Tuesday, May 19, 2015


There is not enough coffee and Diet Coke in the world today.

Or perhaps this has something to do with the fact that I've gone to bed around midnight the last two nights, and I usually hit the pillow around 8.

Perhaps it has something to do with that.

I feel alert, just not motivated, let's just put it that way.

I need some water.

I've had the magical salad twice this work week, and it's Tuesday, so I'll let you do that math there, Friend.

One of the waitresses didn't recognize me with my new bangs -- note she didn't recognize because normally she would recognize me because I show my face in there all the time!!

So all that me and the new roomie can think about is moving in to our new place. The landlord was kind enough to hold the place for a very generous amount of time, which is great, because I don't have to pay too much double rent as I move out of my current place, we have lots of time to pack, blah blah blah.

The downside is now we must sit and wait to move in to our treasure trove of happy homeyness.

But we're bonding in the process: long email chains about how to decide who gets the master bedroom (ideas so far include trivia contest and beer chugging contest -- classy), getting drinks after work to chat, sending each other Craigslist postings for fridges, couches, TVs.

We're excited. :)

And the cat made sure to let me know not to forget him in the move, by climbing into one of my packing boxes.

Either that or he's a cat and just loves boxes.

I'm going with the first theory.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The struggle to talk to God (even though it should be simple)

You know that feeling when you see someone all the time? You laugh together, maybe cry in front of each other, talk constantly, see each other more often than you see anyone else?

And then, for whatever reason, you drift apart?

And then, after you force yourself to contact them and get through the awkwardness of it all because you know there's something there worth getting back, get together for a burger?

And you feel fidgety, and uncomfortable, and a little sad, and not quite like yourself, as you munch on your reunion lunch? Hoping to rush through it, desperately wanting to be back in the comfort of your own space, even if it's lonely? Wondering if maybe your friendship will never be like it once was?

That's how I feel about my relationship with God right now.

It's 3:20 a.m. right now, and I waited about 20 (did I even make it 15?) minutes before I finally caved and grabbed my laptop and pulled it up here on the bed with me to possibly type this or to at least peruse Facebook and check my email, to escape the discomfort of my guilt ridden thoughts.

When I woke up -- possibly due to the inexplicably egregious amount of Diet Coke I drank yesterday -- and found myself in that state of boredom that prevents one from falling back asleep at 3 a.m., I dared myself to resist the laptop urge.

I tried to get myself to talk to God instead.

And, as always these days -- and for a number of years I don't care to admit -- it felt weird.



A little sad.

Or maybe a lot.

First, there's the conversational method. Do I ask questions? Start prattling off facts and feelings, Dear Diary style? Lie motionless and wait to feel His stillness?

Second, what to talk about? Apologize for not conversing lately? Question which of my actions are considered sinful -- since, while the Bible gives so many guidelines and society gives a billion more, the agreed upon standards are so muddy? Just sit back and talk to Him like an old friend, since all is forgiven, and in order to believe that I better just start acting like I believe it and pretend there's no awkwardness in our interactions?

A large part of me wishes I could just fall back asleep right now, and once again ignore these tuggings come morning. But I think maybe it's good to write it out.

I can say for once I know I'm not alone in this.

I find, in the worlds of religion and otherwise, that people tend to be black or white on this: fully confident in their conversations and relationship with the Man Upstairs, or slinking in the shadows, afraid to talk too loudly about their God relationship issues -- or lack thereof altogether -- the way one would avoid talk of a fresh divorce, whispering around the subject but mostly just moving on as quickly as possible to small talk, grasping on to the latest popular sporting event for topic even though you don't care much about sports at all.

And who are we kidding, really? Certainly not Him.

I'm good at reading Christian books. Listening to pretty Christian music. Smiling and speaking friendly when I greet people every third Sunday of the month as they mosey from the parking structure to the auditorium where we worship at a local school.

And then I'm really good at skipping church afterward, and not coming back to the campus until the next third Sunday.

Not that it's all about going to church. I've long been clear to express my opinion on that. God loves you if you wear jeans to church, don't go to church, struggle over the complicated and ancient words of the Bible.

But, like any relationship, quit attending to it, quit showing up, and your chances of feeling normal and happy and relaxed in that relationship are minimal, laughable.

So when, like me, one doesn't read the Bible, go to church, meditate, pray, talk (too) much about God with her friends, then what's there?

Confusion. 3 a.m. Diet Coke induced stupor and frustration. And some hope. Some trust that God is steadfast and who He's always said He is -- loving. Forgiving. Chasing after us.

Praying is hard. Reading the Bible -- which, I find jumps from topics like adultery to "let the children come to me" to beautiful Psalm 139 that makes me weep -- is hard. Talking to God and letting Him know you're scared, and sad, and completely unsure of where to walk next in your faith journey is hard.

But maybe that's where I need to start. I'm pretty good, with my friends here on earth, in 'fessing up when I'm sad, confused, scared. I openly complained in recent weeks to coworkers about the exhaustion of searching for an apartment, about the joys of my friendship with my future roommate. Maybe this talking with God thing doesn't need to be as hard as I'm making it to be.

But Friends, I understand if you feel that it is hard. Because it can be so hard. Hold on. And message me in the comments to remind me I'm not alone, and offer tips for getting that conversation with the Best Friend of all back in gear. I'm all ears.

Love and Hope,

P.S. Also, this beautiful song that has given me comfort came on my Pandora shuffle station while I was writing this, so I will share it with you:

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The 1,000 List, Installment #5!

The list continues! Halfway to 1,000 things I'm grateful for!

401. Baby chameleons. Soooo tiny!! (I like how they look a little bit grumpy, too).
402. MILK
403. It always kind of cracks me up when I forget that my Caps Lock is on and ALL OF A SUDDEN I'M TYPING LIKE THIS.
404. Lo mein
405. This Old House
406. Trader Joe's Chai -- delish
407. Sitting on the Internet on the weekend
408. Cleaning the crap out of my apartment so that it's glistening come Sunday night, all fresh and tidy before going to work on Monday
409. That feeling of knowing everything is clean at home, while I sit at work
410. Ellie Kemper
411. Imogen Heap's music (!!!)
412. Color
413. Elliptical machines, for when I don't quite feel like actually running
414. Disney Channel sitcoms
415. Getting into a car that's been sitting in the sun
416. The Nutcracker
417. The mischievousness of warthogs
418. My cat, all smashed into a box full of stuff. Oh, he finds a way to fit.
419. When my cat inadvertently winks
420. Neon colors
421. Disney Channel sitcoms' mismatched fashion
422. Glitter
423. Sprinkle donuts
424. Wet burritos
425. (Free) Chips & salsa
426. Asian food and beer
427. Use of a synthesizer in 80s and 90s music
428. Rolltop desks
429. Writing gratitude lists
430. Chocolate chip cookies from Costco
431. Sunglasses
432. When you make a to-do list, forget about it, then suddenly remember and are able to cross off a bunch of things you've done
433. The damp fur of a cat who's just groomed himself
434. Sitting and talking with my sweet friend Sonya
435. Being on a hike way up high in LA and realizing it's quiet
436. Putting aloe on a sunburn
437. Seeing whales!
438. Rocks in glass jars
439. The way cats smell like sweaty children when they come in from the hot outdoors
440. Having a kid (or anyone) play with my hair
441. Snorkeling -- unreal
442. Watching Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (particularly the Alec Baldwin and Sarah Silverman episodes)
443. Emailing a coworker throughout the day to make the day go faster
444. Making a wish when the clock says "4:44," "12:34," or something similar
445. Hot dogs at baseball games
446. When you get the news that a new baby has arrived, this side of the womb
447. A great stretch
448. Another page written in the draft of the book
449. Sunscreen
450. Sundresses
451. Maxi dresses
452. Blackberries in yogurt
453. Sitting on a patio, solo or with a friend, on a morning with no agenda and lots of coffee
454. Richard and Linda Thompson's "Dimming of the Day"
455. The way country music reminds me of my friend Corie, and sometimes of summer specifically
456. Lake weekends with Corie and her family
457. The super delicious sweetness of straight up bubble gum
458. Looking at DIY blogs and gushing over all the cute and handy stuff (and then never actually making the stuff)
459. Popsicles
460. A made bed
461. The click of high heels (particularly when I am wearing them)
462. Campfires (and s'mores and beer, duh)
463. Kenneth on 30 Rock
464. Tracy on 30 Rock
465. Alec Baldwin's curious -- yet smoldering -- sexiness
466. Riding on an Amtrak train
467. Free swag at alumni -- or similar -- events; keychains, bumper stickers, other stuff you don't need, but hey, it's free!
468. Watching football games with fellow alum, and making friends with previous strangers over suds and field goals
469. TV hair -- long and curly
470. The look of a messy bun with a headband. Always feminine, and either cute/casual or elegant/fancy, depending on the outfit it's paired with.
471. Potato chips & French onion dip
472. When you get a massage and that knot that's been bothering you finally lets up
473. Cleaning up with a disinfectant wipe. It kills time when you're bored, yet it's still productive.
474. Maui Winery's pineapple sparkling wine. Mmmmm
475. "Puppy chow"
476. Baking for men. They turn into little boys when you show up with cookies.
477. Cooking while wearing an apron
478. Shopping at Fresh & Easy -- my little British Trader Joe's. I LOVE IT!!
479. Milky Ways
480. A framed picture of someone -- or somewhere -- you love. Of a sweet memory.
481. Finishing a writing piece, or just a first draft
482. The somehow-satisfying bitterness of cold coffee
483. Olive Garden Zuppa Tuscana soup!!!! With breadsticks and salad, of course. But it's by and large about the soup.
484. A book by Bill Bryson, Anne Lamott, Lauren Winner, Bailey White, Sandra Tsing Loh, Donald Miller, James Herriot...
485. Having a sap fest with a friend
486. Marshmallows
487. Stale marshmallows
488. That scene in "Selena" when Selena's future husband drowns his pizza in Tabasco sauce and then says, "I don't like pepperoni, it's too hot," and then Selena just loses herself in giggles.
489. Really appreciating a breeze across my skin
490. Not so much tickling itself, but I love that maniacal giggling that happens when I'm being tickled -- and sometimes continues long after the tickling has stopped
491. Matzo
492. Drumlines
493. Going to football games
494. When the trip odometer and thermometer match on my car (60 degrees and 60 miles travelled)
495. Cameos
496. Depending, of course: film remakes
497. Working out with my pretty purple iPod Shuffle
498. Folded potato chips
499. The magical burrito
500. The magical salad

The magical salad

I've already told you about the magical burrito.

It's time I tell you about the salad.

If for no other aim than to prove to you that I don't always eat only burritos.

(But I do eat a lot of burritos).

I go to the place that serves the magical salad at least once a week. On average, it's more like twice a week.

But it's salad, so it's OK.

And with my Diet Coke and tip, I'm not saving myself money by droppin' $15 each time I march in there, but it's worth it.

Worth. It.

I discovered the salad when I ordered it for a meeting at work. I needed a place that delivered to our office, so I believe I found it through Yelp.

Feeling in a salad-y sort of place, I guess -- and thank goodness I was, because look at what obsession I'd be missing -- I looked over their simple, no-nonsense-but-includes-tater-tots menu and went for the chicken salad.

Which sounds like the food processor-mayo-mixed-in kind of chicken salad that you spread on bread for a sandwich.


It's a salad with chicken on top.

And it's.



I am yet to tire of it, and I'm betting I've eaten upwards of 30 (40?) of these things now.

And they are always fresh. Always tasty. Always satisfying.

Let's start with the ingredients.

Roma (or something similar and equally red and ripe) tomatoes.
Persian cucumbers.
Romaine lettuce.
Grilled chicken. With some sort of tantalizing yet none too overpowering marinade/seasoning. (This is where I believe most of the magic -- and addiction -- lie).

I spring for the balsamic vinaigrette, but you can do what you like of course.

Like I said -- and it's worth mentioning again -- the stuff they put in this salad is so fresh. The lettuce is clean and green. Tomatoes red. Cukes crisp.

Chicken, as we've covered, delish.

Oh, and just like the magical burrito, this sucker arrives at my table in about 5 minutes flat. And it's made fresh on the spot.

It took a while for my regular waitress -- whose name I still don't know -- to get bored enough to ask if I'd like to add anything to the salad, but she got there eventually.

I politely declined for quite a while.

And then one day I sprung for avocado.

Good choice.

The tiny cubes were hidden in there ever so craftily, and when my mouth hit upon the green mush, it was happy it did. This is going to sound gross, but it was like a satisfying culinary French kiss.

Things continued to be fine. I would read or watch 90s movies on the big screen TV behind the bar while I crunched happily on my greens.

And then one day they actually got better.

Chips? they offered.

Chips? I countered back.

No no. Not on the side of the salad.

IN. the salad.


And they took the world's best jalapeno chips (Miss Vickie's, duh) and crunched them up into oh so tiny pieces inside the bag, and then

mixed them in


with the salad.

I can't tell you what this has done to my lunch life.

You're just gonna have to go test it out for yourself. One word: Tara. Think Gone with the Wind if you forget. Once you try it, you'll be gone with the wind of old salads and embraced in the new loving family of Tara chicken salads.

And try it with the chips.

At your service, continuing to find Valley hole in the wall eats. You're welcome.

Saturday, May 9, 2015


She once told me that my eyes really say it all about what I'm feeling.

She used to wrap me in a towel and sit on the toilet seat lid with me, clipping my toe and fingernails, talking to me gently after bathtime.

She supplied us with popsicles in the bath, and toys and siblings to laugh with, and gave us shampoo horns (i.e. lathered up our bowl cuts and curls and used the thick suds as mousse to create mohawks and unicorn horns atop our heads).

She has always called us sweet things like "Peach." She calls me Mitsubishi and Girlfriend.

She prays for me over the phone when I am worried or sad, most recently this Wednesday.

She and I together are the two biggest cat freaks of the family, unabashed.

While not a big athlete, she is a champ at yoga and can kick your tush at bowling or billiards.

Believe it or not, I inherited some introversion from her.

And her love of reading.

And libraries.

And the silver streak in her hair, which is growing in on me. (Proverbs 16:31)

She can twirl batons of fire.

She takes care of her mom without complaint, going above and beyond in visiting doctors, stocking drawers with warm socks, and keeping Grams' apartment filled with framed pictures of her great-grandbabies.

She taught me about girl power, donning silk blouses and suits for her managerial level jobs when I was a tot. She still supplies me with things like Wonder Woman stationery.

She is a human dictionary. Ask her the meaning of any word. She knows it.

She told me to start a blog, which has helped me grow as a writer.

She assembles the best care packages.

She set an example for my future marriage by picking an exceptional husband for herself.

It took me years to learn it, and several trips to the mall ended in mother vs. tomboy fighting (sorry, Mom), but she has great taste in clothes and always knows what will look best on me. Even if it looks crazy on a hanger. Trust her. (While this post is about my mom, this is an opportunity to point out that my pops has some good taste in clothes for me, too, and has selected some wardrobe winners over the years).

And she regularly takes me on Macy's shopping sprees. (We're making up for lost tomboy time).

She keeps my ENFP father and I calm, with her ISTJ wisdom and peace.

She took us to church always, even though God knows she and Dad were always exhausted. And she always made sure we ate dinner together.

She slathered us in sunscreen and made us turkey and butter sandwiches that we ate in the Worlds of Fun parking lot. She let me get my face painted every time we visited the amusement park, and she rode roller coasters with us.

She ingrained a deep craving for milk in us, for which I am udderly grateful (no, seriously, though). And when the Brewer household ran out of liquid calcium, she served it up in frozen form: that's right. Ice cream for breakfast. Mother of the year award.

On the surface, it seems I am a carbon copy of my dad. But there is a Mom lifeblood that courses through me, no doubt. I love you, Mama. Keep on bein' awesome and lifting up those around you in encouragement and love.