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

High Maintenance

Sharpay 1I don’t get how some girls just don’t get worked up about stuff. And I am totally jealous of them. Like, hello! You should be freaking out about this right now. You should be having a melt down. How are you not totally and completely stressed out of your mind?!?!

Last night, I volunteered to teach bible stories to a group of kids at an after school program in a low-income neighborhood. Partway through the night, I was talking with my friend Diana – a gorgeous, newly engaged twenty-something – as she reached into her purse and–

“Ugh!” Her white-and-gold Michael Kors iPhone case was covered in gooey, melted chocolate. She started digging through her purse and gingerly pulled out the culprit: a half-unwrapped Hershey’s bar. Diana started laughing as she shook her head and said, “One of the kids must have stuck that in there!”

She went right on with our conversation as if nothing had happened. She was laughing and smiling, completely unfazed by the fact that the entire inside of her purse was full of smeared brown goo that looked like poo. A gooey, pooey mess, and she’s still smiling.

I was floored. And insanely jealous of her attitude. She’s kind of a high maintenance girl from a materialistic perspective – Prada bags, Kendra Scott jewelry, business clothes from The Limited and Banana Republic. But what I realized last night is that, although she may be materialistic, she is low maintenance from an emotional perspective. In that regard, I’m the one who is high maintenance! Me. High Maintenance. What?

I’ve never seen myself that way before. I’m rocking a $15 purse from Target, and my fashionista self has been sporting the same pair of plain black heels to work for two years. What can I say? I’m practical and down-to-earth when it comes to material goods. If only I could say the same about my emotional state!

Sharpay 2I’m a Christian. Diana’s a Christian. I know that I should not be anxious for anything (Phil. 4:6), that I should cast my cares on God (Ps. 55:22), and that prayer will result in my heart and mind being guarded by the peace of God (Phil. 4:7). But I get worked up about stuff. Easily. I am easily frustrated, quick to anger and live in a perpetual state of stress. Diana, on the other hand, in all her fashionista-ness, has a lightness of heart that stems from her faith in the truths of God’s goodness and sovereignty.

I’m like totally J of Diana’s fabulous outlook on life and, like, I just can’t. I seriously need her mad skills. She’s on fleek. Hashtag killin’ it. Low maintenance girl right here. Am I right, ladies?

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

Conflicted – Part II: JOY

Today I saw a couple walking into work side by side. Their faces were lit up with delight as they laughed together. Bryan rarely laughs, and I certainly don’t feel that he delights in me. As far as I can tell, I am a companion to him; nothing more and nothing less.

Relationships are supposed to bring joy. They require work, yes, and there will be seasons of more sowing than reaping, but healthy relationships result in joy, and Bryan doesn’t bring me much joy. Mostly he causes me stress, anxiety and increased insecurity. Words have power for me, and Bryan is a challenger, not an encourager. He also doesn’t seem to be teachable. I have communicated to him multiple times that I need words of affirmation to feel cared for –  words are one of the top ways I receive affection – but I haven’t seen much of a change.

Nick the Strict – who I’m not even interested in – makes me smile on an almost daily basis with his persistent texts, like today’s: “Good morning, young lady. Be blessed today!” Nick tells me all the time that I am a smart, beautiful, talented, godly woman. I rarely receive that kind of affirmation from Bryan.

Even Kevin – a guy I haven’t been on a date with yet – has sent me 49 texts in the past week, including comments like, “Wish you were here!” and “I am intrigued by you.”

Bryan constantly misses opportunities to build me up. Two days ago, he looked me up and down and commented that I looked really tan. “You look Mediterranean,” he said. I asked him if my tan looked nice. Instead of responding with, “Yes, you look lovely,” and taking me in his arms and nuzzling my neck, he shrugged – shrugged! – and said, “You tell me if it looks nice.” And he wonders why I roll my eyes at him all the time. This man exasperates me.

Is this normal man behavior? Was I spoiled by my ex-fiance, who doted on me all the time? Is Bryan just not an affectionate person? Or is he simply not speaking my love language?

I know his lack of affection is not specific to me, because his best friend has told me that he’s never seen Bryan head-over-heels in love or really invested in anyone. I wonder if part of the issue is his fear of emotional intimacy, which leads to Part III…

Authentically Aurora

Telephone Pictionary

Girls NightIf it’s been too long since you’ve laughed so hard you cried, it might be time for a round of Telephone Pictionary.

For the uninitiated, Telephone Pictionary is a game with no objective (which I usually hate), no winners (or everyone is a winner – lame) and very flexible rules (something that normally results in eye twitching for me). But it’s a pretty fantastic game with the right group of people. And this weekend, we had the RIGHT GROUP OF PEOPLE!

To celebrate my birthday, all of my closest girl friends got together for dinner and game night. Jo Ann was sweet enough to host at her house, and instead of baking me a cake, she baked cupcakes and sugar cookies for us to decorate, catering to my artistic nature (so sweet)!

Melanie, Bethany and Ashley were all there, too, along with several other friends from various parts of my life. It’s always interesting when different circles collide. In this instance, the results were absolutely hilarious.

Telephone Pictionary Rules: Essentially, everyone starts with a stack of paper and a pen. Each person writes a word or phrase on their stop sheet of paper; then the group will simultaneously pass their stack clockwise. The next person reads the word or phrase on the stack of paper, moves the top sheet to the back, and draws a picture that represents the initial word or phrase. The group will continue this pattern, alternating words and pictures, until the stack gets back to the original owner, who will then share (with uproarious laughter) the way the message got derailed as it made its way around the circle.

With friends from work and church, engineers and artists, thirty-something moms and girls in their early twenties, the communication breakdown in nearly every round of Telephone Pictionary made us laugh so hard we cried. Enjoy my personal favorite:




Bonus: During our final round, someone wrote about my upcoming sailing trip with Bryan. This might be the best picture ever:


Hopefully it doesn’t come true. Becoming shark bait isn’t on my bucket list of thirty things to do before I turn thirty. ❤

Authentically Aurora

Cannoli and Meatballs

Cannoli girlsBethany is my sanity at the office. She’s a few years younger than I am, but apart from our age difference (well, and 6″ height difference), we’re basically twins.

Bethany and I got similar degrees from the same university, are long-haired brunettes, Christians, and are both well-spoken perfectionists who work in the same department at the same company. We even shared an office for six months when she first started. Now we sit in cubicles next to each other, and I’m relieved we do because some days she is the only good thing about my work day.

Last week Bethany suggested a new place for lunch – some hole-in-the-wall Italian place. Our new workaholic boss had scheduled a meeting over the lunch hour, so in our effort to grab some quick sustenance before the meeting, we ended up arriving before the restaurant opened.

I call it a restaurant, but it was more of a storefront in a pseudo indoor strip shopping  center; like something you’d see at a mall food court. Some cute guy stepped up to the register and offered to take our orders at 11:01, so Bethany placed an order for spaghetti.

“What kind of sauce do you want on it?” asked the broad-shouldered cashier, gesturing to the list of sauce options.

“Just the regular sauce,” said Bethany with a wave of her hand.

The cashier quirked an eyebrow and replied with a sideways smile, “There’s nothing regular here.”

“Okay, I’ll take…” Bethany quickly scanned the menu. “Joey’s marinara.” As she made her sauce selection, Bethany glanced at the name stitched into the buff cashier’s apron. “Oh… And you’re Joey! Hi.”

We all laughed. Sure enough, it was the owner himself taking our orders (and wearing his apron rather well). As Joey turned to me, I smiled involuntarily. He immediately commented, “You have such a pretty smile. What can I get for you?”

My heart fluttered. Surprised at myself, I placed an order for a Caprese salad with turkey meatballs… and Joey’s marinara sauce.

When we sat down, Bethany commented to me, “I usually find interactions like that creepy, but he’s actually genuinely charming.” I completely agreed.

I kept glancing over at Joey as he moved about the kitchen. He had a nice bulk to him; I like bigger guys who are broad-shouldered but trim. I usually dislike Brooklyn accents, but Joey’s suited him. He’s a classic New York Italian.

When our orders were ready, instead of calling out our numbers like he did for everyone else, Joey came to our table and delivered our food himself. Later, he stopped by again with two cannolis. “You two are so sweet, I want to make sure you stay that way.” Lines like that shouldn’t work on me, but it totally did when Joey said it with his playful smile and larger-than-life personality.

Bethany asked Joey how we could get on their mailing list to be kept aware of specials (last week’s was his mother’s traditional chicken parmesan recipe). He brought out two customer survey cards, and I wrote, “Great customer service. Fantastic food. I’ll definitely be back!”

When Bethany finished writing, we glanced at each other’s cards and burst out laughing. She’d written, “Good service, Great food. We’ll be back!” We are two peas in a pod. Or perhaps two meatballs in a sub…?

Authentically Aurora

Sir Scintillation and his Quick-witted Quips

couple-laughingI wish quick-witted humor made me laugh out loud. For one thing, my abs could use the work out, but more than that, I hold clever humor in such high esteem that it seems like it deserves the visible appreciation of throw-your-head-back kind of laughter. But as much intellectual appreciation as I may have for a clever turn of phrase, by its very nature all it ever elicits externally is a quiet chuckle.

Bryan and I went on another date earlier this week. We have been seeing each other for about two months now, but as of yet, we are still testing the waters and not putting any labels on our relationship. Since Bryan is a gentleman and always drives, he had never seen the inside of my car. After some playful teasing about what the state of my car’s interior must be, I offered to drive us to pick up dinner for our night in.

I keep my bible on my passenger seat, so as Bryan climbed into my car, I slid the book to the floor. Bryan immediately quipped, “I’m not comfortable with a sword at my feet.” I grinned instantly, catching his reference to Ephesians 6 – the bible is the “sword of the Spirit”.

I tweaked my eyebrow at him with a sideways smile as I picked up the bible and moved it to the backseat. His response was immediate, “Jesus should never take a backseat.” Ugh! I groaned with a grin, rolled my eyes and put my car in drive.

During our delicious Cuban dinner, Bryan made a few more witty comments, all of which made me smile but none of which made me laugh.

Near the end of our evening together, he commented, “You never laugh at my jokes.”

My eyes widened in surprise. Had I hurt his feelings?

“I think your jokes are hilarious, but they’re not exactly laugh out loud kind of jokes.”

I thought for a moment, realizing that I don’t hear Bryan laugh often; then continued, “You actually don’t laugh out loud much yourself, do you?”

“I laugh out loud on the inside,” he told me with an adorably somber face.

A tried to hide my smile. “Me, too,” I said, and I kissed him gently on the cheek.

Authentically Aurora

Wise and Fun: Not Mutually Exclusive

Zooey_Wise and FunYesterday a friend made a comment to me that absolutely revolutionized the way I think about myself. She pulled me into a conference room because she needed someone to talk through a difficult situation with her. After a hug, some tears and a few distractions (namely regaling her with stories of my love life), she smiled at me and said I was the one she wanted to talk to because “I knew you’d make me laugh.”

I was shocked. My friend didn’t know it at the time, but her statement was a zinger, straight to my heart. But a good zinger. She thought I would make her laugh? She thinks I’m funny? And that’s why I was the one she sought out to comfort her?

My whole life, I have been the one friends come to when they needed a good listener. Throughout grade school and into adult life, I have heard countless stories about young girls’ insecurities, college kids’ fears of the future, ramifications of parents’ divorces, breakup heartaches, anxiety over major life decisions and struggles with suicidal thoughts.

I like hearing people’s stories, even the hard parts – especially the hard parts, because that is where much of life is lived, and it is in the painful seasons of life that we learn the most about who we are, what we value and what really matters in this life. The dark nights of the soul are when our perspective is reset and our priorities are righted. I love being a part of that process because it is when I sense God the most. I am nearest to Him in the valleys of life, whether they are my own or someone else’s.

Zooey seriousI always thought people were drawn to me in those times because they know I’ve lived it; I know the valleys of life, and I can relate to depressive thoughts. I thought people came to me because I am authentic and approachable; I am a good listener. I figured my presence was sought out because I am wise and serious and dependable; stable and grounded and not afraid of the weightiness of heavy situations.

So my friend’s comment to me, startling as it was, reminded me of a statement Bryan made to me recently: “You bring so much to the table. You have so much to offer the world… but it’s not the things you think. The things that are really your strengths are not the things you think of as your strengths.”

Zooey funnyCould it be that people come to me because I’m funny? I put them at ease; distract them; make them laugh? I don’t think of myself as funny. Or even very fun. But I want to be; I’ve always wanted to be “the fun one”. In fact, one of my greatest insecurities has always been that I’m too serious and melancholy. Yes, I’m intelligent and wise beyond my years, but oh how I have longed to be the bubbly, happy-go-lucky, sunshiny, fun girl.

What would it look like if I started to believe that I AM that girl?

People at church think I’m a social butterfly. Dad says I’m a great storyteller. Mom frequently laughs so hard that she cries when she talks to me on the phone. My best friend Ashley tells me all the time that I’m hilarious. This colleague wanted to talk to me about her difficult situation because she knew I’d make her laugh. And I did.

I’ve always known that I can be fun (and funny) at times, but I don’t think of myself as a fun person. My self identity – the narrative I tell myself about who I am – is that I am the serious, melancholy artist and misunderstood genius. And I don’t know why that is. Because I am an infathomably complex young woman with more facets than even I realize.

I AM the fun-loving, adventurous, hilarious friend with a zeal for life. And I hope 2015 is the year that I own that fact.

Authentically Aurora

He’s Still Got It

Silver FoxApparently I attract Middle Eastern men well into their 50s.

I stopped by a convenience store on my way home from work yesterday, and as the cashier made his way to the front so I could pay, I observed that he was about twice my age but had kept himself up nicely. He had bright eyes, fluid movements and a neatly trimmed beard.

I was so struck by his attractiveness despite his age – this man was definitely a Silver Fox – that I had to re-engage when he asked me, “Do you have a CVS card?”

I had left mine at home, but cashiers can usually look up your member ID using a phone number, so I asked, “Can I give you my phone number?”

He looked up from the register keypad and asked with a twinkle in his eye, “So that I can call you?”

Taken completely aback, I threw my head back with full-throttled, genuine laughter. He started chuckling, too, almost shy now. “Do you use that line a lot?” I teased him with a grin.

He raised his eyebrows and shook his head, “No, never before. I am surprised at myself! I usually say to customers, ‘Sorry, but I am married.'”

We laughed, I swiped my credit card, and he handed me the receipt with a wink and, “Thanks for the joke.”

Oh, Mirza, you ol’ rascal. You’ve still got it.

Authentically Aurora