Make Like an Electron & Be Repulsed

elevator-meme

If you’re like me, you may have watched some cheesy hallmark movies over the holidays, and if you did, you probably discovered that magical things are supposed to happen in elevators, like Christmas kisses under mistletoe, resulting in the blossoming of true love and lifelong companionship.

Of course, we know that in real life, only terrible things happen in elevators – like strangers attempting to make small talk. Or acquaintances trying to reconnect. Or close proximity with people who forgot deodorant. Or over-applied Axe body spray (and let’s be honest; any application of Axe body spray is an over-application).

I work on the twenty-first floor of a fifty story building, so I tend to be trapped in an elevator with other humans at least twice most days of the week. I know it’s going to be a good day if I get to ride alone in the elevator on my way up to my cubicle, but this is rarely the case.

What I have discovered during my frequent studies of human behavior in elevators is that socially adept individuals act like electrons in an elevator; they spread out evenly so as to give everyone the optimal amount of personal space. But unfortunately, most people do not seem to be familiar with VSEPR Theory and the fact that humans should follow this principle when in a crowded elevator (a crowded elevator, of course, meaning that there is someone in there other than me).

Valence Shell Electron Pair Repulsion (VSEPR) Theory is used in chemistry to determine the geometry of individual molecules based on their electrons pairs. Put very basically, valence electron pairs tend to repel each other, and the closer they are, the more they repel, so molecules take on a shape that minimizes the electrons’ repulsion.

Or, in the case of the elevator, people (electrons) tend to repel me the closer they are to me, so when we are stuck together in an elevator (molecule), we all need to spread out so that we are the furthest distance away from one another, thereby minimizing our repulsion of one another.

For instance, if there are two people in an elevator, we need to take on a Linear shape:

2-linear

For a grouping of three people in an elevator, a V-Shape is needed:

3-vshape

When five people are gathered in an elevator, they should assume the Seesaw shape:

5-seesaw

You get the idea.

Bottom line: Elevators would be much more pleasant if people understood VSEPR Theory and how much they repulse me.

Authentically Aurora

 

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Our First Christmas

christmas-gift-to-boyfriend

Several weeks before Christmas, Seth asked me what kind of gifts my family gives for the holidays. Was our gift-giving practical? Sentimental? Minimalistic? Extravagant? “You’re such a generous person, I’m worried that you’re going to out-Christmas me,” he admitted.

First Christmases together are tough. You don’t want to do too little for the other person, but you don’t want to overwhelm them, either. It’s hard to find a balance and make sure your gifts to one another are somewhat equivalent. So I told Seth that I had already planned on three gifts for him – one store bought and two homemade. He gave a sigh of relief (three must have seemed reasonable), and I fully expected to receive about three gifts myself.

But I got fifteen.

FIFTEEN Christmas presents (!) from my boyfriend of eight months. Fortunately, they were spread out over November and December and even January, so I only actually received about half of them on Christmas, but I was still blown away by Seth’s thoughtfulness and generosity.

  1. Vacuum 

On Thanksgiving, Seth asked me if I ever participate in Black Friday. I never have, and hopefully I never will. But Seth loves a good deal, so he planned to venture out to Home Depot or Lowe’s on Black Friday, and he asked me if there was anything I wanted. I laughed, “I doubt there’s anything I want from Home Depot on Black Friday. But thanks for asking. The only thing I can imagine I’d try to get a deal on for Black Friday would maybe be a vacuum – I really need a new one – but I don’t think they sell those at Home Depot.”

The next morning, Seth showed up at my apartment with a $400 vacuum that he got half off at Target. And he wouldn’t let me pay him back. “Merry Christmas early,” he told me with a kiss on my cheek.

Some women might be offended if their boyfriend bought them a vacuum. But as a very practical almost-30-something, I thought his gift was one of the sweetest, most thoughtful gifts I’ve gotten in years.

2 – 4. Apron, Laundry hamper, Chocolate

A couple of weeks before Christmas, Seth and I went shopping together at Marshall’s to pick up some cute (and discounted) gifts for family. While we were walking around the store, I saw an upscale laundry hamper for a great price and mentioned offhand that I should probably get a new one since the one I have now is from high school and has a hole in the bottom.

Seth loves when I wear an apron when I cook, so when we spotted a rack of high-quality aprons, I tried on a few and modeled them for Seth, twirling around playfully in the aisle. My favorite was white and mustard yellow with delicate ruffles along the bottom. And at the check-out line, I saw some gourmet chocolate-covered Oreos that looked delicious, but I exercised self-control and left them on the shelf.

Two days before Christmas, Seth showed up at my door with the unwrapped laundry hamper and a box containing both the apron and the gourmet Oreos. I felt so loved and cherished that he heard my comments and remembered them.

5 – 6. Two Necklaces

The morning of Christmas Eve, Seth and I did our first round of formal gift exchanges, and one of my favorite gifts was a sterling silver arrowhead necklace that he bought from a wonderful craftsman jewelry shop. It’s a reminder of one of the first times I visited his family’s ranch and found an arrowhead in the creek bed. It’s still one of the best arrowheads that’s ever been found at the ranch.

Seth bought me another necklace as well, but evidently it’s still in Turkey waiting to be shipped. He knows I love the Star of Bethlehem and all the science behind it, so he bought me a gorgeous Star of Bethlehem necklace that I can wear year round to remember how awesome our God is and how He has written a love story of poignant beauty in the stars.

7 – 9. Candle, Lotion, Shirt

Similar to the three gifts from Marshall’s, Seth demonstrated his active listening skills when he presented me with a Pomegranate Spruce candle I smelled and liked at a Cracker Barrel while waiting to be seated; some floral hand lotion we both liked at Bath & Body Works; and a really soft graphic tee we both loved at a small boutique near the family ranch.

10 – 12. Mirror, Theology Book, Carving Set

Seth had a full-length mirror he was planning to get rid of, but I didn’t have one in my bedroom, so he offered to drop it off at my place and mount it in my room for me. It has a white frame that goes well with my bedroom decor.

Seth also gave me an 800 page book on Systematic Theology, partially because he knows I love to geek out over that stuff, and partially because he wants us to read through it together and develop a joint faith statement. That may sound awful to some people, but it sounds pretty fun (and romantic!) to me.

Seth spends a lot of time in his woodworking shop, and I’d mentioned wanting to sit in there by him and whittle on some blocks, so Seth bought me a nice wood carving set. We’re talking about starting a joint project together.

13 – 14. Handmade Scrolled Centerpiece Bowl & Mounted Antlers 

In all of that time in his woodworking shop, Seth evidently had been spending a lot of hours working on Christmas gifts for me because, on Christmas Day, Seth presented me with a gorgeous wooden bowl that he carved himself with detailed scroll work. I was stunned. I figured he was talented, but I didn’t know he was this talented!

Seth is also still working on mounting the antlers from the buck I shot over Thanksgiving. Merry Christmas to me!

15. Handwritten Love Letter

And lastly – maybe my favorite gift of all – was a three-paged love letter in which Seth recounted some of our best memories and explained some of his favorite things about me. How I managed not to try at the initial reading is beyond me, because I have read it multiple times since Christmas and teared up at his sweet words.

Seth and I had a great Christmas together. He outdid himself, and I was stunned at his thoughtfulness. Some gifts were practical; others were romantic and sentimental. Overall, I spent my Christmas feeling very loved and cherished. Life is good.

Authentically Aurora

Hunting for Love

deer-hunting-buck-jumpSeth took me out to the ranch for opening weekend of deer hunting this year. Although I’ve been to the range several times with my dad and brothers, I’d never been hunting before, and I’ll admit it was different than I expected.

For one, I was surprised at how peaceful it is in the deer stand. Seth and I woke up before dawn, bundled up in sweatshirts and jackets and drove quietly to the ranch, where we silently hiked to the deer stand on foot by the light of a single flashlight.

We sat mostly in silence from 5am to 7pm, spending fourteen straight hours together, quietly enjoying one another’s company and the scenic landscape around us. I think it’s the most reflective and introspective I’ve seen my outgoing, extroverted boyfriend. I’ve decided I’m a fan of the deer stand.

Our first day to hunt that weekend, we had some 6 points in our sights but decided to let them live and grow up for next season. When we still hadn’t gotten anything by sunset, Seth decided to shoot a wild hog that was tearing up the grass. He calmly lifted the rifle, aimed, and pulled the trigger. It went straight down.

Meanwhile, Seth hopped out of the stand, jogged to his truck, pulled the truck around, grabbed the still-warm hog by its feet and tossed it up into the back of his pickup. He quartered it, put it through his granddad’s old meat grinder, and threw it on ice. Then he got his ax and went to chop some firewood.

He’s the manliest man I know.

Peaceful as it was, I was proud of myself for sitting in the rickety, old deer stand for so many hours and not complaining about the lack of amenities (the bathroom was the bushes nearby) or the mosquitoes (that seemed to swarm me but left Seth alone). The chairs in the deer stand were stained and dirty, and every crevice along the wooden ceiling was filled with either a spider’s web or wasps’ nest. To a man, the deer stand is a little piece of heaven on earth, but I had to overcome fears to sit calmly amid the enclosed space. I would have preferred to be out in the open rather than trapped in the shack with the insects. I was outside of my comfort zone but wanted to cater to Seth, so I put on a brave face for him.

However, on the second morning, I decided if I was going to sit in that place for so long, I may as well be comfortable, so I tentatively voiced my concerns to Seth, meekly apologizing for being so soft and citified. He responded sweetly, hugging me gently and asking me to stay outside while he took care of things. Then he went to work lovingly tidying up our little “home”.  He moved with efficiency, reaching into the corners of the ceiling with his bare hands to dethrone the spiders and wasps that had taken residence there. He scooted beetles out of the shack with his foot, and he gingerly dusted off my chair to make me more comfortable. When he finished, he came back outside, took me by the shoulders, looked me full in the face and said tenderly, “Thank you for telling me. I’m a man. I don’t even notice these things. I want you to be comfortable, and I’m happy  to take care of you when you let me know what bothers you.”

That night, I drove alone to the only grocery shop in town to buy ingredients and prepare a nice dinner for Seth while he finished cleaning our first deer of the weekend. The next morning, Seth got up extra early – 4am – to make a pot of coffee for me, even though he doesn’t drink it himself and in doesn’t even like the smell of coffee. We both spent the whole weekend serving one another; identifying each other’s needs and seeking to meet them.  When I told my dad about the weekend later, he commented, “It sounds like the boyfriend of the year is dating the girlfriend of the year.”

It’s true that Seth and I have seemed to find our stride. 2016 has been a good year for us, and I think we’re both closing out the year both feeling very cherished. I have high hopes for 2017, but during this Christmas season, I’m reminded to set my sights on the one True Hope; the only one who will never fail us; the One who came to save, redeem and restore. We are so blessed. Merry Christmas, y’all.

Authentically Aurora

Babes in Joyland

christmas-children

For nearly ten years now, I’ve felt that birthdays don’t seem as special as they used to. Easter isn’t as exciting, Halloween isn’t as thrilling, and Christmas isn’t as magical as I remember as a child.

I’m looking forward to someday having children of my own and getting to see the holidays afresh through their eyes. But in the meantime, I am blessed to volunteer with the kids ministry at church, and just my brief interactions with them have already made my holidays happier this year.

At Thanksgiving while cooking with my dad, we were watching my nieces play, and he reminded me of when my own little brother was about three. At our family Thanksgiving, Dad encouraged us to count our blessings, and my adorable little brother – with his big, brown eyes and long eyelashes – scrunched up his face in distress, his lower lip trembling. “But Dad,” he cried in his sweet little voice, “I can’t count that high!”

My Dad smiled at the retelling and admitted to me, “I still feel that way.” We are so profoundly blessed.

This past Sunday at church while teaching the elementary kids some Christmas carols, one little girl named Kennedy came and sat in my lap. Halfway through one of the songs, she turned around and told me innocently, “You’re making my eyes water.”

Surprised, I asked her why. She wiped her eyes and whispered in a broken voice, “It’s just so beautiful.”

I want to be that in awe of Christmas. Of music. Of community. Of our God. To sit in wonder – to have faith like a child – that is my prayer for this Christmas.

Authentically Aurora

 

Stones from a Gem

Kendra_Scott_Gwendolyn

Have you ever started a new relationship just weeks before Christmas? How do you know what to get for a new S.O.’s birthday? At what point are gifts not only appreciated but expected? Will gifts put too much pressure on a budding relationship if they are given too soon?

These are some of the questions I mulled over in the weeks leading up to my April business trip to Europe. Seth would be celebrating his 29th birthday while I was abroad, and I wanted to do something to let him know I was thinking of him, but I also didn’t want to overwhelm him or make him uncomfortable.

We’d only been dating for a few weeks, and we weren’t even necessarily dating exclusively. We’d been on one date, and he’d only held my hand once. But at my core, I am a giver, and it brings me joy to make other people feel special. Besides, in my family growing up, birthdays were a time of celebration, so I didn’t feel like I could let Seth’s birthday go by unacknowledged.

I wanted to be myself with Seth, and that meant doing something to honor his birthday, so – knowing that one of his favorite hobbies is carpentry – I bought him some crushed turquoise. Seth works largely with mesquite wood, and he had mentioned wanting to start using crushed turquoise to fill in the cracks in his woodworking pieces. I’d hoped it was a small enough gift (under $20) not to freak him out but thoughtful enough to make him feel appreciated.

I planned to give it to him on the day I left for my trip, so the morning of my flight, Seth and I met at church as agreed. After the service, we caravanned back to my apartment, and upon retrieval of my suitcase from my bedroom, I handed Seth the birthday card I’d made along with a drawstring bag filled with the turquoise I’d purchased for him.

“Happy Birthday,” I told him shyly when he looked up at me with a puzzled expression.

Kendra_Scott_Bag“I know you’re not big into celebrating birthdays,” I busied myself with tying my shoelaces, “But I couldn’t just not do anything for your birthday,” I rambled. “Oh, and I didn’t have any gift bags, so I just put your present in a Kendra Scott bag. But don’t worry,” I laughed, wondering what he must be thinking at the sight of the trendy jeweler’s bag, “I didn’t get you Kendra Scott earrings!”

Seth chucked, but I could tell there was something he wasn’t saying. Was it too much that I’d gotten him a gift? He hadn’t even opened it yet. Did he think it was lame I’d reused one of my Kendra Scott jewelry bags?

As I worried over his nonverbal reaction, Seth untied the drawstring bag and pulled out the crushed turquoise, along with the CA glue I’d partnered with it for his next carpentry project. His expression was unreadable at first; then he gazed at me with a soft look of wonder and appreciation. He looked genuinely touched. And surprised. And surprised at how touched he felt.

I watched various expressions flicker across his face and decided I’d done well. Seth stepped forward and wrapped me in a hug; then looked down at the bag of turquoise again. And then he hugged me a second time, whispering into my hair, “Thank you. That was really sweet.”

He helped carry my luggage to his truck and loaded it into the backseat. He opened the passenger door for me, as always, before walking around to his driver door and climbing in. Seth started the engine, but before he shifted into drive, he reached behind his driver’s seat and pulled out a Kendra Scott bag, handing it to me.

“What is this?” I asked, thinking at first that he was handing me the very same bag I’d given him for his early birthday present. But, glancing up into his face, I realized in an instant that this was a completely different bag. Mind racing, I realized with shock that before he found out I was going to give him a present today, Seth had already prepared this gift for me.

“It’s kind of a belated birthday present. Coupled with a going away present.” My birthday had been a month earlier, when Seth and I were just getting to know one another. I hadn’t expected him to get me anything then, and I certainly hadn’t expected him to get anything for me now!

“Can I open it?” I asked. I felt like a little girl, overwhelmed with wonder and excitement and a sense of feeling very, very special.

“Yeah, open it.” Seth’s expression was unreadable again. Did he look… nervous?

I pushed back the teal wrapping paper, pulled out the familiar bright yellow box, opened the teal drawstring bag and found a pair of Danielle earrings in purple – my favorite color. He bought me Kendra Scott earrings. 

I never would have expected such an extravagant gift, and I was unprepared for the way his kindness and generosity affected me. I’d known he was thoughtful. I’d known he was a gentleman. But to be the recipient of not only his selfless service of driving me to the airport but also this tangible token of his affection welled up in me an emotion that nearly moved me to tears. I felt cared for.

It had been so long since someone took care of me that I’d nearly forgotten what it felt like to be romanced; to be and protected; to be lovingly served. And I had a sense that Seth experienced a similar emotion when he opened his gift.

Not only did Seth and I unknowingly both get one another semi-precious stones in a Kendra Scott bag that day, we also both began to give one another the gifts of mutual care, respect, service and trust. Very rarely in life do two givers come together, but when they do, I am finding that it is a beautiful thing to behold.

Authentically Aurora

Adultescence 

coloring bookMillennials are notorious for lingering in limbo between adulthood and a prolonged childhood. We catch a lot of flack for it, but I was surprised by what action of mine drew judgement from Baby Boomers this week.

With my younger brother deployed and my mother caring for my critically ill grandfather, I spent a lot of time alone this Christmas. So last night, I went to a local coffee shop to soak in the ambiance and color in an adult coloring book I got for Christmas. Sometimes I like to be alone in a crowd; to have quiet time without feeling isolated.

So I got my coconut latte, put in my ear buds and was coloring away when I suddenly felt a presence hovering over me. No, it wasn’t the Holy Spirit. It was an elderly woman looking with delight at my colorful pens.

“Are those gel pens?!” She clapped her hands together gleefully.

I took out my ear buds, paused my music and looked up at her. “Yes.”

“Oh my! I have two daughters in their twenties and, my goodness, those were all the rage when they were younger! I remember one year, my younger daughter got a big set for her sister and, oh, if it wasn’t the sweetest thing!”

I smiled politely. “Well I’m probably about your daughters’ ages.”

“So you remember that gel pen fad?”

“Yes,” I said simply.

To my horror, another woman walked up with a huge grin. “Are you coloring? How nice. That’s a far better use of time than that Facebook thing all the kids are doing these days.”

Before I could respond (perhaps letting her know that I’d just checked Facebook on my phone), the second woman continued, “And what are you listening to? A lecture or a podcast?”

“It’s music.”

Her face fell visibly. “Oh.”

The first woman spoke up again, patting her friend on the shoulder. “And here I was telling her it was probably a TED Talk or something.”

I smiled politely again, hoping I didn’t look too pained. “Nope. Just music.” I spared them the detail that it was of the melodic bass genre. They wouldn’t have been able to handle the shock and dismay of such a lovely young lady listening to what they’d perceive to be Satan’s music.

“Well, that’s okay.” Patting one another’s shoulders, they meandered away from my table, where I sighed deeply, put my ear buds back in, and resumed my coloring to devil music.

I was astonished that it was not only permissible but delightful to these two elderly women that a 28-year-old would be coloring in a coloring book, but what bothered them was the fact that I was listening to music instead of a TED Talk. What if it had been classical music? Or opera? Would they have deemed that okay?

Or what if I had been listening to a podcast, but it was vulgar or explicit? Are podcasts inherently more valuable and desirable than having “young people” listen to music? Or what if I had been surfing Facebook while listening to an educational lecture? Would that have been better or worse, in the minds of these two women, than coloring while listening to electronica music?

See? This is why I should never leave the safety of my apartment. I know better than to venture out into the public wearing anything other than a Grumpy Cat shirt. Otherwise, people inevitably try to talk to me. I just wanted to be alone without being alone. Is that too much to ask?

Authentically Aurora

The Silly Goose

niecesOver Christmas, I got to spend a lot of quality time with my two adorable nieces (lovingly nicknamed “The Adorables”). The four-year-old, Wren, is quiet and shy, whereas her two-year-old sister, Lily, is such a fireball that I think of her as my little Tiger Lily.

Lily is a brilliant child. Several months ago as I carried her through the house, she turned her big, beautiful eyes upward to the eight-sided mahogany beadboard ceiling of our family dining room. Pointing a tiny finger skyward, she declared with enthusiasm, “Octagon!”

Another time, carrying her through a parking lot of an airport, Lily pointed over my shoulder to a signpost and read aloud, “No Parking Anytime!” I looked at her furrowed brow, glanced at the sign and did a double-take. With perfect articulation, she had read the parking sign. She is two!

But, brilliant as she is, Lily is definitely still a two-year-old. On Christmas Eve, Wren and Lily both wanted Auntie Aurora to play Duck Duck Goose with them. So we all sat on the floor together, taking turns bopping each other on the head and running around the circle back to our seat before the “goose” could catch us.

When it was my turn to be “it”, I walked slowly around the circle, gently tapping Wren on the head; then Lily; then Wren; then Lily. “Duck… duck… duck… duck…”

Suddenly, Lily squealed in anticipation, “Goose me, Auntie Aurora! Goose me!!!”

There was a stunned silence in the room before all of the adults started guffawing, tears streaming down their faces in laughter. But Lily just beamed with delight as I tapped her on the head and declared her, officially, the “goose.”

Authentically Aurora