Termination for Convenience (Part 2)

Cookies.jpgCelebrating my 30th birthday with my family last Sunday night – and also celebrating my soon-to-be-announced resignation from my current employer – my dad told a story of one of his old colleagues who, twenty years ago when this colleague was laid off, brought in cookies that his wife had baked and shared them with the office as a token of goodwill. His graciousness was so striking that my dad still remembers his actions two decades later. And Dad suggested that I do the same. “It makes quite a statement.”

For my family birthday celebration, my mom had made sugar cookies with my face and “Nerdy Thirty” screen printed on them in edible icing. There were a couple dozen cookies left over at the end of the party, so she suggested I take them into work. So that very next day – the day I resigned – I took in cookies of my face for everyone to eat.

On the elevator ride up to the 21st floor of the skyscraper where I work, six other people crowded in and kept eyeing the container of cookies in my arms. Finally, one older man broke the silence, leaning in to peer at the cookies. “Where’s the photo of my face?” He grinned at me.

He was trying to be funny, but it came off as more awkward than anything else, so I just fake laughed and tried not to look too uncomfortable. Someone else jumped in and asked, “Is that a photo of the girl who turned 30?”

It was a good likeness of me, so I was surprised at the question, but I nodded in confirmation. “Yep. It’s me. Yesterday was my 30th birthday.”

Instead of a chorus of “Happy Birthday!” from all the strangers in the elevator (emphasis on “strange”), I was surrounded by shifting eyes and uncomfortable silence. Confused at the response, I realized they must have thought I made cookies for myself and brought them into the office in order to celebrate myself. It was a Monday morning, so someone more perceptive would probably have realized they were left over from a weekend party, and I didn’t feel like making the effort to correct their thinking, so we all finished the elevator ride up in awkward silence before – ding! – the elevator stopped on 21, and I gratefully got out.

Hours later, I stopped by the kitchen area and found one of my colleagues picking up one of my “Nerdy Thirty” cookies. Striking up conversation, I asked, “So what do you think? Is it a good likeness?” I smiled at him, tilting my head for effect.

Instead of thanking me for the cookie, or wishing me a happy birthday, or even commenting on how great the cookies looked, he glanced at the now half-eaten photo of my face and mumbled, “Is it supposed to be you?” He bit again into the cookie, shrugging and turning away to refill his water bottle. “I guess kinda,” he shrugged again. There was no excitement, no congratulations – either on my birthday or my resignation – no comment of “what cool personalized cookies!”

I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was astonished at how thoughtless, awkward and utterly self-focused everyone around me seems to be. When my boss was only focused about how my resignation inconvenienced her; when both strangers and colleagues were just interested in eating a cookie and not thanking or congratulating me; when I saw the types of responses I received from my farewell note – all of these stand as reminders of how completely selfish people are, unconcerned with the affairs of others except as it impacts them.

I sent out a heartfelt note to all of my friends, colleagues and stakeholders, recalling fond memories, focusing only on the positives of the past eight years and thanking them for their support, encouragement and collaboration. This is one of the actual responses I got back:

Backfill

Total lack of social skills and a punctuation error? You’d think I work with a bunch of engineers or something.

Authentically Aurora

A Purdy Thirty

Seth and Ashley did such a great job with my birthday. My boyfriend and best friend collaborated to throw me an amazing surprise 30th birthday party with a Beauty and the Beast theme! I could not have felt more loved.

Wine glass roseTons of friends were there – from work, church, choir and every other facet of my life – and Seth had rented out a “shared space” that Ashley decorated beautifully with silk roses under wine glasses, candelabras reminiscent of Lumiere, and stacks of books nodding at Belle’s (and my!) love of reading.

Seth brought along the corn hole boards he and I made together, and he surprised me with a homemade set of hillbilly golf because I’d mentioned in passing that I’d played it at camp one year and loved it. Twinkle lights lit up the rented back patio, and Seth grilled up venison from the deer I shot back in November, wrapping each delicious piece in bacon with cream cheese. Ashley’s coconut-pineapple cupcakes were a hit, especially since she  – in all her amazing artistic talent – had decorated them with yellow icing in the shape of Belle’s ballgown.

Belle dress cupcakesI am not usually a fan of large gatherings, but I spent the evening surrounded by wonderful friends who are genuinely kind and loving, grounded and sincere. We laughed and sang and ate and played backyard games. A great time was had by all.

And at the end of the evening, Seth hugged me and kissed me and said over and over, “I like you so much.” And then, when all the guests had left and we were alone, he held me and asked, “Hey, did you know there was a Fusion pre-engagement session in April?”

I looked up at him, and he shook his head, laughing to himself. “Of course you knew. Thanks for not pushing it on me.”

I smiled. “You’re welcome.”

“Well,” he began softly, “Would you want to go to Fusion with me in April? I think we’re ready.”

My smile spread, and I snuggled up to him. I was surprised. “Yes. I’d like that a lot.”

He rubbed my back. “I was thinking we could go to the one at our church in April and then go again to the one in June being held by another church to see how different churches do it, with the added goal of maybe even being able to facilitate Fusion someday. What do you think about that?”

I tilted my head back to look up at him again. “I think that’s a great idea!” And I do.

It’s the culmination of so many parts of my life: my love of personality assessments, sharing wisdom from my own broken relationships, and getting to teach, train, encourage and mentor others. I love that my passions align with Seth’s and that such a huge part of our relationship is seeking out how we can serve together and minister to others. I think we make a great team, and I’m excited to see all that God has in store for us as a couple.

Authentically Aurora

Paris – Day 2

IMG_5639.jpgRachel and I started our second day in Paris with a mid-morning brunch at Le Tourville near Ecole Militaire. I ordered a Croque Monsieur and cafe au lait; then watched people hurrying through the morning rain from the safety of my covered awning.

While Rachel made use of the cafe’s Wi-fi connection, I met a nice German couple from Stuttgart and also made friends with our waiter, Leandre. He taught me some new phrases (“C’est bon”) and invited us to join him that evening at Hobo Club discotek.

Due to the EuroCup, Champs de Mars was closed to the public, but we were able to at least walk by, and in the process, we also passed right by the base of the Eiffel Tower. Circling back to Ecole Militaire, we found Rue Cler and enjoyed its Open Air Market despite the drizzling rain. Rachel bought raspberries, I got blueberries, and we strolled in the rain eating our bite-sized fruit.

IMG_5672.jpgAround the corner, we stumbled upon LeNotre. The little bakery specialized in macaroons, and although I have never liked macaroons in the US, I decided to try some, and they were the best macaroons I’ve ever had! Throughout the rest of the trip, Rachel and I ate a lot of macaroons, but no one – not even the famous Laduree – came close to LeNotre’s macaroons: soft and flavorful with just the right amount of chewiness.

While eating my strawberry hibiscus and dark chocolate macaroons, I accompanied Rachel to a bookstore where she bought a children’s book in French for her nephew. She has decided to buy him a book in every country she visits. He won’t be able to read them, but she thinks someday he will appreciate having a collection of children’s books in other languages. Time will tell.

In the afternoon, we made our way to Rue du Commerce, a street of boutiques where the locals shop. I got a really cute coral pencil skirt with scalloped edging. Afterward in the Metro, we got stuck behind a Polish football fan whose RATP card wouldn’t work, so Rachel gave him one of hers.

IMG_5743.jpg“Where you from?” he asked us, wondering at the kindness of strangers. When we told him America, he invited us for beers and to join them in watching the soccer match. I told him we were on our way to a cafe instead. “Cafe?! No, no no,” he said to me. “Cafe bad. Beer good!” the boisterous Polski declared with a grin before running off with his friends singing a song in Polish at the top of his lungs.

Back at Rue Cler (quickly becoming one of our favorite hideaways), Rachel and I each ordered cafe au lait and split a scrumptious raspberry tart at Le Petit Cler. Although the maitre d’ was outrageously rude, the food was delicious, and we made a lot of new friends:

  • 3 British soccer fans took a liking to us and poured us some champagne when I joked that, “obviously,” I was pulling for Britain in the EuroCup.
  • 2 Welsh guys in their 40s, one of whom (Garreth) took a liking to me and had a great, long conversation about politics (e.g. effect of the legal drinking age of 21 in the US and decline of the pub scene in Britain) as well as religion. Garreth just started reading his childhood bible about two months ago and invited us to the Half Penny Pub when he left. We got invited for drinks by nearly everyone we met!
  • 2 young, fashionable women were seated next to us at Le Petit Cler, and when I heard one of them speak, I picked up her American accent. Daria, as she soon introduced herself, turned out to be from my hometown, and she’d met Agathe – her French companion – when they both attended Fashion School in London.

IMG_5755.jpgRachel and I hit it off so well with Daria and Agathe that we all walked down the block to Cafe Central where Agathe insisted we all try the famous Berthillon gelato. I ordered the nut flavor, and it was delicious (similar to Nutella)! After we all exchanged contact information (yay for new friends!), we said good night (“bonne nuit”).

Our Metro line 6 skipped over our Passy stop, so Rachel and I got off at Trocadero and walked through the picturesque Palais de Chaillot – lit up at night – to get home to our shared full-sized bed and porta-shower at the top of our seven flights of stairs. I found that our temporary “home sweet home” made my actual home all the sweeter. C’est bon.

Authentically Aurora

Paris is Always a Good Idea

Paris Fashion

Surprise! I’m leaving for Paris today!

I typically plan vacations months in advance, but this is a bit of a whirlwind trip for me – the spontaneous decision to go along with a teacher friend who is using her summer break to backpack through Europe. I will just be joining Rachel for the first part of her trip (France!) before heading home, leaving her to explore Germany and Great Britain on her own.

To get myself in the mood for La Ville Lumière, I have been doing some fashion sketches incorporating the architecture of quintessential Paris. Check out my Instagram @auroraroschen for more!

Eiffel

Garnier

Triomphe

Authentically Aurora

Dancing Around Dating

Cinderella Story DanceOn the evening before my birthday, my best girls took me out for dinner and drinks. Laughing about work and boys and life, we enjoyed the night air, strolling around an outdoor shopping mall before stopping into a quaint chocolate shop for dessert.

Over brownie-and-nut chocolate ice cream, my friend Cindy suggested we all go out dancing. It was nearly ten o’clock by that point, and now that I’m pushing 30, I was ready to call it a night. Like me, Ashley and most of the other girls were planning to head home, but Rachel’s blue eyes sparkled as she suggested I invite Seth and his friends to come dancing.

Cindy and Rachel are roommates and two of the girls I’ve gotten closest to in my bible study, although they are as different as can be. Cindy is a tall, curvy blonde with a bold spirit and an independent streak to match my own. We’ve had similar life experiences and only recently discovered we attended sister high schools, which just adds to our joke that we are twins separated at birth. Fraternal twins. Rachel is short and petite like I am, but her porcelain skin is dotted with freckles, and the red lipstick she loves to wear stands in strong juxtaposition to her shy, quiet demeanor.

“I don’t know…” I told the girls in response to their suggestion. Cindy and Rachel both knew I’d been disappointed that Seth’d had to work late on Wednesday and so missed our group that week. “I’m trying to let him lead, and I want him to be the one to ask me out if he decides that he’s interested.”

The girls exchanged a glance. “Oh, he’s interested!” they teased with knowing giggles. “He just needs a little encouragement,” Cindy added with a shrug.

“I guess it wouldn’t hurt to invite him and a group of his friends,” I agreed, mentally trying to frame up the conversation in my mind before I called him. Ten minutes later, Seth and his buddy Brent were on their way to meet us at Stampede, a local two-stepping bar and dance hall.

Seth, Brent, Cindy, Rachel and I gathered around a pool table once everyone arrived. Seth and I played on a team against Brent, all of us battling for who was worst at billiards. After Brent accidentally knocked in the eight ball, we relinquished the table to another group and migrated over to the dance floor. Seth bought me a beer, and we all sipped and talked, laughed and danced. I was glad to have him there for my birthday celebration.

After Seth and I danced three songs in a row together, he took Cindy and then Rachel for turns on the dance floor. I appreciated that he was mindful of the other girls. I’ve discovered that Seth is both perceptive and thoughtful; a true gentleman.

At one point, I found myself alone with Brent, so I asked him a bit about himself; then about his relationship with Seth. “Is he the real deal?” I asked. “Is he a solid, godly man?”

Brent was all too happy to tell me about his impressions of Seth, and he had nothing but respect for the man, describing him as wise, grounded and genuinely humble. “I don’t think he knows what a man he is,” Brent told me with a laugh. “Sometimes he tells stories about life on the ranch – cutting down trees or branding cattle – like it’s no big deal. He doesn’t seem to realize that’s not normal for us city boys.”

I was struck, later, by how differently Seth responded to my inquiries than Bryan did. When – this time last year – I asked Bryan’s friends about his character, Bryan had turned irate, screaming at me that I had broken his trust. But Seth commented to me later, with admiration on his face, that Brent had been impressed with the questions I’d asked. Seth appreciated that I took the time to understand how he was perceived by his friends. He saw the wisdom in it. The differences in reaction between Bryan and Seth were telling in their extreme contrast. Seth is a solid man of character, secure in who he is and confident in his friends’ mutual care and respect for him. The more I get to know him, the more I admire him.

When Parmalee’s “Already Callin’ You Mine” came over the speakers, Seth grabbed my hand and pulled me onto the floor for one more dance. This time, instead of two-stepping around the perimeter of the dance floor like all the other couples, Seth kept us spinning as one unit in our own little corner of the floor.

I felt like we were in a movie scene with the camera panning around us in a circle, twinkling lights blurred out in the background as we spun around one another. We locked eyes and turned eight, nine, ten times before I dropped my gaze, suddenly shy and feeling dizzy, only partially from the dancing.

As the song ended, Seth whispered in my ear, “Do you trust me?”

I nodded, so he eased me into a low dip. The dip required me to trust him with my weight, but as we’ve continued getting to know each other, the same question – Do you trust me? – has come up in ways that have nothing to do with dancing. And my answer is still, “Yes.”

I barely know you, you barely know me,
We ain’t but two slow dances into this thing.
Come on and sit down, I’ll order us a round.
I want to know everything. Girl, where’s your hometown?
Are those your momma’s eyes?
What are you doing for the rest of your life?
…’ Cause I’m already calling, I’m already calling you mine. ❤

Authentically Aurora

Enemies –> Friends

Sweet Blonde GirlSometimes I joke that friends are just enemies I haven’t alienated yet, but most often, the sliding scale of friendship runs the other direction for me: people I may initially dislike grow on me as I get to know them better; as I learn their story and get to know their hearts.

A couple of years ago when I first joined the church I’m at now, I started looking for a midweek bible study to get involved in. I emailed the leaders of a few groups in my area, and I ended up hitting it off with one guy in particular – Donny.

I’d never met Donny in person, but even over email, our chemistry was obvious. I could see from his gmail photo that he was an attractive man, and we also quickly discovered that we shared ties to the United States Military Academy.

“Hi Donny – I am interested in joining your group, as the time and location are a good fit for me.  Is there any additional information you need? What are our next steps? Thanks, Aurora”

“Hi Aurora – Generally we subject all potential new joins to an in depth personality screen, followed by a battery of intelligence and psychological assessments. If those come back satisfactory then we conduct the physical fitness test and group interviews. Just kidding, of course! There is nothing more for you to do other than show up. We would absolutely love to have you! – Donny”

“Hi Donny – I’m an INTJ with a 16:00 two mile time who graduated magna cum laude. Let me know by when you need my congressional nomination. 🙂 Thanks for making me smile. I can already tell we’re going to get along great. Looking forward to meeting you!”

“We’ll need a letter signed by a Senator, actually. And your vertical is?”

The emails continued all week long, increasing in their ridiculousness, so I was shocked when I showed up to bible study and was introduced to Donny’s wife. Naturally, I immediately disliked her. Cristin was beautiful and petite, with intelligent eyes and long, curly blonde hair. I estimated that she was in her mid thirties, and her face was just starting to show the worry lines that came from being the mother of their four children.

Just the frustration of being around lovely, wifely, maternal Cristin would have been enough to deter me from joining their group, but in addition, it ended up being a bible study of 15 married couples (plus me in all my singleness), so I didn’t visit their group again. But our church is a close-knit community, so my path continued to cross with Donny and – more often – Cristin.

Over the past two years, their children have grown old enough to be in the kids’ ministry where I volunteer at church, so I now have the blessing of getting to teach and play with their two beautiful blonde daughters a couple of Sundays each month. And those two sweethearts are some of my absolute favorite girls to teach.

Ally and Avery are kind and thoughtful, intelligent and attentive. They are obedient and respectful, as well as snuggly and affectionate. I have fallen in love with Donny and Cristin’s children, and over the years, I have gotten to know Cristin more and more from passing one another in the hallway, chatting when she comes to pick up the girls, or volunteering at one church event or another. She shared godly wisdom with me over brunch one morning last summer when I was struggling with dating relationships, and in the past few months, she has shared with me about her own struggle with an eating disorder and how it has been affecting her marriage to Donny.

Getting to know Cristin – her heart, her life, her struggles, her children – has changed the way I see her. I care for Cristin, and I care for Donny, too, but now I see him exclusively as Cristin’s husband and my brother in Christ.

Just two days ago, little Avery crawled into my lap to snuggle with me while we talked about the Feast of Trumpets, and as I stroked her soft blonde hair held back by a glittery silver headband, my heart felt full. I kissed the top of her head and felt like a part of their family. In a way, I am. Raising godly children is a community effort. I offered this week to start babysitting for the girls, and my eyes flooded with happy tears as they jumped up and down with excitement, running to wrap their arms around me in enthusiastic hugs.

Two years ago, I never would have dreamed how our relationship would change – my relationship to Donny and, more significantly, my relationship to Cristin. Humanizing people – taking time to get to know them – has a way of peeling back the layers, mitigating assumptions and enabling us to really see people through the eyes of Christ. What Satan intended for evil, God has once again used for good. He truly is the Redeemer of all things.

Authentically Aurora

A Dying Whale

People are the worst.

Okay, I don’t really mean that. I love people. I really do. But some days (like today), it just really feels like people are the worst, everything hurts, and I’m dying.

everything hurts

I was just walking down the hallway at work (apparently looking dejected), and some young man (stranger danger!) called out to me in an overly perky voice: “Cheer up! Life ain’t so bad!”

April Ludgate bonding

Do I know you? No.

Was I talking to you? No.

Do you know anything that’s going on in my life? No.

Do you actually know that anything is wrong? Do you know that this isn’t just how my face looks?!?! The answer is still NO!

Grumpy Cat No

I just moaned at him. Like a dying person. Or a whale. Or a dying whale.

It was a beautiful sound. And although I didn’t win any Academy Awards for it, at least I didn’t make any new friendships.

April-ludgate

Authentically Aurora