Monday, December 28, 2009

"Life's Not Fair, Kid..."

“But it’s not fair!”--the exclamation that rings out of kids and adults from 1 to 92. We all know the woefully uncomforting answer: “Life’s not fair.” When I hear those three words I think, “Really, is that all we’ve come up with?”

If you know me, especially lately, you may have noticed some deconstructionistic tendencies in my writings and thoughts. Why do we say what we do? And why do we accept what we say? Even more important to me is why we say things and then do the opposite.

Why do we respond to emotional statements with responses that squash the emotion? As if making a logical statement makes it all better. “It’s not fair!” can be a thought and emotion, but the response is always a thought. Once the response becomes a statement of fact, then it is subject to a whole realm of logic, and all sorts of conclusions you don’t want. For instance, if life is not fair, then there is no point of being fair if you want to survive. Or, if life is not fair, and I keep doing things to make it fair, then I am in an endless pursuit. “Life’s not fair” can put me in a pretty helpless predicament where I do desperate things to make life fair for me, which never works because it’s not fair. Try this: Because the government isn’t fair, it is okay for me to not be fair on my taxes in order to make up for the unfairness. (I hope this is not too hard for you to understand like the other stuff I write, Michael;).

Whether life is fair or not is a thought for plenty of debate. We will continue to build philosophies and religions around how do deal with unfairness in this world. Those still won’t help the emotions behind “It’s not fair.” There must be a better follow up statement to that statement that takes the emotion into account--a way to say, "Yeah, it can feel that way." Of course, we can always continue to pass the anxiety that we avoid from the emotion of that statement to the next generation and let them try to sort it out intellectually, as they accuse us of not being fair.

Next up, “Big boys don’t cry.” May it never be uttered in my home!

Friday, December 25, 2009

2009: A Year to Remember to Not Forget

At the beginning of 2009, we were staring down the barrel of unemployment. Going from DINKS (Dual Income No Kids) to SINKS (Single Income) to NINKS (No Income), is not the progression we had in mind. With no idea what was going to come next, we jumped in the car and drove to Oklahoma with no idea how long we would be away from Memphis. By the time we made it back to Memphis, Monica had an interview for a job, I had a couple of part-time jobs lined up, and we thought it would be healthy to go back to the home we owned.

Ten months later, Ben finally found full-time employment and Monica survived her new job, and there you have it—2009 in a nutshell!

That’s the nutshell version, but here is the nuthouse version:

This was the craziest, most unstable, depressing, exciting, stagnant, fast-paced, no growth, unfathomable growth year of our lives yet! Nothing worked out and everything worked out at the same time.

The year was marked by taking a 10-day survey trip in March to Ireland (both of our first times to experience Europe) and training with an amazing team ready to make an impact for Christ in Dublin. Through this process we experienced spiritual growth at deeper levels than ever before in our lives; however, ultimately we felt led in a different direction and the difficult decision was made to resign from the team.

Ben worked at 5 different jobs this year before experiencing the irony of landing back at his old place of employment that let him go in January. He’s working in a different capacity, but has fit back in well. He’s trying to learn how to work 40 hours a week like the rest of the world. Monica was the face of stability by staying at her job and is a Jane-of-all-trades.

Our marriage has grown by leaps and bounds! Through all the frustrations, joys, awesome concerts, different wake up times, Monica’s sassing and Ben’s moping, we decided to stick it out. What an awesome year for our marriage, and we look forward to many more, as long as Monica quits trying to shove her cold feet under Ben when they go to bed at night!

We look forward to the new year and what we have in the works. Monica is going to pursue a career in professional home staging through further training (although she is already pretty incredible at it). Ben is excited about being involved in bringing positive change to Memphis with his involvement in ScreamFree and partnering with people and organizations throughout the city. These are the things that keep us up at night with excitement.

Life looks full of possibilities for 2010. May our paths cross in ways that benefit us all! We love you all - Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Two Days Until Christmas Letter

The Christmas letter blog will come sailing in on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day, on Christmas day in the morning. The "Inadequacy of Christmas" is not our Christmas letter, thank goodness!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Inadequacy of Christmas

Christmas has become a time to be frustrated with those who only see the season as a time of materialism. Take Christ out of Christmas and you just have "mas"--the Spanish word for more. We debate the use of holiday and/or Christmas, as if the use of one word over the other would make a difference

Why do we need other people to focus on Christ during this time? I handed a cashier some money the other day and said, "Merry Christmas!" I said very little to her the rest of the year. What is that about? Let's only shop at the places that still use the term Christmas vs. Holidays. Really? Do you know how much marketing research went into deciding which word to use in order to get the most people to purchase products?

I wonder if the reason we want people to remember Christ during Christmastime is so we don't feel as bad about how we did not help people remember Christ the rest of the year. We depend on a season to bring Christ back into focus for people. If Christmas and the Charlie Brown Christmas Special would just do its job, we could actually enjoy the holiday or "holy day." When I point at the world's failure to recognize Christmas, what am I really pointing at? Christmas will continue to be inadequate as long as I depend on it to bring Christ back into focus for others.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it's the middle that counts the most.

I've never felt more excited around the New Year for so many new beginnings! This past week has been full of Christmas events & spending time with great friends. Ben's work x-mas party was at Incredible Pizza which was a lot of fun (see pic below). My work opted to hold our x-mas breakfast between 5-7A in between the night/day shifts, so there was a lot of caffeine involved in that shindig.

ScreamFree Marriage Update
Yesterday, Ben called me at work to tell me that he had a work thing to go to last night from 5:30-7. He was all ready to battle it out when he told me, thinking that I would be really upset since we had been counting on our first relaxing evening at home in almost 2 wks. Instead, I simply said, "Ok." Ben kinda did a double take & didn't know quite how to respond. Apparently, us both acting like healthy, functioning adults catches us both off guard a lot these days.

I feel a little like when we first started dating because we have amazing conversations throughout the day & sometimes until wee hours of the morning, only it's more fun because we get to live together without feeling guilty. It's like we are getting to know each other on a whole new level because we are taking the pressure of "reactivity" out of our relationship.

And a Partridge in a Pear Tree...
After brainwashing Ben with sushi Friday night, I dragged him to the Singing Christmas Tree at Bellevue on Sat. Since living in Memphis, we have been told time & time again that this is a Must See. We crossed it off of our "things to do in Memphis" list & gave it a 5 out of 10. We went with our friends Justin & Brandy, so that made it a lot more fun!

Last year, Ben dragged me kicking & screaming to a Christmas chorus at St. John's Episcopal Church because a co-worker of his was performing. It ended up being an amazing experience & is now one of our favorite Christmas events! We went again last weekend & it was just as we'd remembered & more. There's just something about hearing a choir sing Carol of the Bells, O Holy Night & The Hallelujah Chorus in a beautiful church with that "old wood" smell that puts you in the Christmas spirit!

My Office Quote of the Week
"All jobs suck, some just suck worse than others."

Another One Bites the Dust...
This weekend we are saying goodbye to yet more friends that are making the typical move from Memphis to Nashville. Clay & Katie (or as we call them, Claytie) are some of the coolest people we know & we are sad to see them go. Camping trips & LIFE group have been a blast ...we'll miss sharing life with you guys!

It's hard to believe that a week from today is Christmas! Tonight we have our last annual Craig & Merschon x-mas party, Starry Nights at Shelby Farms on Sat, a few days of work & then we're off to Hot Springs for our first stop. The Benicas are going green this year & have decided to save a few trees by posting our infamous Christmas letter on our blog, so be looking for that on Christmas Day!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Santa and His Buick

"Ho! Ho! Ho!" a jolly man in a red suit came into the house proclaiming. Santa, here, at my house! I didn't know whether to be terrified or excited. I wasn't used to having that level of royalty in my house. For a 4 year old, I was in disbelief.

I'm not sure what happened next. Digital cameras did not exist and the pictures weren't uploaded to Facebook within moments of the actual event. All I remember is that Santa had to leave, and he did not leave via the chimney portal, he went out the front door. This was my chance to see the elusive reindeer and sleigh in the driveway. So, I tiptoed passed my parents and looked in the driveway, and what did eyes behold...

An old Buick...and Santa got in it. My memory compares it to the old Buick in Uncle Buck. This did not compute in my four year old brain. Something is not right, Santa can't leave in a Buick. My little brain did, however, compute disappointment and grief at this scene. To my parent's credit, though, some story was concocted to keep the belief alive, but the trauma had occurred nonetheless.

Not only did Santa leave in a Buick, he arrived in one as well. Somehow, with a hint of doubt, I still believed in Santa even though he didn't arrive or depart the way Santa should.

But isn't that the story of Christmas...Christ coming and leaving in a way nobody really expected. Could God actually arrive in this world in a manure smelling stable and leave nailed to pieces of wood? Truly unremarkable if you ask me--and yet he saved the world and is ruler over everything! My 29 year old brain has trouble computing this, and I believe (sometimes with a hint of doubt).

Monday, December 14, 2009

ScreamFree in a Starbucks

This weekend we were at Starbucks & we uncharacteristically ordered two separate drinks (usually we split a Grande No Water Chai Tea Latte). Ben's Carmel Apple Spice was lukewarm at best - he described it as tasting like warm tap water which I agreed with after tasting it. I wish I could take back the words that instinctively came out of my mouth after that ..."Do you want me to ask them to fix it for you?" Ben justifiably asked me if I would like his manhood with that.

I justified this to myself by saying that I just wanted him to be "happy" & feel "loved" because I (his awesome wife) would stick up for him. What I was really saying was that I did not trust that Ben could take care of himself & be responsible for doing whatever he wanted in that situation. Sometimes my "helping" can be completely detrimental to the foundation of trust in our relationship.

I apologized, Ben got his drink fixed & all was well. The thing is, though, that even if Ben would have decided NOT to get his drink fixed, I needed to be ok with that. Hopefully next time my actions & reactivity can mirror how I truly feel about Ben & I can simply say, "That stinks, what are you going to do about that?"

Friday, December 11, 2009

"How's everybody doing? Not great. You heckled Santa for an hour and a half."

Holy chestnuts, I can't believe it's December & that Christmas is right around the corner! If you've read our blog, you know that this past week has been a doozy! I would write more about our Ireland decision, but I'm still processing it. I will say that Ben has been very supportive of my shopping & vampire therapy in getting through this ...more on that later.

Jack Frost Nipping at Our Noses
Last weekend we had friends from the Ireland team staying with us which also happened to be when Old Man Winter came swooping into Memphis. Right before bed Sun night we blew a fuse because a space heater was running at the same time as the microwave. We were out of extra fuses, so Ben decided to replace it with an unlabeled fuse in the fuse box.

Mon morning we woke up & the house was 60º ...apparently the "extra" fuse was for the heater which hadn't run all night. We're pretty sure our friends will never be back.

My Office Quote of the Week
“You livin’ alone now?”
“Yep, since Thanksgivin’.”
“What happened?”
“Apparently, I’m a donkey.”
“Well, the first step is admitting it.”
(the content of this quote was edited so as to keep our PG blog rating)

Vampire Lust
This has become a common term in the Benica household. This past week I got back to my junior high roots & jumped on the Twilight train. I had heard about these books being addictive, but I had no idea that I would start rearranging my life around them! Ben suggested that he run a loop around the backyard in his boxers before coming to bed so that he would feel cold & vampirish. He has also taken up hissing & biting my neck.

Ding, we're done!
That's right peeps, we are officially done with our x-mas shopping! I am 99% sure that in past years we hadn't even began our shopping by now. One of my very favorite things to do is gift giving, so this time of year is like Christmas for me ...oh wait.

Why is it that the people closest to you are sometimes the hardest to find that perfect gift for? I'm still waiting for the x-mas fairy to bring me front row, 50 yd line seats to an OU vs.TX game for Ben's present, but it hasn't happened yet.

Cali Update
We've been joking that we don't actually LIVE at our house anymore, we just stop by there to sleep. We've been out with different friends every night this week & have had a lot of fun, except that we miss our puppy dog. She has been protesting by pretending to need to go out in the middle of the night, getting on the couch & giving us the classic sad puppy dog eyes.

By the way, the first pic is of Ben holding my SECOND failed attempt to make chocolate covered pretzels - my double boiler improv skills are obviously lacking. I have us booked for x-mas festivities (Ben's favorite) all weekend. We are going out for sushi tonight though, so all will be forgiven. Happy Friday everyone!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Hardest Decision I've Ever Made

It was an intensely emotional weekend for Monica and me...

Last Monday I made the final decision not to pursue being a missionary to Ireland at this point in my life. Unfortunately, this means Monica will not be going either, even though she has had her heart set on it for over a year now. The hardest part of the hardest decision I've made is knowing it is taking a huge dream away from my wife. Seeing her in pain has torn me apart this week and I don't like it. I want to do everything I can to take her pain away. I want to give her a new dream, buy her something really expensive, do something to lessen the pain. I want to do that for her pain, but I also want to do that for mine. If she hurts, I feel like a failure. One thing I can do now is refuse to withdraw and leave her alone in this, I want to be the best husband I can. One thing I can do now is refuse to withdraw from myself and instead take care of what is going on inside me.

For our story to dramatically change like this is unsettling, to pick a highly understated term. To exit a story of taking God's redeeming power to a land that has forgotten so much about an almighty God, is extremely difficult. As much as we will still play a role in this mission, it is not the role we imagined or dreamed. We formed relationships on the Dublin team in which we invested more spiritually and emotionally than ever before, and we saw the team raising our children and being an awesome cloud of witnesses to us and our kids. It hurts deep down to not be on this team. I wish I could take away that hurt in us and the team, but I can't...

I know you may not want us to feel this hurt either. When we tell people we are not going, we get that not-sure-how-to-respond look, and that's okay, because we don't know how to respond right now. We are grieving this right now, and will for a while. It is raw right now and it hurts in so many places. I ask that you just love us right now by being our friends. We will be okay, but we are going through it right now and not hiding from it. This is the hardest decision I've ever made...

Friday, December 4, 2009

If your dog is fat, you aren't getting enough exercise.

Happy Friday friends - did you miss me on my 2 wk hiatus?! Black Friday got the best of me & I was distracted spending time with those I love instead of blogging. Ben turned 29 & I got him a new watch & the Bourne trilogy which were both hits.

Thanksgiving Break Highlights:
  • Making puppy chow & PB Hershey kiss cookies that were successfully scarfed down by both our families
  • Hanging out w/ my bro & making Ben’s bday cake w/ my sis-in-law in their awesome new apt.
  • Having a wonderful traditional Thanksgiving meal w/ 10 family members around the table & 4 at the kid's table
  • Watching Blind Side at the ghetto theater for $3.75/ticket on Thanksgiving Day – great film!
  • Celebrating Ben’s bday w/ both our families
  • Getting together w/ Bailey & Joyce who continue to amaze us w/ their wisdom & love
  • Watching Ben play endlessly w/ our nephews & niece & realizing what an amazing dad he’s going to be someday
  • Playing our annual Monopoly game w/ my fam even though Ben gave up in the end to my bro in lieu of watching the OU/OSU game (go OU!)
  • Staying up talking until after midnight w/ my BFF, Bobbie
My Office Quote of the Week
No stand-out quotes this week, but I did win a $1 bet w/ an engineer who doubted my “document control” abilities saying I wouldn’t be able to find a folder in our filing room.

Ode to Green Truck
I will never forget the first time I met green truck. Ben pulled up to my OC apt. & picked me up on our first “unofficial” date to go to Shakespeare in the Park. My first thought was, “I thought Ben was an Edmond snob ...I guess his parents are making him tough it out by driving a beat-up truck.” Later on, Ben & I had our first kiss in the bed of green truck while staring up at the stars at Lake Arcadia. Green truck also bravely pulled our U-Haul on our big move from Oklahoma City to Memphis 5 yrs. ago & has been a loyal truck ever since.

We are sad that it has come to this, but we will always have a special place in our hearts for this vehicle that symbolizes so much! I am also very proud of Ben for sticking it out through all the repairs & no A/C all these years in his dedication to his truck & our budget. We are officially a 1-car family as of now.

Carpooling 101
  • Do not expect for either of you to ever be to work on time.
  • Do perfect the art of doing your make-up in the tiny flip down mirror in the car.
  • Decide beforehand whether it’s more important to brush your teeth or feed the dog (mouthwash in the car is a compromise).
  • Make a plan BEFORE entering the vehicle regarding who gets to listen to their favorite radio station.
This week Ben got a new job & I got a new curling iron - both of which have drastically impacted our everyday lives. This weekend is already packed full of events & some of our favorite people are staying at our house Sat-Mon. Happy Christmas month everyone!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thursday Ramblings

Wow, what a week! Started a new job, green truck died, made some big life decisions, and began carpooling early in the morning. Of course, you may hear more about that in Monica's awesome Friday blog.

I'm almost getting the hang of my new job. There's like 4 or 5 new things I learn each day that would have been nice to have known the day before, but I guess that's how it goes. I actually get my first paycheck tomorrow for the part-time training I did, so at least I'll see some fruits of my labor. I can't tell you the feeling of pride I feel for having a full-time job again. Not that I was incomplete without a full-time job, but it was easy to feel I was.

It is also interesting how having a full-time job makes it easy to forget my dreams. I wrote a blog about having a better story, and now that I work so much, I can see how I could give up on those dreams for the sake of comfortability. It would be easy to stop right now and not pursue my story. I'm pretty sure being a case manager is not the climax or the resolution, rather, it is part of the plot. It is supporting the story that I am ready to continue living.

A line from The Kite Runner I will always remember comes in the first chapter of the book (if my memory serves me correct). The main character is told this: "There is a way to be good again." Chilling and hopeful at the same time, I feel the power of these words. "There is a way to be alive again," are the words that scream out in my mind, sometimes echoing in the emptiness of fear, sometimes absorbed by the power of finally living. I want to be alive again and there is always a way, despite my protestations that I've tried everything. Maybe we should stop trying and start living...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Future Was Wide Open

Into the great wide open, under them skies of blue.

Tom Petty is a great storyteller who happens to write incredible music to go with it. Monica introduced to me to Tom when we met, and we've been companions ever since. Maybe I used Monica to get closer to TP ...I'll never tell.

I would like my life to make a great Tom Petty song.

Friday, November 20, 2009

"Failure equals neglecting what we want most for what we want right now." Hal Runkel

This morning Ben called me on my way to work to ask if I had left him the checkbook & the keys to the filing cabinet. I hadn't because these are two things that I never use, yet for some reason we keep them in my purse. He needed both of these items for supervision & for the private clients he's seeing today, so he had to drive 32 miles round trip to my office to get them. At least it's Friday...

Keep Going Strong
We were discussing last night about how easy it would be for us to fall into the busyness of life & not follow through with all of our BIG plans. The above picture was taken right before we walked out the door a few weeks ago on our impromptu road trip to Taco Bueno & listened to the life-changing audio book that inspired us to change our story.

One of our goals is to make our office/junk room into a livable space. This past week Ben has been working hard to declutter & organize this room & I have been doing small projects that he gives me, but mostly observing. We hope to get a dry erase board that covers most of one wall so that we can brainstorm & write our goals down (my dad & Zig Ziglar would be proud).

My Office Quote of the Week
"I hung out with some people from high school & all of them had degrees from like 4-year colleges & whatnot."

Just to clarify, these quotes come directly from my office, not The Office TV show as some have misunderstood. My work environment is a mix of engineers & machinists (good ole' boys) & so I overhear a lot of interesting water cooler conversations.

The Grinch
is what I've referred to Ben as in previous years when he hasn't allowed us to put up our Christmas tree OR watch Elf until after Turkey Day. For some reason, this year he's cool with it because I asked nicely, so this weekend our house will become a Winter Wonderland & I'm super giddy! I've decided to purge our x-mas decorations that I don't absolutely love instead of displaying them out of guilt.

On The Road Again...
This weekend we're celebrating Ben's bday with a few close friends & we're having an ice cream sundae party at our casa (per Ben's request). Next week is a 2 1/2 day work week for me & then we're off to the family triangle trip of OK & MO! I'm assuming that I will be able to squeeze a blog in next Friday in between Black Friday shopping & football (yawn). I'm excited to see what movies come out this holiday season too! Well, that's it for me. Here's hoping that this Friday flies by & that everyone has a fantastic, no family drama Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Holiday Thrive Tips

I often see things around this time of year called "Holiday Survival Guides." It might also come in the form of survival tips... Either way, holy-days can become unholy quickly when it is about survival.

I AM TIRED of trying to survive holidays. So, I am giving you a thrive tips rather than a survival tips.

Un-role Yourself Often. When I go home, I feel an urge to become the immature little brother again and I hate it. It always leads me to say something at the dinner table to shock everyone. This year, I am going home as a confident, driven, adult man who can be himself. When regression kicks in, I have to remind myself that I am not the baby of the family anymore. When you feel you've been sucked into whatever role is not you, allow yourself to step back, breath and be who you really are. I may be the youngest brother, but that doesn't make me the little brother.

Change the triangles. Triangles are for orchestras, but even orchestra triangles are not really triangles because one corner is missing for the sound to come out right. We often go home and find ourselves in a triangle with two other people--maybe parents, siblings, cousins, friends, restaurant staff, etc. It is not necessary to tip more because someone at your table is rude to the waiter. Also, your parent's problems are your parent's problems. Thrivers let conflict be where it needs to be. "Sounds like that's between you and _______," can be a good way out. Thrivers may also say, "It doesn't feel healthy for me to be in the middle of this, so I need to excuse myself from this conflict." Then you can think "Ding," because you let the triangle vibrate the way it needed to.

Fresh air is your friend. Thrivers make personal space because they know being cooped up with the people they spent at least 18 years getting away from can be suffocating. We live at least 5 hours from our closest set of parents and we do great away from them. If we do not take breaks while we're home, we leave wanting to live even farther away. If we go to a movie or to coffee by ourselves, we re-energize and then are able to enjoy the precious time we have with our family.

A Word on Love. When I say I love my wife, I am saying I want what is best for her. My responsibility as one who loves her is to do what is best for her. If I am not taking care of myself, which is one of the best things I can do for her, am I really loving her? Same with family. We all say we love our families, and then forget to take care of ourselves. What is best for my family is for me to not be grouchy, resentful, distant, and/or in some role I resent. In my love for them, I take care of myself the best I can, even when they don't understand why I must take a walk or eat a meal with just my wife. Then I can thrive, rather than survive.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Unsolicited advice is really criticism.

Wow, what a whirlwind of a week! It started off by Ben falling off a ladder on Sun, then he accepted a FT job offer on Mon, we were out almost every night doing fun things & we've been dog sitting a Labradoodle for our friends all week. Cali was glad to have a friend to play with, but I also think she's happy to be an only pup again.

What does WCW stand for you might ask? We have been celebrating Waffle Cone Wednesday at TCBY with our friends Preston & Alana for several months now & have loved every moment! Waffle cones of any size are like 50 cents cheaper than usual & Ben loves TCBY so much he wants to marry it because it's a healthier choice than regular ice cream. 

Things I Learned About Ben This Week
- He thinks it's weird when people wash their dishes with hand soap instead of dish soap.
- "I actually like girls in boots." BT
- Kicking or throwing his shoes that he leaves in our bedroom right after I've cleaned the house does NOT make him want to put them away next time.

A Way to a Girl's Heart...
is through her stomach, or so it was for me yesterday. I go to the same Quiznos for lunch at least once a week & order the exact same thing because I am a creature of habit & find comfort in finding something that I like & sticking to it. I walked into the store & the lady asked, "small turkey?" as usual except after I confirmed she pointed to the toaster oven because when she saw my car pull up she went ahead & made my sandwich to my exact specifications! My first thought was, "Am I really that predictable?" & my second thought was, "This is the best customer service I've ever had!" Hats off to you Quiznos!

Since Ben is Mr. Moneybags now with his fancy new job, we are financially able for me to pursue my dream of becoming a Professional Home Stager. I plan on going to Atlanta in Dec for a 3-day training session & hope to be up & running with lots of experience by spring. We have also been taking baby steps to having a ScreamFree marriage & hope to be ScreamFree parents someday, so that's been both frustrating & fun. Have I mentioned that I love dreaming with Ben & taking action to make the characters in our story who we want them to be (read Ben's insightful blog post below for more details)? Have a great weekend & go get some Tim Tams from Target!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Life Story, pg. 1

There are times in life when intersections occur. Times when several things from different spheres of life seem to point to the same thing. Then, there are times like I am experiencing, and everything points to the same thing. In the last couple weeks, I’ve learned to pay attention and let whatever needs to unfold like watching a dream and knowing it will make sense in the morning. My insides want to use every defense mechanism against allowing change to recreate me, including the harder than usual eye blinks to test reality.

At last, a combination of reading A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, attending a Screamfree Parenting training, getting a new job, and dogsitting, all pointed me to something changing life as I know it. It is the concept of story, of living a better story, of being a bigger story than I am. I had the realization I was living a crummy story, where the most significant thing happening was earning stars on DJ Hero. When a video game became my means of asserting my power and mastery in the world, I knew the story had to change or nobody would read it, but boy could I mix it up on the pretend vinyl with a fade switch.

Why am I living a life I don’t want? Why I am living a story where the most intense conflict is whether or not my truck passes inspection? Why do I eat some new form of grease-soaked substance every day when I value my appearance? Why am I working three jobs that don’t even add up to a fifth of what I should be making? Why do I keep looking to other people to give me some magical bean to plant and then climb the vine into the clouds to find a better story full of alliterating giants and farm animals that birth gold?

Everything began pointing to story. Like Donald Miller, I found myself living a boring story. I am now in a process of creating a new story—one with conflict and triumph, power and mastery, one where the hero is not trying to manipulate 1s and 0s to get a higher score. Life looks different now. I can speak to it, tell it I love it, and tell it that it sucks. I hear a born and bred impulse telling me to cool it, take it easy. As I told a friend yesterday, the old me has a thought, “I guess you’ll just have to hit TOP before you come back to reality. Don’t get too excited.” In the new script, I have a level 3 curse word for that thought that would leave my mom giving her unapproving head shake I used to depend on as a morality gauge.

The biggest lie we face is that we can’t change our stories right now. I believed this and waited and waited and waited. Fortunately, a little thought occurred and shot across synapses in my brain and then the connections began to form, “What about a new story? One where you overcome conflict to get what you want. One where you are free of a life of labels you didn’t choose but accepted. One where you knee dogs in the chest so they stop jumping on you and start respecting you.”

I actually ordered oatmeal this morning rather than greasy eggs and freedom toast because the protagonist in my story has choices. For some reason, my character also drives a car that is clean on the interior. My character sweats the small stuff for a bigger purpose. My character makes decisions with purpose. My character has a wife that is turned on by purpose. My character writes blogs at the risk of sounding like the next guy who just lost it. My story is changing…

Monday, November 9, 2009

You cannot climb the ladder of success dressed in the costume of failure.

SNAP, KICK, BREAK, BOOM, OWW. I followed this with a level 2 curse word.

"I just had a fall..." I said to Monica in the middle of her nap.

"I fell off the ladder. Well, I fell with the ladder."

"Did you lose consciousness?"

"I don't think so, but I hit my head and I don't know if I hit it on the ladder or the wall, and I wound up sitting between the rungs of the ladder behind our house. It's funny, my first concern was that I scratched my glasses. And then my head hurt and I was hoping it wasn't bleeding."

This was my first significant ladder accident. I trusted an old wooden ladder that has been sitting in water and mud for two months, so this one's on me. What you can't see is the 5 other places I am banged up, including a substantial scrape behind my leg that stung like a continual bee sting when I got in the shower. I couldn't help but laugh at the ridiculousness of this encounter and how I wound up completely turned around sitting between two rungs of a ladder with two dogs staring at me.

P.S. This is NOT our exciting news.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Life is either a great adventure or nothing.

Whew - so much to blog about much happened this week that it's going to be tough to condense! I will attempt to tell the "Ben version" rather than the overly detailed "Monica version".

The Hosts with the Most
Last weekend we threw the party of all parties, the bash of all bashes - it was fun, you get the point! We had many obstacles in our way including throwing together perfect costumes which entailed trips to multiple Wal-Marts & party stores the day before & of Halloween, Ben attempting a last-minute home repair on our bathroom sink & last but not least, 2 words: DJ Hero.

I was worried all week about what activities we were actually going to DO at the party just to have Ben throw together a scary movie trivia, Frankenface game & a candy guessing game at the last minute & they were a big hit! The prizes were $6.66 Starbucks gift cards (also Ben's genius idea). Ben was a Wii remote & I was a gothic princess in case you were wondering. Cali did not get a costume this year & was banished to the back bedroom during the party, so she pretty much hates Halloween forever now.

My Office Quote of the Week
I didn't hear any zingers this week, however I was referred to as "document control" which I found humorous & a very "Office Space" term.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
On Sunday Ben told me that Don Miller (author of Blue Like Jazz) had written a new book & was coming to Memphis this week to speak on his book tour. I decided to download the audio book & listen to all 5 hrs. of it at work on Monday on my iPhone. I was blown away by how powerful it was! I told Ben that we should drive to Nashville that night & eat at Maggiano's so that he could listen to it too. Plan B was to drive to Taco Bueno in Little Rock & so we jumped in the car & did it!

We tend to make lots of big life decisions while driving around & this was no exception. We were tired after getting home around 1AM, but I love that we are both still willing & excited to do things like this ...we'll sleep when we're dead.

Buddy the Elf! What's your favorite color?
Only 48 days until Christmas - seriously people! I somehow dragged Ben into Pier One yesterday just to gaze & giggle upon the x-mas decorations - love that store! I'm not trying to rush x-mas though because I'm lovin' this crisp fall 50º in the morning/70º in the afternoon weather!

Stay tuned for some exciting news (no, we are not preggers) - I will let Ben share it with you in one of his tween blogs. In the words of Bob Dylan, "the times they are a-changin" for the Benicas!

Friday, October 30, 2009

So I want to write my words on the face of today.

Trick or treat? I would like to think that you see this blog as a treat, so we'll go with that. I'm wearing my new OU t-shirt, my fun polka dot socks that were on sale at Target & it's Friday - hooray!

The Show-Me State
Let's begin with our MO road trip last weekend. It was so good to spend some quality time with my crazy family! We played some games, ate Spfld cashew chicken & were able to have lunch with my grandparents on Sat. The Mudhouse was as awesome as ever & the weekend flew by! I would be sad if the holidays weren't right around the corner. 

My Office Quote of the Week
“Could you make a new copy of this print because this one has blood spots on it?”

Bdays are Months, not Days!
November is right around the corner which means that it's almost time for my amazing hubby's bday! Yep, that's right people ...on July 1st & Nov 1st we wake up & tell each other happy birth month because that's how we roll.

Ben grew up in a family with 4 kids where bdays were not such a big deal. I, on the other hand, being an only child for 7 yrs. & then 1 of 2 am not sure what it's like NOT being treated like a princess with the red carpet rolled out for you on your bday! I would say that we have compromised on this during the course of our marriage, but I'm pretty sure I won this one & Ben is slowly getting on board.

All Hallows' Eve
Since there were no Halloween parties on the agenda, we decided to host our own & I'm super excited about it! We still have a lot of details to iron out including our costumes, activities & how we're going to fit so many people in our tiny house, but I'm sure fun will be had by all.

The Office was GREAT last night even though only the first short segment had to do with Halloween. We had another semi-movie night last night even though we only watched 1 movie instead of 2. Away We Go was an amazing film which I highly recommend, especially if you are in a transitional time in your life as we are. Ben also downloaded an awesome song called Change by Blind Melon which pretty much rocked our world - love it! I hope everyone has a scary, fun-filled Halloween weekend!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Find a job you like & you add five days to every week.

Hello dedicated blog readers! The leaves have started falling, we turned the heat on (to Ben's dismay) & Halloween is just around the corner.

Sat Morning Surprise
Last weekend our friends Justin & Brandy from FL were in town for a visit. They picked us up on Sat morning & said there was someone they wanted us to meet. They proceeded to drive us out to Timbuktu (a.k.a. Olive Branch, MS) & introduced us to their Realtor their new house ...because they are moving back to Memphis in 3 wks!

In the 5 yrs. we have lived here we have watched many friends come & go, but they have NEVER come back. J & B are pregnant with twins & want to be closer to family & friends, so we are very excited to welcome them back!

My Office Quote of the Week
“Let the women do paperwork, that’s what they’re good for.”

Things I Learned This Week
*Don’t bother getting a manicure at places that don’t put on base/top coats or you might as well flush a $20 down the toilet.

*Even if you turn your clothes inside out, paint WILL go through them.

*It’s amazing how much tension a new Wii video game can cause in our marriage.

*Swingline staplers are far superior to regular staplers.

*Having an iPhone is extremely helpful when playing Scattergories.

*Doing someone else’s job can be fun if you are a very task-oriented person like myself.

What I'm Going to Be When I Grow Up
This week I had the opportunity to meet with a professional home stager & after interviewing her about her career, it only confirmed that this is what I want to do. I've thought about this for awhile now, but wasn't sure if I was ready to make the leap of faith. The biggest thing that caught me off guard was that all of the things I liked about my previous jobs are all elements in this profession (i.e. marketing, working with people & organization).

When I quit my last job, the first thing I did was read What Color Is Your Parachute which I highly recommend. The pieces of the puzzle are finally starting to come together for me. I really admire my dad for being a small business owner & have always known in the back of my mind that that's what I wanted too. I will continue to work my "day job" until Ben & I decide that I can do this full-time. Wish me luck!

We've got the traveling bug again & are off to MO for a fun-filled weekend with my fam! Bubby & Ryan are coming from OK & I'm hoping we get to go to the Mudhouse for some late night coffee chattin'. Cali is getting a bath today & has a new cute, non-stinky polka dot collar. Happy weekend before Halloween weekend everyone!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Still Just a Boy and His Truck

Green truck has survived inspection for another year!

Not every 28 almost 29-yo can claim owning only one car and driving it since turning 16. Not even sure if that's a good thing to claim. I am way past the point of trade-in with the truck and am at the point of drive her until she dies. My mechanic does ghetto-patches on her now and then to keep her going. Even so or Praise the Lord (depending on what verse you're singing), she was too good for some opportunistic government clunker program.

There are the days when she is so backed up she can't exceed 45 mph and it feels like she's going to explode. Other days I sit and watch the temperature go up while I sit at a light and pray for green. Most days, though, she gets me from A to B just fine, which is all I really need.

The truck needs about $1800 in identifiable repairs--all new A/C system and a new clutch. It gargles whenever I touch the clutch because there is a tiny crack somewhere in the clutch system. I manually roll her out of the carport every morning because she spits up residue when I start her up. About once every 3 months I CAN get the tailgate down. Most days, though, she gets me where I need to be, can't complain much about that.

Somehow she keeps from smoking for the 3 minutes I have to go through inspection. It's like she knows it's her last chance. After we passed on Monday, we took the long way home just for fun. I give her at least a quart of oil every 300 miles--must get tired and thirsty after all these years. She's gone from 10W-40 to 15W-40 and now we're on 20W-50. It's the least I could do for a lifetime of service.

Still just a boy and his truck after 12 years...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Not from the kitchen. Stop & Shop. If it's not Stop & Shop I send it back.

I actually had a co-worker give me a high five today because we made it to Friday - woohoo! I took over another co-worker's job starting this week because they are out for surgery, so I've been so busy that it's flown by!

Wilco Will Love You, Baby
Let's begin with the Wilco concert we went to Sat night - amazing! It was at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Memphis which is a restored 1928 beautiful venue! It was a sold out show & we actually considered doubling our money for what the tickets were going for on craigslist, but I'm really glad we went.

I bought the tickets back in August with some of my bday money because I prefer to spend money on experiences rather than stuff. Side note: In one of Ben's counseling sessions this week his client told him that they saw him at the concert which was kinda random & funny.

So...apparently KLOVE (Contemporary Christian music station) has fundraisers multiple times a year. I realize that it is completely self-supporting & does not rely on advertising, but good grief it's annoying! I actually switched my car radio station back to the station I used to listen to because I'd rather hear loud car commercials than pleading for money 24/7. I guess you can say that I have reconverted back to secular music & I'm ok with that. 

Just Call Me June Cleaver
This past week I was excited to try a new recipe from my Real Simple magazine, so I whipped up some cheese ravioli with apples & toasted walnuts. In Ben's words, "The best thing you've ever made!" Ravioli is a staple meal in our house, but this was a whole new take on it, very easy to make & much healthier. Ben also said that he wouldn't mind me staying home & not working if I could have awesome meals like this ready when he gets home from work everyday ...I said, "Deal!"

My Office Quote of the Week
“Let’s have a gander.” I realize this is a staple grandpa quote, but I still thought it was worth mentioning. 

Movie Night
On Tuesday night there were 2 movies in the $1 kiosk that we wanted to see, so we decided to get them both & make a movie night out of it. We started off with Year One (Ben's pick) & Kettle corn popcorn, took a break for dinner & then finished up the evening with The Proposal (my pick). It's rare that there are 2 movies we both want or are willing to watch, but we hope to make this a tradition because it was a lot of fun!

The above pic is our one tree in our yard starting to shed its leaves. Tonight Ben has promised to take me to get a new pumpkin to replace our stolen one (grrrr...) at the pumpkin patch (a.k.a. grocery store parking lot). We also have some good friends in town from FL & of course the huge OU/TX game on Sat! We are (in case you don't know) big OU fans (me by marriage) & we hate TX (just the football team). Enjoy your weekend everyone!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Random Tuesday Musings...

Alright peeps, I have reached the point in my work day that I MUST do something creative or my head may explode! Countless hours of repetitive computer work catches up to me every once in awhile (ok, all the time) & to make matters worse, it's raining!

Momma Said There'd Be Days Like This...
Ben came to lunch with me yesterday & today because Mondays are his day off & he didn't have any clients scheduled today. There are interesting things you find out being married to a therapist...for instance, did you know that the likelihood of clients showing up to their counseling appts. is next to nil when it's raining or snowing? It's good that Ben didn't have anyone scheduled today because he probably would have just sat in his office all day & had a bunch of no-shows.

Olive Juice
When we were in Austin a few weekends ago for our Ireland team training, we were eating yogurt for breakfast one morning. I looked at Ben & saw him mouth, "I love you," which was both sweet & unusual for him to say randomly. I looked back at him with my big, blue eyes & said, "I love you too!" to which he replied, "I SAID I love yogurt." Needless to say, since then it's been an ongoing joke in our house & we tell each other that we love yogurt constantly.

A Walk Down '07
A friend of mine (Jess) was asking about a picture from Halloween '07 where Ben & I carved funny pumpkins, so I ventured down memory lane & found it on our blog. I decided to fix the formatting on all of our '07 blog posts because it got all jacked up when we transferred our blog & I had only gone through '08.

I can't believe how much happier & content we seemed back then! I was telling Ben about all the fun things we did that year...we went to a John Mayer concert, made fun trips to Nashville, Ben started working FT after he finished school so we doubled our income, I went on a work trip to Vegas, we went to Jamaica for our anniversary & last but not least, we got a Wii. The big question is, in 2 yrs. will we look back at our lives now & think the same thing?

This blog post has turned kind of Debbie Downerish so I apologize. We still do fun things & have endless possibilities of where our lives can go from here, but we've felt stuck in our job situations for awhile now & it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you have no idea what that light will be. Also, it secretly hurts my feelings when no one comments on my Friday blogs & no one has for a couple of weeks now. Is anyone out there? Bueller, Bueller?

Friday, October 9, 2009

And if we just keep digging we can reach the foundation of our souls.

Whoa - this week has been one crazy roller coaster in the lives of Benica! We were contemplating a trip to OK this weekend, but it would have been too much. We need some R&R in Memphis fo' shizzle!

Everything is Bigger in TX
Our Austin trip was definitely an adventure! We found out around 10P the night before we left that we needed to be in Little Rock at 8A rather than 10A like we had thought, so that 4A alarm was a fun start. The themes on our road trip were Starbucks, twizzlers & Redbox movies! Somehow we managed to squish 7 people in a Hyundai Veracruz so that we could all be together & drive each other insane (jk, sort of). The training went well, there was some major team bonding & we arrived back home at 2:30A Mon morning. Let the roller coaster week begin...

I mentioned in my last blog that Ben worked like a mule on our front garden & how great it turned out, so I wanted to share a pic. We attempted to plant several small plants in the spring to add some color, but they all died slow, painful deaths. Anyone have any tips on very resilient plants that can survive in clay-like soil or how to keep bugs off your plants without using icky pesticides?

Ben & I were talking the other day about how some restaurants use tactics to get you in & out of there as quickly as possible. For instance, our eardrums almost burst every time we eat at Jimmy John's because they play their music so loud. Also, Ben was at Chick-fil-A the other day & said it was like the North Pole it was so cold!

My Office Quote of the Week
“Chuck Norris is the baddest man that ever walked the earth…well besides me.” Side note: I cannot emphasize enough how I do NOT make these quotes up.

I ♥ The Office
I must give a shout out about how AWESOME The Office was last night - loved it on so many levels! Also, how cool would it be if The Office spoofed your YouTube wedding video?! At one point in the midst of my tears during Jim & Pam's wedding Ben said, "Suck it up Thompson!"

On that note, I'm out & am hoping for a long weekend full of sleeping while listening to the rain, hot apple cider & seeing Wilco in concert! Don't forget to check out Ben's tween blog below...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Confidence, Self-Esteem, and Multiplication Tables

In my tween blog for the week, I am writing about the most dreaded thing to me in fourth grade...the multiplication table. For starters, being left-handed, I smeared all the lead on the page from left to right. This bothered me a lot and my little finger all the way down to the end of my hand was charcoal gray. Secondly, I was always timed and never came in under the clock. I would feel so defeated and sad because I thought there was something wrong with me. The guidance counselor even got me a left-handed multiplication table so I wouldn't smear my writing and could actually see the last number I wrote. I am slow AND have a different chart from everybody else.

Really, I had little confidence or self-esteem. I could easily do the tables, I just didn't believe I could. Make it a timed competition and I didn't even have a chance. I knew I could never make the Olympics in math tables, so why try? Just give up, I'll never succeed, I'd think to myself.

But it was never seen as a confidence or self-esteem problem, always an academic problem. Could nobody see the truth? I think this is a big failure of the educational system and parents. Academic performance has little to do with personal development. Children who live in an environment where they can thrive do well, while those in an environment that does not allow them to thrive struggle. Measure children by their grades and you miss out on the child. I did well enough in school grade-wise, but I didn't walk around with my head up or have many friends. Which should we be concerned with the most, the grades or the child?

I was missed on the radar at school and at home. I never made it on the radar because I always flew below it. I learned how important the outside was in hiding the inside. I made great grades. It took me several years until I acted out in class, but boy did I get some attention, as well as flunk my Romeo and Juliet exam. Even then I just made a blip on the radar screen and back to flying low.

Maybe I shouldn't expect the school system or parents to look for kids with confidence and self-esteem problems, but I do. As long as grades are the indicator, they'll miss it. Needless to say, I am in support of de-emphasizing performance-based grading systems, and more on emphasizing overall child development. Let's focus on making environments in which children can thrive and be seen for more than a grade. When children can thrive, they can learn what they need to without worrying about the dreaded F I don't have the answers for how to do this, but I do have a lot of ideas.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

There are 3 things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics & the Great Pumpkin.

Welcome to your bonus early Friday blog - LUCKY! Tomorrow we will be on a crazy road trip to Austin, TX with our team for training. It looks like the second flood may be hitting Austin as well this weekend, so we may be coming back in an ark instead of an SUV.

Showering Babies
I know that all of my male readers out there are on the edge of their seats in anticipation as to how the baby shower went this past weekend...I will leave you in suspense no longer!

First of all, I must give mad props to my hubby for totally stepping it up & helping me somehow pull it off! He did everything from weeding/mulching our front garden to moving furniture around 18 different ways while I kept changing my mind to doing the dishes & making our infamous hot corn dip! Now that I think about it, I'm not exactly sure what I did... Merschon impressed everyone with her amazing cupcake tower complete with Aaron's name & sprinkles. In a nutshell, the shower was a hit!

Pumpkin Thief
On Friday we were at Home Depot (which Ben calls Best Buy) buying mulch for the garden & I spotted a cute medium sized pumpkin that I brought home & put on our front porch. It looked SO cute just sitting there saying, "Welcome fall!" I was pulling into the driveway Monday afternoon & our cute pumpkin was GONE! Ben decided that some punk kids stole it & he came up with a foolproof plan that included rigging a pumpkin with poop, but I vetoed it. I wish we had a neighborhood watch program for important matters like these.

Red Heads Have More Fun
Ben has been requesting that I dye my hair red for the past couple of months. If you all know Ben, he has very few preferences having been the youngest child of 4, so I was happy to oblige. 

Cold Weather Pup
I know I've talked about how Cali loves cooler weather, but it boggles my mind how much her personality changes with the seasons! She has gone from lounging on her puppy bed inside our house in the A/C 24/7 to being outside sunbathing in the grass, exploring the backyard & laying on what we refer to as "her step" on our back porch. It's like the heat sucks the life out of her & then when it gets cooler, she's herself again. We're glad to have our frisky puppy back!

October is in full swing & I couldn't be happier...I'm just hoping these next few months are much more fall-like instead of the usual 2 Memphis seasons: summer/winter. Everyone can start thinking about their Halloween costumes now! Enjoy your fall weekend!

Friday, September 25, 2009

The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live.

Welcome everyone to the unveiling of our NEW & improved blog that coincidentally looks exactly like our old blog. I pretty much have the world's coolest brother who helped us move our blog over with his mad tech skills & I owe him big time for all his help!

A Day in m's Life
I always find it interesting hearing about other people's routines, so here is a typical day in my life...

Alarm goes off at 5:18 & I proceed to press snooze until 5:40-5:50ish, take shower, get ready in guest bedroom while watching Clean Sweep on TLC (I'm always bummed that I miss seeing the "reveal" at the end which is my fav part!), grab some juice & head for work around 6:40, get to work at 7 & start monotonous work day of data entry, scanning, filing, printing TPS reports while squeezing in some blog reading, FB & general internet surfing to keep myself sane while listening to Pandora (usually the DMB station), go to break room after a couple of hours to get Dove hot chocolate & cup of ice for my juice.

Go to lunch at 11:30 usually at Quiznos, Taco Bell or Milano's Pizza & then either shop at Target or go read a book at the lake down the street from my office, occasionally pick up a Chai Tea Latte from SB's if it's rainy or a rough day, come back & read my fav blog that I hold out for at 2, count down the minutes until 4 & drive home while listening to K-LOVE (I'm still hooked).

Get home & pick up everything that Ben has moved or left out from that morning after I left the house perfect, watch whatever sit-com is on TBSHD (Seinfeld, Friends, etc.), give Ben a giant hug when he gets home & debate about what to have for dinner, rarely eat at home, go out with friends or stay in & watch TV & do random chores/projects around the house, go to TCBY every Wed for Waffle Cone Wed, hang out with the world's most awesome hubby, brush my teeth, floss & go to sleep after our cuddle routine.

A 4AM Awakening
A couple of nights ago, around 4A our carbon monoxide detector started going off. Ben proceeded to get up & fiddle around with it for 5 of the longest minutes of my life (he couldn't find the battery in the dark - even Cali was annoyed & started her puppy moan). Finally the beeping stopped & then it seemed like forever before Ben came back to bed. I asked him what he was doing & he said that he lit the lighter to see if there was a gas leak...seriously.

Relapse - It's Official
This week I broke down & added Grey's Anatomy back to my TV queue - I just felt like I owed it to George to morn his TV death & leaving the show. Then tonight Jennifer Love Hewitt is having her baby on Ghost Whisperer (the show I'm most embarrassed that I watch), so I obviously can't miss that! TV is like crack I tell ya!

This weekend I'm throwing a jungle-themed baby shower for a close friend of our house...all by myself. This is a bad combination for a perfectionist like myself, but I know it will be a lot of fun! October has a lot of fun in store for us including a trip to Austin for team training, a Wilco concert & out-of-town friends & family visits! Happy weekend everyone!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

New Billboard Spotting

If you noticed a few blog entries ago, I can really get worked up about them. Sometimes I get worked up about something related to it. Today, I saw one and was intrigued by it. It read, “I’m gay and God loves me the way I am.” Underneath the text was a confident looking white male with spiky hair and a nice smile, not unlike me.

At first I was like, “Wow, here is propaganda from the liberal government to advance gay rights.” I call that my programmed response because it came first and is steeped in my background. My second thought was, “That’s a good billboard full of truth.” Regardless of the intent of the ad, it wasn’t in your face, it wasn’t judgmental or snide, it simply conveyed a statement, which in my belief system holds true. I began to wonder how I tend to look at people, gay or straight, out of the context of God’s love. Maybe this is the intent of the advertisement, I don’t know. I think it is important for me to have reminders like this, because at the end of the day I need to believe that “I’m Ben and God loves me the way I am.” I want other people to see me and believe God loves me, because when I do that with other people, I treat them differently.

I don’t know if other people take billboards as far as I do, but I appreciate billboards when they make me think. Unfortunately, I think someday it may be necessary to put up a billboard that says, “I’m a Christian and God loves me the way I am.” Maybe that’s another blog for another day...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Don't threaten me with love, baby. Let's just go walking in the rain.

It’s a rainy Friday here in Memphis & seems like it’s been like this forever! We keep saying that we’re getting prepped for Dublin, but I’m not sure how I feel about rain & overcast skies all the time. Ben says we’re going to have to drive somewhere with sun soon.

Storks Everywhere!
In one of my recent blog posts I talked about how practically everyone we know is pregnant. Well, it’s only gotten worse & I actually sat down & counted up how many couples we know that are currently preggo - wait for it, wait for it…16!! Seriously people, what’s in the water?! A friend of mine said she figured that maybe because of the economy & a lack of job security that people might hold off on the baby-making…obviously not.

My New Fav Pair of Jeans
I have been in search for a new favorite pair of jeans for awhile now. The other day on a whim I tried on 4 different brands at Kohl’s & wala - I found them at last! They are a dark pair of GLO brand jeans that fit like they were made for me (which is amazing since most jeans are typically 2-4" too long). The best part was that they only put me back $20 - love it!

Random Things That Drive Ben Crazy
*being wasteful (i.e. Starbucks drink sleeves, Styrofoam containers)
*squeezing the toothpaste from the middle of the tube
*church lady singers (you know what I’m talking about)

TV Relapse
I must confess to you all that I have had a small relapse since the new fall TV shows began. Don’t get me wrong, I have stuck to my guns with Desperate Housewives, Brothers & Sisters, 90210, Survivor, Grey’s Anatomy & Ghost Whisperer. However, I did “accidentally” tape One Tree Hill & Gossip Girl the other night & they were both awesome premieres! I guess for some reason I still have a craving for teen dramas…it makes me feel young.

My Office Characters
We watched the premiere of The Office last night (which was hilarious btw) with our friends Ray & Lindsay & it got me thinking about all the “characters” at my office. This is what I came up with so far:
*happy, snappy whistling ADD guy
*Nascar t-shirt lady
*nervous laughing guy
*“Hey good-looking” old guy (he says this to me every time I see him, but somehow it’s sweet & not creepy)

That’s all I’ve got for today y’all. Oh, the blog pic is of Ben & our friend Mick going to hear Condoleezza Rice speak at a fancy $500/pp dinner this week. Here’s hoping to a weekend full of snuggling while listening to the rain, pumpkin spice lattes, renting movies & sleeping in!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn.

Friday is FINALLY here! Now what kind of blogity ooey gooey goodness to fill your minds with today… man, now I’m craving brownies!

The Great Ireland Migration Begins...
On our road trip this past weekend I decided to make one of my infamous lists on the back of a receipt of things we need to do to prep our house to sell. Ben recently had a piece of siding fixed that had blown off during a wind storm & this week we installed wood blinds in our living room & dining room. They look awesome & I feel kinda like we’re in Jamaica on vaca every time I’m in those rooms because they remind me of our bungalow-style room. Next up - weed & mulch the front garden this weekend!

Weekend Extravaganza
Last weekend we went to Fayetteville, AR with a quick detour to MO to drop Cal Cal off at my parents. Kuddos to them for puppysitting on such short notice! Cali was a little confused, but loves them & had a great time. Theology of Missions = not so bad after all. In fact, I’m not sure if I’ve ever spent that much time devoted to studying the Bible in a fun, new way. Our team already seems like family & we are excited about experiencing this new chapter in our lives with them. Oh, & we did treat ourselves to a delicious Taco Bueno meal on the drive home. 

Smokin’ Roaches
A few nights ago I turned the kitchen light on & a GINORMOUS black roach crawled out of the sink which caused me to scream multiple times while doing my scary bug dance. My hero (i.e. Ben) came to the rescue with a deadly weapon (i.e. a flip flop) in tow. The funny thing was that while I was commentating the “slaughter” I kept screaming & squealing which caused Ben to freak out & jump every time the roach would reappear. In the end the victory was Ben’s & all was well. 

I ♥ Fall
In my 20’s I have fallin’ in love with fall. Now, summer used to be a big contender due to school being out, church camp, my birthday & swimming the summer away. However, now that I am (gulp) an adult, fall has a whole new meaning.

I love feeling the cooler weather come in & the leaves changing colors & falling off the trees. I love the anticipation of new fall TV shows, OU football, Halloween & Thanksgiving. I love drinking hot Starbucks drinks, taking walks with cool breezes with Ben & Cali after work, carving pumpkins & wearing my favorite hoodie. Winter, spring & summer just aren’t doing it for me anymore.

As I was driving to lunch today I saw some flags at half-staff & I got a little teary eyed. I was thinking to myself about how in my lifetime, today is the day my kids will someday ask me where I was when it happened. May God bless & give courage to all those directly & indirectly affected by 9.11!

Friday, September 4, 2009

A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in.

There are not many Fridays in the year where we have a 3-day holiday weekend to look forward to, so take a moment to enjoy this glorious day!

Vaca 411
We spent last weekend at a cabin in Spencer, TN close to Fall Creek Falls State Park & had a wonderful, relaxing & somewhat boring weekend. Boring you ask? Yes, apparently the beautiful views, endless movie rentals & all the books we’ve been wanting to catch up on were not enough for our ADD brains. Neither of our phones rang all weekend & once you’ve seen one sunset, you’ve seen them all.

We did go on a couple of awesome hikes & experienced some fine dining including Pizza Hut, a local Mexican restaurant & Maggiano’s on the way back home. We had a good time & simply decided that in the future our vacas need to be a little more active.

My Office Quote of the Week
(overheard when a guy was asked what he was doing this holiday weekend) “Not a lot, probably just hanging out around the house. Maybe go to Cracker Barrel or something - ya know, mix it up a bit.”

P.S. When going to Cracker Barrel is “mixing it up” in my life, please shoot me.

What Will They Think of Next?
I recently started using Gmail & was excited to customize my Inbox, so I checked out their "themes"?. I chose the Tree Theme & noticed that the background changes according to the weather. When it is sunny outside, the background shows a clear sky. Consequently, when it is raining or even thunderstorms, the background will change to match the current conditions.

At first I was confused & freaked out not knowing how THEY knew what the weather was like where I was, until I realized I had typed in my location - whew! Just another small step to chips being inserted into our brains & machines taking over the world.

Well, we’re off to who knows where this weekend - AR for Ireland team training & possibly MO if we can’t find adequate accommodations for Cali & my parents decide to take care of their grandpuppy for the weekend. There will be lots of driving, learning about the theology of missions (oops, I just fell asleep) & hopefully a Taco Bueno stop along the way. Happy Labor Day weekend everyone!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Our Cheese Stinks

How have I not read the book “Who Moved My Cheese?” until now? I remember my dad getting it awhile ago (in the distant 90’s) for Christmas and thinking what a funny title that was for a big person book. Last night, I made Monica read it before she went to bed, and consequently, she was exhausted today, but I wanted it to seep into our other-consciouses while we slept. If you’ve read it, you will understand the title of this blog, and if not, it only takes like 40 minutes to read.

This book reminds me how stories told well can have an impact on a deeper level. Anyway, I recommend it highly if you are up for a good challenge and/or you are feeling stuck in your current situation, which is precisely why it impacted the Benicas like it did. I literally feel like I have an extra little hop in my step today, and no, I don’t have a rock in my shoe!

Beyond that, I was able to use my excessive worry about a letter from the insurance company to get the opposite result of what I was expecting. I think that is called negative optimism. Goodness, how would all these things work out without my worry? Not a risk I’m willing take! I’m only kind of kidding...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I was nauseous and tingly all over. I was either in love or I had smallpox.

Welcome to your early Friday blog! We are heading to a cabin in middle TN for a weekend getaway to celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary, hence the early blog post.

We spent our actual anniversary going to the church house (that’s what my grandparents call it) & eating a 5-star lunch at Quiznos. After that, Ben did what any good husband would do & took me to a chick flick (The Time Traveler’s Wife). The movie was great & we finished the evening with an awesome meal at Old Venice!

This weekend will be Ben’s ideal vacation - going to a cabin in the middle of nowhere. Even though it won’t include the beach or pina coladas like our past 2 anniversary trips, I am really excited about hiking through waterfalls & just being together!

The Absent-Minded Professor
On Monday I came home to Ben giving our yard “the works”, but little did I know that it was not entirely by choice. He had locked himself out of the house a couple of hours before & had to wait until I got home to let him back in.

Later this week he thought he had locked himself out again. His first thought was to turn into The Hulk & break down the back door because he had to be at work in 45 min, but instead he went around to the front in a hurry just to make sure it wasn’t unlocked. It was & so he proceeded to jump in the shower & get ready for work.

The funny thing would have been if he HAD of broken down the back door & walked through the house just to see the front door wide open. Oh, & when he came out to his truck Cali was hanging out in the front yard because he had unknowingly left the side gate open. Good times!

Lately we have really been getting into watching TV shows on DVD instead of in real time. We’ve watched the first season of 24, In Treatment, Arrested Development & this weekend hope to finish The Black Donnellys. It’s nice being able to pace yourself, but also having the power of knowing that you can watch the next episode whenever you want - great idea TV people! Anyone have a TV series suggestion that is a must-watch?

On that note, I must finish up the work day so that in a few hours I can do my happy dance on the way out of prison…I mean my office. Happy weekend before Labor Day weekend everyone!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Real Men...

On my way to work today, I saw a new huge billboard. In bold, solid letters it said, “Real Men Don’t Hit Women.”

I hate this form of public condemnation. It is completely based on shame and humiliation. Does anyone honestly think the way to reach men who hit women is to humiliate them and challenge their manhood? Perhaps thus is the reason they are abusers in the first place. If you admit to hitting a woman you are admitting to not being a real man, driving you into even more shame. It only leads to the perpetuation of a shame/abuse cycle. I feel ashamed, I deal with that shame through abuse, I feel ashamed again, I abuse to deal with it, etc. There’s little way out. MY OPINION is that for many abusers, there is a strong sense of shame, but the abuser has not learned how to handle shame, except to take it out on those around them.

Men who hit women are responsible for their actions. It is wrong. My point is shame and humiliation is the worst response. Where is the offer of help in this? Where is the grace in this for the ashamed, emotionally unstable abuser? My belief is that an abuser can’t change without a show of compassion, and you CAN extend compassion with accountability and responsibility.

Oh, and don’t you ever forget, “REAL men love Jesus.” Ugh…give me a break!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Society tells us we're civilized, but the truth is we are animals.

According to this pic, Cali & I share the same opinion about college football season being right around the corner. Is it Friday already (kidding)? Where have all the cowboys & 4-day work weeks gone?

Family Weekend
We spent last weekend in MO with my family & had such a good time! My brother & sis-in-law came from OK & my grandparents came up on Sat to help me eat bday cake. It was too short, but we were able to squeeze in coffee with one of my favorite cousins I hadn’t seen in a long time. Oh, & we did get DQ blizzards on the way there & back & got some good ole’ Spfld cashew chicken.

According to Ben, my organizational “sickness” has reached an all-time low. I was shopping at Target the other day & was searching for some pacifiers that were on a friend’s baby registry. Apparently, there are many different types of pacifiers & they were all mixed up on the wrong hangers. I figured out that I could match the UPC from the back of the package to the one on the hanger, so I proceeded to take them all down & spent the next 20 minutes reorganizing them perfectly. I would secretly love for someone to pay me to do this kind of thing, but it hasn’t happened yet.

A friend of mine recently made a FB note about a few of her “quirks” & it got me thinking about some of mine: spacing the shampoo/body wash bottles equally apart & facing the same way in the shower, setting my alarm for random, odd-numbered times (i.e. 5:43, 6:07), always putting the volume # on the TV to an odd number & shutting the gas off on the stove because I’m convinced we will die of gas poisoning just to name a few.

Charades Anyone?
“Hey, our friend Kayci is being induced in the hospital tomorrow.” Ben
(Monica miming while gargling with mouthwash)
“You are pregnant with the spawn of Satan?” Ben
(after recovering from almost spewing the mouthwash) “No! We should get them a stuffed bunny from Party City.” Monica
Apparently, the bunny ears were confused for the devil ...very common mistake in charades I’m sure.

Ben & I will be celebrating 6 amazing years of marital bliss this Sun! Our life together has been one big adventure so far & we still love (& like) each other a lot! We will be taking off to a beautiful place in middle TN next weekend to celebrate & I can’t wait! Alright, that’s all I can muster up for your Friday afternoon blog entertainment. Happy almost weekend everyone!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tween Blog and Resentment

I am now considering my blogs as tween blogs because they come tween Monica’s fun Friday blogs. After you read this one, you’ll need a good Friday blog! I’ve been thinking a lot about resentment lately and would like to share a story.

One day in chapel at OC a Dean of some sort from the Pepperdine Law School led some talk that went way over my head. At the end he said he would be in the Student Center on campus that afternoon for anyone interested in talking about the school. I was considering law school as an option at that point in my schooling, so I stopped by his little table that afternoon.

After I initiated the conversation, I finally asked him, “So how much does it cost a year to go to Pepperdine Law School?” He then responded with a straight face, “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.” No change of expression on his part, even though I briefly giggled because I thought it was a joke. When I finally realized he was being pompous and smug, I felt humiliated.

All I could think about for days was ripping the bow tie off his neck and feeding it to him as I shoved it down his throat. I thought, “I’ll show him…I’ll go to law school and show up in his class and be the best student ever.”  However, I knew inside that he would not even remember me and I would have felt terribly unfulfilled, which made me even more frustrated.

That man owned me and my thoughts for a long while, which is the best definition I’ve heard of resentment—to resent someone is to be owned by them. I was ready to do anything I could to show him up, to humiliate him, to beat the arrogance out of him. He owned me for several years. How could his one remark and his stupid bow tie cause so much humiliation and hate in me? I can come up with no better answer than I let him control me. I’m frustrated I let him own me for so long, but I have since let it go. Now on the other side of it, I can see how I let him influence and control me and how I don’t want anybody like that to have any ownership over me.

Who owns you right now? I have to admit I have some shareholders.

Friday, August 14, 2009

On the run from Johnny Law... ain't no trip to Cleveland.

It’s Aloha Friday, no work till Monday (insert happy Friday dance)...the Friday song is what I miss most about listening to the radio in the mornings instead of opting for the iPod in our bathroom.

The Great Outdoors
Last weekend we went camping with our Ireland team in Texarkana. When we stepped out of the car at the campsite Fri night, our glasses immediately fogged up from the humidity…and it only got better from there. Besides the heat, there were ants, crickets, bugs & mosquitoes everywhere (including our tent) & we got little to no sleep both nights. Regardless, we had a blast & got to spend Sat out on the lake kayaking & it was an amazing bonding experience sharing communion around the campfire Sun morning!

He Says the Sweetest Things
“Do my eyes look tired?” Monica
“No, your face does.” Ben
This was a conversation we had earlier this week after a long weekend which resulted in uncontrollable sleepy-type laughter.

“Accept Me, Accept Me, Accept Me!”
This was the phrase I belted out in my sleep one night this week, which was proceeded by me sitting straight up in bed & then lying back down. Now, even though this was probably a dream come true (no pun intended) for a therapist to do some major subconscious dream interpretation, it freaked Ben out just as my sleep talking always does. He got me back though because that same night the pillow monster reared his ugly head & I was barely able to pull my pillow out from his death grip.

Reality TV at its Finest
Normally I don’t blog about specific TV shows, but I must give props to Big Brother for actually giving me butterflies from anticipation last night while watching the show! I won’t bore you with the details in case you don’t watch this guilty pleasure, but I will say that America voted to give one of the contestants a special power which was used (these powers are usually never used so as not to ruffle too many feathers) & it changed the game & it was AWESOME! Ben likes to scoff at my love of reality TV, but I throw it back in his face because technically all live sports are “reality TV” - am I right ladies?

Who’s Patty?
So, just as people “google” themselves I decided to “white page” ourselves via the WhitePages app I have on my iPhone just for fun. Ben’s name & our address came up & it even said “Age: 25-29” which is a little scary that the internet gods know that. Then came the kicker…“Household: Monica, Patty” Who is this Patty & why isn’t she paying her half of the mortgage & bills?

Well friends, we’re off on another road trip extravaganza to the Show-Me state to celebrate my belated bday w/ the fam! Cali is VERY excited to finally get to come this time & not be left at home like a red-headed stepchild. We are already anticipating our traditional blizzard stop at Dairy Queen & hopefully some yummy Springfield cashew chicken. Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cell Phone Delays

As I was in line at Sam’s today, a lady was on her cell phone and trying to pay at the same time and it definitely cost me some precious time that I could have been watching ESPN2. My thought was this: “Forget the delay in reaction time cell phones cause drivers, the real issue is the delay cell phones cause in making a simple store transaction.” It especially adds up if you are in a long line. I’ve been guilty a time or two as well. I think we should start making babies with three arms so when they are older they can talk on their cell phones and find their debit cards. Hmmph!

Friday, August 7, 2009

The only normal people are the one's you don't know very well.

Oh Friday, how I wish I didn’t live for you to get here week after uneventful work week!

Another Pup Bites the Dust
Ben was in the backyard playing fetch with the pups. He decided to throw the ball up in the air between Cali & Layla, which resulted in one of those slow-mo football tackling scenes that they replay over & over because one of the players got a concussion. Layla ended up with the tennis ball & Cali ended up with a bit tongue & a chunk out of her nose. Ben proceeded to do the “finger eye test” & Cali was fine, but I don’t think we’ll be signing her up for puppy football anytime soon.

Nana Puddin’
So…last weekend our church decided to tack on a banana pudding contest to our annual ice cream social. I made the HUGE mistake of participating - entering a banana pudding contest in the south, what was I thinking?! We called our good friend Justin who lives in FL for his top secret recipe & it turned out amazing! Unfortunately, there were at least 50 other “fancy” banana puddings staring me in the face when we arrived & alas, I didn’t stand a chance.

TV Diet
I have offered to go on a TV diet upon the return of all the new shows this fall because A) It sucks up WAY too much of my time & B) I hate watching shows that Ben won’t watch with me. Desperate Housewives, Brothers & Sisters, Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill, The Bachelor, 90210, Survivor, Grey’s Anatomy & Ghost Whisperer are all on the chopping block. The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, LOST, Scrubs, The Office & 30 Rock are still being negotiated. We’ll see how this pans out when we add college football to the mix.

My Office Quote of the Week
“I reckon I shouldn’t ever try to pick up a woman that I can’t PICK UP.” (I am seriously not making this stuff up people.)

Well, let the out of town weekends begin…we’ll be camping in TX this weekend (yes, we’re insane for camping in hot, humid TX in Aug), going to MO next weekend to celebrate my bday w/ the fam & then off to a yet to be determined destination anniversary weekend getaway!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Living to be Something vs. Living not to be Something

I like to ponder on things during the week and let Monica wrap it all up on Fridays with her awesome blog posts. She’s revived the blog and I look forward how she saw the week.

I’ve noticed a big difference between those who live to be something and those who live to not be something. For instance, I had a roommate that was heck-bent on not turning out like his father. He was going to finish college and be a brain surgeon—I’m not sure he finished the first year. So much was focused on not being his dad and he couldn’t focus on being himself. I see it in couples all the time—“I don’t want to be like my dad” or “I’m so afraid she’ll be like her mom.” The couple focuses on not being their parents and have trouble developing into who they want to be. I find that living out of not wanting to be something often gets the opposite result, which is ending up like that something. The anxiety actually brings about what someone is trying to avoid. Its like shaving your head so you don’t start balding. The reason I think this happens is when I am trying hard not to be something and I start to think I am being that way, I get discouraged and reason that I must just be that way (I think this happens on the conscious and unconscious levels). Its related to the “I’m mad but I don’t want to be and that makes me even more mad” scenario.

Then, I notice the people that are living to be something they want to be. I find it refreshing to be around these people because they seem to know what they want and go after it without a second thought. They are not hindered by not wanting to be something and have the freedom to be what they want. I think this is the difference between doing something out of fear and doing something out of freedom. I have found a great point here to dive off into some theological stuff, because this applies to those who are Christians because they want to be with God vs. those who are Christians because they don’t want to go to hell. Its also like OU playing a bowl game to not lose rather than to win.