18 January 2010

No Easy Way Down

Last night I returned from a bachelorette weekend on Mammoth Mountain. The bachelorette party included: snowboarding, skiing, a fierce gondola ride up a mountain, Ovaltine with fancy marshmallows, knitting, crocheting, delish food, a whole bunch of laughs. The bachelorette party did not include: cheap liquor served in a plastic cup molded to look like a you-know-what, walks of shame, poles--other than the ones that accompanied the skis, of course.

Today it is raining buckets in Los Angeles, and I love it. I'm using the day to sit on the couch under one of my beloved Avoca blankets and tap away on the computer keyboard.

Here are photos you may enjoy.

Acting like grown-ups in the village of Mammoth.

This was taken from the enclosed gondola. At one point, music played from speakers either outside or in the gondola (my friends and I couldn't figure out which). It was like the mountain had a soundtrack!

After taking a gondola ride to the top of Mammoth Mountain, I enjoyed watching brave souls board and ski their way back down the mountain. I was in a comfortable little building outfitted with these nifty telescopes. The brave souls were in the elements, outfitted only with nifty jackets lined with zippers and micro-fibers.

The mountain. So you're not supposed to point cameras directly into the sun. But I'm still a novice, so I pretend not to know these things. I still like the effect, and I love the brilliant blue sky against the snow.

Obviously I'm not indulging in extreme winter sports as evidenced by my wellies, which are typically worn on a farm or while working in a rain-soaked garden. Nonetheless, they looked super cute on the top of this mountain where only "experts" dare tread. I especially liked the handwritten note on this sign that said, "No Easy Way Down." They must not have heard about the gondola rides.

11 January 2010

The S Matters

It's funny how some people automatically assign nicknames to the people they meet. As in, during the first introduction. For me this usually looks like this:

Me: "Hello, it's nice to meet you. I'm Elisabeth."
Them: "Hi, Liz. It's nice to meet you, too."

What tha? Liz? First--the obvious fact that I have an S in my name and not a Z, but no one ever seems to notice that, so we will just move on from that point. Second--who told you that Liz was OK? What if I prefer Beth or Libby or Betty? We just met. Nicknames are terms of endearment and seeing that I just said we've just met, how are you that close to me to assign me a nickname?

And why do I care so much?

Well, I'm not the only one who cares about the spelling of my name or what I am called (nothing profane, please. my mom's reading this). I have several friends with names that are beautifully spelled-out in a way that isn't likely to be found on a plastic keychain at the mall. They, too, have issues with the whole I've-known-you-since-middle-school-so-why-are-you-still-spelling-my-name-wrong thing. They also struggle with the whole I-have-to-spell-out-my-name-every-time-someone-else-writes-out-a-name-tag-on-my-behalf thing.

Why does it matter? Because your name is unlike any characteristic you have. Your name is your identity in a crowd of complete strangers. Your name is like music on a radio station only your ear can tune into. Your name is the very essence of you.

Indulge me in a brief bunny trail, and I'll bring things back to this point. This morning I spoke in front of my church about the community group I am in. The thought of public speaking with a microphone makes my knees tingle even now as I think on the very act. I am not a professional speaker; I am not an actress (though everyone else in this town sure seems to be one); I did not ask to speak in front of two seas of blank faces staring right back at me (and occasionally yawning). But the topic was important to me, so I did it.

My community group was sort of an accident. I'm really not sure why I signed up to be in one. I guess I signed up because I was looking to make more friends at my church, to make more friends who share my faith, and probably to meet a guy who shares my faith. I feel like a complete oddball in this town, and I guess I was looking for a place where I wouldn't feel quite so odd. Whatever the combination of reasons, I am very happy I signed up. The friends I have made in this group have been such a treat. We haven't really met as a group for that long, but we have bonded in a sweet way rather quickly. It's like having a second-cousin in town. They aren't quite at the sibling ranking, but there is a comfortable level of familiarity that prevents me from feeling completely alone out here in this scattered city.

It's a lot of work to create and maintain community. It's a lot of work to show that you care for other people and to be their community. This is something that I am trying to be better at. Mind you, this goal isn't related to a New Year's resolution because I'm not doing those this year. It's more of a life goal, a trait I want to develop and groom for the rest of my life. I forget birthdays, I forget to email, I am selfish and talk about myself first when I meet a friend for coffee. But I try very hard to not misspell a name of a dear friend or in a professional setting. It happens, no doubt, and when it does I sternly remind myself of the correct spelling and vow to try harder next time. When it happens to me I feel an immediate unfamiliarity, as though I am in a relationship where I love him more than he loves me. It's not the end of the world though, so I just get over it.

Back to this morning. A good friend of mine sat next to me before I was to give my little talk the first go-round. She opened her bulletin as I fumbled for gum or a mint or whatever it was I fumbling for. She nudged my arm, pointing the bulletin. And there it was: Elizabeth

I thought: "Well, if I royally mess up I can just blame it on that girl, 'Liz.'"