Sunday, July 31, 2011

Not our job

Sometimes the places that end up being meaningful will surprise you.
This morning, we had a lovely, structured time of worship with
well-trained and talented musicians leading us in songs of praise and
one of the most incredible speakers I've ever had the privilege of
listening to over and over preaching a beautifully executed message.

But that's not what I'll remember about today.

No, today's meaningful worship experience didn't happen in the theater
with the stadium seating and balcony and beautiful flower arrangements
in front of the podium and the grand piano and the every tiny

No, today's most meaningful worship experience (at least for me, and
probably for the co-workers I'm traveling with) happened in a dirty
little multipurpose room below decks where less than 30 cruise crew
members gathered, sang a few simple songs to unamplified guitars, and
listened to a man who had little experience preaching who let God
speak through him.

If I had to be really honest, I would tell you that church is not
particularly something I always like lately. Part of this is that I
kind of work "in the industry," which makes it feel like I'm going to
work on Sundays too. There's no such thing as too much Jesus, but
let's be honest, there's definitely such a thing as too much
Christianity. And too many Christians. And too much media and "show"
in the church, quite frankly. It gets tiresome. What happened to plain
old worship? No fancy buildings. No edited videos playing on a big
screen. No lighting effects or soundtracks or classically trained
musicians. Just praise. I don't even know where I'd begin to find a
church like that.

Anyway, Dennis Agajanian, who is touring with us on our ministry's
cruise (and is one of the most talented musicians I have ever seen
perform) agreed in a heartbeat to play for the crew's short "church
service" at midnight tonight, and he blew me away with this simple
statement about having rebuilt a Muslim temple in the wake of the
tsunami last year:

"You have to earn the right to preach the gospel."

I darn-near hurt myself nodding my head when he said this statement.
If I were the type to holler "AMEN!" during sermons, you can bet I
would have.

It doesn't matter who it is.

It doesn't matter what they believe.

That part is none of your concern.

If you want to have a shot at showing them Jesus, then you have to
love them the way they come first. That's what He did, you know. No
judgement for their beliefs or lifestyle. Just love.

The rest? The converting them and their lifestyle and beliefs to what's right?

That's God's job.

Not ours.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Venice and Split and holy cow are we really only just starting?

Oy. So much to cover in a blog entry the trip so far.

First of all, I feel like I've been here forever, and we've only been to two locations: Venice, Italy (3 days), and Split, Croatia (today). We were looking at all the other places we're visiting and WOAH, this trip is nowhere close to finished. Nine days left. THERE ARE STILL NINE DAYS OF THIS.

Which is awesome. Because, EUROPE. Our days are spent photographing beautiful places and then filming a really incredible pastor when he speaks at night. So, not a bad gig. It is hard work, no doubt, but certainly not awful.

Venice was everything you would think Venice would be. Super-touristy in the touristy parts, but crazy beautiful and quiet in the non-touristy parts. We got ourselves lost yesterday on our way back to the ship and ended up walking around some residential areas along the canals, window boxes full of lovely flowers everywhere, clothes and sheets hanging on the lines, and gorgeous architecture everywhere. It's hard to believe you're really there and no photo really captures its beauty, which is actually a good thing because there's no chance I'll be able to upload ANY photos with the internet the way it is on the ship. Yikes.

Another thing photos don't capture? Smells. Oh man, the bakeries. We literally stopped and smelled a bakery for several minutes at one point. Wow. And GELATTO. Let us all take a moment and discuss how ridiculous real Italian gellato is. And if you've never had it, know this: it is ridiculous.

Today we were on to Split, Croatia, home of Emperor Somethingorother who is best-known for massacring every Christian he could find. Hooray, history! What made me laugh here was that inside the palace courtyard, a group of actors comes out, playing the Emperor and Queen and some fancy guards, and they make a big announcement all theatrical-like, and then all the tourists cheered. Yaaaay, Emperor Somethingorother! Way to massacre us all!

Anyway, I don't have the energy or the time to type all kinds of witty stories about stuff we did, especially since my boss is trying to sleep in this room and it's, oh, almost 2 a.m., so I'm guessing I'm not really her favorite person right now, but the Cliff Notes version?

Europe rocks. And oh man, this is going to be a long trip.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A year

Today is the one-year mark since my Grandma Barbara passed away. There have been a lot of thoughts in my head since then: thoughts about heaven and thoughts about my relatives' sanity, thoughts about picking up the phone to call on my way home from work and then remembering that I can't. Thoughts about how death and money are all kinds of ugly and disgusting and thoughts about how she would (or wouldn't) have wanted her family to act without her. Thoughts about the best way to clean my floor and Fig Newtons and gold glitzy things and really good makeup.

But sometimes, quite frankly, I have to think about the shitty way she died. About the extra ten or fifteen years she could have had. And forgive the harsh language, but there is no other adequate way to describe that kind of death.

Most everyone in my extended family smoked all of their lives. It killed my Grandpa Bill, and it killed my Grandma Barbara. It is disgusting. Repulsive. Fatal. 

I know. This isn't news to any of you. But in this day and age, with the information we have about tobacco, there is no excuse for picking up something like that in the first place. And I get that it's an addiction, but to be frank, there's no excuse for continuing it even if you've already started.

My in-laws both used to smoke, and they quit. My Grandpa Mal used to smoke, and he quit. My great grandmother used to smoke, and she quit. And every one of those people would tell you that it's really, really hard. Many years later, it's still hard. And they're only one cigarette away from starting it up again.

But you know what? They don't. That's the difference between quitting and not.

Choosing life.

Choosing to meet your grandkids and great grandkids and watch them grow. Choosing to grow old with the person you love rather than making them learn how to live without you. Choosing to die with dignity rather than shutting down your own organs one by one.

You can make excuses for it if you'd like, but it really comes down to the fact that you're responsible for the choices you make. Life or death. It's as simple as that.

What will you choose?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Animal style

Shane: Have you tried In 'n Out yet?

me: No. I don't think it's quite as nice as Five Guys or Mooya. I think it's closer to Whataburger.

Shane: Just like you like it.

me: Yeah, except In and Out's slogan is "Just like you like it if you know our super-secret pretentious code words!"

Shane: Uh oh. I don't know the code words.

me: Apparently "Animal style" means "smothered in some kind of sauce"
I don't know.

Shane: Are you still talking about the hamburger place?

Yeah, In 'n Out

Okay, just wanted to make sure we didn't slip into something a lot weirder.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Five Minute Friday Monday - Full

Jack takes me to dinner whenever he can afford it.

Usually it's Friday nights, after private lessons, when he has a little bit of cash in his pocket that he reserves for me instead of being so darn responsible and paying off my student loans or my car or our mortgage or whatever it may be.

He's good to me in a lot of ways, you know.

So I got a text from Jack on Friday while he was at work.

It's been a while since we've gone out for dinner together, mostly because we just bought a karate school and oh, by the way, did you guys know that's expensive?

But Friday, we got to eat together. Out! And talk face-to-face. And yeah, most of the time we talk about taekwondo school and budgets, but I'll take that, especially when this is involved:

Grimaldi's blueberry cobbler cheesecake. Run, don't walk. Trust me on this one.

After the meal and drinks and dessert, we're pretty much rolling ourselves out of there, we've eaten so much wonderful food.

Later, we'll rent a movie and I'll try to snuggle up to Jack while we watch.

"Gahhhooooohhhhh stop that," he'll moan. "Get off my stomach. I'm so full. I'm going to puke."

And so I'll find another position, my head on his shoulder or laying the other way on the couch so my feet are in his lap instead.

And we'll laugh together and be quiet together and talk together and probably fall asleep together. A few hours later, we'll wake up with sore necks and drag ourselves to bed at something like 4 in the morning.

Maggie will sleepily jump on the bed and cuddle up between us, thankful that she finally gets to, and we'll pet her and whisper to each other for a few more minutes until we're back to sleep again, stomachs, hearts, and lives very, very full.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What's the opposite of "Bon Voyage?"

I'm packing.

And by "packing," of course I mean "blogging in my pajamas at 4 p.m. while watching Gilmore Girls reruns."

But regardless of whether I ever actually start packing, it seems that I am leaving on Tuesday morning for a very long journey after which, if done correctly, will result in me ending up in another country.

Man, I use a lot of words when I say things.

Italy. I'm going to Italy. And Greece. And Croatia. And Turkey. By way of airplanes and a cruise ship. Evidently I've been kind of quiet about the trip, because the other day I tweeted something about it and people were all kinds of surprised.

But I will be quiet no more. It's unlikely that I'll be kicked off the trip for budget reasons at this point (I mean, kind of unlikely), and that possibility is probably why I didn't say much about it before. It's a work trip, this one, specifically, and I will be taking many videos for products or promos or somethingorother.

I would tell you more things about video, but come on, that's not why you're here.

The good news is that there's a good possibility that you'll soon be reading all kinds of embarrassing stories about dumb things I've done on my work trip.Probably falling down a set of thousand-year-old European stairs at some point, hopefully not while carrying expensive video equipment. Or maybe using the wrong phrase for "where is the bathroom?" and ending up offending an Italian police officer, leading to a night spent in jail. Or I could lose a member of our tour group from my bus during a shore excursion. Yep. That's probably what's going to happen. Oh! And did I mention I'm rooming with my boss, the VP of our department? I'm coming back fired, is all I'm saying.

So yes! I'm very excited! And it will be fun! And I will be gone for 15 days! Which is a very nice amount of time to be in Europe but also a very long amount of time to be working 24 hours a day! So! It evens out to a solid "yay."

And I'm not really sure what you say when you're the one leaving, because it feels to me like "bon voyage," but I'm pretty sure that's opposite of what I'm supposed to say. So, assuming I ever end up doing the laundry I need to do, I'll just say "see you on the other side."

Or probably on the plane, if there's wifi.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

You can see why I'm so influential

My friend Jackie recently introduced me to Klout because she noticed that I was listed as "influential" in some categories there. Because, obviously. I am SO influential. You think Mandy Hornbuckle, you think "influential." And also, "cake."

SHOCKINGLY, I'm only listed in five categories, but maybe sometimes less is more, because I think they sum me (and my vast expertise on each subject!) up really well. For example:

#5 - Weight loss. You really nailed that one on the head, Klout! I pride myself on my weight loss influentiality! I mean, when I'm not screaming at those fatties in my 5 a.m. Boot Camp classes or performing my duties as Nutritionist to the stars, I am influencing my MANY twitter followers with tips on how they, too, can lose 65 pounds in 5 days! We're working! We're moving! We're in the zone, we're grooving!

#4 - Moms - Oh yeah. I'm definitely influential about the topic of moms. Not only do I have a mom, but I know other people who are moms too! I mean, you just can't get that kind of expertise from anybody else! Here's a free tip about moms to the followers who are here for my wealth of mom knowledge, just because I love you: Moms are almost always women! See? INFLUENTIAL!

#3 - Cheeseburger - You wouldn't think that somebody who is as influential as me in "weight loss" would also be so influential in "cheeseburger," but you would be WRONG about that. This is exactly the kind of topic that makes me mysterious and interesting on Twitter. How does she eat all those cheeseburgers and lose so much weight? Does she have MAGIC cheeseburgers? The answer is, yes, they are magic cheeseburgers. Made by moms.

#2 - Cougar - You may be wondering why most of the topics I am so influential in are singular instead of plural. Evidently I am only influential about one cougar, and his name is Floyd. Floyd the Cougar and I go way back, and thanks to my clever social networking expertise, I have turned him into a Twitter superstar. You're welcome, Floyd. It's been quite a ride with you.

#1 - Christianity - I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the topic I am most influential about is Christianity, what with my many religious tweets and blog posts. I like to really shove it down peoples' throats, you know? My favorite past-time is to reply to peoples' sinful tweets with a "What would Jesus Tweet?" That really puts them in line while making me super-popular and, you guessed it, INFLUENTIAL. Yay, Jesus! You and I are influencing others together!

As you can see, I've conquered these areas of expertise and I'm ready to add on bigger and better topics to my influential circle as well.

Next up: "dandelion."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

If I used a clever title, you might be misled into thinking the post is also clever

So, I had this bright idea.

As usual, this bright idea was Pinterest's fault. I was seeing all these nice kitchens with freshly-painted white cabinets. And our kitchen? Um, didn't have pretty cabinets.

It was actually quite dark. And I really, really hated how the cabinets clashed with my pretty wood floors that my father-in-law put in my kithen.

So Jack and I looked at each other, and we looked at our kitchen, and said "that can't be that hard." And with gift cards, it was going to be less than $150. So, win.

Famous last words, right?

So Jack started taking doors off. And that was that. We were committed.

But really, it wasn't THAT hard. We went and got the paint, worked diligently sanding, then priming, then adding two coats of white glossy paint to our outdated too-dark cabinets.

It took about four weekends, and during that time, I had no kitchen and there was dust and paint EVERYWHERE.

And you know, doors.

I do not do well with a messy house and an inability to cook.

But we powered through.

And we finished it!

And man, they were beautiful. Except...

Those pretty cabinets... they make everything else in my kitchen look just so... blah.

Before Jack left for Worlds, he begged me not to start another project. He literally finished hanging the doors back off just about the time he had to leave. And we were exhausted.

So I kissed him goodbye, waved at his truck as it drove away to Little Rock, and proceeded to do the exact opposite.

Because that's what good wives do.

I won't get into the insanity that was the week of CONTRACTORS WHO DON'T SHOW UP WHEN THEY SAY THEY WILL, because, SO many words, but the short version is that I hired somebody to texture and paint the walls, but said texturer/painter didn't show. Got a second (more expensive) guy. He said I'd have to peel the wallpaper first, and his price didn't include the painting.

My incredible neighbor, of the "WE CAN DO THIS!" and "I WILL DO ANYTHING FOR YOU!" variety, helped me do it in ONE DAY. NAY, FIVE HOURS. And then? The texture guy didn't even get finished before I left.

SO. I wasn't going to get it done before Jack got home. That was okay. The neighbors said they would sit in with the texture guy, and I could paint after we got home, so at least he wouldn't come home to wallpaper.

Except, my neighbors.

They are ridiculous. In the good sort of way. Because we walked in to this:

I was blown away. I grinned and looked over at Jack.

"Our cabinets look so good," he said. "Why did you move the table?"

I stared at him, then stared back at my beautiful newly-blue kitchen. Then I looked back at him. He watched my reaction quizzically.

"Seriously?" I asked.

"What?" he replied, looking back at the kichen and then back at me.

"SERIOUSLY!?" I yelled this time. He looked back at the kitchen and suddenly jumped.

"OOOH! IT'S BLUE!" he announced, as he finally saw what the Mastership fatigue had apparently hidden from his vision before.

Uh, yes. It's blue. And completely gorgeous. RIDICULOUSLY gorgeous.

I sewed curtains for it. And made fancy little ruffled pull-backs out of ribbon.

And made a window seat and one pillow (so far). I wanted to wait to post photos until it was fully done with all the pillows I have in mind, but let's be honest, with my list of sewing projects (HI ELLYN! How was your non-custom hospital gown this go around?), it's best not to wait for that to post.

I'm so happy with it. I just go in there and stare at it sometimes.

And I'd say that was worth a few weeks of work.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

That's what happens

It feels good not to have goals.

So. Good.

I know that sounds contrary to what we're told all our lives, but not having goals? Can be a really good thing. For us, at least. Jack keeps shaking his head and going "this is so weird - this is the first time I haven't had a goal in my whole life."

Worlds is over, and I wrote nary a blog post about it, but, well, you got the idea. Jack's a Master Jack now. The school is finally getting into a groove, and there's really nothing stressful on the horizon* for the first time in at least a year.

And! We just got back from vacation.

Ahhh, vacation.

When we left for the airport last week, we just kind of, exhaled. And we talked. Like, FACE-TO-FACE. It doesn't happen much, you guys. Master Husband: he is busy. Not-so-Master Mandy: she makes poor decisions about when to start BIG PROJECTS THAT CANNOT BE ABANDONED.**

There are two kinds of vacations:

1) The kind of vacation where you lay on beaches and drink blended fruity beverages with little umbrellas in them, spending a lot of your time in the hotel room, you know, eating strawberries,

or b) The kind of vacation where you do extreme activities and get yourselves very, very, sore and sunburned, collapsing into your bed each night and falling asleep instantly.

This particular vacation was the latter sort of vacation.

Case in point, this:

In case you couldn't tell from this video, we are white water rafting on the Arkansas River in Colorado. This was Three Rock Rapid, to be exact. My brother has a GoPro waterproof camera on his helmet, and that's me and Jack on the left side of the boat.

The raft right in front of us, guided by He-Who-We-Were-Really-Glad-Wasn't-Guiding-Our-Raft, went into the rapid sideways, so instead of going over it like they were supposed to, they were pushed back into our boat, hitting both Jack and I. It went on to flip over, dumping all the people out into the river.

Meanwhile, our own boat stood straight up in the crashing waves, coming shockingly close to flipping as well. Jack fell out of our boat, tossing his paddle away from him as he hit the water, and I was forced to (HEROICALLY) SAVE HIS LIFE by pulling him back into the boat. After that, we rescued a couple more people from the other boat, and if you missed the guide's comment at the end, it was "That's what happens at Three Rock if you F*** it up." (Ha.)

Didn't quite catch all that? Here's the crash again at half-speed:

After we got Jack and the others back into the boat, I put my hand to my lip and then brought it back in front me to see blood on my hand.

Oh. My lip's bleeding.

I figured it was from being hit by the other boat. Because, um, I GOT HIT WITH A BOAT. I remembered it coming at me, all giant and fast-like. So, you know, I figured that was where my bleeding lip, which I would later look in the mirror to discover was also a delightfully fetching fat lip as well.

But then we watched the video.

And we discovered this:

Uh, yeah.

I hit myself in the face with the end of my paddle. Because, of course I would.

And to be honest, they told us this could happen. They went over the number-one rule over and over: DON'T LET GO OF YOUR T-BAR BECAUSE WHEN THE OTHER SIDE HITS THE WATER THE T WILL RICOCHET BACK AND HIT YOU IN THE FACE.

So, you know, I learned that one the hard way, I guess. And our guide was right.

That's what happens if you f*** things up.


*The "stressful thing" on the horizon for me is a business trip, AKA, a free 2-week Mediterranean cruise, where I will be working on a video crew in and around Italy, Croatia, Greece, and Turkey. So, even if I was stressed about it (which, THE PACKING! HELP!), I wouldn't be able to complain about it. Because I'm pretty sure one of you would come and punch me in the face.

**Let's just say... the timeline on a kitchen remodel? Not well-considered. But my kitchen. Oh, the pretty. I will post about that too someday. Maybe. I do have a super-stressful work trip coming up, you know.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Gorilla Rock

Raft guide: "That rock is called 'Gorilla Rock.' See how it looks like a gorilla?"

Shane: "It looks more like a rock."

RG: "You have to use your imagination."

Shane: "If I had an imagination, I wouldn't have to pay to do things like this."