Theme Park Survival Tactics (by an Ex-Park Employee & Park Junkie)

26 08 2014

I likely suffer from a theme park addiction.

In the last decade, I’ve had annual passes to Disneyland, Disney World, Universal Studios, Six Flags, and the killer whale trifecta of SeaWorld Orlando, San Diego, and San Antonio. I grew up hanging out at Mall of America’s theme park, and have visited theme parks all over the country–everything Busch Gardens to Cypress Gardens to Knott’s Berry Farm to Valleyfair.

I currently hold passes to Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando and bounce around between the six different parks every week.

My first dates, work events, end-of-year parties, college extracurricular events, reunions, and bachelorette parties occurred at theme parks. Heck, I even got engaged at a theme park.

I also worked at Universal Studios in Orlando for a summer when I was in college, which I’m still too traumatized to talk about. Let’s just say working in felt pants, knee socks, and a wool jacket in 98-degree weather with 99% humidity and dealing with international tourists throwing shoes and purses at me while operating a high-capacity roller coaster isn’t my favorite way to spend the summer. That’s a different story for another day.

Basically, I’ve been at theme parks every week for the last ten years.

In the many hours I’ve spent regularly at theme parks–both as an employee and patron–I’ve seen a lot.

One of the most terrifying things I’ve realized is that many people don’t know how to survive a theme park. Tragically, with their arms and legs missing from paying sky-high admission prices at the gate, your average visitor doesn’t know how to cope with handling their time at the park.

Luckily, I’m here to point out some vital survival tactics for making it out of a theme park alive (and happy):

IMG_5738Dress for Battle.

Let me make this clear: you are fighting a battle here. Your children’s happy memories and well-adjusted futures depend on you wearing the right clothing.


Wear lightweight, comfortable shoes with good arch support. If you’ve lived in flip flops for at least a year straight (or you’re from California), your feet are automatically tough enough to handle wearing sandals. If you’re from the Midwest, you are not allowed to wear flip flops because you will complain about blisters by lunchtime. Texas, no one wears boots here and I guarantee you’ll have a trail of people laughing at you if you do.

Crocs are simply never acceptable for anything anywhere. Maybe if you’re taking a direct hit from a hurricane while walking around a park. Maybe.

Your clothing should be lightweight, flexible, and able to get soaked and dry quickly. Don’t wear black, don’t wear polo collar shirts with athletic shorts, don’t mix stripes and plaid, and don’t wear skin-tight tube tops. Fine, the last few are personal preferences–based on the fact that these are stupid things to wear in general.

You are not allowed to wear rival theme park paraphernalia, because that’s like wearing the wrong colors in the streets of Compton. You’ll also tempt the theme park employees to cut you off abruptly for the fast pass riders because they don’t like you.

Watch Out for Brazilian Tour Groups. 

You know that scene in Jurassic Park, where the slight jiggle of the jello indicates the presence of approaching dinosaurs?

That’s the same way it is with Brazilian tour groups. You always hear them first, shouting their happy Portuguese chants at the top of their lungs. Then you see them, en masse, like a herd of wildebeests careening over the plains. They’re always dressed in matching brightly colored shirts, which usually proclaim “BRAZIL” somewhere–like the foreign language didn’t clue you in. Often, someone has a flag on a stick that guides the group. If you stand still enough, they’ll cascade around you like a living waterfall, giggling and laughing and cheering loudly.

Bless their hearts, they’re happy to be there. But they’ll scare the livin’ daylights outta you if you don’t see ’em coming.

Strollers Aren’t Weapons.

Someday I’ll write a coffee table book entitled You’re Too Big for That Stroller. It’ll be a best-seller, along with its sequel Meltdowns at Disney.

In order to ensure optimal theme park survival, be advised on the following guidelines for strollers:

1) Strollers are not weapons. Please do not intimidate other guests by shoving strollers into the back of their legs while they are attempting to navigate a dense crowd after a fireworks show. It’s even more alarming  that you do this when your kiddo is strapped into the stroller.

2) Strollers should be small and portable, and able to be flattened quickly when getting on a ride. If you feel it necessary to pack two-thirds of your house onto your stroller, then wait this one out in Stroller Purgatory with the other ill-prepared parents instead of holding up the line.

3) Toddlers should be in strollers when not on a ride, not tottering around aimlessly into gigantic, fast-moving crowds who give you a patronizing smile while thinking, “Gee, that kid’s gonna be flattened and I sure hope their parents learn a lesson from this.”

4) Kids are too large for strollers when their knees reach their chins. They then need to be unceremoniously kicked out and made to hoof it.

Don’t Stop in the Middle of Traffic.

Please grasp the fact that this is the most packed, zoo-like, carnival-on-steroids Happy Place you’ll ever be in.

I know, the lights are so pretty. The air smells like cotton candy and there’s music playing everywhere. Children are actually smiling at their parents, as they whirl around on colorful rides. You’re slacked-jawed at the wonder of it all.

Wake up! This is a human stampede. You will get trampled and left for dead if you don’t clean up that drool off your chin and snap out of it.IMG_5723

Listen carefully to what I’m saying:

Don’t stop in the middle of the path.

Don’t stop in the exit.

Don’t stop on the side of the ride.

Don’t stop in front of me.

Glad we’re on the same page. I’ll happily remind you and bump right into you if it helps.

Don’t Bring an iPad. 

I’m pro-technology on all fronts. But there’s a time and a place for lugging your gigantic iPad to a theme park….and the time is NOT on this trip. If your kid can’t stand in line without being glued to an iPad at a theme park, holy cow…that’s scary. It’s your job as a parent or guardian to entertain them. That’s why you get paid the big bucks. Play a game, or–eeek!–try conversation. You might actually enjoy it.

Added bonus? You don’t have to tromp over to the lockers to get your iPad after every ride.

Oh, and please note that thrusting your iPad into the air to take pictures of the fireworks is A) distracting and impeding the thousands of guests behind you and B) causing snickers of derision from half of said crowd.

IMG_4004Time Your Photos With Military Precision.

Here’s the deal: you may be the center of your world, but that’s not the reality of Theme Park World. That means that the human stampede headed towards you is under absolutely no obligation to stop and wait for you to get the perfect family photo.

There’s a slight difference when you’re in front of a picture-worthy icon, though–say, the fire-breathing dragon at Diagon Alley or the castle at Disney World. However, I believe that polite theme park etiquette means you can hold up traffic for no more than four seconds to get a photo.

Count it: one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand, four-one-thousand…

Oh, couldn’t snap it in time? Guess you need more efficient fingers. That’s how you learn.

Leave the Social Media on the Back Burner. 

First of all, unless you’re Kim Kardashian, how many people are actually hanging on your every tweet? Chances are that no one looks at your social media posts any longer than it takes them to think, “Lucky duck, they’re having fun and I’m doing this”–which, of course, basically sums up the entire point of social media.

Yes, post a snap on Facebook or tweet a few excited phrases, but live in the moment. I can’t tell you how many miserable kids I’ve seen dragging along behind their parents, who are excitedly live-tweeting the entire experience and completely ignoring their kids.

Not to sound sappy, but you only get a few chances in life to see someone’s face light up with pure and utter joy–don’t miss it because you’re texting or tweeting to someone who doesn’t really care.

Don’t Be a Sidewalk Hog.

I’ll be fair and advise that you can walk up to three people wide at a theme park. If you dare walk six people wide, though, that’s unrealistic. Theme parks are crowded, busy, fast-paced places. Be sensible, and realize when you’re hogging more than your allotted asphalt.

Stop Being “That Guy”. 

You know exactly what I’m talking about. Don’t be “that guy” who shouts business deals into his cell phone while waiting in line, the idiot teenager who screams incoherently trying to impress girls, the bonkers kid who climbs all over the queue with a parent who does nothing to control him, the broody athlete who incessantly bounces a basketball while everyone else stands dutifully still. And, heaven help us all, please don’t be “that guy” who passes gas while in line with a bunch of hot, tired people crammed into a tiny corridor.

Don’t be “that guy” who bugs the poor employee standing at the front of the line to ask, “Is the wait time accurate?” Don’t be “that guy” who complains to the food vendors about how expensive the park is. Don’t be “that guy” who sets up a camcorder smack-dab in the middle of the crowded walkway.

Simply put, avoid doing anything that can annoy anyone around you. If you can’t handle it, go park your rear on “Small World” and rot your brain there for the rest of the afternoon. Trust me, you’ll hear the music in your nightmares.

Don’t Turn Off Your Brain. 

This is the most crucial survival tactic, when it comes to theme parks. I won’t even elaborate on this, in order to give your brain more room to store this memo.

Remember these theme park survival tactics, and I assure you–you’ll not only survive your trip to the Happiest, Most Magical, Most Exciting, Most Eye-Wateringly Expensive Place in the World, but you’ll have fun, too.

If not? Rest assured, I’ll memorialize your poor decisions in writing for you right here
















Things A Pastor’s Wife Won’t Tell You (But WANTS To…)

24 07 2014

I don’t blog as much as I’d like to.

The majority of my infrequent blogging has to do with the fact that A) I’m really busy and B) I have a problem with saying “no” to the things that keep me busy.

I also can’t forget C) I hate living in a house that isn’t vacuumed multiple times a week (see “B”).

But frankly, a big factor in my blogging is the fact that I’m under a microscope as a church worker and pastor’s wife. That means every single thing I write is scrutinized. Often, by thousands of people.

But every once in a while, I get an uncontrollable rebellious streak. Like now.

As a fairly young pastor’s wife, I’ve not yet grown that thick shell of impervious battle armor that all pastor’s wives seem to possess. I still find myself laughing over things that probably won’t even register when I’m a hardened, turtle-like character in a few decades.

So in my formative state, I feel compelled to make note of the many things a pastor’s wife won’t tell you…but WANTS to.Pastor

I don’t dress him.

It may be difficult to believe that a grown man who survived graduate school can successfully pick out his clothes, but it is true.

And no, if we happen to be wearing the same color on Sunday morning, it’s merely coincidence. Only a crazy person (or someone trapped in a family photo, circa 1993) would ever dress to match their spouse.

I’m not a messaging system. 

There’s this incredible new invention out there called “technology”. It’s amazing, really.

You can get on a tiny computer in the palm of your hand and type on a teensie keyboard to send messages a whole variety of ways. Seriously, you should try it. It’s the latest thing. You can even record your voice and leave a message in your own words.

Really. Try it. I’m not a reliable courier system, anyway. And I’m sure as heck not getting paid to take notes as my husband’s administrative assistant.

I have an automatic role in VBS, no matter what.

I’ll never be able to escape some sort of leadership role in yearly Vacation Bible School. I know that even if I’m crippled and struck blind at the same time I’m attempting to adopt twelve kids from an orphanage and tenderly nurse a baby bird back to health, you’ll still pester me to take on something.

It’s just one of the laws of pastor’s wifedom.

I don’t know what he’s going to say about me in sermons. 

Yeah, I’m hearing it for the first time, too.

No, I don’t know what embarrassing or bizarre real-life story he’s using about me until he says it. Yes, the blushing is authentic. Yes, I do indeed color-code my closet, and I’m glad the entire congregation now knows about it.

I don’t know everyone’s names, let alone their gossip. 

Everyone knows me, but I don’t always know everyone else. It’s challenging to try to learn a zillion names and facts about a congregation. I’m accosted with new stories by the dozens every Sunday, so forgive me if my brain shuts down and I can’t remember what day you took your dog to the vet last week. I really do care. Unless it’s gossip–then I’m already disinterested.

I’m the designated pinch-hitter when everything goes wrong. 

Communion team forgot to show up? I’m in the back, pouring wine into tiny cups. Sunday school teacher late? I’m already halfway through the lesson. Sound system or lights malfunctioning? I’m the first one up to deal with it. Building leaking? I’m dragging out the buckets. New guest arrives? I’m introducing myself and making small talk. Bulletin board needs updating? I’m already drawing. Disgusting disaster in the bathroom? I’m the makeshift janitor. Ushers absent? I’m handing out bulletins and lighting candles. Dessert reception? I’m wiping off tables and serving up pie.

Before you complain about church, realize that I’ve already done your job before. Quietly and thanklessly. If I can do it with a smile and make the best of things, you certainly can, too.

I can hear you when you talk about the pastor.

It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting five rows behind me, or on the other side of the church. I have supersonic hearing when it comes to hearing any phrase that involves the word “pastor”.

I hate when people judge me by what I wear. 

I’m not a nun, I happen to like fashion, and I actually have eyeballs. No, I don’t judge you by what you wear to worship–so kindly don’t return the favor for me.

You don’t have to point out the obvious about either my husband or me.

Sunburned? Yes. We’re human and went to the beach. We are already aware and don’t need your loud guffaws to inform the entire church.

Oh, and you can entirely abolish the phrase, “My, you look tired” from your vocabulary when you’re talking to me.

I know, I’m making it easy for you.

The phrase “poor as church mice” is accurate. 

Most pastors are barely scraping by and their congregations are largely clueless to the immense financial toll that years of school and a low-paying salary give you.

Basically, we broke as a joke.

We prefer not to dwell on it, and make every effort to be faithful stewards–but I sure can’t tell you what a delightful treat it is to receive something as simple as a gift card for coffee. It also has the added benefit of helping you never say, “My, you look tired” to me in the morning.

We love the church more than you know. 

I’ve met my fair share of pastors’ wives who are angry and disillusioned with their churches, but I don’t feel that way. Despite frustrations, I know that tension is a natural part of ministry and I welcome it because it means we’re growing. We’re tirelessly supporting our churches, and will do whatever it takes to contribute.

Yeah, yeah, even cleaning the bathrooms. Been there, done that. More than once.

I have an opinion of my own. 

Despite what you may assume, I have a brain entirely of my own. I have my own opinions, talents, passions, and ambitions.

Someone once told me that, as a pastor’s wife, I should “never open my mouth about anything, ever.”

That’s ridiculous. How could I possibly take communion?

I don’t buy it. As a pastor’s wife, I’ll open my mouth about what matters–and what matters to me, more than anything, is my Savior.

And despite however critical someone may choose to be, the fact remains that I’m a sinful human who’s been redeemed–just like everyone else. So when I get my rebellious streaks and spout off about the challenges of being a pastor’s wife, you just softly smile and respond as every good Lutheran does:

“Oh, I’ll pray for you.”









A Savvy Girl’s Guide to Sporting Events

28 03 2014


A few days ago, I went to a professional hockey game with my husband.

We had a great time.

I’m a big fan of  sports, you see, and have spent a good portion of my free time attending professional sporting events–everything from baseball and basketball to hockey and football, soccer and bodybuilding to volleyball and tennis. I’ve even been to my fair share of competitive swimming, cheerleading and dance,  and–oddly enough–synchronized swimming.

But in looking around at my fellow females at said hockey game, I realized something:

There were a lot of obviously clueless women at this sporting event.

Naturally, this prompted me to offer up this helpful blog post for all of you ladies out there who are oblivious on how to handle attending sports functions.

I’ve compiled all of my knowledge into one condensed list for your viewing pleasure.

So here you are, my Savvy Girl’s Guide to Sporting Events:

Rule #10: Don’t Dress Up.

I’d like to point out the obvious, that the people attending this sporting event have paid money to watch a fast-paced game–not to oogle you. The only reason you should ever curl your hair and wear a mini skirt to a sporting event would involve you singing the National Anthem on the field. Otherwise, bleachers and stadium seating and heels just don’t mix.

Is there a time and a place for dolling up? Sure! It’s called “every-other-occasion-besides-attending-a-sporting-event”.

Rule #9: Don’t Wear the Rival Team’s Colors.

You may try this as a diversionary tactic–“Baby, look how competitive I am! I’m rooting against your team!”–or you may honestly think you don’t look good in your team’s colors. Or, sadly, you might just be that clueless about sports. Do a bit of research (or spend some time watching guys at the local gas station) and figure out what colors you probably should be wearing. Be forewarned, too–some stadiums will actually boo you if you show up in the opposing team’s colors (St. Louis, I’m looking at you, my friends).

If you’re neutral on team allegiance, give ’em the old French classic: basic white. Oh, and it’s never “cute” to root for a guy’s rival–even if you want his attention.

Rule #8: Your Purse Doesn’t Get a Seat.

First of all, do you really need to bring a purse to a game? Ok, maybe you can’t condense your stuff down into a small clutch or your coat pockets for one evening…but keep in mind, your precious leather satchel will be sitting in its rightful place: on the sticky, popcorn-littered floor.  It’s not a small child, even if you’ve affectionately named your Louie or Jimmy or Dolce.

At an NBA game with my husband a few years ago...

At an NBA game with my husband a few years ago…

Rule #7: Get Your Own Food.

This principle will save you from endless frustration over the course of your entire life. Here it goes: men do not want to share their food with you. Ever. If they ever do, it means that they’re humoring you or aren’t really very hungry. If you’re choosing to eat at a sporting event, get your own food. And goodness gracious, definitely get your own drink. Asking to share a man’s drink with him is like trying to steal a meaty bone from a hulking dog.

This brings me to another point that needs to be stated–it is never, ever acceptable (or advisable) for you to ask a male to get up from the game and get you a pretzel or an ice cream cone or a refill on your Coke. Get it yourself, girl. You’ve got legs.

Rule #6: Focus, Focus, Focus.

Sorry, darling, no one at a sporting event wants to hear about what Jenny said to you at work today, and how frustrated you are about your sister’s boyfriend saying that stupid political baloney on Facebook. For all intents and purposes, Pinterest does not exist when you’re at a game. Conversation is fairly limited to sports-related topics and players. Be content to actually watch the game and ask questions if you don’t understand what’s going on.

And don’t just fill the void with constant cheering, either. Don’t believe me that it’s annoying? Watch the people sitting around a loudmouth at a game. Their eyes roll more than the dice at a Vegas roulette table.

Rule #5: Don’t Trash Talk.

I’ll give you a pass on this one if you actually understand the sport in which you choose to talk smack. For instance, I played basketball and soccer enough to intimately know both sports–to the point where I nearly got punched by an annoyed Lakers fan in Los Angeles a few years ago because my trash talking was a little too accurate when it came to Kobe Bryant. But in general, it’s never wise to jabber fiercely about something you don’t really understand…especially if you’ve been drinking.

Rule #4: Don’t Draw Attention to the Cheerleaders.

Let’s face it–when have the words, “Oh my gosh, look how short her skirt is!” ever had the intended effect on anyone, let alone any guy? Save your righteous criticism, however accurate it may be, and don’t needlessly point out the skimpily dressed cheerleaders any more than you have to. Besides, some of them are Harvard-bound law students…right?

Rule #3: Don’t Be Cutesy.

Don’t get me wrong, you can hold hands with your significant other while at a sporting event. If your honey puts his arm around you, by all means–that’s fine. But if you go into a sporting event expecting to be coddled and cuddled and hugged and kissed, you don’t really get what sports are all about. People love sports because they are competitive, raw, unpredictable–it’s battle. Unfortunately, smooching and war just don’t go together.

Rule #2: Don’t Get Up From Your Aisle Over and Over Again.

Nothing makes the people around you hate you more than traipsing up and down the aisle over and over again. I figure you get one or two chances to make everyone stand up so you can climb over them and step all over their toes, and that’s it. Push it to three times? You’re getting the evil eye from everyone you’re inconveniencing. Four times or more, you risk getting “accidentally” spilled with beer next time they have to get up. Or beat up in the parking lot, if it’s in Boston.

Rule #1: Don’t Make Fun of Sports Fans Geeking Out.

As you attend sporting events, the ultimate faux pas you can make is to poke fun at those fans who love geeking out. It’s not often that hardworking adults are able to paint their faces, pull on a colorful shirt, and wear a goofy foam hat on their heads while screaming themselves hoarse–so don’t take that away from anyone. Save your caustic wit for your inevitable arguments with your internet provider’s customer service representative, and let people enjoy themselves at games and events.

If all else fails and you’re truly bored to death at a sporting event, go buy yourself a pretzel and silently remember all the times your significant other has spent wandering around a department store, vainly searching for a chair as you try on endless outfit combinations. That should muffle your inner criticism until someone scores another goal and shuts down the game.

Just remember, ladies–if I see you wearing a lacy dress and playing Candy Crush at the next game I’m at, I’ll be lobbing some of these tips your way…






The 10 Commandments of Flying

5 01 2014

A few weeks ago, I jetted across the country–to be exact, from Florida to California (which one might say is a flight from the Land of Weird to the Land of Plastically-Enhanced Weird). It was upon this long flight that I typed a few notes into my iPhone about air travel.

And when I say notes, I mean basically a list of things that my fellow passengers were doing to annoy me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed a great many flights all over the world. I’ve met some fascinating people, heard some incredible tales, and learned a Wikipedia-worthy amount about various subjects by talking to my fellow flyers (though I’d prefer to forget about my gruesome conversation with an emergency room nurse from inner city Minneapolis).

However, spending a good portion of my life traveling has prompted me to be a bit of a flying expert. As you’ll see, I’ve put together the definitive list of rules one should follow when engaged in air travel.

So here you are, my friends:

The 10 Commandments of Flying…

1. Thou shalt not take another passenger’s arm rest, especially if thou is sitting on an aisle seat. Thou is not given an exception for sleeping, either. Thou needs to suck it up.

2. Thou shalt not apply lotion, cologne, or perfume (or anything that stinks to high heaven) before or during the flight, and thou is prohibited from wearing Clinique Happy around the rest of humanity.

3. Thou shalt not allow thy carry on bag to infringe upon my leg room, unless thou is willing to share thy pretzels and/or a napkin (if necessary) with me.

4. Thou shalt put on thy seatbelt immediately upon sitting down, not waiting and digging into my hip trying to find the loose end while I’m trying to catch a pre-flight nap.

5. Thou shalt keep thy baby’s mouth shut while flying, and thou shalt probably have an iPad and a pacifier ready to go for this very purpose–and thou shalt not be forgiven for screaming that lasts beyond 15 minutes total, even if thou has an adorable baby. And furthermore, thou shalt stop thy ornery child from kicking the back of my seat before I have to turn around and lay the smack down.

6. Thou shalt have one free pass to the lavatory during the flight if thou is sitting in a middle or window seat.1435105_89345740

7. Thou shalt not watch an overly gory, explicit, or dialogue-laden movie while in flight, but shall instead watch something that I will also enjoy watching over your shoulder.

8. Thou shalt not place thy drink too close to my seat-back tray, lest the heavens knock your drink down during turbulence and splatter my Kindle Fire instead of thou own paperback novel that looks like it got left out in the rain already.

9. Thou shalt not close thy window during take off, landing, sunrise, or sunset–unless thou is taking off from Iowa, where there is nothing interesting to see from the sky.

10. Thou shalt get thy act together and use thy God-given brain to collect thy junk before the row in front of thee is already exiting the plane. Some of us have connecting flights to catch.

Dare you break one of these commandments while flying, you better pray that God has mercy on your  sinful soul.

You also better hope that I’m not on my iPhone behind you, either…

The Differences Between Your Early 20’s Vs. Your Late 20’s…

17 07 2013

Just the other night, I was awoken by a late-night text. I kid you not, the first thought I had was, “I’m too old for this.”

How very Grinch-like of me, I know.

I used to love when my friends texted me in the middle of the night…when I was in my early 20’s. Now at 27, I’m comfortably into my late 20’s…and life has changed drastically in these few short years between my early and late twenties.

Here are some very candid differences that I’ve realized, when it comes to your Early 20’s vs. your Late 20’s:

Early 2o’s “I can sleep anywhere” vs. Late 20’s  “I need to sleep in my own bed”

I didn’t realize this one until I spent the night this year stretched out on the floor, attempting to sleep at a youth lock-in (yes, an oxymoron, I know). And then again when I attempted to sleep on the ground at a campsite. And again when I tried to nap on a couch. Back in the day–which translates to five years ago, if I have to approximate–I could sleep anywhere. And I pretty much did: in closets, on floors, on bean bags, in hammocks, and in cars. Now, I have to sleep in my own bed. So lame.

A regular midnight romp, in our early 20's...

A regular midnight romp, in our early 20’s…

Early 20’s “You’re too young to get married!” vs. Late 20’s “So when are you going to have kids, anyway?”

As a friend of mine from high school remarked recently, “It’s so strange to be almost a decade out of high school. Back then, couples were trying not to get pregnant. Now, suddenly, everyone is desperate to have a baby. What the heck?”

I have to agree. At 22, I was too young to be married. Now at 27, I’m getting questions in my birthday cards and weekly from congregation members about when I’m having kids. Thanks, world, for your confusing timelines. Apparently you’re much too young to make a life-altering decision like marriage in your early twenties, but you’re ready to raise little mini-people from scratch within a mere few years?

Early 20’s “Let’s go out, it’s only 2:00 am!” vs. Late 20’s “It’s midnight, I am so tired!”

In all seriousness, I probably averaged no more than 4 hours a sleep a night for the entire eight years I was in high school and college. We used to go out at all hours of the night, driving to the beach at 3:00, In N’ Out Burgers at midnight, or Hollywood at 4:00 am.

One time, I started hiking up a mountain in central California…at midnight. We hiked in total blackness (yes, as dangerous as it sounds–please forget I admitted to this, Mom) for several hours. Incidentally, we found out three days later that the mountain was closed to hikers that weekend because of some recent mountain lion attacks. But hey–water under the bridge now, right?

Somehow, though, in my late twenties, my body has aged about a thousand years and suddenly I actually need sleep. Like…if I don’t get at least 6 or 7 hours, I feel like a slug for days. No more midnight mountain hikes for me.

Early 20’s “Can I help you, young lady?” vs. Late 20’s “Yeah, the woman over there needs help”

Somehow, in the span of a few years, I went from being alternately called a “girl” and “young lady” by everyone–sales clerks, coworkers, and everyone in between–to being referred to as a “lady” and “woman”. And to boot, I don’t ever get carded anymore. Boy, who would’ve figured I’d miss that when it was gone?

Early 20’s “You’re like, so cool” vs. Late 20’s “You’re like, middle-aged, right?”

In my early 20’s, I was usually mistaken for one of the teenagers I worked with. We’d go out and people would ask me what grade I was in. I could confidently sit in the bleachers at a high school football game and not be recognized as an adult, and I felt like I almost had VIP access to the Teenage World because of my camouflage.

Now, when I ask my youth how old they think I am, they vaguely guess that I’m somewhere between 20 and 50. Yup. Nothing like being aged nearly 30 years by a clueless teenager. Quite a hit to the ol’ self-esteem.

Early 20’s “I totally got checked out at a college campus” vs. Late 20’s “What’s that creeper doing on our campus?” 

In probably the most unexpected turn-of-events, once you hit your late twenties, cautious college students start eyeballing you with a questioning look when you walk around their campus. Once upon a time, I used to get checked out by curious males when I stepped foot on a university campus. Now, heads swivel to see what that “old person” is doing on their hallowed turf.

And no, I’ll never tell you young punks exactly which campus vending machine gives out free candy. So there. That’s what you get for ostracizing me now.

Early 20’s “I love me some glittery eye shadow” vs. Late 20’s “When do I start using anti-aging wrinkle cream, anyway?”

Back in the day (again, five years ago), I wore all sorts of crazy clothes and makeup. Without sounding like an 80’s pop star, I’ll just say I rocked some awesome lime-green leather jackets, glittery purple eye shadow, and spiky high heel stilettos. I’d wear just about anything bright and colorful, whether it was on my body, face, or feet. But now that I’m in my late twenties, I find myself increasingly muted in every way and wondering seriously about when a young lady–er, woman–is supposed to start using anti-wrinkle products. No, I’m not really asking for advice. It’s just a thought trapped in my head, ruminating up there…

Early 20’s “I’ll happily waste my paycheck on shoes and coffee!” vs. Late 2o’s “I gotta pay off this debt and save for a house!”

In a truly cruel twist of fate, it seems that you spend your entire life training up to get a job, and then you get an entry-level job out of college which affords you a few blissful years to spend your piddly income on frivolous little niceties like new shoes and Starbucks Frappuccinos…only to realize abruptly that your dreams of a disposable income are, alas, dreams.

In my early twenties, I didn’t think too hard about dropping $4.35 on a latte. Now, in my wise years as an oldster, every dollar counts towards boring future things like a mortgage, a new car, and future loans. Adulthood is a yawn sometimes, isn’t it?

Well, there you have it. A scattered collection of thoughts on life from an aging gir…er, young la…uh, woman.

Advice I Would Have Given Myself 5 Years Ago…

6 06 2013

As graduation season strikes us with its full fury–how many times this month have you seen “Honk if U LUV Class of 2013!” written on someone’s car?–I find myself thinking back to my own college graduation.

It’s hard to believe it’s been five years already. I feel like I’m still in college, most of the time. Until I catch sight of college students and realize how babyish they look. And recall that I no longer get carded at restaurants and bars anymore.

I started thinking recently about the advice I’d give my starry-eyed college-graduate self if I could speak to her now, as the five-years-out-of-college version of me.

Here’s some of the sage advice I would have given myself five years ago:

You’ll never have much money. But that doesn’t mean you won’t be happy.

As someone who grew up never knowing want, I was horrified when I graduated from college and found myself living at the poverty level with my first job as a church work intern. In what seemed like a never-ending four years of my dear husband going to graduate school, we struggled daily with our finances. Trying to support two people on a salary smaller than a janitor’s salary (and truly at the local poverty level) meant a total restructuring of my lifestyle. I had to learn how to shop at Goodwill. I had to learn to decorate an apartment on a shoestring budget. I had to ration my gas and plan out my trips around town. On several occasions, we couldn’t even afford to do laundry–so we took to hand washing our clothes in our bathtub and draping them all over the apartment to dry.

I had plenty of freak-out moments in desperate fear that we couldn’t pay our electric bill or that we couldn’t afford to buy two gallons of milk at the same time…including one memorable incident when I started crying in the middle of the grocery store, realizing that I was destined to use coupons to buy food for the rest of my life. “We’ll never be able to afford name-brand cereal!” is one phrase I remember wailing in misery.

In the last five years, I’ve come to grips with the fact that, as church workers, my husband and I won’t ever have much money. But in terms of happiness and contentedness? In terms of knowing how to live simply and enjoy friends, family, and our dogs without worrying about accumulating material objects or planning lavish vacations? We’re blessed.

Don’t buy cheap towels or cheap shampoo.

As much as it tempts you to buy drug store shampoo on sale, it’s not worth the dull-looking locks. Same goes for those brightly colored towels that lure you in like a moth to a flame. They just cover your laundry machine in a fine dusting of miniscule lint–albeit a nice brightly colored lint–and they will never actually absorb water well. Ever.

With my husband, Tyler, at our college graduation from Concordia University in Irvine, California...

With my husband, Tyler, at our college graduation from Concordia University in Irvine, California…

Learn how to say “no”.

This is still a lesson I’m learning the hard way, although I realize its importance. You’d think having so much do that you can’t even escape for a break during the day would occasionally slow me down…but it doesn’t. I have the horrible proclivity to say “yes” to everything asked of me, and it’s in saying “no” to many of those things that the secret to a healthier, happier, and more balanced life lays.

Don’t give up what makes you happy. 

In the rush of my busy life, I’ve given up too many of the things I truly love doing: painting. Writing poetry. Walking in the woods with my dogs. Arranging flowers. Find the things that make you happy, and hold onto them–even if the time you have to enjoy these pleasures may be brief. Sometimes you might have to fight against people who’ll push you to give up what you think is happy, in favor of their personal values. For years, I was pushed to give up writing this blog by employers who told me not to be so candid, and then who used my own words against me to grade my job performance. I clung to the simple belief that I love to write, and that people appreciate my literary frankness. Incidentally, the year that I was pushed out of writing my blog the most was the year I received the WordPress “Freshly Pressed” award–twice, incredibly.

Laugh more and take life less seriously.

Worry is deadly, and stress runs high when you’re an adult and have to provide for yourself. And things are always the worst at night, for some reason. So many issues–whether real or imagined–can be lessened by having an optimistic attitude and by chuckling about it. Not that I do, all of the time. But I see the value of it now, more than I ever have.

Don’t cut your own bangs.

Pony up the extra $10 and go to a real salon. Not a strip mall chop-shop, and certainly not that beauty school that has cut-rate stylings from students who are still learning the ropes. Your bangs are the window to your soul, after all. Oh wait…maybe that’s eyes. Ok, but no one can see your eyes when your bangs are too long…so it’s pretty much the same thing.

Realize the power of being a mentor.

Being a mentor to several wonderful young people has changed my life. It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve seen God at work in incredible ways through these very special relationships. Recognizing the impact of mentoring has given me a new seriousness about modeling my faith, and training up a new generation to find its place in this world. If I do nothing else with my life, I know that I’ve loved every moment of mentoring and I’m excited to see what God does through His children. Our world sure needs it.

Darkness and light can be found in the most unexpected places.

Just because you’re in church work, doesn’t mean everyone is forgiving and filled with grace. Some of the most hurtful, angry people I’ve ever encountered in my life have been connected to churches–whether on staff or in the congregation. I’ve realized that often, people take their problems out on others–it’s not always personal. That being said, however, I’ve been attacked and bullied and targeted and pushed around more in the last five years in church work than the rest of my life combined. Sometimes it feels like I’ll be facing a life of continual hazing. But in so many ways, I’ve seen God at work in the most unexpected places–through seemingly horrible and painful situations and hurt and wounded people. And seeing the Holy Spirit so powerfully at work–even in the midst of anger, unforgiveness, denial, and pain–is breathtaking.

Be real.

I know, it sounds so cliché. But it’s so easy to wear a mask in church work, and as a Christian: say the right words, don’t admit what you’re really feeling or thinking, smile and put your best foot forward all the time. But…isn’t the whole point of our faith to admit how broken we are? How messed up we are, how we stumble along the path, how we lose our temper, and try to do things our way, and screw up royally? I might have a degree in theology, but I sure don’t have all the answers. I question, I doubt, I worry, I freak out, I lose faith, I forget.

In short, I’m a mess.

But to me, the most beautiful thing about my God is that He meets me where I am. He kneels in the dirty mud puddle of my life, lifts my chin up, and kisses my tear-stained face. I don’t deserve it. But His love is overwhelming.

So why pretend to anyone else that I deserve it, when I know I don’t?

After all, when we take off that mask, it’s so much easier to see the Holy Spirit shining through us, isn’t it?

Now, we’ll just have to wait and see what sort of advice I’d give myself in the next five years or so…

REAL Holy Week…As Told Honestly by Your Pastor & DCE.

26 04 2013

Get enough complaints about not blogging, and guess what?

You get back into it pretty quick.

Suffice it to say it’s been an extremely busy couple of months for me. I’d bore even myself trying to recount everything that’s been going on, so I’ll stick to one humorous reality I faced for the first time this year: Holy Week with as a church work duo.

We’re both church workers at the same church this year, for the first time–my husband as a pastor, and me as a Director of Christian Education.

What does this mean during the average week? We’re co-workers, and live and breathe church at work and at home. In fact, if we didn’t have two dogs to care for, we might occasionally forget we have a home away from church.

It also means we’re pretty well-prepared in jumping in to do mostly anything at church. Watering flowers? Rearranging furniture? Running registration tables? Creating dessert trays? Dusting shelves? Running screens? Organizing files? Trimming poinsettias? Making coffee? Guiding campus tours? Cleaning bathrooms? Serving meals? Leading chapel? Making hospital visits? Writing or leading devotions, lessons, or Bible studies at a moment’s notice? We got it covered, no sweat.

Holy Week, however, is a different beast entirely.

What might seem like a cheerful holiday for most–yellow bunnies! pink marshmallows! foil-wrapped chocolate!–is nothing short of laborious torture for those of us in church work.

Picture this: seven church services in eight days.

That means bulletins, flowers, communion set up, musicians, announcement slides, song lyrics, lights, candles, service order, sermons, readings, ushers, banners and paraments, food and coffee–times SEVEN.

This year, my husband and I started a new tradition to commemorate our first year in church work–our Real Holy Week picture diary, capturing how we felt at the end of each day. And rest assured, friends, those were some long days we worked–along with our dedicated staff–to prepare for Holy Week 2013.

So here’s a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes in the lives of two brave church workers during Holy Week:Photo 1

Day 1 (Palm Sunday)

Cassie: Optimistic

Tyler: God save us…(We’re Gonna Need It)

Day 2 (Monday)

Cassie: Seriously? It’s only Monday?!

Tyler: The calm before the storm…

Day 3 (Tuesday)

Cassie: And we thought tax season was stressful…

Tyler: Kickin’ it into high gear!

Day 4 (Wednesday)

Cassie: I just got home…it’s MIDNIGHT…but holy cow, I love my church!

Tyler: Zzzzz……

Photo 2

Day 5 (Maundy Thursday)

Cassie: Holy  Guacamole!

Tyler: Bringin’ it, Maundy style!

Day 6 (Good Friday)

Cassie: I love the most depressing service of the year!

Tyler: And He saw that it was GOOD.

Day 7 (Saturday)

Cassie: I. am. so. tired.

Tyler: This. Is. It.

Day 8 (Easter Sunday)

Cassie: Hallelujah! We survived Holy Week 2013!

Tyler: Thank you God!

And now….you know the real story behind Holy Week.

Next time you ask us why we look tired after Easter, you’ll know exactly why.