He’s American as Apple PI

Apple PiThat memorable Sunday when Seth and I became reacquainted was in early March, a few weeks before my birthday and well before the end of my dating fast. I felt myself drawn to him and had a sense the feeling was mutual, but I had no way of knowing for sure.

In mulling over those unexpected interactions we shared while sitting cross-legged on a purple mat surrounded by children, I felt simultaneously frustrated and thankful to have nearly a full month before a potential end to my break from dating. One of the more practical benefits to not dating, I discovered, was a built-in check on my expectations. Thank God, I thought, because even with tempered expectations, my emotions were all over the place.

That first week, I didn’t hear from Seth on Monday or Tuesday, but – true to his word – Seth sent me a Facebook message on Wednesday afternoon asking me for the time and location of my bible study so he could visit our group.

Excited to see him again, I touched up my makeup after work that Wednesday and allotted a few extra minutes to be sure to get to bible study on time. But Seth showed up late and settled himself far across the room from me when he arrived. My heart sank. He was situated such that I couldn’t even see him around the heads of the people between us.

Disappointed, I tried to focus on the discussion going on around me, but I was distracted by my confusion. Seth already had a bible study group – in fact, he taught his Tuesday night group from time to time – so why had he decided to visit mine? I’d thought it was to spend time with me, but he hadn’t made an effort to sit by me, which left me unsure of his interest.

At the end of bible study, Seth came over to say hi, and I started to hope again, especially when he decided to leave at the same time as I did. We walked out into the rainy night together. Seth had parked far down the block, so I offered to drive him to his vehicle. We climbed into my sporty BMW and drove to the truck he indicated,  his calloused finger pointing to it through the downpour.

Glancing over his truck, I decided it suited him. Like Seth, the rugged truck showed the effects of years of hard work, but it also looked solid and dependable. I’d anticipated Seth would want to sit and talk with me for a few minutes before getting out, but as soon as my Beemer rolled to a stop beside the muddied truck, Seth hopped out, thanking me for the ride and closing the door almost before I could respond with, “You’re welcome.”

Stunned, I drove away, comforting myself that I wasn’t dating anyway, so his hasty exit was probably for the best. But I found myself feeling disappointed again the next Sunday when Seth walked right past me in the hallway of church and didn’t seem to notice me or my bright pink sundress – one I’d chosen specifically for its happy hues. I’d spent three days looking forward to running into him at church, but Seth didn’t even so much as give me a second glance.

However, on Monday afternoon I was pleasantly surprised by a message in my Facebook inbox. Our bible study group – full of engineers – had discussed hosting a Pi Day (3/14) celebration at Roy’s house. Having heard the discussion on Wednesday when he’d visited, Seth wrote to me that he was interested to know if he was welcome to join our group’s party. Smiling to myself – heart full of hope again – I encouraged him to attend, so he did, asking for my phone number in case he needed help finding the house.

The Pi Day celebration ended up being epic. People brought all sorts of pies – chocolate and blueberry, store-bought and homemade – and after sampling all of the delicacies, Roy’s roommates broke out their assortment of party games: Code Names, Two Rooms & A Boom, Four on a Couch and the like.

Throughout the evening of laughter and fellowship, multiple girls asked me (with gleeful, teasing grins) how long Seth and I had been dating. Each time, my eyes widened in surprise. “We’re not dating,” I’d tell them, adding mentally with a hopeful smile, “yet.” But everyone evidently observed the way Seth watched me make my way around the room, serving drinks and hugging friends. He seemed captivated by me, and I caught him looking at me several times.

As the evening grew late, I gathered up my purse and glanced over my shoulder to find Seth moving my way through the crowd. “May I walk you out?” he asked. I was immensely glad.

We said our goodbyes to the others and made our way out to my car. Telling myself to release any expectations in light of his quick departure the prior week, I gave Seth a quick hug goodbye and started to fish in my purse for my keys, but to my surprise, he leaned against my car and struck up a conversation.

Half an hour later, still deep in conversation about our families and hobbies, the wind picked up and whipped my bangs around my forehead. I reached into my purse for a rubber band and put my long hair up in a ponytail to get it off the back of my neck and keep it from flying into my face. Still leaning against my car, Seth reached out his hand to gently squeeze my shoulder as he told me about his latest carpentry project.

My neck and shoulders were sore from yoga, so I subconsciously sighed gratefully, and Seth stepped closer to work out a knot in my left upper trap while he described the way he likes to fill holes in mesquite wood with turquoise stones. When he finished, I nestled into his chest, and he wrapped his arm around me, both of us smiling shyly at our joint reflection in the car next to mine.

Two hours later as midnight approached, I told Seth I should probably get to bed. It was, after all, a work night. He agreed and hugged me goodnight, telling me he needed to go get a run in anyway.

“A run?” I asked incredulously. “At midnight?!”

“Yeah, probably just a four-miler,” Seth said with a shrug. He has run a couple of marathons.

“Why would you go for a run this late?”

“Sometimes I go for a run when I get a little too amped up,” he told me.

“What has you amped up?” I asked in genuine innocence. Was he stressed about work?

He chuckled, dropping his eyes before looking back up at me and saying in his low drawl, “Oh, I don’t know. Talking to a pretty girl late at night will do it.”

Oh! My face burned, and he laughed in response. “You totally went fishing for that one!”

“No, I didn’t!” I countered with an embarrassed grin. “You’re the fisherman, not me!” He’d gone fishing the prior weekend and came home with some fresh catches.

Seth just laughed in reply and gave me another hug goodnight, leaving me with his woodsy scent and a longing for the next time I’d see him again.

Authentically Aurora

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Of Planks and Pushups

We’re now nearly to the end of February, and I can still honestly say that I’ve worked out every day this year [insert mental image of shocked faces, including mine]!

Most of my work outs have been pretty basic, doing 30 minute yoga exercises or running a mile or two here and there. But even with those simplistic I’m-just-trying-to-create-a-habit work outs, I can already see some exciting changes!

Here are three things I can do now that I could not do at the start of the year:

  1. Chest Push-UpsPush up
  2. Triceps Push-UpsTricep push up
  3. Side PlankSidePlankPose

A part of me is embarrassed to even admit there was a time I could not do these things, but hey – judge me if you must. I can’t help that God made me busty with ridiculously tiny wrists. I was a soccer player, not a discus thrower. But I’m working on it.

Most of the exercises I’ve done this year have been shoulder and wrist strengthening exercises, and I am (finally!) starting to reap the benefits of my discipline to keep at it, silly though I may feel when I look out the window from my yoga mat to see hardcore Crossfitters puking on the sidewalk outside. I was one of them, once upon a time (a Crossfitter, not a puker. I like to keep my food inside my stomach, thank you very much. But I digress).

One of the neat things about deciding to be disciplined in working out is that it teaches our psyches the very important life lesson of valuing perseverance; of sacrificing in the near term in order to benefit in the long term. We all know this in our heads, but sometimes it takes living it out to really believe that our discipline is worthwhile, whether it is persevering in exercise, scripture reading, relationships, folding that fifth load of laundry, finishing that kale salad, scrubbing every inch of your kitchen floor after you spill orange juice on it… or any manner of other situations.

Things that are worthwhile rarely come easily, and things that come easily are rarely worthwhile. So we persevere and strive to live above the common level of life. We were made for more than mediocrity. And kale salad.

Authentically Aurora

Cruise of the Bruised – Part IV

Nassau

Over a sub-par breakfast of fatty bacon and runny eggs (fancy as it can be, cruise ship food is definitely made for the masses), the girls and I discussed our plans for the day. Our ship would dock at Nassau within the hour, and the sun had finally broken out from behind the clouds, promising a beautiful day to spend on the beaches of the Bahamas.

Since I’d been with the muscled massage therapist during most of our time in Freeport, I was looking forward to celebrating Marina’s upcoming birthday with her during our sunny afternoon in Nassau. Verna and Marina chattered on about drinking piña coladas on the white sand, and Marina agreed to take acroyoga photos with me in front of the breathtaking turquoise water —

Jordan appeared mid-conversation, walking by our table on the upper dock in his workout clothes, body glistening with perspiration. I watched him do a double-take as he noticed me sitting there, and – as I’d expected – he walked over to say hi. He wanted to spend the day with me, but I told him I was on the cruise with the girls and was there to celebrate Marina’s birthday.

“Well… could I meet you later this evening? Maybe at that hot tub,” he gestured with his towel-free hand, “Around 5 o’clock tonight?”

I smiled. “I think I can make that happen,” I said coyly.

“Great!” His grin lit up his face. “I’ll see you then.”

I turned back around to find the girls snickering, amusement lighting up their eyes. “Oh, hush,” I told them with mock disapproval. They just laughed harder.

An hour later, the three of us were decked out in our colorful bikinis and sunglasses, disembarking for our second day ashore in the Bahamas. We passed by hordes of taxis and horse-drawn carriages, opting instead to take in some Vitamin D during the 20 minute walk to the beach.

Verna and Marina decided to pay $10 for beach chairs, but I laid out my towel in the sand, readjusted my sunglasses on my nose, and sighed happily as I (finally!) opened my book to start reading. This was exactly what I’d envisioned when I agreed to go on this cruise with the girls.

Verna and Marina chattered away in Spanish, and after a while, Marina and I roped Verna into playing photographer while we posed in various acroyoga positions on the beach. We laughed uproariously every time we fell over, and I chuckled to myself when I noticed other patrons discreetly snapping photos of us on their phones. Both our posing and our falling was entertaining for all.

After the photos, we splashed around in the water, watched a limbo competition, and bought matching necklaces with flowers made out of conch shells. Then we all ordered drinks – piña coladas in coconuts – to celebrate a wonderful vacation and the perfect day.

Hours later, as we were packing up to walk back to the ship, I suddenly spotted Jordan across the beach, making his way toward a volleyball court where I saw the younger boys playing. I started to call out to say hi, but as I kept watching his veering path along the beach, I realized that he was incapable of walking in a straight line. He was drunk.

Verna and Marina had gone to the bathroom, so from where I stood guarding their stuff, I watched Jordan approach the group of bachelorettes who’d won the limbo competition. He laughed with the bride-to-be, taking her in his arms and twirling her around, dancing in the sand. “Don’t torture yourself,” came a quiet voice from behind me. I turned around to see that Verna had joined me, a knowing look on her face.

Then Marina appeared, we gathered our stuff and walked back to the ship. When we got back to the cabin, the girls decided they wanted to nap after the long day in the sun. So while they slept, I looked through the photos we’d taken and tried to decide what to do about my 5pm meeting with Jordan. Ultimately, I decided to be a woman of my word, so at 4:55, I left the girls sleeping in the cabin and made my way to the hot tub on the top deck.

When I arrived, I saw lots of people milling about, but no Jordan. I wasn’t surprised. Between the alcohol and the bachelorettes, I figured he’d completely forgotten about me. I’d brought a book with me for just such an instance, so I sat and read, letting the sounds of people talking and laughing fade into the background.

At 5:15, I felt a presence hovering over me, so I looked up to see Jonah and two of the other high school boys gathered around me. I didn’t remember their names, but I recognized them both – one tall and gangly; the other tall and beefy.

“Hey, Aurora!” Jonah greeted me, a genuinely happy smile on his face. I was glad he was glad to see me. “Can we join you?” he asked.

“Please do!” I told them cheerfully. So the three high school boys sat around me on the long bench beside the pool, the chunky one on my right; Jonah and the beanpole to my left. “How was your day?” I asked them.

They told me all about drinking at Señor Frog’s, playing volleyball on the beach and trying to pick up girls. I internally rolled my eyes. They were definitely high school boys.

“Speaking of picking up girls,” Jonah said, putting his arm around me with a dramatic pause, “How you doin’?” The other boys laughed while I shrugged his arm off me and asked with a smirk, “Jonah, how old do you think I am?”

“Dunno… 23?” The other two nodded in agreement.

“I’m almost 30,” I told him, raising my left eyebrow for emphasis.

“Sh** — no way!” Then they were asking about Marina (32) and even Verna, who is in her 40s. I told them they were ridiculous, and they started asking for tips on picking up girls.

The chunky one was quiet and sweet. After telling me about how he works with his dad in the construction business, he asked me in a soft voice the best way to get a girl’s attention. The other guys called outbursts about telling her she’s sexy or a hot momma, but I ignored them and told him that I like it when a guy wants to get to know me. “Ask her where she’s from; where she goes to school. Ask about her hobbies. Genuinely try to get to know her. That will go a lot farther than objectifying her,” I told him with a wink. He smiled shyly. What was this sweetheart doing with these other boys?

I turned to Beanpole and asked him, “So what about you? What do you like to do for fun?”

He looked dumbfounded. “Uh… I dunno.”

“Are you in any clubs at school? Do you play any sports? What are your hobbies?”

The 17-year-old gave me a devilish look and answered, “Recreational substance abuse.”

I knew he was trying to get a rise out of me, so I just shrugged and said, “I appreciate the honesty. What do you want to do for a living? Any idea what you want to major in?”

He looked dumbfounded again, so I started asking him questions that would help me determine his MBTI – how he likes to recharge when he’s stressed, if he tends to go with his gut on making decisions. He seemed curious enough to stick with me through the impromptu session, and the other two boys were enraptured as well. I got the sense that no one ever bothered to talk to them like adults with hopes and dreams and passions.

Ultimately, I identified Beanpole as an ISTP – “Friendly but very private, calm but suddenly spontaneous, extremely curious but unable to stay focused on formal studies, ISTP personalities can be a challenge to predict, even by their friends and loved ones. ISTPs can seem very loyal and steady for a while, but they tend to build up a store of impulsive energy that explodes without warning, taking their interests in bold new directions.”

I could tell that Beanpole still had some alcohol (or something stronger) in his system, so I told him to take a note in his phone to look into his ISTP personality. After watching him type the note into his phone, Jonah asked, “So what are you doing up here anyway?”

“I was supposed to meet Jordan here at 5:00.”

There was an instant of silence; then all three boys started guffawing, slapping their legs and rocking back and forth. “Nah, there’s no way Jordan’s coming. He’s passed out in the room!”

“I suspected as much,” I said, lips drawn into a tight line as their laughter continued.

“Oooh!” Jonah’s eyes were wide with excitement. “Let’s go wake him up!” The other boys agreed, jumped up, and pulled me along behind them. I begrudgingly followed them down to room 242, where they unlocked the door, surprising D.J. as they stormed in and started jumping on Jordan’s bed.

In all the commotion, D.J. assured me that Jordan is normally responsible; this is the first time he’s seen Jordan like that, and it was because Jordan forgot to eat lunch, so he had a few drinks on an empty stomach. Jordan peered at me, bleary eyed and apologized profusely. “I’m so sorry I missed our date.”

I waved him off. “That’s okay. It wasn’t a date. I’m not dating this year, remember? Let’s get you some food.” I hauled him up, and we walked – just the two of us – up to the cafeteria for some dinner. After some mashed potatoes and fried chicken, Jordan assured me that he felt better; then he checked his phone for the time and asked if I’d mind if he called his daughter Grace. “This is the fifteen minute time slot her mother and I agreed I could talk to her every day.”

I nodded and excused myself to go to the bathroom. When I came back, Jordan was just finishing up his call with Grace. He seemed tired. Sad. I put my hand on his arm and asked how he was doing. He started telling me all about the lawyers’ fees and the custody battle and how concerned he is for his daughter, growing up in that household with her emotionally unstable mother and sexual predator of an uncle.

Jordan was really shaken up and clearly had no one to confide in about these things, so I asked him about his church. He knows deep down that he needs the fellowship and community that the church can provide, but he’s been wounded by the church. So many “Christians” have judged him for his divorce, refused to stand up with him in court and generally deepened his hurts that he wants nothing to do with them.

So I asked if I could pray for him. Jordan agreed. So we held hands, bowed our heads, and boldly approached the Throne of Grace. I prayed for Jordan, for peace and for healing. I prayed for his ex-wife, created in the image of God and desperately in need of healing herself. I prayed for protection for sweet little Grace. I prayed about the custody battle and the lawyers and the church and Jordan’s job and all manner of things he’d shared with me over the past few days. And by the end, I had silent tears streaming down my face. God, why have you given me such a soft heart for the hurting and brokenhearted?

At the end, we hugged silently; then we agreed to walk around the ship for a while, lightening the mood. We had only walked the length of one level of the cruise ship when we ran into the sweet, chunky kid from the hot tub. Jordan wrapped him in a bear hug, and wiggled my fingers at him in a wave from over Jordan’s shoulder.

“Whatcha doin’?” Jordan asked the Teddy Bear. We followed his eyes to where a pretty blonde teenager sat alone at a table, scrolling on her phone. Ah.

“I’m really nervous, but I want to talk to her,” the Teddy Bear admitted, looking at me. “What should I say?”

I was surprised and honored that he wanted my advice, especially since Jordan is the one who has known him since he was in diapers. “Ask her if she watched the SuperBowl this weekend. If she did, ask who she rooted for. If not, ask what she did instead. Just keep the questions rolling, but keep it casual and laid-back. Express an interest in getting to know her.”

“Okay,” Teddy repeated back to me, practicing. “Hey, did you watch the SuperBowl this weekend?” He paused; then tried again. “Hey! How about that SuperBowl, huh?”

I smiled, gave him a hug, and nudged him forward. “You’ve got this.”

“Will you stay here for me?” he asked, nervousness written all over his face. His vulnerability and honesty were charming. “Of course,” I told him reassuringly. He was adorable.

Jordan and I stood arm-in-arm watching Teddy approach the girl. He sat down at the table next to hers, just as I’d coached him. “You want to seem friendly but not come on too strong.” We watched the conversation begin, the girl looking wary at first; then merely uncomfortable before Teddy said something to make her laugh, and, “He’s in,” I said to Jordan with a smile. We waltzed away, Jordan’s arm around me, as Teddy continued getting to know the solitary blonde, confidence building.

I’ve spoken to Jordan a few times since the cruise, and he tells me that the guys talk about me all the time. “Apparently your conversations with them had quite an impact.” He says they seem inspired and driven, like they have hope again. Yes, Lord. Thank you for there being purpose in my being on that cruise – the Cruise of the Bruised… a phrase that could describe all of our journeys at one time or another.

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice… I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.” -Isaiah 42

Authentically Aurora

Yogi’s Choice

How are y’all’s New Year’s Resolutions going? I am pleased to announce that I have legitimately worked out every single day this year so far. Never thought I’d be able to say that!

One of my new workouts of choice is yoga. In addition to increasing my core strength (strong is the new sexy!), it also helps me be present in the moment – something that doesn’t always come naturally to me, especially since I dislike my job, so being present is not always as pleasant an alternative as living in my fantasy world where I am the happily married princess of a chocolate empire who uses her plentiful free time to inspire young adults to reach their full potential through AuROARa Talks (you know, the new, up-and-coming version of TED Talks).

I am finding that much of yoga is about “yogi’s choice”, i.e. each person in the yoga session adjusting the workout to meet their particular needs. So, in those moments where I am tempted not to be present, I have found that this is a really great option for yogi’s choice:

Yoga Cookie

Authentically Aurora

Exercise Exorcism

female boxingI have officially determined that there is absolutely no way I will ever exercise if it is not fun. I have, of course, made this determination through strict usage of the scientific method – namely, by observing years of failed New Year’s resolutions.

…Okay, I’m an engineer. It was a bit more scientific than that.

I would love to believe that I can just muster up the self-discipline to get myself to the gym or a running trail, but in the past six months, using that white-knuckling approach to force myself to be disciplined has only resulted in an average of 1.8 workouts per week.

I know, because I did the math.

In July, I worked out an average of 2 times per week. In both August and September, my performance went down to 1.5x/wk. October – 3.5x/wk (whoop!); November – 1.25x/wk; December – 1.5x/wk. Interestingly, October was also the month I felt the happiest this year. So if I’m going to make 2016 great, I need to get a handle on this exercise thing. Which means I need to stop thinking of exercise as exercise and more as a fun activity I have the pleasure of doing.

Being an analytics freak, I of course made a spreadsheet with some of my options, their associated costs, plus the travel times and distances to various gyms, parks, dance studios, etc. Only after doing all of this work did I have the epiphany that, really, the best form of exercise for me would be one where I frequently get to punch people in the face. Because that’s what I want to do all day anyway. If I could burn calories while punching people in the face, that would really be ideal.

Time to research nearby boxing gyms… Fit Aurora, here I come!

Authentically Aurora

P.S. You think I’m joking. But I’m not. Bye, 2015! Thanks for the motivation!

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.

7S1

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:

7S4

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.

7S7

7S6

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