Thursday, October 23, 2008

Joy Ride

You know how Jesus was tempted in the wilderness? Well, I am currently being tested on page 73 of the new J. Crew catalog. It helps to know that Jesus understands what I am going through.

Just for some background on this story, let me say this: I am not a shoe person. I do not buy shoes. The following is a list of my entire shoe inventory.

- Black Mary Jane heals
- Brown flats that I wear to work
- Black boots that my mother gave me for my birthday
- Gym shoes that I bought at Wal Mart for under $15 in high school
- Tennis shoes that my parents-in-law gave me for Hilton Head Island clay courts
- Champagne heals that I wore to my wedding
- 3 pairs of Old Navy Flip Flops

I have spent approximately $30 on shoes this year, and about $60 on shoes in the five years prior, combined. Shoes simply are not a priority for me. However.

About a year ago I read about driving shoes. Some character in some book put on a pair of driving shoes, which I thought sounded pretty cool. So I looked up driving shoes online, and I fell in shoe love. It was the kind of shoe love that I thought was only possible in fairy tales or for my friend Bethany. Driving shoes are kind of like moccasins, kind of like loafers, and they look so comfortable. I started daydreaming about throwing on my pair of driving shoes, tying a scarf in my hair, and leisurely walking through a bookstore or the supermarket. All of my mundane life seemed much cooler in a pair of driving shoes.

Over this last year, my vision of these shoes has morphed into something very specific, the way years of looking at wedding magazines formed a mental design of a dress that nobody happened to make the year I got married. Tumbled leather or suede (I'm talking about the shoes again, not the wedding dress), gold buckle, minimal detail. Yellow. At first I thought white, which would be more practical. But a deep, mustard, perfect yellow... yes. Yellow.

And so yesterday, as you can imagine, I almost dropped the J. Crew catalog when I flipped open its center page, and there on page 73 was a pair of suede, gold buckled, simply detailed, deep mustard-yellow driving mocs. My name was on it. Literally. The top of the page reads like this:


The glossy page seemed to turn suede as I fingered over the image. Behind the yellow shoe was a perfect white driving shoe, which I paused to admire before returning my gaze back to the golden object of my desire. After a few moments of unfettered lust, I reluctantly skimmed the 5 pt. font in the bottom left corner until I found the price.

In the wilderness, Jesus said, "Get behind me, Satan."

On page 73, Joy said, "Well, if I divide that price by the number of times that I'll wear them..."

After about three minutes of mental justifications and false entitlement arguments, I gave up. Now I'm just staring at the page that I've torn out and hung over my desk in a method of self-torture. It's not about whether it's okay to buy nice things for yourself, or whether my friends are right or wrong to buy expensive shoes or lots of shoes. There are plenty of things that I could stop spending my money on. The only thing that this comes down to is the fact that the shoes are too expensive, and that I should not buy them. And that's really the end of that.

After a lifetime of Loreal commercials telling me that "I'm worth it," it's hard to remember that I don't deserve good things. I don't deserve any of the good things in my life, and I don't deserve these shoes; everything that I have and that I buy is a gift. Someday I will probably buy a pair - not because I deserve them, but because I'm at a different season in my budget or find them on sale. For now, page 73 is serving well as a free piece of wall art.

Satan is nipping at my heals, but he's not biting off any yellow suede.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


I like to live on the edge as much as the next girl. In fact, I think I like life on the edge even more than the next girl. When Pete asked me if I would marry him, the underlying question was, "Do you mind living in Grand Rapids while I fly airplanes for an undetermined amount of time before I take you and our children to a yet-to-be determined continent for another undetermined amount of time?"

And I said, "Show me da RING!" (Actually, that was the underlying meaning to the sweet "yes" that I gave him.) Living in the moment is something that I signed up for, and something that I take pleasure in.

But after five months of limbo, here is why knowing where I am going to live for the next three years is so much better than not knowing where I'm going to live for the next three years:

Because in every way, it is.

Hands down, no contest, it is so much better.

Today Pete got the We're Going in a Different Direction letter that he's been dreading from a flight company in Virginia. By all accounts he should have gotten the job. They said they were hiring, he has the experience needed, he went to apply face-to-face, the interviews went well, and they've been encouraging him all along to finish his requirements. The only thing that would make sense of it is if God actually answered our prayers for a clean "no" if the job wasn't best for our marriage and our future.

There are a lot of reasons why this job was potentially bad for our marriage and our future. For one thing, Pete would have had to travel up to three weeks at a time, and I'm sorry, but we sucked at long distance relationship. 14 hours is a long car ride from your family, friends and support system, especially when you're thinking of having your first baby in the next couple of years. And the surveillance work that Pete was going to be doing... well... he told me once, casually, that it wasn't "the safest thing" that he could be doing. So if any of those things would have caused unnecessary damage (or, you know, death) I am deeply thankful for the We're Going In a Different Direction letter that Pete got in the mail today. And he seems okay, too.

The first thing that we decided to do is update our car registration. Next, we're going to move to an apartment with more space and a washer and drier, because two years is a long time to live in essentially one room with hardly any clean underwear, let me tell you. After we update our car registration and move to a new apartment, we're going to go ahead and get really attached to a lot of friends, instead of preparing to say goodbye. And in January, we're both going back to school.

Knowing where you're going to live is so much better than not knowing where you're going to live, especially when you get to live next to a church you love, a community you've invested in, friends you enjoy, and an afternoon's drive from family.

And to top it all off, I woke up this morning knowing exactly who I am going to vote for.

I haven't felt this settled in a long time.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Every fall I think about getting older. My birthday is in December, but December is when I occupy my mind with hateful criticisms of American consumerism. By mid-December I am considering donating all of my earthly possessions save a bowl, a spoon and two outfits; by December 21st I am rushing to the mall, realizing that I've waited too long to knit 17 scarves or learn how to write decent poems. So my birthday month is much too busy to contemplate the fact that my finite life is progressing with alarming consistency.

Autumn is a better season to think about aging, anyways. As kids, fall was like a group birthday when you and all of your friends instantly turned a grade older. But more importantly, it is during fall that you can turn onto a street and see that a tree has turned flame orange overnight, even though you know it must have shown signs of changing on all the previous days that you passed by. If that doesn't capture the same shock of aging then I'm not sure what does. Time moves visually through fall; nature glitters robustly, then dies at warped speed.

As a teenager, I decided that I would rather fear 'dying young' than 'aging'. To fear dying young means that I drive carefully; to fear aging is a very helpless feeling. So I try not to text while I drive, I put on sunblock, and I look forward to each new age. Now that I've passed all the young milestone birthdays, 30 is the next big birthday to consider.

I asked my mom if she was depressed on her 30th birthday, and she told me that she wasn't been depressed at all; in fact, she had been quite pleased with herself for turning 30. I think I already know what she means. If 21 was when I started to feel like an adult, 30 is when I expect to feel like an honest-to-goodness woman whom people should really take seriously. 30 is the age that I'm going to start subscribing to magazines. I'm holding out hope that my voice may deepen a little, as though I have a slight cold. I also hope to wear glasses when I'm 30, but only for reading.

It's still about 8 years too early to think about which magazines to subscribe to, so this autumn I'm taking a step back and sizing myself up and my current age: 21. 22, come December.

What am I in my early 20s that I will never be again? Is this the thinnest that I'll ever be without having to diet? Is this the most carefree my marriage will be before retirement? Is my last chance to travel Europe with Pete, and stay in Greece by myself after he returns home? Are these my last couple years before I am a mother, and thus my last couple years to draw untroubled breaths? I don't want to breeze past my early 20s before truly understanding what they offer me.

This past Friday, Pete and I went to a high school football game at East Grand Rapids. On our way back to the car, Pete held my hand even though it was pulled up into the arm of my fleece. He always gets nostalgic about high school because he loved those years. I loved many things about my teen years, but high school was not one of them. "I would do High School all over again," Pete said, and I agreed. I would do High School all over again - but this time I would join tennis, write for the school newspaper, and relax a little about my grades. Pete would do high school all over again, I suspect, exactly like he did it in the first place.

I want to look back on my early 20s and know that I would do it all over exactly as I did it in the first place, starting with the little vacation we're taking this weekend to enjoy the fall colors. Soon the trees will give into winter, crisp and golden, leaf by leaf. And I will be happy that I spent time and gas money to drive by them in their glamor.

Friday, October 3, 2008

6:00 am.

No one has ever accused me of being a morning person, but if they did, I would be ready to go toe to toe with my accuser. Because the facts are on my side.


This morning Pete woke me up as we was leaving for work, and I looked up at him with the same puffy, bewildered eyes that I always greet him with early morning, along with my bad-breath kiss for which I always apologize.

But this particular morning, something was wrong. Terribly wrong. There was this... this... strange sensation in my neck! It felt like, sandpaper? No! Well, kind of. But also like I had swallowed something very sticky, like honey, followed by a mouthful of teeny tiny thorns.

"Pete! There's something wrong!"

"What's wrong?"

"I can't - I can't tell. It's like..." I swallowed twice, very intently. "It's like I swallowed something terrible that sticking to the sides of my neck and it feels AWFUL."

He waited a moment, then asked, "Do you have a sore throat?"

I contemplated this.

"Yes. I have a sore throat. That's right."

Pete: "Well, I hope you feel better."

"Thank you."

And this is why I don't think I should for any reason be forced to wake myself before nine in the morning. Because before 9, I forget words and basic concepts, which I think are very important in knowing when and when not to panic, especially when you wake up feeling like you've just gulped a handful of teeny tiny thorns.