out at the house more than we’ve run around town, which means that the kids have played and played and played while the adults have talked and talked and talked. It’s been good for my head and my heart. I know David would say the same.

We’re a little sad that it’s time to go home – but we’re mighty grateful to have been here. And now we’re looking forward to a safe trip home with no reclining seats on the row in front of us.

A girl can dream.

The Stuff I Forgot To Mention

Thanks for your sweet comments on Monday’s post. After I hit “publish” I thought, Oh, I believe I just overshared - so I appreciate your kindness more than you know.  Y’all are the best.

I about to get in the bed because, well, CALL ME MAMAW, bt I wanted to pass along a few links that I meant to mention earlier in the week. I realize that everybody’s life would go on quite normally if I’d just go ahead and surrender to some sleep, but I keep feeling like there’s something I haven’t finished (well, you know, in addition to a big ole deadline, among other things), so that means it is time to make a list.

- I am crazy about a NEEDTOBREATHE song called “Multiplied,” and the new video for it is gorgeous.

- “In a way, I love the poverty. I have to face it every day. And inside that poverty, I have to face myself. What do I hold dear? What are the things I just can’t live without? And do those things really matter?

That’s just the tip of the iceberg-o-wisdom in this article.

- Edie wrote about 10 Ways to Make 40 the New Fabulous, and I learned some things. Oh yes ma’am I did.

- If you grew up in the 70s or 80s, you will get such a kick out of my friend Joni’s post about Casey Kasem’s Top 40 countdown.

All righty. It’s not a huge list, but I’m ALL DONE.

See y’all tomorrow!

So Very Many Words

Well, I guess we have some catching up to do.

Last week Alex was in science camp, and I had imagined that every day of camp I would drop him off, go to a coffee shop, write hundreds if not thousands of words, pick him up, cook a delicious supper with lots of fresh vegetables, visit with D, write a little bit more, then fall into a peaceful slumber for upwards of nine hours.

Unfortunately, the week was more like a comedy of errors, partially because I decided on Monday that I was never going to write anything else for the rest of my life. It’s been a year since my book came out, and I determined that was enough distance and perspective to read through some reviews. By and large people have been overwhelmingly wonderful and nice and kind, and I’ve tried to have a pretty healthy attitude about the review stuff because logically I know that the book isn’t going to appeal to everybody – that just goes with the territory. It’s a collection of essays, not a linear story, and I write like I talk, which is totally annoying to some people.

But I’d spent most of the previous weekend feeling vulnerable because of a chapter I was writing for the new book – and discombobulated because of some stuff that was going on in real life – and those emotions (combined with hormones) should never, ever scroll through reviews, whether the reviews are positive or negative or neutral.

Those emotions should also never have access to potato chips or other simple carbohydrates. Hypothetically.

Tuesday I ran Alex to camp and then stayed in my pajamas all day and napped and caught up on the DVR. I honestly don’t know when I’ve accomplished less. I finally changed out of my pajamas late that afternoon because because Alex went home from camp with a friend and they were bringing him home at 5:00 and I didn’t want them to think that I’d been in my pajamas all day. Which of course I had been. While I watched an embarrassing amount of Bravo.

Wednesday I got over myself and decided that it was time to try the whole writing thing again. I could pretend like I had some moment of steely resolve and determination, but really it was just that Hazel got spayed and was at the vet all day and I had some time and around 10 or so I opened the laptop and thought, Oh, why not.

I ended up writing about 60 or 75 words that were just super inspirational.

I trust you can detect the sarcasm.

As for Miss Hazel, she did great after her surgery even though she was groggy as all get out (wait! here’s my favorite picture!) -

- but by the time she woke up Thursday morning, she’d harnessed the energy of 15-18 small race horses. I spent most of the day trying to confine her and asking her to calm down and please don’t run and CAREFUL WITH THE JUMPING, but the only thing I could do to make her settle down was to sit on our yellow couch (it’s low, so she could climb on and off it pretty easily), let her snuggle up right beside me, and provide her with an endless supply of chew toys.

For what it’s worth: it’s almost a week later, and we’re still in the same spot. This may be our summer tradition.

Late Friday afternoon Alex and I drove to Mississippi while D stayed home with Recovering Puppy. My daddy’s side of the family was having a reunion in south Mississippi, and I’d been planning to go ever since Daddy called to tell me that my cousin Amy was driving down from Kansas City. Amy and I are about the same age and were big-time pen pals when we were teenagers, but we live so far apart that we never really get to visit. Plus, Alex went to the family reunion with Daddy last year, and he thought it was pretty much the greatest thing ever because the dessert table usually ends up looking something like this.

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So early Saturday morning we woke up and got dressed and drove from Mama and Daddy’s house to Bay Springs, Mississippi. The reunion was at City Hall, but before we got there, Daddy turned down a side road and gave Alex a tour of the area where so many of our relatives lived when Daddy was a young boy. We had a great time at the reunion, and I loved getting to catch up with Amy and her girls (not to mention my aunts and uncles on Daddy’s side, who are some of the most dry-witted, flat-out hilarious people you’d ever want to meet). Before we left Bay Springs we drove over to my great-grandmother’s old homeplace, where one of my cousins has built a replica of the property’s original shotgun house. That land is where we used to have family reunions when I was a little girl, and I’m so glad that Alex got to walk through the house and see a little bit of the land. It was a good day.

We drove back here Saturday night so that we could celebrate Father’s Day with D on Sunday, and while it was a little bit of a haul to do so much driving in 24 hours, it was totally worth it. Sunday ended up being super-relaxing, and I’ll give you one guess about where we ate lunch after church. Here’s a hint: it starts with “Ch” and rhymes with “Louie’s.”

I hope you’re still awake, by the way. This post is endless and also ramble-y. I do apologize.

Yesterday I woke up and thought, If nothing else, I will catch up on this laundry. I haven’t washed everything in the house, mind you, but I’ve washed most of the essentials and folded everything that I washed. I realize that most people accomplish this feat on a daily basis, but for me it’s so rare that last night I looked around the house and felt like the guest room bed seemed weird without a pile of clean clothes on it (and I could say the same the wingback chair in the room off of the kitchen).

In the midst of all the laundry, I managed to write a little bit and watch a big chunk of The Mindy Project, which Melanie and my friend Merritt had assured me that I would love. I hardly ever watch sitcoms anymore because, well, I don’t even know why, but I blazed through season one of The Mindy Project and have now started season two. I also got way too emotionally invested in the USA soccer match yesterday and at one point had it on two different TVs so I didn’t have to miss anything as I put away clothes.

It just occurred to me that of all the adjectives that someone might use to describe my personality, “even-keeled” probably isn’t one of them.

Today is going to be Errand Day (capital “E,” capital “D”), but it’s taking me longer than usual to get out of the house because last week I got my hair cut and asked for a lot of layers and BOY HOWDY, I got them. So now I’m a little iffy about how to style my hair, and even though my sweet stylist told me to call or stop by if I had any trouble with the styling, I think that I’m just gonna put some texturizing cream in it and pretend like I was going for the tousled look. This is my plan.

So. I think that is all. Except that I just thought of three – no, four – things that I left out.

We will save those things for another time. I think you’ve endured enough for one day.

“Any” Is Enough

This is gonna be super quick because I have to leave in approximately 26 minutes to take Alex to science camp. The time constraint makes me feel a little bit like Jack Bauer, but I wanted to type this out because I’m scared I’ll forget it if I don’t.

I’m officially at the write-it-down-or-it-never-happened stage of life, I reckon.

This morning I read Philippians 2:1-18. It’s not a passage that’s unfamiliar to me – I even taught a lesson on it one time when I spoke at a conference where people expected me to be funny only it never occurred to me that I was supposed to be funny so I prepared a nice little lesson because, well, teacher habits die hard. I had my passage and my five points and some neat, typed out notes – and let me tell you, I have never been more aware that I totally missed the mark in terms of meeting audience expectations. They thought they were going to hear about bacon and the South and TV, and I waltzed in talking about Paul and humility and selfless service.

You could’ve heard a pin drop in that conference room – because those women were BORED OUT OF THEIR MINDS.

Anyway, I looked at that same passage this morning (SIXTEEN MINUTES! I HAVE SIXTEEN MINUTES LEFT!), and I was struck by something completely new. Here are the first few verses of the passage.

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I actually went back and looked at my notes from a few years ago and saw that I’d written “look out for your people” at the end of verse 4. And yes – that’s part of what Paul is saying here, I think, but this morning I couldn’t get past verses 1 and 2.

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose” (emphasis mine).

All those “any”s don’t leave a whole lot of wiggle room, do they? Unity and like-mindedness are our starting points as believers, not our final destination. Yet I was struck this morning by how often I have a tendency to justify how puffed up I can get in my (supposed) rightness and how condescending I can be about someone else’s (supposed) wrongness. And I tell myself my reactions are okay because I’m just not “there” yet – with “there” being that elusive state of abiding in Christ where love and peace and unity and humility consistently mark my disposition, my reactions, my decisions.

But Paul’s not telling the church at Philippi to hold tight until they reach that elusive end goal of Christ-likeness.

Here’s what I thought this morning: if we have “any” part of the fruit of salvation, and followers of Christ certainly do, then being like-minded, loving, and unified should be Christianity 101. Those qualities are where we start – not where we finish. We shouldn’t be striving for unity at some point down the road when we feel a little more cooperative (which, honestly, let me just RAISE MY HAND because I am forever thinking that I will do such-and-such when I feel like it). We should be unified, like-minded, and loving in the here and now. Paul says “being” and “having” – not “will be” and “will have.” Unity, like-mindedness, and love are present and ongoing. Because the second that we professed faith in Christ and the Holy Spirit took up residence in us, we had our “any.”

According to Paul, our “any” enables us to have an “attitude [that] should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (v. 5).

And just to be clear, the footnotes in my Bible point out that “like-minded” is “not uniformity in thought but the common disposition to work together and serve one another.” Certainly there are major issues facing the evangelical church right now, some of which are incredibly divisive, but we can absolutely work through those issues (lovingly) in our local bodies (as opposed to, you know, Facebook).

(And as a side note, I would love to know Paul’s thoughts about Christians calling each other out on Twitter).

(I promise that I smiled when I typed that.)

(But have mercy with the in-fighting – it WEARS ME OUT.)

So. Here’s my takeaway from Philippians 2 today: If I have “any” of those things that Paul mentions in verse 1, then I have exactly what I need to be like-minded, loving, and unified in the local bodies where I worship and serve. It’s a mighty timely reminder.

And by the way, I didn’t make my self-imposed time constraint. I left, took Alex to camp, then came home and finished this post.

Clearly I’m no Jack Bauer. But at least the blog didn’t blow up.

Y’all have a good Thursday!

Some Items For Your Enjoyment

Well, this particular Monday has certainly been a Monday, so I have been on the hunt for some cheerfulness tonight. Hope some of these links make you smile.

- I am typically a little iffy when it comes to cats (no offense, cat people – I just prefer dogs), but I got so tickled watching this video earlier today. Very clever for a commercial (“it can eat and yell at the same time”).

- This right here may be my favorite album of 2014 (so far).

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WE LOVE IT SO MUCH.

I read somewhere that people are calling this type of music “folktronica,” but all I know is that it’s catchy as all get out and ROCK-SOLID in terms of lyrics. My favorite song changes by the hour, but right now it’s “You Are.” So sincere and worshipful and good.

- Not too long ago the actor who played Tim Riggins (Friday Night Lights) was a guest on The Tonight Show. That in and of itself wouldn’t have been a big deal, but it made me realize how much I miss Tim Riggins now that FNL is over. Then I started to think about other characters from other shows that I’d love to be able to catch up with, and, well, I wrote all about it over at Ree’s blog.

- This post of Nester’s made me feel like somebody finally explained the way my crazy brain works. Just last night I told D how frustrated I feel when I try to write in short bursts – and after I read Nester’s post, I’m starting to understand why that’s true for me. THE INTERNET. IT TEACHES US THINGS.

- Kelly Minter has an absolutely gorgeous book, Wherever the River Runs, coming out in August (this will not be the last time I mention it because I ADORE IT), and today I saw her book trailer for the first time. I didn’t expect to cry, but I totally did – not because it’s sad, but because it’s beautiful.

“Wherever The River Runs” Book Trailer from kelly minter on Vimeo.

Y’all have a great Tuesday!