cheaper by the dozen.

You know, good friends are hard to find.


I’ve been trying to tackle the bad habit of comparison for quite some time, and one of the things I always seem to trip over is friends.


I don’t have a huge group of super close friends that I hang out with every other night.  This became more and more evident this year when I spent some sizeable time with a new friend.  He hangs out with so many people that he has known for such a long time.  It made my life seem bleak in comparison.  Because not only did he have that group, but each friend seemed to have his or her own group too, and so it was one huge friend family.


It was so much like a family that, as I spent more time with him, I began to realize it was too much like family.  They had familiarity on their side, but even my friend told me I’ve been his closest friend since I moved here at the end of summer.  And we just met.


How is it he could say that?  Well, maybe because it’s his situation that has become the bleak one, should any comparison be made.  Maybe mine is small, but mine is rich.  Rich in character.  Diverse.  United by qualities, not by quantity of time together (which still has its perks).


I think it’s easy to keep an old group of friends, but how can you expect to grow and still be as close by the time you’re in your 30s?  My opinion is that you rarely can, unless you stunt your growth or your friend’s growth.  I feel like growing apart is natural as you grow up and become you.


And meeting new friends can be hard.  We have developed and we know more what we want, what we need.  It’s less about sandboxes and more about support.  If his friends haven’t been providing him over the last several months in the way I have already, his friends aren’t very good friends.  It stings to realize that.  But really, what are friends for?


You can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends.


This became all so clear to me yesterday on my birthday.  My real friends were the friends that took genuine care to remember my birthday without a Facebook reminder (which I removed), the ones who took a minute of their day to share with me how much I mean to them.  Even if some forgot, my real friends were also the ones inviting me or accepting invitations willingly to meet up with me, no matter how much of an inconvenience it may be at times.  My real friends are the ones giving me rides when my car breaks down and I have to be at work by 8am on the other side of the city.


And so I realized, wow, my friends are great.  The company you keep, right?


I may not have a family of friends, but I have more than I realized.  And my “family” is a Cheaper By the Dozen ordeal made up of a wide range of adopted children.  I pluck a good one like an apple from every tree I can reach.  They’re all good apples and they all have their best qualities.  And even if they’re from far apart, I can throw them in the same basket and it’s comparing apples to apples.


I will be testing that theory tonight at my party.


Finally, I am grateful that I am so meaningful to my friend because I am so grateful of him and all that he does for me.  Out of all the ones I’ve got, he is probably the cream of the crop.  Sure, he drives me crazy sometimes, but I have so much more patience because I see a little bit of me in the things he does.  He always takes the time for me and he always has me in his thoughts.


My friends are witty, smart, driven, caring, compassionate, active, and they’ll go the extra yard.  Thank you, friends; I love you.


judging a book by its cover.

You’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, or so they say.  But is that always true?

Well I say – “that cover looks really interesting”.
Maybe the author designed it?  Made it?  That’s cool!
Or maybe the author just chose the design.  Or inspired it.  Or selected the person who made it.
Maybe the cover resonates with me the same way the book will.
Or the same way it did for the people responsible for the book.
The book filled with ideas,
of that same stream of thought,
which I will be reading with a similar resonation.

Of course, sometimes an author puts a lot of work into a cover because there’s no other hope of selling it.
The book wasn’t really up to snuff,
it’s not going to appeal to the right group of people,
there’s something lacking that we can compensate for by making the cover look like this…

In my experience, the cover can be judged – as long as you know how to judge it.
You can judge a cover all you want if you look for its underlying intentions, or message, or motives.

If the book is designed to demonstrate what’s inside,
to capture the eyes of those and only those who know how to respect it or dare to try,
or even if it’s simple, unimpressive, and quiet……
Those are the books that want to be picked up by the right people.
Those books aren’t trying to impress.

But those books that are trying to look better than they are,
the ones striving to meet some elegant standard when the content itself isn’t worthy of that status,
when the cover is tailored perfectly but the inside is empty, bleak, dull,
Those books are trying to impress, and they’re shallow.

JUST LIKE PEOPLE.

And I’ve thought about that a lot lately.
How we judge people by their covers.
And how it’s actually okay to do that – if you know what you’re doing.

If you can perceive why someone is dressing/decorated/mannered the way he/she is,
and if you can consider his/her environment, drive, and most importantly message,
then you might really start to see people in a different light.

True, some people have a lot of tattoos.  And piercings.  Or dress very strangely.  But there’s a reason why they do it, and it might not be so obvious to you, the judging eyes, the person hiding behind your thoughts who could never be as brave as to dare to be that different.

But I see so many people in collared shirts who scoff at others, who earned top grades at school and can’t admit when they’re wrong, who study straight out of the book and lack total creativity, who LIE to people’s faces to win their favor, who SCHMOOZE to work their ways up corporate ladders,… Sometimes I see these people as fancy book covers, the ones who meet all the criteria of being something they’re only pretending to be.

I’m not saying I condone being one way or another because I believe a person has a choice to be how he or she wishes, I just feel like there’s too much hatred towards people who are different because, in reality, they’re daring and unafraid and completely their unconstrained selves.  And that scares people.  It threatens them.  And it’s so much easier to put down those who think outside of the box and dare to be different than it is to accept that cookie-cutter people aren’t always the best, most honest, good-hearted people.

Because they’re often times not.
I’ve worked with enough of them to know.
Enough to see that I want the people I surround myself to be whoever they are.

Whether they look cookie-cutter like, or if they look like those little cookie dough tidbits all stuck together again that didn’t quite make a whole cookie…
Whether they’re intriguing silent book covers, bright and flashy ones, or elaborate works of art…
Whether they dress from only one palette that suits them or if they wear whatever fit their budget that week at the store…
Whether they wear their hearts on their sleeves and come to me or if I have to slowly earn their trust for them to open up…

I just want them to be what they don’t need to try to be, and I don’t want them to try to be something that they aren’t.

the least expected.

I really like things that are the least expected.

I’ve gotten accustomed to always expecting the least out of anyone.  I figure if I don’t have any faith in them, I don’t have to worry about ever being disappointed.  But what kind of life is it to have no faith in your friends?  To never have any expectations?  Admittedly, anticipation  keeps me moving forward.  Expectation must be a part of that anticipation.

But what about when the least expected isn’t a good expectation at all.  Like when I am in the most exciting moments of my life and the people who I want to actively partake just trudge on with their ordinary lives and think they’re making up for it by occasionally asking me how I am.  Like when I’m at Nationals for hockey and you don’t need to text me because there is online streaming, results, and a half dozen free apps that could keep you updated without asking.  And asking just proves to me that you’re not paying a damn bit of attention to something that’s important to me.

Yet what I didn’t expect was the numerous people who have texted me, messaged me, whatever-ed me and proved to me that they are up to date, that they are paying attention.  People who are so far away, too!  There is no one in my office at work who is paying much attention to my tournament, the people who see me the most and – in some cases – are the closest to me, yet I’m getting text messages from Colorado, SnapChats from Hawai’i, messages from Germany,… so many other people going out of their way to care about me.

I didn’t expect that.  And I know that part of being a long distant friend is taking a little extra effort to maintain that friendship, but when someone is close and takes advantage of that…thinking that means they don’t need to try as much, even if it’s subconscious,…well, forget that.  Just FORGET that.  You don’t mean anything.  Not in the long run.  And that’s the only run that matters.

“he’s just so nice”.

I have heard that so many times.  “He’s just so nice”.  Someone who’s just so selfless and does things for people all of the time, someone who goes out of his way for no reason.  Someone who’s just so nice.

Well, I used to think that.

I used to see all of the favors done, all of the thoughts thought of me or the prayers prayed to keep me safe.  I used to think the food handouts, spare change, and bought meals were just part of that perfect niceness.  But it’s not.  He’s not so nice, really.

What is it to be a good person?  Is it doing favors here and there, smiling, asking about someone’s day, and making materialistic contributions to others?  No, it’s not.  Not at all.  Being a good person is doing things for someone that often never get acknowledged.  And it’s NOT about donating money and things but more about donating time and making sacrifices.

It’s about staying behind after work – even if you have somewhere to be – to make sure someone makes it to the car store for oil, not about asking if they’re okay and handing them cash then going home.

It’s about telling someone else “no” to something you wanted to do, like sub in a volleyball game, so you can say “yes” to do something you know means way more to your friend, like be the only fan she’s ever had at one of her games and sitting the whole way through.

It’s about volunteering or going to church to better yourself, but it’s NOT about telling someone else what you’re doing in hopes that you can win them over in some way.

But most importantly, it’s about treating those closest to you the best.  It’s great that your mommy thinks you’re just an excellent, attractive good-doer.  (Part of that is she has to, she’s your biased mom.)  But does mom see how you treat those who are emotionally the closest to you?  Who rely on you to feel better about themselves?  Who invested trust in you and then you broke it fifty times along the way?  Mom only sees what you let her see, and you’re not letting her see that.

Why do people give money anyway?  Well, honestly, it’s a selfish act.  Donations make people feel good without having to really do anything.  Seriously, look it up.  Why we do things for others.  It’s actually centered around ourselves more than the people we’re helping.  So when he’s being so nice, isn’t he really just boosting his ego?

And when you give out money, ever considered how it hurts?  To feel so incapable of taking care of yourself that someone with a similar job has to be giving you handouts?  So there we go.  You boost yourself up, I bring myself down.  Who’s it really helping?

I don’t care how much money you give someone or how good you make your life look on a resume.  If you can’t make real sacrifices from your own life to be a true, supportive friend… If you can’t stop thinking about yourself long enough to keep from breaking trust and wounding someone… well then you’re really not such a nice person after all, now are you?

Think about it.

Whiteout.

There’s a whiteout outside of my window. There’s a whiteout in my mind, too, as I seem incapable of seeing through life clearly right now.

My nose is broken, my health is in question, my car is out of service, my money is tight, my patience is thin, my lack of sleep is nagging, my to-do list never shrinks, my friends stopped calling,… I feel like I’ve hit such a wall. If I had a résumé to life, it might look impressive, but my life off of paper is just plain exhausting right now.

I think not knowing where I stand with people lands me in that fog. It makes it even harder to get out of a bad streak when I feel like I’m always going to be doing it alone. It was rewarding when I took my first few independent steps – months – but years? I feel like it’s been eternity since I fit in with a group of people.

Today I was pretty torn up over some social situations. I walked into another office at work for some training we do periodically. A coworker that is too snobby for my liking was standing with some girls from that office. They watched me intently from the doorway to the landing beside them. When I started to introduce myself (I was on their home turf so I expected they’d introduce themselves first but they didn’t), they literally talked over me and then walked away.

All day I kept trying to make conversation with someone, someones in particular too, and I just felt awkward or shut down.

I can’t help but think it’s just me, I’m paranoid, everyone else thinks the same about me…but all the negativity from this month keeps stacking up. Not to mention my always miserable Valentine Days.

I guess sometimes it just feels good to feel sorry about yourself when no one else will comfort you. Especially when you feel as run down as I do this month…

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; It is not arrogant.”
-1 Corinthians 13:4

My week has been rough, but this day was subtly amazing.

We made ligonberry Swedish crepes for breakfast. It was a communion day at church and I was hugged like family. The pastor quoted the same passage that I had recently shared with Jeff. We cleaned off 20 or 30 snowy cars as the people left. We had good conversations and baked soda bread and made stirfry vegetables. Then we met his brother and brother’s wife to cross-country ski and had a beer after. The weather was perfect and the sun was shining. We made pasta and ate banana pudding. We watched the Olympics and The Help. We talked about people and gossip and respect and how people treat each other.

And when I left, I had sweet goodbye and was thanked for my persistence in convincing Jeff to try something he didn’t think he wanted, to watch that movie. It sounds silly, but it spoke volumes. Gentle persistence. Comfort zones. That came up a lot today.

Taking the time to have fun and be patient to understand, that makes such a difference. Slowing down enough to enjoy the smallest things makes anything feel refreshing. The pastor quoted 1 Corinthians today, and I thought it was a good thing to remember.

And in other news, I’m back writing full swing for the Athenian – and illustrating, too.

Timing.

I spent the majority of my weekend in Tennessee.  It took my friend and me arriving to absolutely every scheduled event exactly on time for me to realize how stressful day-to-day scheduling has become.  I already have experienced the stress from the other perspective, when I worked in third world countries and a contractor doesn’t show up or call for a couple of days which is apparently completely okay over there.  That stressed me out because I was on a schedule.  But what about when you can make your own schedule and be stressed by yourself?  We didn’t need to meet my friend, do the Louisville Slugger tour, taste-test at Jim Beam’s, hike Mammoth Caves, honky-tonk in Nashville… but we scheduled ourselves to do all of those things.

I just got so accustomed to the stress and success of the weekend that, when tragedy struck leaving the Smokies and Knoxville, I was completely unprepared to be stranded in southern Kentucky without a car.  The timing has kept us from getting to work today, finishing things we had to do,…and I have to feed my cats again.  The timing then restricted us to shops being closed on Sundays, places being booked on SuperBowl Sunday, an impending storm limiting our travel, and even plopping us down in the most remote corner of our entire voyage.

But the timing has also made many more things evident which are positive.  I have finally had to forcefully resolve the small, persistent problems in my new car which are actually big problems that somehow flew under the radar when the dealer sold the car to me.  I have a new perspective on how to handle and prepare for these situations, partly thanks to a conversation I had with a friend.  It also made me realize how much patience my friend Jess has and how amazing Jeff is for offering to come “pick us up”.  That would be a 12-hour roundtrip and he didn’t hesitate to offer help in any way possible.

I just think timing is a funny thing, how it can keep you from seeing something or be so perfect at making a little thing obvious.  I just hope it doesn’t decide to show me too many things on our drive home this afternoon…

Inexplicable Comfort.

I know I started this blog years ago with an intention of bashing satire, but lately I feel like I have turned it into a documentation of my transformation.  I think the combination of busyness and that the emotions plugged into my original satire all equally provide the reason for the turn.  Writing about my “little thoughts” just comes so much more naturally than always sitting down to ruthlessly tear apart a topic or an attitude.  Sometimes, doing the latter almost makes me feel worse.  Writing about pure Kayla Faith just feels healing and therapeutic, like a journal that I throw up to the world and don’t care who sees me for who I am.

I’ve found comfort in this kind of writing as of late.  And, today, I noticed that I found comfort in places I never expected to find it, at times that didn’t seem to be supportive of it.

It started last night, really, when a long Saturday at work turned into a fun night in the snow and an invitation to spend the rest of the weekend with someone I care as much as humanly possible about.  Never in a million years would I expect such an invitation from someone so busy this past week and so low on spare time.

Today, despite a conversation that I had last night that tore me down a bit, I attended church as I have a few times now with said person.  I found so much comfort in going.  We always sit in the same place, I’m starting to recognize the same faces who always express their loves to see me, and I watched snow fall outside the whole time.  When I first attended, the music was my favorite part.  An actual band plays.  Now, it has become the application of scripture.  Perhaps that is because I have been reading the Bible to understand the preaching better.  And today, I had few qualms with what was being said.  I had memories of singing Gospel with my grandma, thinking she had the most beautiful voice in the world and that one must obtain such a voice by singing for God and that only,… so I suddenly began craving the scripture reflections and traditional hymns.  Furthermore, just the feeling of going to church makes me feel good.  I got up early in the morning, I went with someone I care a lot about, I supported his faith the way I like when people support what I care about, and I saw many kind – and now familiar – faces.  I’m not saying I believe things one way or another, but I’m just saying I have come to love those Sunday mornings.  I know he would say God is making me love them, but I don’t care what is – I’ll just keep going.

Comfort came to me again when we left and we drove through the snowy parks.  We ran up to Squire’s Castle, I in his work boots because silly me wore moccasins, and we just loved the snow.  Snow.  Snow.  Snow.  I love you, snow.  Snow is perhaps the silence that screams about peacefulness louder than anything else on Earth.

I always find comfort in fixing our meals, sneaking the dishes into the dishwater before he can yell at me for cleaning up, leaving notes and sending letters…  Sometimes I worry I look like I’m trying to hard when, really, I just can’t imagine not doing those things.  Maybe it’s actually selfish.  They make me feel good?  Because I make someone else feel good?  Maybe that comfort isn’t inexplicable, because my friend Rita already sat me down and explained to me years ago that I’m a “people-pleaser” like her.  It helped me understand why I feel so easily rejected and depressed when I don’t meet someone’s standards.  Regardless, I found comfort in doing those favors today.

I found comfort on the way home when I stopped at the store.  I usually avoid talking to people or making eye contact.  I always feel like some silly deer in the headlights.  People always come up to me and ask if I’m okay because I look frazzled or tired or stressed or like I’ve been crying… and that’s happened on my happy days, thus launching such days into self-conscious misery.  So I avoid it altogether.  But then I had the briefest of all conversations at the checkout counter with the grocer.  I recalled previous experiences at Whole Foods and nearly all of them include conversations at the checkout.  That never happens at normal stores.  Whole Foods definitely has a unique vibe, and suddenly I felt comfort that there are people out there who understand me but whom I have not yet met.  The world maybe isn’t as dark as I always think it is.

I found comfort in driving from the store to home and listening to my audiobooks.  I had previously finished Knowing Scripture, a book to accompany my reading A History of God while also reading the Bible (NKJV) cover to cover.  I actually really enjoyed that audiobook.  It was gentle, although set in its ways, and tried to express the importance of “literal” meaning.  What is literal meaning?  Taking something literally doesn’t mean word-for-word but instead the way it was intended to be taken, something that can be determined by its literary mechanisms.  Was that hyperbole?  What is that in the context of its time?  (Or, in the case of the Bible, things like What was the original word for this in its native language and how might it have been translated?)  I liked that, but then I listened to RIchard Dawkins.  I thought I would like this audiobook more, a much longer book which basically speaks against Scripture and is the opposite to the book I just finished.  Truth of the matter is this book is so damn arrogant, the claims so wildly inappropriate half of the time that I sympathize for any and all religious or semi-religious peoples.  Some moments, I agree full-heartedly.  Others, I’m appalled.  I think I was appalled maybe once or twice at some far-fetched concept in Knowing Scriptures and so I suddenly realized how arrogant the arguments sound.  Religious people often strive to be loved by and show love for their god(s), whereas atheists often display contempt for those loving people.  I’m not saying it’s either-or, but I suddenly felt comfort in places where I had previously felt uncomfortable: under the judgment of those who follow religion rather than those who follow proving it wrong.

At this point, I was home.  Expected mail was not in my inbox.  My place looks half-cleaned.  And I suddenly burst into tears in the kitchen.  I do that sometimes, maybe because I’m just confused about life.  About why I’m here, who I am, what I’m supposed to be doing, am I supposed to know these answers, are there no answers, where do I go from here, what is the point, etc. etc. etc.  Suddenly, from no where, I turn to the kitchen counter on my left and my cat Phantom is looking up at me, eagerly.  She has never jumped on my counter before.  She starts to nuzzle me, so I pick her up.  I have never cried into a cat so long before.  All she did was purr and respond to my scratching her ears until I set her down at the windowsill a good 10 minutes later.  Sometimes I’m convinced that people of our past are reincarnated into our pets, to somehow guide us.  Perhaps there is some god that oversees this.  Or perhaps I’m just crazy.  I don’t care, I still feel that way.  Just like I somehow know my grandma is there every time a ladybug refuses to leave my arm.  (And, yes, that exact experience has caused the only female on a construction site – me – to burst into tears in front of a slew of male drillers before.)

Finally, comfort came in the form of a text conversation.  One of my closest girlfriends from home texted me this evening, asking about the person I spent the day with (she saw a photo I posted of us hiking).  I briefly explained the situation.  I mean, she’s probably one of the better people to speak to about it.  She became incredibly passionate for my side that it made me feel, yet again, that inexplicable comfort.  Where did this come from?  She was so adamant to support me, being me, believing whatever I believe, no matter how it ever does or doesn’t change…  She was convinced that love is boundary-less, that it is foolish to throw out feelings over a difference that may not exist and that may only strengthen the diversity of something if it does…  Her argument made me feel sound and strengthened and not so hopeless.  She gave me courage after a day of mild confusion.  And, better than all else, she made me feel like my battle was not lost but just slow at being won.  It’s comforting knowing people so far away can care about you so much that they nearly lose their cool in expressing their support for you.

Ever since a conversation I had with a non-religious friend a few months ago, I have fully adopted his outlook on religion and faith: We are all religious, we just define our personally tailored religions in different ways.  This is, I think, completely true.  Even if you’re Christian, you likely interpret things a certain way, one in which others may not.  But what is wrong with that?  Follow the Scriptures all you want, but only certain ones were selected, they were all translated to varying degrees of accuracy, and who says they are set in stone?  (Okay, maybe the 10 commandments were originally but…)  With this in mind, I have no doubt that I am religious.  Religion is literally – there it is again! – defined as not just supporting a superhuman concept, but also following a set of beliefs with a certain upheld faith.  BOOM.  My beliefs may vary throughout the years, molded by whom I am near and what I have learned and seen, but I will have those beliefs nonetheless.  I’m adamant about adhering to certain ways of living and doing what is right, whether or not I’m convinced that right and wrong have to exist.

BOOM.  I am religious.  I always have been, but now more so than ever.  And I find it really odd, but I have been compelled to occasionally pray since I was about 8 years old.  Sometimes I pray because there is someone who asks for a prayer or who is struggling, so I pray for them and I pray to whomever their god is or gods are.  Sometimes I pray because I feel completely hopeless and what else should I do?  I always start off in my mind with “Dear God or gods or Mother Nature or whoever it is that I’m sorry I don’t know but who might have a say in this…”  I honestly hesitated to express in an entry that I am this way because I didn’t want people to regard me in a certain way, but then I decided why do I care?  I am who I am and I don’t know who I am but I’ll still be who I am whether I want to be me or not.

Seriously…my mind is such a freely flowing stream of randomness…but I just really felt like I had to record this moment, today, a day of highs and lows but of discovery and this odd sense of comfort in moments that felt so dreary.  Today, just when I felt like all was lost, I actually began to feel more hopeful.  Like, these are the tests we are going through to make us confident that this is actually everything we want.  We can handle this, because it is nothing.  There is so much compassion to be had and, like my friend told me today, love and respect are the center of it all.  And that’s there.  It will all be okay because that’s there, so I just need to focus on me, continuing to be growing, dynamic me, and this will work out because it’s meant to be this way.

Even if not everything has a purpose, as humans we always find it one.