Monday, December 28, 2009

Prayer #94: Goodnight Grace

Photo by North60

Prayer #94: Goodnight Grace

For the food piping hot, I give thanks to You.
For the folks who have not, I ask of You.
For the day that has passed, I hand to You.
For the dreams coming fast, I rest in You.
And for graces from this grace -- I trace to You.

Amen.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Christmas play just for you

Watch this Nativity scene courtesy of the movie The Bells of St. Mary's. Possibly the best, most sincere, and truest rendition of the miracle of Christmas I've ever seen.

May the peace and joy of the season be yours forever! Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Britt Bravo features my (shorn) Locks of Love on WETV.com

How do you guarantee a good hair day? By chopping it all off and giving it to someone else. That's how I spent my unexpected snow day on Monday as I made good on my promise to get my long-nurtured hair off my head and onto those who need it.

With my original appointment canceled due to inclement weather, desperate times called for quick thinking. Quick thinking led to me roping my long-suffering roommates into misguided adventures. Which found the three of us crowded in my shower stall, with Sus cutting off my braids while Jacob recorded it for posterity.



Don't worry, I then walked right over to Hair Cuttery and got it styled.

I thought the story would end there. Cut twice, mail once, and start the process over. But as I tweeted about the haircut and put the pictures and video up on Facebook, responses began to pour in.

Some were about my sassy new 'do, but most were about how great Locks of Love is. The organization's powerful story -- that people commit to growing out their most visible renewable resource so kids can have real hair again -- resonated with everyone. And I felt blessed to help spotlight its terrific mission before a fresh audience.

I was especially excited to widen that audience exponentially when prolific social good blogger Britt Bravo (of Have Fun * Do Good, BlogHer, and more) featured me on her WETV.com post about donating to Locks of Love. Check out her post here. (Thank you, Britt!)

So what can you, the prospective donor, learn from my hair-raising adventure? Note the following:

* Keep your hair healthy while you're growing it. That means semi-regular trims to keep the split ends in check.

* Hair does not grow as quickly as you might think. It took me two years to get my own locks long enough. This endeavor is NOT for the fickle follicle. Prepare to commit.

* Donating before a holiday amplifies the do good/feel good spirit of the season. (It also is perfect timing for your relatives to ooh and ahh over your new look.)

* It truly is the kindest cut you can make.

The more people hear about Locks of Love, the more I hope they'll feel inspired to turn themselves into do-gooding Cousin Its. The brave kids who get these wigs deserve every strand.

Besides, how else will you get your roommates to play hairdresser in the bathroom?



Check out Locks of Love for more information!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Prayer #93: Fade to White


Snowpocalypse 2009 -- Arlington, Va.
Five days before Christmas

Prayer #93: Fade to White

Scholars debate the month and season of Your birth. Did snow fall outside the stable? Would the shepherds have tended their flocks? Was that cold winter's night really so deep?

Here's my question: Who cares?

Around this wide world, people in every clime, every temp, every zone are preparing to herald Your grand entrance onto our rocky sphere. Some watch in wonder. Others anticipate sorrow. But we all know You are coming.

And when You do arrive, kicking and screaming and hungry, You will fulfill a promise made in time immemorial to a broken creation. You will bring us a gift that far outweighs the frankincense, myrrh, wreaths, drums, ornaments, and cards we lay at Your feet.

You will bring us peace.

Peace that rivals a starry night on a mountaintop that disappears in the dawn.

Peace that trumps a beach at sunset, with vibrant palettes that wash out to sea.

Peace that surpasses bare desert dunes vanishing into the horizon.

Peace that envelops a hushed curtain of snow, waving aside only to melt away.

This peace is within You, of You, through You -- indestructible and indescribable. It's peace exactly as You promised.

No wonder we rush to wait.

Amen.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

This I Believe #6: Why You Should Date a Girl With Cooties

Photo by ZakVTA

Sixth installment of my unofficial This I Believe series.

My open letter to all the boys I haven't kissed yet worked. One showed up. And he really does want to kiss me.

In fact, this long-distance fella signaled his intentions several ways. He made the first move (and then the second, when I was too oblivious to pick up on the first). He introduced the terms boyfriend/girlfriend into our conversations. He even talked about coming to DC next summer for his internship so we try out living near one another.

Note: Summer is a whole SIX MONTHS away. He's planning for me. Cue swoon.

But amid the giggliness and excitement, I have a problem: me. Because somewhere between college and today, I caught cooties.

Cooties, as you may remember, refers to a mysterious, non-medical "infection" that inhabits the opposite sex. Anyone affected is presumed undesirable and untouchable. You save yourself by staying as far away as possible and pointing fingers across the school yard.

I contracted cooties after my first (and last) serious relationship ended sophomore year of college. That time of life brings a great deal of self-discovery, and mine collided headfirst with young love. The former walked away with minor scratches; the latter ended up in traction for seven years.

With love and its cohorts (emotion, vulnerability, connection, etc.) so laid up, I was free to focus on other important things, like figuring out who I was, what I stood for, and what I wanted my life to mean. I earned my own paycheck. I made my own decisions. I matured.

That's when the cooties moved in, keeping dates and boys and other such romantic attachments well at bay. Not that I minded (much). My cooties were excellent arbiters of personal taste: They sent incompatible men packing to the other side of the playground, and invited the similarly infected over.

But what happens now that someone has crossed into the red zone? Does he really know the extent of my cootie infestation? Will it intimidate him if he finds out? Should I get rid of them?

I hope not. I like them. They're tiny yet immense. They whisper or shout, depending on how I need to hear them. Their presence means I'm never alone -- instead, 30 million intimate friends surround me, each reflecting and refracting an infinitesimal part of my unique DNA.

No, the cooties stay in the picture. We're going to experiment on how infectious they really are. And a big thank you to my new fella for his willingness to participate in this groundbreaking study. Such a venture takes courage, optimism, confidence -- the very stuff, in fact, that cooties thrive on.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

10 unusual Christmas wishes (recession-style)

Do you have a particular tradition that kicks off the holiday season? Maybe taking a picture with Santa, hanging lights on your house, or seeing decorated department store windows? Well, for me it's a Word document. And not just any old Word document. I'm talking about my brother's annual Christmas wish list.

Fans of last year's list will be pleased to know my sib took this year's economic roller coaster to heart and crafted a list that reflects our current financial hardships. So read on, and if he moves you to contribute or even fulfill one of his wishes, please leave a comment with more details. (See? I'm saving you valuable postage!)

Francis Rocchi’s Annual Christmas List 2009: Recession Edition

1. Perhaps some warm gruel and old bread, sir? So hungry, so very hungry. (Funnier if read aloud in the voice of a Dickensian street urchin)

2. Fear and Loathing in America by Hunter S. Thompson. Anything that will quell my desire to take some acid, rent a convertible, and go on a no-holds-barred road trip through the American Southwest

3. A lock of hair off the head of the blonde violinist from Celtic Woman. With the right technology maybe I can make a clone of her. And make her mine.

4. A rich, elderly patron that I can dote on until they kick the bucket and name everything to me in their last will and testament.

5. Some polo shirts.

6. A wench. Preferably one that makes mead.

7. A job. If it involves a whiskey distillery, video games, or strippers assume it is the right job for me. Look for a whiskey distillery run by strippers, powered by the heat that emanates from used Xbox 360 consoles.

8. Socks. They should go to about mid-calf. And include strippers and whiskey.

9. Seriously though, some warm socks would be nice.

10. Another book. Think contemporary male author that was never in Oprah’s book club.

11. A medical report explaining how Dick Cheney is still alive ...

12. Some article of clothing that makes me look like less of a schlub.

13. Hire Sam Waterston to narrate my life for a week.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Prayer #92: In the Bleak Midwinter

Photo by jpc101

Prayer #92: In the Bleak Midwinter

I pray today for get-up-and-go.

I pray today I sally forth.

I pray today is once more unto the breach.

Because my chilled bones are weary. I yearn for Vitamin D. My very skin hurts to flex. I strain to fulfill everything You call me to do, yet I only end up frozen and discouraged, with nothing to show but shopping bags beneath my eyes.

Soon the man-made hours will reverse course, and your God-made rhythms will return light to my life. But until it falls on my eyes, drape it across my heart pane to dispel the tar-like shadows, and restore me to sunlit glory.

Amen.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Prayer #91: Locks of Love

In two weeks, I will lose all my hair.

Well, not all of it. About 10 inches. But still, when you've wrestled with long, thick hair for nearly two years, and nurtured each strand to keep it strong and healthy despite your infuriated brushing, losing 10 inches can make you feel like Al Roker.

The day my strands meet the shears will also mark the second time I'm donating to Locks of Love, a well-known non-profit that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss. I've always had hair to spare, and knowing my stubborn waves will be reborn on the head of a child who just wants to feel normal again more than blunts the trauma of paying for a new hairstyle in a major metropolitan area.

But before I paint myself as the DC version of the follicularly blessed St. Agnes of Rome, I must reveal my ulterior motive. When I cut off this mane in two weeks, I will also sever the year that was. When the trimmings fall to the floor, every tangle, knot, and bad hair day will sweep away with them.

This cut will be more than a new look; it will be a new attitude. No more frumpy outlook. No more hesitating to change. No more constant weight on my shoulders (and on my head, and on my back, and occasionally in my eyes ...).

I won't forget the good times I had under this mop top -- beach breezes, dress-up curls, "show hair," and more. But it's time for new times, good or bad, and my fresh coiffure will remind me to accept growth in all places.

To the child who gets my crazy hair: Enjoy it. Take care of it. And when you outgrow the wig, pass it forward in great faith and appreciation. That's all I ask for the shrub, and all you can ask of yourself.

Prayer #91: Locks of Love

Beautifying God --

Take scissors to what I've long held dear, and help me shed the nasty tangles clogging my drains.

Show me not split ends, but clean starts that let me look in the mirror with confidence and hope.

Give me a snip, a trim, and a little off the top until I'm back in style -- Your style -- the unique style You crafted for me before I even had hair, and that You wait with eager eyes for me to request every time I show up in Your chair.

To the Stylist who always listens --

Amen.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Word on the street: Bird Feeder

The scene: Pop-Pop DePaul is sitting downstairs in his house watching his "story" (his word) on TV -- aka, Law and Order. His son Lou and granddaughter Emily are visiting.

Pop-Pop: Ya know, they don't carry guns. Those two detectives can solve these cases without guns! They use words.

Emily: Really? No guns. Hmmm. They always seem to get their guy though.

Pop-Pop: Yep. They do. And they're good friends. Only handcuffs they carry. [to Lou] Do I still have to feed those birds all winter?

Lou: (shocked) Yes! The winter is the best time to feed them! You'll get all kinds of birds in the winter.

Pop-Pop: Welllll, I'm only feeding the small ones. I'm getting all sparrows now and they mess the food up and drop it all over the ground and then the squirrels come and I have to trap 'em.

Lou: Well, what food are you using? The sunflower seed food?

Pop-Pop: Yep. That's the one. I bought new food.

Lou: That's sparrow food ...

Pop-Pop: It's ridiculous! These birds eat more than I do, ya know! I'm too busy to feed the birds!

End scene. (Thanks for sharing, Em!)

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Quiet desperation: How to follow up after an interview

Photo by monkeyc.net

Sending a thank-you note post-interview is the easy part. The hard part? Gnawing your knuckles to nubs as you stare at your phone for the next two weeks, waiting for your potential employer to make an honest woman (or man) out of you.

The good news is, you can save those knuckles with a little proactivity. Because while you can't control the employer's schedule, you have total autonomy with yours. Here's how to make the most of it.

Step 1: Be at home with the range.

Did your dream job say they'd be in touch in 2 hours? One week? Anywhere between 5 days and 7 months? Doesn't matter. Give them until the very end of their range, and then follow up if I haven't heard from them. This strikes a balance between appearing desperate and showing you're still interested. Plus, it respects the timeframe they need on their end.

One exception: if you've fielded another job offer with a much shorter range, and you need to reach a decision quickly. Then you have a stronger bargaining chip when you call before their decision deadline.

Step 2: Give voice to your interest.

When you do follow up, either phone or email works. Use your previous communication as a guide; if you're spoken mostly through one medium, you can stick with that.

Personally, at this critical stage in the game, I think a well-timed phone call shows a touch more initiative and polish. That said, you also risk putting the employer in an awkward position or fielding a rejection directly when you catch them on the phone. So consider the risk/reward ratio before dialing.

Step 3: Turn your impatience into improvement.

If you absolutely can't wait until the range ends and MUST do something before you explode, try this tactic: Drop the prospect an email and ask, "Can I provide any additional materials or answer any questions for you as you finalize your decision?" At most, an update comes with the response. At least, it keeps your name in front of them.

Step 4: Don't hold your breath.

Word of warning: Don't get your hopes up you'll hear when they said you would, even after you write/call/email for an update. Companies tend to give a rosy response forecast, somehow forgetting that crises and hiccups have a nasty habit of disrupting their hiring process.

I think I was supposed to know about my current job two weeks before I actually did. I was impressed I heard so close to the projected date at all. Fact of life, and one worth accepting for your own sanity.

Step 5: Soldier on.

What if after all that waiting, the gig doesn't come through? You might be disappointed. You might not feel like working on the search for a few days. But I promise you, the not knowing is far worse than not getting the job. Really.

You can deal with and respond to known reality. It's harder to operate with nebulous what-ifs. So take stock of what's working well for you. Reevaluate what next step is most appropriate. And proceed from there. By putting one foot in front of the other, you'll arrive where you want to be.

* This post is dedicated to Francis Rocchi, a fine young man and stellar writer you should hire immediately.