Girls’ Day Out

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 6.59.42 PM.png

There are plenty of people I see on a weekly basis – coworkers, choir members, my local Starbucks barista – but there are few people I actually want to see on a weekly basis. Ashley is one of those rare people whose company I never tire of.

Usually when my best friend and I get together, we just go out for coffee. Between my boldness (i.e. social awkwardness) and her acerbic sense of humor, the two of us are all the entertainment we need (along with our lattes, of course). But today we decided to change things up; get a little wild and crazy. So we got our coffees to go (gasp!) and went shopping at an outdoor mall in the beautiful sunshine.

Normally I loathe shopping. I know, I am a freak of nature who may be asked to have my woman card revoked (Do we even have woman cards, or is that just a man thing?). Fortunately, shopping with Ashley is more than tolerable. Ashley doesn’t make me to go those designer jean stores whose toothpick jeans mock my ensuing muffin top. We don’t shop at fashion-forward boutiques where tummy-bearing camis are all the rage. We don’t go to high-end shoe shops where the hoity-toity clerks eye my very practical, comfortable black heels that I wear to work almost every single day.

Shopping with Ashley is fun. Today we went to Sephora, Kendra Scott, a bookstore and a chocolate shop. For a moment, I was tempted by some beautiful opal earrings at Kendra’s, but they were $130. I found a lovely fragrance at Sephora, but $40? It’s not that lovely.

Ashley and I shopped together for five hours, and I spent a grand total of $18. For my $18, I got a tall latte, a small cup of chocolate ice cream and five books. I feel like this is very telling. But to all you leopard-print high-heeled shoe lovers out there, I say: Coffee, books and chocolate? A woman’s got to have her priorities! 😉

Authentically Aurora

Je Suis Une Vache

Since I am bored out of my mind at work, I have been teaching myself French. You know, for something to do between the monotony of reading legal jargon and babysitting adults who cannot adhere to project deliverables.

“Parties agree to be bound by the terms of the Contract Documents as amended by this CCR-CCN. Except as expressly supplemented and amended by this CCR-CCN, the Contract Documents shall remain in full force and effect. From the effective date of this CCR-CCN, references to any of the Contract Documents shall…”

Je m’ennuie!

“Chris – I had a call with Ron this afternoon, and he advised that he believes Andrew is still waiting on an updated Citrix RFI. Could you advise if this has been delivered? I am trying to connect the dots, per our conversation this morning.”

Je ne comprends pas…

Yesterday my escapism was a fun lesson of learning to flirt in French. My app of choice, Duolingo, taught me valuable life skills, like how to say: “It is hot in here, or is that just you?”

French crush

At the end of the lesson, I was greeted with the sound of a trumpet flourish (da da, da DA!!!) and a vibrant banner that declared, “You have learned the skill: Flirting!”

It’s possible that I laughed out loud, or at least smirked to myself. As my best friend Ashley said, “Glad you will be adept at flirting in multiple languages.” Ha.

But then today, Duolingo decided to humble me. It decided to remind me that there is no need to learn the skill: Flirting because I am a fat cow and will be single for all of eternity. Attempts at flirting are futile, it told me. Just look at the horrible things Duolingo made me learn (and practice saying out loud)!

French cow

“I live with my cats.”

“He looks at a cow.”

“I am breaking the belt.”

What’s up with that, Duolingo? Way to teach me to flirt like a champ; then crush my soul by reminding me about my extra tonnage and cat-less cat lady status.

Duolingo, you are the Indian giver of hope. Zero stars.

Authentically Aurora

Feasting on Bitterness

Great HallHave you ever had an amazing, wonderful, magical experience that left you giddy with delight until you realized that there was some green grass of other opportunity knocking that came and ripped your budding happiness out by the roots, leaving it dangling helplessly as it withered and died, all the while looking forlornly at the blindingly vibrant greenness of the grass on the other side of the fence?

Ashley and I recently discovered that you can now buy tickets to have a Christmas feast in the Great Hall on the Harry Potter set outside of London. The same set that we visited three months ago. The same set where Ashley said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could eat here in the Great Hall?”

Well guess what, Ashley, my magnificent, prophetic sunflower? Now you can.

And by “you”, I mean not you, because we already used up all of our saved vacation time and frequent flyer miles and milk money and hopes and dreams on what once was considered a stupendous vacation that now is rendered less stupendous by the wicked, Voldemort-inspired knowledge that the Great Hall was indeed made for eating and can now be utilized for just such a purpose outside the confines of the magical, cinematic world of Harry Potter. But it can only be utilized for such a purpose by the happy few who procrastinated in their visit to the WB Harry Potter studio.

These fakers aren’t even real fans. They could have gone on the WB Studio Tour earlier, but no! They had excuses like having to work and wash their hair and put their Muggle kids through college. Hello! It’s college, not Hogwarts. You parents need to sort out your priorities! And now, since they are procrastinator fake fans who felt the need to be responsible and deal with “real life” before caving to their childhood fantasies of paying thousands of dollars to fly halfway around the world with bright, shiny stars in their eyes as they picked out their robes and their wands and got their photos taken at Platform 9 3/4 — now these responsible adults get to go to the Great Hall at a time when it will be open for a Christmas feast!

They will eat flaming puddings with fires that dance like a phoenix’s tail feather. They will feast on hams studded with cherries so sweet they will put the house-elves’ treacle tarts to shame. They will guzzle butterbeer so free-flowing that Hagrid might end up with another dragon egg. And Ron may even show up in his latest Christmas sweater hand-knitted with love by Mrs. Weasley (not that anyone wants to see that eyesore).

Meanwhile, Ashley and I will be feasting on our tears – our salty, bitter tears of crushed dreams and missed opportunities.

Authentically Aurora

Recovering Date-aholic

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 9.14.53 AMI am a recovering date-aholic.

I’ve been trying really hard to rest in my singleness; to be single and stay single for a time. I have been trying to even revel in and celebrate my singleness. This is a season of life where I can do whatever I want, whenever I want to do it. I have a rare opportunity here.

I am free to serve in the church and all kinds of charitable organizations. My time is my own. I can work out or eat donuts; I can travel across the world on a whim, and I can stay out until 2 in the morning if I want to. There is no one at home waiting up for me; there is no one at home I am accountable to or responsible for. I am in a unique season of freedom from familial responsibility.

I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.” -1 Cor. 7:32-35

According to these verses, singleness is a time to be single-mindedly devoted to the Lord, not distracted or concerned about the needs of a spouse. I have no husband, and yet, my attention is still divided. I may not be distracted from serving the Lord by a nonexistent husband, but I am certainly distracted by any potential husband who may be in my near vicinity!

In today’s society, the opportunities to date are endless, largely thanks to social media. I’ve been asked out by three different guys in the past week, but I’m trying to say no. I’m trying to rest. I’m trying to wait. I’m trying to give myself time to heal and grow more into the woman God is calling me to be. I want to be the kind of woman who would be worthy of the kind of man I ultimately want to marry. And if I start dating while I am less than who I could be, I may spend the rest of my life married to someone who perpetuates an underdeveloped version of myself.

I’m adamant that the man should initiate a dating relationship. But there are plenty of ways for women to help the process along: Catch a man’s eye, hold eye contact, smile coyly, or dance away with a slight smile. Make sure you get caught looking a few more times. Entice their attention and interest. I leave it up to the man to actually walk over and initiate conversation, but I certainly know how to help the process along. But I’ve been trying to practice mindfulness; be where I am; embrace my season of singleness. And leave the men alone.

Last week, I got another opportunity to exercise self discipline and reaffirm my decision to wait on the Lord. When I first joined eHarmony two years ago, I was really impressed with some of my first few matches. My ex-fiance was one of my first ten matches on my first day on eHarmony. So was Nate – a mechanical engineer in O&G with an aura of confidence and a shock of blonde hair. Nate’s profile was filled with photos of hiking and snowboarding; four wheeling and rock climbing. He’s an American Ninja Warrior.

That first week of online dating two summers ago, before engagement rings and wedding dresses and heartache and depression, Ashley and I sat in her living room, giggling and looking through all of my matches. I was drawn to the man who would become my ex-fiance, but I remember Ashley rooting for Nate. Much later, in the wake of my broken engagement, I got on Christian Mingle trying to find some hope that there are still single godly men out there. And there was Nate’s big grin and radiating confidence smiling back at me, just as I’d seen on eHarmony a year earlier.

Last week our weather dipped gloriously into the 70s after a long string of summer days in the 90s. So I got up early, drove to a nearby park, and went for a 3 mile run. Right at the end of my run, I stopped by the stretch area, and who did I see directly ahead of me? Nate. He was there with a buddy and his dog. Our eyes met, I smiled shyly and glanced away before looking back at him again, unsure if he recognized me from my online dating profile.

I stretched longer than I normally would, hoping he’d come over. He keeps popping up in my life, year after year. But Nate was engrossed in conversation with his buddy. The Aurora of a month ago would have boldly walked over and asked if we’d met before. I would have struck up a conversation and gotten him to eventually ask for my number as I looked up at him through long eyelashes.

But on that sunny morning last week, I walked away. I walked away praying, “God, I keep encountering this man, and he’s caught my eye every time. I could try to make this happen, but I’m going to wait on you. If you want us together, have him recognize me and find a way to reach out to me. Help me let him go. I want to rest in you.”

My aim is to refocus my attention on the One who loves me more than any man ever could; indeed, more than I love myself. “In repentance and rest is [my] salvation, in quietness and trust is [my] strength.

Authentically Aurora

Laughing Our Way Through London – Part II

ManateeIf you were an animal, what animal would you be? I’ve found this to be a great first date question. The animal a person assigns to oneself can reveal much about interests, values and self-perception.

Unfortunately, the last time I played that game, I asked it on a double date, and the three other people at the table dubbed me a weasel, a mouse, and “a large, white rabbit” – the last one from my ex-boyfriend. So not only am I most definitely a rodent, I am evidently a large rodent. Was the word “large” really necessary, sweetheart?

Ashley, Kelly, Ron and I played this game over a traditional High Tea in Oxford last week. I’d been curious to try clotted cream, and Browns Brasserie delivered. In addition to Earl Gray tea – served in a porcelain tea pot, complete with cream and lumps of sugar – we were served cucumber sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, tarts, truffles, custard and more.

After finishing off our tower of treats, Ashley leaned back in her chair, looked over at me and asked, “Do you feel like a large rabbit? Because I feel like a manatee.”

As we all laughed, she went on, “Do you know what a manatee is?” Without missing a beat, she said dryly, “A sea cow.”

Alluding to the relationship between Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins on Parks & Recreation, I joked, “But you are a beautiful, majestic sea cow.”

Ashley’s retort? “I need to be more like a majestic antelope.”

Fair enough. That’s what post-vacation diets are for!

Authentically Aurora

Laughing Our Way Through London – Part I

Hyde ParkLondon is a peculiar city. It has the hustle and bustle of NYC, the rich history of Rome, the quaintness of small town Germany, and the diverse ethnicity of Houston. Over the course of the last week, I found that I quite like London more than most other major cities I have visited, largely because of this synthesis of large scale opportunities with small town class and culture.

My traveling companions on this trip were Ashley, her younger brother Ron, and Kelly – a university friend of Ashley’s who turned out to be delightful company. On one of our first days in London, we explored two of the city’s largest parks: Hyde Park and Regent’s Park.

During our walkabout, enjoying the unexpected sunshine and sipping on iced coffee, we explored many twists and turns of greenery dotted by the occasional monument or fountain. After quite a few miles of walking (we walked a total of 16 miles that day), Ashley called out to the group, “Is that a statue?”

I looked around and only saw people sitting on benches or laying in the grass. Then I saw where she was pointing. A particularly dark featured man sat reading under the shade of a large tree. He was all one uniform color, dressed in dark hues and sitting immobile. I squinted behind my sunglasses, trying to make him out. Was it a statue?

The rest of our group peered at him as well. “He is very still…” mused Kelly out loud. But then– No… no, he moved to scratch his nose. Definitely not a statue!

We all gave Ashley a hard time about her faux pas until I had one of my own. We’d just come from a Harry Potter walking tour where we saw many of the filming sites for the Harry Potter movies, so I had magic on the brain. Walking through Hyde Park, I saw a cluster of people in the distance all wearing flowing black robes.

“Look! Wizards!” I said with delight. I was surprised so many people had dressed up for their Harry Potter walking tour. But as the group got closer, Ron snorted with laughter. They were not in fact wizards. They were Muslim women, dressed in full hijab. Oops. 

Lastly, near the end of the day, Ashley, Kelly and I went to use the public loo in Regent’s Park. Ashley and I both had the misfortune of walking into stalls without toilet paper, so Kelly had to pass some to us from under the stall door (thanks, Kelly!).

As we all finished washing and drying our hands, another woman walked into the loo and straight into one of the stalls without toilet paper. We all looked at each other, horrified, before I called out to the woman, “There’s no toilet paper in that stall.”

She didn’t respond, but I heard the sound of her already using the facilities. So I went into the stall next door, wadded up a ball of unused paper, and held it under the stall door for her. We ladies have got to look out for each other, after all.

“Here,” I said kindly. “That stall doesn’t have toilet paper.” Ashley and Kelly watched my actions. We all waited in silence. The woman never said anything, and she also never took the toilet paper.

After waiting for an uncomfortable amount of time, I glanced at Ashley and Kelly, who both looked very awkward about the entire situation. Then Ashley, with wide eyes, mouthed, “Let’s get out of here!”

So, giggling silently, I pulled my hand back out from under the stall door, stuffed the unused tissue in the bin, and ran out into the sunshine with Ashley and Kelly, laughing all the way.

Authentically Aurora

London: Motherland of Magic

HP WorldAshley and I have gone to Harry Potter World every year for the past three years – without small children in tow as an excuse for our unbridled enthusiasm. We unreservedly embrace our inner nerdiness. Especially since, with the coinage of the term “hipster”, nerdy is the new cool. I didn’t have it so good in junior high. But I digress…

Last year, I wore this shirt around Universal Studios all day:

Harry Potter Grumpy CatAshley was still willing to be seen with me and even take pictures with me. I am sure there is now no doubt as to why she is my best friend.

This year, we decided to change it up and go directly to London, Motherland of Magic. United Airlines will serve as our portkey to the UK.

Ashley and I are convinced that the only reason we remain stuck as Muggles is that Voldemort was in power during each of our 11th birthdays, so we never received our Hogwarts letters. We’re headed to the heart of magic to see the Headmaster himself about either adult admission or use of a Time Turner. The official Pottermore quiz has already declared that I am, without a doubt, intended for Gryffindor.

While we’re in London, we will surely stop by Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. When I was in elementary school, my mom wouldn’t let me have the Sonic Sleuth Bionic Ear (something about eavesdropping being rude?), so I was thinking about getting a magical Extendable Ear – that is, until my full physical earlier this week.

The technician administering the hearing test had a look of awe on his face when I exited the hearing machine. “Wow. That is the best hearing test result I have ever seen!” He looked at me in wonderment. “What do you do again?”

So. Extendable Ears? Not needed. Born with ’em! But I could be talked into picking up one of those love potions…

amortentia

Authentically Aurora