Monday, January 27, 2014

Art and Soul

Over the past month, I did something completely out of the ordinary and commissioned two pieces of art. I say "commissioned" because it sums up how I see myself - a 25-year-old version of the Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey.

Honestly, I'm lucky to know some really talented artists who were willing to work with me. My friend Emily is a graphic designer. This year she decided to design Christmas cards for a set fee, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity. Of course, I dragged my feet, so they became "Happy 2014" cards. Nonetheless, I LOVED them. All I did was send her the text and two photos and she came up with this nautical masterpiece. Have I mentioned I love nautical? I also love postcards! Hopefully this made some of my loved ones smile this January.



Then, through Emily, I discovered Libby. Libby "doodles" beautiful lyrics, quotes, sayings, inspirations, etc. and sells them on Etsy. For the longest time I have wanted the lyrics to my favorite song, Dream a Little Dream of Me, hanging in my house. Lightbulb. I wrote Libby and asked her about doing a custom piece with a verse from the song on it. Once again, I gave her very minimal parameters and she created exactly what I had in mind but couldn't describe. Also, she turned it around in one day. ONE day. I am so excited to put this up in my house. (Side note: Libby is also apparently an astronomical genius who teaches kids about outer space. Because why not be the best of both sides of the brain...)

The nautical flags on the B spell "MJC"...my initials!! Just another cool feature that I didn't even ask for.






Monday, January 6, 2014

******!

This woman is *****y. See: serious face/pantsuit.
I don't have a New Year's resolution for 2014. I have a word. A bad word. One that describes most teenage girls and female executives in Lifetime movies. The word starts with a B and rhymes with itchy. 

I'm just going to say it. My theme for 2014 is bitchy. No, I don't want to be in a bad mood all year or rude to those around me. I want to be assertive, to take control of my life and quit letting other people drag me down. As a [former] doormat, I have to push myself all the way to bitchy for others to see me as in charge of my life. 





Ward and I had some childhood friends visit us in Texarkana this weekend and we got to talking about birth order and how it affects your personality. As the youngest child, I'm obviously the spoiled one, and my dad still talks about me like my niece and I are the same age. But instead of being the youngest child who screams until she gets her way, I became the youngest child who did whatever the older kids (or anyone, really) told her to do. I forgot that I needed to take care of me first, others second. 

As a true people-pleaser, it's so hard for me to grasp the notion that I can't be a good friend, daughter, sister, employee, etc. if I'm not a good ME. In the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible, I am 100% a Martha. If I'm not cleaning up while everyone else is sitting in the other room listening to Jesus talk, I'm a self-centered failure. To this day when I read that story, I think about how much I would have wanted to have a rumble with Mary right there in front of God (literally) and everyone. But there's a reason Jesus said Mary was in the right. She was working on her spiritual health (what could be more important?!) before she looked after other people. 

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  - Luke 10:41-42 (NIV)

If I put my relationship with the Lord - and the life that he has given me - first, then I will have better relationships with those around me. 

This year, I will learn to say "no". I will learn to focus on what God wants me to focus on, not on the demands of others. I will find my value in my true birthright, the one Christ gave me when he died on the cross. I will quit hanging my worth on the affirmation of imperfect humans.

 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Dear James

Dear James,

It's time for our relationship to end. It has been nothing but unpleasant for me.

You probably don't have any idea that I exist, but I know a lot about you. And so far, none of it is good. Our most recent encounter was yesterday at Discount Tire when the man who was helping me typed my phone number into the computer and said "James?". No. James hasn't had this phone number for over three years.

We are like Doris Day and Rock Hudson in Pillow Talk, except you're probably not that good looking, this isn't a party line, and I'm not going to vengefully decorate your bachelor pad. Never mind, this is nothing like Pillow Talk.

Our relationship exists solely because of a shared phone number. You had the phone number I now own until sometime before I picked it up that fateful October day in 2010 at the AT&T store. At the time, I was an eager college graduate starting her first big girl job and buying her first smart phone. 

My whole life was ahead of me, but three-plus years of phone calls from angry debt collectors have left me jaded. I don't know how you got yourself into this mess, but you owe a lot of people all across the nation a lot of money. I'm sure that is a stressful thing to have following you around, so you skipped town and disconnected your number, never thinking about the stranger who would field these ire-filled phone calls for years to come.

"Hi, James?"
"No, this isn't his number anymore."

"I need his new number. That ********** took $50K from me and never built anything."
"I'm sorry. I have no idea who James is. I picked this number up from the phone company in 2010."
"Just tell me where I can find him."
"I don't know where to find him. I've never met him."
"Then why do you have his phone?"
"I don't have his phone. I have the number he disconnected sometime before October of 2010."

"I don't know why you're trying to protect him. He's a con artist."

You see, I feel bad for these victims. Your selfishness, or maybe really terrible math skills, left them with a debt problem of their own. $50K?! That's a lot of money to have disappear. I'd be upset if you conned me out of $50. 

About a year after that October day that forever changed my life, I got a call from a 10-year-old boy with a rural Mississippi area code.

"Hello?"
"Hi."
"Who is this?"
"Who is this?"
"Meredith...you called me."
"Meredith Jones?" (I don't remember the last name he said..)
"No, Meredith Collier."
"Oh."
"I think you have the wrong number."
"Oh. OK."

He called back two times before I answered again.

"Hey...you still have the wrong number."
"No...there's a bike in our garage with this number written on it."
"Oh. Do you know a James McGilicuddy?" (Last name changed to protect the innocent family of the not-innocent con man.)
"Yeah. He lives across the street."
"This used to be his number, so I guess that's his bike."

Maybe the boy told you that I knew your full name, and maybe it made you realize that your past was following me. Maybe you're slowly paying back the debt you created. Maybe you're continuing your con game in rural Mississippi.

There are a lot of maybes in our relationship, James, but I know one thing for sure. This needs to end.

It's not me, James. It's you.



Meredith


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Full of Thanks

I just realized it's been two months since my last post. I guess when you write for a living, you don't tend to write when you get home, too. Do ENTs perform tonsillectomies when they leave work? Bad example..

But what better way to get back to it than to list what I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving! Well, most of what I'm thankful for. I'll spare my three faithful readers the full list that includes glitter, comfortable sweats, excellent nail polish top coats, and dental floss. 

Thanksgiving is a little different this year. I had the big feast with some coworkers/friends last night and am spending today decorating for Christmas and doing laundry before leaving for Missouri with the football team tomorrow.  

This is how I used to do Thanksgiving: Big meal in the "Rock House" with my dad's side of the family before the annual Collier Cousin Pageant. It's a good thing that none of us went into show biz. And two days later, we would go to the biggest block party America has never seen: Christmas in Comfort. With funnel cakes and a nighttime parade and carols in the town square, it's just as awesome as it sounds. Here's a photo of me and my cousins Sophie and Jessica at Christmas in Comfort in 1994 or so. How California is Sophie in those white boots?!



Here's what I'm thankful for this year:

[My family] I have two parents who have stuck together through good and bad, richer or poorer, Texas and the ghetto of the Florida everglades. They love each other and still have enough love to spread to the rest of us. My dad can become anyone's best friend if you give him a few minutes in any public place. My mom loves dancing to 60s and 70s music and exercising (sometimes simultaneously) and is a better decorator than every magazine that ends in "Living".

I have a gorgeous older sister who designs beautiful, functional, energy-efficient spaces AND she knows all the words to several dozen children's books, voices and all. I'm pretty lucky to have a best friend who shares my genes and loves me for who I am.

I have a brother who pledged his service to our country at age 18, has been on two deployments, and is now a Captain who trains other Marine Corps officers. Even with all of this, he thinks he's just an ordinary guy and would be embarrassed to see that I'm bragging about him. Good thing the Marines aren't known for reading girly blogs. 

I have a brother-in-law who is by far the quietest member of our family, but accepts us just the same. He loves hunting and fishing and playing with my niece, and works harder than anyone I know. 

And last, but certainly not least, I have the cutest niece in the world. She's a few days shy of 18-months-old and nothing makes me happier than the fact that she knows my name and asks for me on a regular basis. She knows all of her animals and has a fabulous wardrobe.

[My Job] Sometimes I forget to remember how great my job is. Without making my coworkers vomit, I'd just like to say that I have a great boss and great coworkers who are also my friends. Sometimes they even adopt me for holidays. Tear tear, I love y'all. 

[My Friends] I'm so thankful for all of the friends I've been blessed with, and have recently discovered that the best friends are people you would have thought were mean in middle school. They're not afraid to tell you that yellow shirts make your skin look green, or that they're not coming to your movie night because they don't feel like putting on pants. So while they may be brutally honest, they are also your friend because they like you, not because you're a convenient doormat. 

[My Country] While we're eating turkey and dressing, complaining about having to wear pants with zippers, there are Americans on the other side of the world wearing flak jackets and eating food that is made to mysteriously not parish after a year in the desert. And they chose to do that.

Since by now y'all are just reading the bolded words, here's the rest of the list

My cozy house
Piranha Fitness
Christmastime
Netflix
Shoes
A warm bed
Dancing
Sunshine
Milk
Chapstick that moisturizes and adds color
90s hip hop
Musicals
Lululemon pants
Texas

If you're wondering how I left my Lord and Savior off of this list, you've read it all wrong. None of this life would exist without Him, and He taught me to be thankful. 

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Can you read this?

Can you read this? 

Babushka (I think)
I hope so. I hope that someone took the time to teach you how to read, write, speak and understand English (assuming you're in a predominantly English-speaking country). 

I spent this morning at a local church, helping teach ESL (English as a Second Language) classes. I taught people who can't understand the dominant language of the country in which they live. Can you imagine moving to a place where everyone speaks a different language than you, where you couldn't even ask for help in the most basic way? My friend and student worker, Abby, and I talked about what it would be like to move to Russia. We discovered that we know exactly five words: da, Babushka, vodka, czar and niet. And I probably spelled all of those wrong. So basically I could (in very broken Russian) get drunk with a dictator-like grandma. [Or at least I think that's what those words mean.] So you can see how crucial a class like ESL can be to someone in that exact same boat.

But this class taught me something, too. 

I learned that English is a strange and illogical language...Teach:taught, reach:reached? Who decided on that? And why are some letters silent when put with other letters, but not all the time? One of our vocabulary words was knife. The woman who had that flashcard nailed it, but I'm sure it wasn't her first time seeing that one. And how do you explain the difference in the th sound in this and the th sound in Meredith? Neither of those sounds exist in Spanish - which is the native language of everyone in my group.

My new - and extremely brave - friend, Jessica, told me about this class that is put on through the Bryan Public Library. She leads a group, but was unable to make it today because of conflicts at work, so she shoved me in the deep end let me take over her group. Being the wuss that I am, I brought my security blanket Abby along.

From 10-noon each Saturday, about 12 groups of students - separated by proficiency level - meet in a small auditorium. Today we started off as a large group singing and doing hand motions to "If You're Happy and You Know It" and "This Little Light of Mine". It seems silly, but that's exactly how I began learning Spanish. At first I just belted out random sounds from the privacy of my own car, and eventually I would be able to pick out words and phrases that I had learned in my Spanish class.

Luckily, a very nice woman named Meg let us (Abby and I) bring our group to join hers. Both of our groups were at the beginner level. Meg had planned a great lesson full of activities. We took statemements containing the "to be" verb and rearranged the words to turn them into questions. I was grateful to know some Spanish and to be able to translate where needed, until I remembered that in Spanish, a question and statement are the same sentence, just with different punctuation. [For example, in English: You are hungry./Are you hungry?; in Spanish: Tienes hambre./Tienes hambre?]

Needless to say, it was a difficult yet rewarding two hours. I was helping someone understand the world around them. I only hope that these students feel like they're getting somewhere on their way to truly understanding and being able to read/write English.

Learning another language is one of the accomplishments I'm the most proud of, and I was fortunate enough to dedicate eight years of formal education to it. And I am thrilled to be able to return the favor, even in a small way. 

The most rewarding part of the day was at the end when one of the men from the group came up to us and asked if there were more classes available. He said two hours, once a week, wasn't enough for him. [I agree. Five days per week was barely enough for me to learn Spanish...and that was with trained educators.] I promised him that I would contact the Bryan Library and see if we can add another class a couple of nights per week. 

I'm so excited to start paying it forward and to actually be able to use my Spanish. And I'm so thankful for all of my past Spanish teachers, for the incredible gift they've given me

Muchisisisímas gracias.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Five People You Meet in [Thomas Park]

Like I said in my first post, I used to be a lifeguard. Since I never had to actually save a human life, lifeguarding meant that I got really good at observing people from behind my cheap sunglasses. Sometimes I made up stories about what their lives were like, and sometimes they told me about their lives firsthand got close enough for me to eavesdrop. [Don't worry, Red Cross, I was constantly scanning while spying on these innocent patrons.] 

I still can't figure out why I haven't been approached by the CIA with a very exciting job offer. Instead, I use my observant talents on the fair people of Thomas Park, or the Tom Parkers as I like to call them. 

Thomas Park is a scenic little area - about a mile in circumference - where I like to get some fresh air and exercise. It has everything an American park could need, except for a hotdog vendor and a cotton candy machine. I guess it's more of a European park or something, since it's all fitness-based activities and no junk food stands. TP has a swimming pool, two playground areas, basketball courts, tennis courts, pull-up bars, sidewalks and open fields. And a lot of interesting people. 

Just kidding ... this is Central Park.

These are the five people you'll meet at Thomas Park:

1...The Camp Counselor
The camp counselor can be seen in his or her natural habitat at the park, because the camp counselor thrives in the great outdoors...or the local park if no mountains are near. The camp counselor wears Chacos, Keens, Tivas, Toms, or Vans knock-offs. The male camp counselor likely sports a beard of biblical proportions and is probably sitting in the grass playing Chris Tomlin songs on his guitar. The female camp counselor swings in a woven hammock from a large oak tree, meditating on scripture whilst listening to male camp counselor's guitar playing. Sometimes the pair can be seen playing ultimate Frisbee in an open field.

I don't really fit into this category, but after two summers at a Christian youth camp, I am good friends with lots of these lovable hipsters.

2...The International Family
Since Thomas Park is in a college town, lots of international students partake in its humble splendor. Many of these students are from east Asia, the Middle East and India, and in Thomas Park they travel in adorable little families. Since a lot of the international students are getting their PhDs, and a little older than most college students, the ones that frequent Thomas Park have little kids who love to squeal on the playground equipment and swim at the pool when it's open.

I also don't fit into this category, though a little girl from one of these families once offered me a Cheeto. 

3...The Soccer Aficionado
On any given weeknight, in the largest field TP has to offer, you can find the soccer club. The soccer club is a group of guys in their 20s and 30s who meet at the park to prep for the World Cup. I've never figured out how they know who is on whose team since they are all wearing different pro teams' uniforms. Though none of them match each other, the soccer aficionados are always dressed to the nines. If one of them is wearing a Brasil jersey, he's wearing Brasil's colors on his shorts and socks, too. The soccer club is the also largest supporter of the hair gel aisle at HEB. I've learned that the amount of hair gel on a soccer player is directly related to his talent. The firmer/shinier/flashier the hair, the more goals he's going to score. Similarly, the defenders and goalies don't wear hair gel, because they're the blue-collared boys. 

I'm not part of this group either, but I know most of these guys by sight now. I even know what car some of them drive. [I never said I wasn't a creep.]

4...The True Athlete
The True Athlete can be seen running circuits on the tracks, doing suicide sprints on the basketball courts, and doing lunges across the large field. The True Athlete is also the only Tom Parker who uses the pull-up bars for actual strength exercises, and not just for leaning against while flirting with a prancing coed. The True Athlete's goal is the perfect physique, but he picks up a lot of stares, breaks a lot of hearts, and makes a lot of people suddenly self-aware along the way.

As much as I would love to think that I belong in this category, it just isn't even close to true. I do, however, fantasize about becoming one of these the most.

5...The Average Joe/Jane
The Average Joe or Jane can be a myriad of people. It can be a sorority girl who walks with a friend in a date party t-shirt and then calls it a month on the exercise front. It can be a mom who faithfully pushes a stroller around the track every morning. It can be the man who walks with a full cup of coffee in one hand and the leashes of five different dogs in the other. It can be the unicyclist in the bucket hat. It can be the woman who dreams of training for a half marathon, but is going to go for a 5K for now. It can be the awkwardly unathletic guy who plays pickup basketball with his flip flop-wearing friends. Or it can be a girl in her 20s who listens to oldies, reggaeton, Destiny's Child and Christmas music while silently judging everyone around her during her cardio routine. 

In case you didn't catch it, I'm part of this group. Namely, the last person listed. Consider yourself warned: I'm like the one-man neighborhood watch at Thomas Park.

Which one are you??

Friday, September 6, 2013

Weekend Wonderings

I have a lot of internal conversation with myself, and I almost never know the answers to my questions. So I'm going to ask them here. Maybe y'all can tell me the answers. 

                                                              Who decided to invent mascara?
I'm not complaining. My eyelashes are whiter than Doris Day in south Detroit. Without mascara I look like I've contracted the flu AND mono at the same time. But who thought it was a good idea to pick up a can of black shoe polish and brush it on their eyelashes? What was the thought process there? "This stuff will either blind me for life, or look really good until I start crying. I'll try it!"

Why do people give side-hugs?
I'm definitely complaining here. A hug is meant to show someone your love for them, not to make them feel like maybe they forgot to put deodorant on that morning. Any time someone gives me a side hug, visions of limp handshakes and Josh Duggar's proposal flash through my mind. If you side-hug me, I will turn you around and make you do it right.  And if you side-hug me after proposing, I will give the ring back.


What does a bearcat sound like?
A&M is playing the Sam Houston State Bearkats tomorrow and I realized earlier this week that I have no idea what a bearc/kat sounds like. Technically, there is no such thing as a bearKat, so they can sound like whatever they want to sound like. But a bearCat is a real animal. The little guy on the left is kind of cute, so he probably sounds like me squealing and trying to tickle his belly.