Meeting the Families

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“Athletic” is not a word I would use to describe myself. Ridiculously attractive and outrageously brilliant? Naturally. But athletic? Not so much. 

When Seth and I played Ultimate Frisbee with some friends a couple of months ago, my first two throws hooked far right and into the parking lot rather than into his wide-open hands. I quickly relegated myself to guarding the purses on a nearby picnic table.

And when I met Seth’s family for the first time on the Fourth of July, I was horrified to discover that their family pool party included tossing around a volleyball. The first time the ball came my way, I jabbed out an arm, inwardly cheering when I felt my hand make contact. Maybe there’s some athletic ability in me, after all!

Unfortunately, my cheering was short-lived when I realized that the spiked volleyball had flown directly into the face of an 18-month-old girl playing in the shallow end of the pool with her mother. The silence around the pool party was instantaneous, broken only by the sound of the little girl’s crying and Seth’s jovial quip, “It’s only a game, Focker!”

A few weeks later when Seth and I joined my older brother and his wife for dinner, Seth knocked a full glass of red wine off the table, shattering glass in every direction and spilling wine across the floor.

A couple of weeks ago when I accompanied Seth, his sister and his two nephews to a water park, Seth insisted that he and I go on the scariest water slide possible: a body slide so steep that you stand upright at the top, and the floor drops out from under you. 

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I am not an adrenaline junkie, and I also happen to be afraid of heights, so going on this body slide sounded about as fun as playing leapfrog with unicorns, but Seth really wanted to go, so we did. I managed to play it cool until the very last instant. When the floor opened up from under me, I instinctively shot out my arms and legs like a starfish, trying to hold myself up rather than plummeting to the depths below. I was unsuccessful in holding myself up, but I was successful in earning myself some serious ribbing from Seth once I made it to the bottom.

Our cumulative time with one other’s families has been a comedy of errors, but fortunately, everyone’s had a great sense of humor about it all. When it comes to dating, my mom has always reminded me, “Aurora, you don’t just marry the person. You marry the family.” I am so thankful for how welcoming and fun-loving Seth’s family has been – and similarly, how well my family has received Seth.

After an evening of smoking cigars with Seth, my older brother gave his approval, and after a night of talking pyrotechnics together, my younger brother declared that Seth is his favorite of any guy I’ve ever brought home. Seth concurred that he could really see himself spending quality time with my brothers.

I recently asked Seth what his sister thought of me after our day together at the water park. Apparently she said, “I like Aurora. And I like her for you – I think she’s good for you. But I’m not letting myself get attached until you put a ring on it.”

Smart woman! I’d be wise to do the same. 😉

Authentically Aurora

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Paris – Day 4

Hardware SocieteOpting to start our Montmarte morning in that section of Paris (the 18th arrondissement), Rachel and I enjoyed a continental breakfast at Hardware Societe just down the street from Sacre-Coeur. When I ordered my breakfast of a cafe au lait with roasted peaches and oats in yogurt, the adorable waiter – whose leather apron was fitting in light of the cafe’s name – told me with a smile, “Your French is perfect!” When we left, he asked hopefully, “See you tomorrow?” We seriously made friends left and right. What is that my boss keeps saying about my inability to win friends and influence people? 

IMG_6212.jpgWalking back toward the hilly Sacre-Coeur, we saw children feeding pigeons and were greeted by the peaceful sounds of a harpist. Down the street, we found Place du Tertre where local street artists sketched portraits of tourists. I enjoyed watching their skill unfold as they captured the unique markings of each of their subjects.

Continuing on to Rue des Abbesses, we stopped in to a number of Montmarte boutiques where I found a cute bracelet for Ashley and a fashionable coffee mug for myself. Lunch was at Creperie Broceliande, where I ordered the Mont Blanc – a chocolate banana crepe that was the best crepe I’ve ever had in my entire life, which is saying something, considering I’ve had crepes in Greece and also make my own in a crepe pan at home. If you ever go to Paris, definitely check this place out!

We also tried the Cuillier coffee chain, found it average, and headed over to the 3rd arrondissement to check out Merci, a nonprofit shop that is part cafe, part boutique and part home goods store. It was neat to see, but everything was outrageously overpriced, and the store was also overcrowded. On the plus side, I ran into more people from my hometown, and the shopkeeper thought I was French when we conversed briefly. Victory.

IMG_6304On the Metro on our way to the Arc de Triomphe, I kept catching a tall brunette guy looking at me. When we got off a few stops later, I glanced his way and found him still watching, so I smiled politely at him as I exited the platform. Rachel and I strolled down Champs-Elysses, taking in the sights on foot and peeking in Laduree before coming to a stop at the end of the street at the Arc de Triomphe.

When we were crossing a crosswalk on our way back down Avenue des Champs-Elysses, I sensed rapid movement behind me and turned to see the tall brunette from the Metro hurrying across the street toward me before the light turned red. “Hey.” He said something to me in French, and when I looked dumbfounded, he asked in English, “Do you remember me from the Metro?”

“Of course,” I said, and he introduced himself as Thomas (Toh-mah), a native Parisian. He waved over to his friend Benjamin (Bah-jah-mah), who joined us shortly. Rachel and I had just finished all of our touring for the day, so when they invited us for coffee, we agreed. I realized Thomas was steering us toward a Starbucks, so I suggested we go to a local cafe instead.

IMG_6361.jpgThomas stopped cold. “You are a difficult woman.” I just laughed, and we went to Starbucks. Thomas had thought I was Eastern European, so when he found out that I’m an American (and have shot guns), he added to my descriptors: “You are a dangerous woman!”

Rachel and I learned that Benjamin is a 22-year-old sports journalist, and Thomas is a 23-year-old IT major with dreams of being a professional (corporation-employed) hacker. They asked how Rachel and I know each other, and when I said, “Church,” they looked surprised, so I asked them (fully knowing the answer) if they grew up going to church.

The native Parisians told me that they are both agnostic and that in France, church is for old people. “It’s more of a tradition,” Thomas explained. So I asked what they believe happens when they die. Rachel squirmed, pleading with her eyes for me to stop. But the postmodern, open-minded, sophomoric French were interested in engaging in philosophical conversation. Besides, if I have to choose between temporary discomfort for us versus potentially eternal death for them, I will choose temporary discomfort every single time.

IMG_5751Benjamin seemed to think that we just fade to nothing when we die, and Thomas said diplomatically that we cannot know for sure until we actually die and experience the other side. I countered with a twinkle in my eye, “I believe I know for sure, and you can, too.” Rachel’s discomfort was now palpable. Wishing she would support me rather than being a stumbling block, I plunged ahead, sharing the gospel of Jesus with them. The boys seemed interested but not convinced, and I encouraged them that something of potentially eternal significance is probably worth exploring. We exchanged contact information, but now all I can do is pray the Holy Spirit works faith in them. They’ve heard the truth. I’m responsible for obedience and providing the input, but God is the only one who can determine the outcome.

Rachel and I said goodbye to the French boys and took the Metro to the Bastille to check the box (not much to see there); then we went back to (you guessed it!) Rue Cler where I enjoyed a burger and Pinot Noir at Cafe du Marche. I don’t normally like red wines, but this one was not too bitter; it had a subtle sweetness and was not too dry. We reflected on the day, got more LeNotre macaroons and took an evening stroll through the Palais de Challoit in view of the Eiffel Tower before retiring for the night. La perfection.

Authentically Aurora

Elevator Speech

Elevator

I get asked out all the time – at least once a week. Ladies, I’m told the secret to my unintentional success is that I am both pretty and approachable.

I say “unintentional success” because I generally try to look as unapproachable as possible. Like Ron Swanson, I call my coworkers my “work proximity associates”. I occasionally intentionally call people the wrong name if they start to get too chummy with me. As I type this, I am wearing a shirt that says, “I didn’t choose the grumpy life. The grumpy life chose me.”

I’m not sure how my perpetual scowl and look of disdain are mistaken for being welcoming. Maybe that’s why none of my dates work out. I only attract utterly imperceptive men who think that my grimace secretly means “take me, I’m yours!”

In any case, historically, I’ve been asked on dates by complete strangers at the most random of places, among them the yogurt aisle in the grocery store, the gas station and the sci-fi section of a Barnes and Noble. Now I can add to the list: an elevator.

The first week of the year, fresh from my commitment not to date for a while, I was invited to a party at a friend’s apartment. I’d never been to this particular apartment before, so only when I showed up did I realize that it is a veritable fortress.

There were multiple towers – Tower A and Tower B (“The Two Towers,” I thought to myself… See why I got asked out in an aisle of sci-fi books?!) – and a huge lobby with multiple elevator banks protected by armed security guards. I’ve learned over the years that no one questions you if you look confident, so I strutted past the security guards like I lived in the place, and I made it to the first set of elevators.

A cluster of residents was exiting an elevator just as I arrived, so I snuck in before the door closed. Sighing in relief at how easy that had been, I pushed the button for floor 7. But nothing happened. I tried again. Nothing. So I tried pushing floors 6 and 8. Still nothing.

Eventually the doors opened back up to the lobby, and, puzzled, I got out. Just then, I spotted one of my girl friends across the lobby on the other side of the security guard’s post. I waved her over, but she’s not as bold as I am. She shyly shook her head, so I went to her where she stood in the safety of the public area of the fortress.

As I started to explain to her my difficulty getting to the 7th floor (the hostess also wasn’t answering her phone), I spotted an attractive young man returning to the lobby from walking his dog outside. Assuming he was probably a resident, I said loudly enough for him to hear, “Well he looks like a nice guy. I bet he’ll help us.”

My friend looked horrified at my widely-heard proclamation, but it did the trick. The young man turned to look over his shoulder at me, and I smiled winningly as I strode forward.

“Hi!” I lowered my voice so the nearby security guard wouldn’t be able to hear. In my experience, security types like this tend to either have big egos or inferiority complexes. In either case, they are more trouble than help. “My friend and I are trying to get to the 7th floor for a party, but we’re having trouble with the security system in the elevator.” I batted my eyelashes for good measure. “Do you live here?”

I saw the dog owner looking down at my left hand. I followed his gaze down to the six-pack of beer I’d forgotten I was holding. “Do you want one? I’ll owe you a beer if you can help us out.”

“What? Oh.. uh, yeah. I’m… uh, I’m on the 8th floor.” Clearing his throat, the young man straightened his shoulders and explained importantly, “You have to have a key card to operate the elevators. Come with me!”

Thanking him profusely, I winked at my friend to follow. We waltzed past the security guards and got onto the elevator. Sure enough, our guide slid a badge in front of a card reader, and he was able to push both 7 and 8 for us. “I’m Trevor, by the way,” he told me, reaching out to shake my hand.

Like the frog from Harry Potter? I thought. Then I inwardly rebuked myself for that being my first reaction to his introduction. “Nice to meet you, Trevor. I’m Aurora. Which beer would you like?” I extended the sampler pack to him so he could choose one. Shiner. Good choice.

We were almost to the 7th floor when Trevor handed his phone to me. “Let me get your number,” he said as I took the phone from his hand. “After all, I owe you for this beer.”

Ugh. I wasn’t supposed to be dating, but I didn’t want to reject him in front of the other people in the elevator. I typed in my number and figured I could explain myself later.

Within an hour, I already had a text message from Trevor: “So at 100% interest a day, we need to get drinks real soon. I might not have went to Harvard, but I know all about compound interest.”

I thought his compound interest comment was charming (yes, I’m a nerd), but I was confused about his random reference to Harvard until I glanced down and realized I was wearing my ex-fiance’s sweatshirt. Classic.

I figured we could go for one round of drinks, I’d explain that I’m not dating, we would end up going dutch, and that would be that. So I asked when he was free. His response? “I’m always free. This is America.” And with that comment… my brothers would love him. 

We went to a wine dive a few days later. Typically, my first date mindset is: Ask all the hard questions – premarital sex, politics, family dynamics, religion. If he has potential, he’ll stand up under it and give all the answers I hope for. If he’s weak sauce, I use the Socratic method to challenge his thinking and make a positive difference in his character before exiting his life forever. Of course, now that I’m not dating, there is no former option; just the latter, which – while satisfying – is significantly less exciting.

Trevor ended up identifying as a Christian who never reads his bible and has yet to find a home church in this city where he’s lived for the past three years. (Disclaimer: Going to church and reading your bible are not necessary to go to heaven. We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, not by being a “good person”. But reading the bible and being involved in a church are evidences of someone who takes their faith seriously and is actually living it out. Disclaimer over.)

As predicted, I gave my “I’m not dating” speech, Trevor agreed to split the check, and I haven’t heard from him since. I guess that’s one less frog I have to kiss before I find my prince. This whole “fasting from dating” thing is a breeze.

Authentically Aurora

Problematic Dreams – Part IV

Car Kiss

Cory couldn’t dance because of the fresh tattoo on his foot, and Noelle wasn’t dancing much either, probably due to a combination of not knowing any of the other dancers and because she would rather stay at the table and socialize with Cory anyway.

So I went out on the dance floor alone, dancing a few songs in a row with various partners before making my way back to our table to ask Cory and Noelle if they’d like to go do something else. Both of them suggested going for drinks somewhere, so we looked up wine bars nearby. The most promising one, a quaint wine dive with mid-range pricing, was about three-quarters of a block away.

I started to ask if we wanted to walk or drive, but then I looked down at Cory’s foot where his Sperrys were already starting to chafe the tender skin around his new tattoo. “Do you guys want to walk or — oh, I forgot, we have a gimp with us,” I said in a teasing voice, nudging Cory with my shoulder playfully.

“Hey, now!” he exclaimed in an equally playful voice. “Just because you said that, we’re walking,” he stated emphatically with a nod and a mock serious face. We all laughed, and I – looking out for him – said, “No, really. We can drive. I was just giving you a hard time.”

Cory raised his eyebrows at me. “I know a challenge when I hear one. We are walking!” I hadn’t realized how stubborn this man was but, given all I’d already discovered about his passion, intensity, pride and drive to become a surgeon, I shouldn’t have been surprised.

It actually was a nice night out – a bit humid, but not too hot and not too cold. Since we’re all music lovers, we started talking about our favorite composers. Cory definitely favors German composers, and I listed a few French composers I love (e.g. Debussy), but Chopin was the unanimous favorite for piano compositions.

Cory was a Music major in college before going to do his prereqs for med school, so his knowledge of music history vastly outweighed that of Noelle and me. When Cory mentioned a composer we didn’t know, he would inevitably start belting out some of their music, showing off both his knowledge and his phenomenal voice.

As we neared the wine dive, we all started singing Broadway numbers, harmonizing as we went, walking in a single line when the sidewalk narrowed and fanning out as it widened. Once inside, we settled at a tiny round table near a window, lit by a single candle and surrounded by beautifully carved wooden paneling. The place was beautiful – cozy and romantic but also earthy and rustic, with an air of class and elegance.

Cory asked me what I like to drink, and I told him that my favorite is Riesling. I hadn’t realized he was going to go order for me until he nodded, stood, and looked to Noelle, who shrugged and admitted, “I’m not a wine connoisseur; I’ll have whatever she’s having.”

A few moments later, Cory returned from the beautifully polished mahogany bar with two glasses of Riesling and one Malbec. I typically don’t like reds, but Cory let me try a sip of his, and it was surprisingly good. But that may have just been the influence of his company.

All throughout conversation, although the three of us were talking, Cory continued to look deeply into my eyes as though he was trying to read my unspoken – and often, unbidden – thoughts. I suspect he saw more than I meant for him to, especially as I drained my wine glass. He’s a handsome, intelligent, talented, passionate and thoughtful doctor-to-be who spent hours opening up, being emotionally vulnerable and connecting with me. With us, I reminded myself.

At one point during the evening, Noelle got up to go to the bathroom. The moment she left the table, Cory turned the full force of his gaze on me, seeming to drink in the sight of me, unhindered in his admiration now that we were without an audience. I hadn’t realized he had been dampening his intensity until Noelle was gone and I felt the shift in him.

We sat in silence just looking into each other’s eyes for a few moments. It was a comfortable silence, sitting there by candlelight, just enjoying the presence of one another.

“I could get lost in your eyes,” Cory murmured quietly to me, still studying my face.

I felt my face get hot, and I smiled shyly.

“I could just sit here, looking into your eyes for hours,” he went on. “You have the most beautiful eyes. Actually,” he smiled, “They were the first thing I noticed about you when you walked up at the talent show. They’re stunning – and so expressive. You gave me a look that night that I couldn’t get out of my head for days. I even went on and on about it to my friend Alexa after the show, trying to decipher what it meant and talking about your eyes and how beautiful they are until she got jealous, and I had to stop. I kept telling her, ‘There was something about her eyes…'”

Just then, Noelle came back from the bathroom, and Cory trailed off mid-sentence. We hadn’t noticed her approach, and I suspect she felt the shift in the mood and intensity. I started trying to encourage flirtation between the two of them again. Help, help, help.

As the evening wore on and Cory finished his third glass of wine, he started to really open up – even more than before. He shared with Noelle some of the things he had already told me, like the meaningful significance of each of his tattoos, but he went into more detail this time, telling stories about his parents’ divorce when he was a young child. And how they’re both on their fourth marriages. And how his mom is an alcoholic with undiagnosed bipolar disorder who was abusive when he was a boy.

He shared some other stories from his childhood too painful, graphic and personal for me to rename here, but suffice it to say that Cory has walked through some of the darkest experiences possible this side of death, but rather than feeling sorry for him, I admired him even as my heart went out to him. He has done so well for himself, considering all he has been through.

Eventually midnight rolled around, and we agreed to call it a night. We walked the mile back toward where our cars were parked, and we dropped Noelle off at her car first, hugging her goodnight before Cory and I made our way back to my BMW.

As before, Cory came over to the driver side of my car to open the driver door for me, but as I started to pull out my keys to unlock it, Cory turned toward me from where he stood between me and the driver door. “Can I do something impulsive?” he asked.

I dropped my keys back into my purse, startled, and the world started going in slow motion. Cory’s stance was both confident and timid. He didn’t know what I would say. I knew what he was asking, and in the back of my mind, I knew it was a terrible idea, but he was a hurting, attractive man who had just spent the past few hours pouring his heart out to me about very emotional, intimate things, and besides, another voice rationalized, it’s just a kiss, and I felt my head nod.

Without further encouragement, Cory slipped one hand behind my head and another around my waist, pulling me to him, where he leaned resting against my BMW.

His lips met mine, gently at first, and then more demanding. We both started smiling as we pulled away, and I heard the surprise in Cory’s voice when he whispered, “You’re a good kisser!”

I laughed, and he picked me up effortlessly, turned us around, and set me up on top of the trunk of my car before burying his hands in my hair again…

I’m currently working on a mashup for our a cappella group, and I suspect it doesn’t take much imagination to determine my inspiration.

Head in the clouds, got no weight on my shoulders
I should be wiser and realize that I’ve got
One less problem without you
I got one less, one less problem

He’s so tall and handsome as hell
He’s so bad but he does it so well
I can see the end as it begins
My one condition is:

Say you’ll remember me
Standing in a nice dress, staring at the sunset babe
Red lips and rosy cheeks
Say you’ll see me again even if it’s just in your wildest dreams
Say you’ll see me again… even if it’s just pretend.

Authentically Aurora

My Gold-Plated Shanty

7S2My new apartment complex is like an upscale resort. It touts not one, but two pools, two exercise rooms and an arcade.

Interested in a private yoga instructor? Just show up at the gym on Tuesday evenings to sign up. Need a conference room for a business meeting? Step right this way! Have a thirty year old bottle of wine that needs to be kept at a crisp 48 degrees? A swanky wine cellar and cozy movie den are just some of the other amenities available to residents.

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After touring the floor model, I figured I may be paying a bit more per month than before, but I believed that gaining wood floors, granite counter tops and cutting my commute time in half made the extra cost worth it. That is, until I saw my particular unit for the first time on move-in day.

The prior tenant clearly had a dog named Jaws, as evidenced by the chunks missing from my window blinds:

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More Jaws attacks are evident in the bathroom, where the edges of the cabinets have been gnawed on, the toilet seat is crooked and there are pieces missing from the toilet, revealing a rusted exterior.

“This was clearly a bachelor pad,” I thought to myself as I cringed at the damage. I’ll probably find stale pizza behind the refrigerator two months from now.

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Probably most distressing of all Jaws’ attacks is his frenzied attempts at returning to his natural shark-dog habitat by flooding the entire apartment with water. The bathroom sink leaks into the cabinetry below, where months of water damage have caused wood rot.

When I opened the bottom cabinet, the stench nearly knocked me over. Why didn’t the guy before me ever call this in for maintenance?! He must have just lived at his girlfriend’s place – supposing someone like this shark-owning sloth would be capable of landing a girlfriend!

7S8

The entire moving process was a disaster. Not only was my new unit in a disgusting state of disrepair, but the movers (who were supposed to show up at 8:00 on Saturday morning) forgot about me completely. At 8:20 when I called to ask where they were, the manager said that my move was “unconfirmed”, whatever that means. So I spent Saturday morning moving myself with my aging parents (thanks, Mom and Dad!).

On Saturday evening, after a full day of frustration and toil, I got a call from the leasing office that a package had been delivered for me. My mood immediately lifted. Someone was thinking of me, hoping to welcome me into my new apartment with beautiful flowers or a lovely gift basket! What sweet friends and family I have!

I hurried down to the leasing office to pick up my delivery. I eagerly accepted the box and was about to tear it open when I read the name on the address label: To Anna.

My eyes widened with shock. This package wasn’t for me. It was for my apartment’s prior tenant. And this disgusting prior tenant wasn’t a slothful shark-dog-owning man. It was a woman.

#assumptions

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Authentically Aurora

A Gentleman’s Heartbreak

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 11.12.08 PMTonight’s post isn’t going to be my usual sardonic style. It is going to be a more subdued, sad post, because sad is how I feel. Tonight I broke the heart of a perfectly wonderful man, and I feel terrible.

It was our second time out, and on both dates, John not only made dinner reservations but also presented me with a bouquet of fresh flowers. I cannot remember the last time someone brought me flowers. My ex-fiance would occasionally have them delivered to my office for Valentine’s Day or my birthday, but he never hand carried flowers to deliver in person for no other reason than to let me know that I was cherished.

John dressed well and opened my door for me consistently. He told me that I was stunningly beautiful and wonderfully intelligent. Both nights after dinner, he had an activity planned for us. Tonight we went to a painting-and-wine venue, and he had the forethought to bring a cooler in his trunk, stocked with drinks for us to enjoy while we painted. He did everything right. He was a sweet, kind, thoughtful, considerate gentleman, but we had no personality chemistry.

Conversation was stilted at dinner on both dates. We had difficulty finding topics to discuss, and when I would ask him a question about himself, I found myself bored or disinterested by his answers. John was also a bit socially awkward. When he got excited about something, he would pump his fists in the air and yell loudly enough for other diners to look over at our booth, remaining oblivious to the impact of his outburst. He also tried to speak in broken Spanish to any waiter or waitress who appeared foreign (our Korean waitress looked offended).  He was incredibly well-intentioned, but I felt uncomfortable being with John. In fact, if I’m honest, I was embarrassed to be with him, which sounds awful, but it’s the truth. John treated me like a queen, and I appreciated that more than he probably realizes – it was so refreshing to be treated with dignity and care! – but I cannot marry a man whose behavior regularly makes me want to crawl under the table in embarrassment.

So at the end of the evening when John asked me if I would like to go out on a third date, I told him that I thought he was a wonderful man but that I did not feel like we had romantic chemistry. He was shocked and crushed. He told me in a heartbroken voice, “I really thought I was going to get a third date.” When his face fell, it made my heart ache to see such a sweet man in so much emotional pain, especially since I knew it was caused by me. I tried to encourage him, telling him all of the things I appreciated about him and how much he had to offer the right girl, but it was clear that he had already invested a lot of his heart in the relationship, even just two dates in, which is probably part of why I felt so adored.

Although John may have some things to learn in regards to emotional intelligence, many other men could learn a lot from John about the power of truly investing in a relationship and loving their partner well.

Authentically Aurora

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