Thursday, December 27, 2007

Just a short blog today. Many of you city folk often ask me questions about small town life...well here's one for you:

I just drove 12 miles to a McDonalds in order to have a wireless connection.

I have been blogging in Word so that I could keep up, but have just posted everything I've written. Enjoy the words...posted from McDonalds in small town Missouri.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

a run down memory lane

I went for a run yesterday evening. The sun was on the verge of setting which made the snow ice glisten even more so than usual. I ran in the middle of the road, a perk of a small town, so as to avoid the black ice and a bruised tailbone. The route I took was one that I had walked a million times before. The sounds of Riley’s techno music keeping my feet moving, and the places I passed flashing scenes from my life across the screen in my mind…like I was watching a movie in fast forward.

About two blocks into my run, I came to a beautiful three-story gray house. I remembered when the owner’s built the porch that ran the entire length of two sides of the house and came to a close at a gazebo. I remembered playing with one family that lived there, and baby-sitting for the next. It towered over the tiny white house next door; the house where I spent almost every Saturday afternoon in elementary school. I couldn’t wait to finish my chores so that I could call Amber. We spent hours and hours playing school, house, and Guess Who in her grandma’s basement.

At the next corner was Mrs. Schmidt’s house. She was the most elegant high school teacher I had ever met. Her love of literature was so contagious that it almost forced a desire to understand Shakespeare upon her students. She had an immaculate backyard…with a path that wound through the flowers, past the perfect climbing tree, and along the shoulder-high picket fence.

Later in the run, I came to Coach Palmero’s house. He was one of the greatest coaches in the history of my high school. He retired shortly after I made the transition to high school which limited my time with him. However, one day as I was getting ready for practice, my coach was nowhere to be found and my knee needed to be wrapped. I didn’t want to suffer the consequences of being late so Palmero in his New York accent said, “Hop up on the table. I’ll wrap your knee, dwall (doll).”

Around the corner was what used to be my Great Aunt Joan’s house. She was my grandmother’s sister. There was evidence of some major rehabbing left in the yard; the new owner’s attempts to make it fit their needs. The final leg of my run included the Cooper’s house. Mrs. Cooper was my elementary music teacher, my piano teacher, the woman who cheered me on and helped me along as I sang all through high school. I spent hours at the piano in her living room, and watering the plants in her yard.
Her house sits across from track and football field. I could see the lights on, the crowd yelling as Buddha intercepted and ran for a touchdown. The laughter of my new friends, our athletic “enemies”, as we sat on a blanket by the gym building watching our friends run the 400m echoed in my ears. Whether football, band, or track, I spent many hours with the gates of that field.

As I finished my run, one of Riley’s songs on – ironically. I'm missing a couple of the lyrics and have a request in to my friend who is also Riley's bro and music partner to fill in the blacks. What I know of the lyrics follows:

There once was a runner in days of old
Wasn’t this with words so bold
Set your eyes straight down this road
Leave your past, your friends, your gold

Sankofa – a Swahili word that means looking back to move forward. It was a Sankofa run today.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

a traditional non-traditional christmas

It has been the topic of conversation for several weeks now – “What does your family do for Christmas?” It’s not necessarily a dreaded question, but a question I never have the expected answer for. There are only three things that I can be certain of finding each Christmas with my family

1) There will be lep cookies. A wonderful molasses cookie that comes from the German side of our family. They take 10 days to make and are worth the wait!
2) We always open presents one at a time while everyone watches. As a child it was hard to be patient as I waited for my sisters to open a present so that I could have another turn. In my old age, it has become more meaningful. We get to admire what each person gets, take time to admire what has been given to us, and watch as my nephew tries to open them all! Instead of a five minute free-for-all frenzy, we have two-hours to spend together giving and receiving.
3) That there will be a lot of non-traditional happenings. This year we celebrated on December 23. Today, I played Clue and Pitch with my sisters and father, went to a movie (which I’ve NEVER done on Christmas before) and then went for a run (yes, I did!)

Traditions are fun and are often catalysts of great memories, but even the side of me that loves consistency doesn’t hate the tradition of non-traditions!

Monday, December 24, 2007

christmas in the big woods

I’ve reverted back to the old school days of reading. I have been watching some of my students carry around children’s classics such as “Boxcar Children”, Lois Lowry books, “Little House on the Prairie”, the Narnia books, etc. One of my students tried to hold a conversation with me about “Little House on the Prairie”, but it was very one-sided as I added in my “oh?”, and “what happened next?” when appropriate. Upon pondering that conversation, I made the decision and headed to the library where I have been shopping in the kiddie section ever since. I read a couple of the Narnia series, “Caleb’s Story” – the third in the Sarah, Plain and Tall series, and have moved on to “Little House in the Big Woods”.

I very appropriately came to the chapter on Christmas this evening and was somehow struck by the depiction of them opening their Christmas stockings:

In the morning they all woke up almost at the same moment. They looked at their stockings, and something was in them. Santa Claus had been there. Alice and Ella and Laura in their red flannel nightgowns, and Peter in his red flannel nightshirt, all ran shouting to see what he had brought.

In each stocking there was a pair of bright red mittens, and there was a long, flat stick of red-and-white-striped peppermint candy, all beautifully notched along each side. They were all so happy they could hardly speak at first. They just looked with shining eyes on those lovely Christmas presents. But Laura was happiest of all. Laura had a rag doll.

She was a beautiful doll. She had a face of white cloth with black button eyes. A black pencil had made her eyebrows, and her cheeks and her mouth were red with ink made from pokeberries. Her hair was black yarn that had been knit and raveled so that it was curly.

She had little red flannel stockings and little black cloth gaiters for shoes, and her dress was pretty pink and blue calico. She was so beautiful that Laura could not say a word. She just held her tight and forgot everything else. She did not know that everyone was looking at her…

As I read this, I went back to my own Christmases as a child…my requests for Lincoln Logs and Legos, dolls and electronic gadgets….what would my reaction had been if I had received red mittens and candy canes? Of course that was a different time period in history..a time when imagination still invaded play. Children may have been a little less coordinated, but could milk a cow and grow a garden…vital needs for a family. Even disregarding the difference in culture due to the time; the elation of the children over what they did receive is a rare jewel in our day. How do we go back to helping our children fall in love with the simple things in life? To see them be grateful for the things they get instead of begging for the next step up. To bring the imagination back to play time. It is an art long lost…but on the verge of being rediscovered. Maybe there is hope for my children….

As I leave you to ponder that…I will continue to update you on my journey through children’s books as I plan to continue this for a few months.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

dreaming of a white christmas no longer

Moving from my childhood Northwest Missouri home to St. Louis was not much of a culture shock, until winter rolled around. I discovered that people ate sour cream in their chili (we used ketchup) and that St. Louis rarely saw snow. When it did, it wasn’t enough to have much fun in. This year has been different. Last weekend, St. Louis saw around 6 inches; enough to take a sled down Art Hill. Of course, by Wednesday, it was 50 degrees and by Thursday all of the snow was gone. I left the 60 degree city this morning to join my family for Christmas, but have been weigh laid in Kansas City. A winter storm has hit; I am only seeing the edges of it from my hotel room – sleet and some snow, but my grandparents are stuck in the thick of it – white outs, wind, 7 – 11 inches of snow, a 20 car accident, and 100 miles of closed interstate. Luckily they also stopped for the night before it got worse.

There is something about snow that just helps the Christmas spirit. Something about snow that is magical. Since I’ve lived in St. Louis, I (and my former roommate from South Dakota) have longed for snow; for snow days off of school; for good sledding. This year the dreaming stops for the white has become reality. When I reach my parent’s house, I will be able to gaze out my window into the moonlit night, study the sparkling snow, and dream of a white Christmas no longer.

Elaboration on Two Things I learned...

1) For those of you that don’t know, I do frequent a gym. On the particular evening I blogged about in my last entry I had a limited amount of time, but still wanted to a sweat-worthy workout in. My preferred cardio machine was full. Not knowing how long I would have to wait, I eyed the other options…treadmill, rowing machine, stepper… The clock was ticking as I attempted to make a decision so I hopped on the closest treadmill…in for a good speed walk. After a couple of minutes, I realized that a speed walk was no longer going to work my body very well due to my normal workout routine (this is a good thing). My mind fluttered over the idea of running on the treadmill, but as I have mentioned before, I abhor running. The workout angel on my shoulder yelled louder than the running hater in my mind and before I knew what was happening, my finger was on the increase button and my legs were moving faster. Soon, I had been running for 10 minutes and sweat was dripping down my face. It was beautiful! I continued to run until I thought my muscles would die and my lungs would burst…and then I allowed myself a good walk and stretch. I’m thinking about doing it again…although I’m not certain that I would run outdoors.

2) I consider myself a good cook as does one of my coworkers, Rebekah. It was a rather ironically funny night when the two of us tried to make decorated shortbread cookies for our school’s Christmas celebration. We should have known when the dough wasn’t rolling out as easily as it should have, but we kept going. The fact that the cookies were breaking as we used cookie cutters to cut them out should have been the next clue that we needed to stop. We laughed and continued to mold the pieces into recognizable Christmas shapes. We broke more as we got them off of the pan, making sound effects and giggling as we did. Many of our cookies were broken, but we had managed to save just enough; that is, until the frosting process. The frosting kept suctioning the cookie to the plate as we hand-dipped them. The fragile cookies couldn’t handle the stress of being pulled out, and would snap at the least bit of pressure. In the end, we had bonded over plates full of misfit cookies, hoping our students would think eating the broken pieces was a treat.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

things I learned today

1) I might actually enjoy running, in some form, after all...

2) It takes a very special person to make cut-out cookies successfully...despite my above average cooking skills, I am not one of those....

ponder these things...more details to come.

Monday, December 17, 2007

We got around 7 inches of snow this weekend. For recess today, we bundled the kids up and took them to the park across the street where they could "frolic and play the eskimo way". On our way inside, one of my girls says to me "Did you see Max throw me in the snow?"
Me: "No, I didn't. Are you okay?"
S: "Yes. Do you know why he did that?"
Me: "No. Do you know?"
S: "Sometimes boys like girls a lot and so they throw them in the snow and chase them around and stuff."
Me: "Who told you that?"
S: "Daddy."

It is finished takes on a new meaning

I took on this project in May and finished about a week ago. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures before I stripped it, but I do have a couple of shots cropped out of other photos that can give you somewhat of what it looked like before. As you can see, it was white and had a blue top

The following are pictures after it was stripped, but before it was stained.

Finally, the finished product, with the Christmas tree atop.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

from creepy to cold in less than 24 hours

I've waited in anticipation all week for a real sign of winter...for the Christmas feeling to take hold in my soul as the white fluff floated through the sky. There I was, standing on the balcony of my friend Raina's apartment in the 31 degree midnight air, skillfully manuevering blue rope lights around the poles and belting out "Wonderful Christmastime" (you know the most love to hate song "simply having a wonderful christmastime"), when a small cold wet thing landed on my exposed fingertip. SNOW! Oh, the elation of it!

My day did not start out so wonderfully cold. In fact, it began while on a field trip of sorts. The other class at one of the schools I teach at has been studying the original "Pinocchio". The teacher found this place in town that makes Marionnettes and does shows. What a wonderfully practical and unordinary idea for an outing. At least until we pulled up in front of this three story house. The neighborhood was not creepy, but this house was set back just further then it's neighbors. The front yard bared many dead potted plants, a clue that mother nature had done her winter thing; also a clue that we should turn around? The day was sunny, but this house really looked like it should have clouds...not black ones, but gray ones, looming overhead.

Once inside, the house did little resemble a house. There were beautiful hand-carved puppets and marionnettes in glass cases along a hallway that opened up into a little black box-style theater. We were greeted by one of the two owners, seated, and soon a moose named Marvin was directing us through a winter wonderland where Peppermint babies, very fuzzy caterpillars, donut men, and other such creatures made us even hungrier for snow and Christmas. The kids had a great time, their eyes awe-filled as they waved to something they though real; excited for a chance to touch what was before them. I, on the other hand, found the whole thing a little creepy in the same way that some people find clowns creepy. Clowns have never had that effect on me; in fact, I've been known to think people who find clowns odd, a bit strange themselves. But now I know how they feel...I don't really know how to verbalize why I felt the way I did, I just know that the creepy feelings existed. Maybe it was the big house....maybe it was the life like eyes on the puppets. I will say however, that the men who make the marionnettes do a beautiful job! They were truely art!

Ironically, I ended the day with a much different spirit. The snow came down on Raina and I for an hour and a half as we decorated her balcony for an apartment complex competiton. We sang that "Wonderful Christmastime" song (surprisingly written by Paul McCartney) until we had to force ourselves to sing something else for fear our heads would explode. Raina is one of those friends that you make long-lasting memories with..such as this one. As the clock neared 2am , we stood on the front lawn staring up into the snow streaked sky, taking in the candy-stripped poles on her third story balcony, and feeling the closeness of the memory we had just made...

simply having a wonderful christmastime.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

sprinting uphill for one minute

Often throughout a week, I find myself attempting to do this thing called "working out". One of my friends used to be a trainer and has graciously shown me some ways to make my work out "work" to my advantage. One such way involves a rotation of speeds so to speak while doing a cardio machine of some sort. Interpretation: I get on a machine, choose a program, go at normal speed for 3 minutes, and then go really in a sprint...for 1 minute. Then back to normal speed for 3 minutes. I often choose a program that consists of intervals which means that at some point during my time on the machine, I'm sprinting uphill.
It was a moment such as this that led to this blog.

Imagine, I'm sprinting...uphill...and feeling as though I could die after about 15 seconds. Sweat dripping down my face (and everywhere else), muscles yelling, lungs about burst! Everything in me wanted to quit, to drop back to normal speed. Instead my hands only gripped the handles tighter and my legs worked faster as I pressed on through the last 45 seconds.

That minute was only a minute portion of my workout, but it felt like an hour. As I returned to normal speed, I was brushed with the thought that struggles in life are similar. I was recently shown a picture of a place in my heart that I've been subconsciously ignoring for a long time. It was not fun to look at - like standing before a long steep hill knowing you will have to sprint to the top. I could tell that there would be aches and pains; that if I continued to look at and conquer what was facing me, my lungs would explode. There would be no more living the usual life.

God didn't design us to do things alone. That's a huge reason why Eve was created for Adam. That's also the reason that God desires relationship with us. I'm about to sprint up a really steep hill. All that I want to do is sit down and watch people run by me, but all that I can get my body to do is hold on tighter to God's hand and put one foot in front of the other.

Monday, December 10, 2007

My five year old student began a story like this: "A long long time ago, when I was four..."

Sunday, December 09, 2007

pain in the corners revisited

I turned another year older this week. For some reason, I feel I should be blogging about the significance of life, contemplations of the past year, and the fun ways that people celebrated with me. Instead my mood fits the entry I wrote on August 14 - pain in the corners. It really says everything that I want to say.

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