Tuesday, December 26, 2006

the giver

My brother made me cry. No, he didn’t pull my ponytail, take away my Barbie doll, or call me a sissy . . .
Rather, he gave me a gift. And this gift brought tears to my eyes. Not so much because of the gift itself; more so, it was because of what it made me realize about my brother. Suddenly my baby brother has become a thoughtful, and intentional, young man. Granted, the apparent suddenness of this transformation is probably largely due to my distance from him during his recent adult years, but each encounter with his “grown-up” self catches me off guard all the same.
This particular encounter began with his shopping for the other brother. For the few days prior to Alex’s arrival, Ian had been on a quest for a full-size paint-by-number kit. It took some time to locate what he was looking for but, in his typical laid back way, he would not be daunted by the number of stores that he did not have success with. And finally, he found it. Alex was not expecting this and, truthfully, he wasn’t sure what to make of it when he first opened it. Ian explained that a roommate of his had done one a while back, and that Ian had seen it, been impressed, and thought Alex would enjoy it.
What I see in this instance is Ian’s quiet thoughtfulness. He knows Alex is a dabbler of sorts, always interested in trying something new—from ballroom dance to water polo, from barber shop quartet to poetry writing, my high school math teaching brother is always up for a new challenge. Painting is one area in which he has not yet had any experience, and it is a difficult one to jump into for someone who doesn’t necessarily have a great amount of patience with what may seem at first like failure. But he will be thrilled to be able to hang a piece of his own artwork on the wall of his new apartment, and paint-by-number will be an easy initiation into an otherwise possibly inaccessible art, relatively speaking. And Ian knew that. So he set his sights on the perfect gift and drove the hour-long trek to get to the store that carried it.
As for my gift . . . I opened the small package to find a uniquely formed blue and gold cream pitcher. I held it up admiring it and thinking about how I didn’t actually own one, and how it matches the set of dinnerware that I use daily at my place. As I did, Ian explained, with a laughing apology, that he had bought that for me back when he went to South Africa and had forgotten to give it to me till now. Then I saw that there was something inside the pitcher; he had placed a neat roll of bills that I realized amounted to a significant chunk of change. He had decided to contribute to the purchase of my first personal computer, and had done so in a very generous manner. That is when I cried, being overwhelmed by his kindness, utterly impressed by his maturity, and humbled by my own tendency to worry. I so quickly lose trust in God’s goodness, and in His provision, and sometimes He catches me off guard by using those closest to me to teach me [again!] that lesson.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

house rules

Knowing to expect a zoo of a household is one thing. Adjusting to the reality of it is another. The zoo I am referring to is that of my home—or at least the home of my mother that is, by nature of it being hers, mine as well. Obviously, this is not the home I grew up in—when she married, Mom moved to New Hampshire with my stepfather. But it being my mother’s home, it is now endowed with all the qualities that made our home what it was when I was a child as well . . . cats and dogs abounding, clutter reigning, and happy insanity all around.
My own tendency is towards a decidedly more calm environment . . . if I am honest, I should probably admit to being a neat freak, in what I hope is a laid back sort of way ☺ It is something I think about more often when here at Mom’s place, understandably.
At any rate, what I was going to write about was my initiation into the nature of home as it is here. I arrived late Wednesday night, and my brother picked me up at the airport for our long drive out into the “sticks” where home is now. I went straight to bed that night, sleeping in the neighbor’s guest room, thanks to a shortage of beds here. So when I woke up in the morning, Mom had left for work already and the rest of the house was asleep still. As a quiet-morning person, this was fine with me. I started the coffee, cleared a spot at the table, and opened a book for some morning breakfast table reading.
As soon as I sat down with my coffee and cereal, I felt a jolt behind me. Leaning back in my chair, I discovered that Poldi [a very cat-like cat, with a long history at this house and, previously, at my sister’s] had joined me in my chair. I absentmindedly nudged him down and returned to my breakfast. A moment later, a motion drew my eyes up to the table in front of me, where I saw that Poldi was now on the table, walking towards me. Daring to presume he should not be on the dining room table, I then ordered him “Down!” with a wave of my hand. He promptly turned on his heel and jumped down . . . or rather, he made a motion as to appear that he was jumping. Instead, he paused when on his haunches and stealthily peered back towards me. I didn’t realize this until I looked up again, and realized he was still there. This time I stood and lightly smacked him, assuring that he completed the move. And I returned, again, to my breakfast . . . another motion in the corner of my eye . . . This time Poldi had quietly made his way up on the opposite corner of the table, where piles of papers and knickknacks nearly kept him from being visible. Not near enough, however. I still enforced my own rule that time, but I also was rather amused at his almost-successful enforcement of his rules in this pet-ruled abode.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

all in a name

It was a perfectly legitimate, usual sort of news program, accompanying my usual afternoon commute. But I'm afraid that I lost all serious concentration as soon as the NPR commentator had introduced the scientific expert by name. From that point on I giggled girlishly, repeating his name out loud for my own listening pleasure as the poor man unknowingly continued the report on his research findings . . . Mr. Lambkin Butts will hold an unsought special slot in my mental archives from this point on :-)

Monday, December 04, 2006

where's the manual?

The other two children and I were debating the finer aesthetic points of Mr. Potato Head’s features when I heard a “Hey!” from down the hall. Then, after a moment, a louder and considerably more insistent, “Hey!” Assuming myself to be the likely intended audience I handed Trevor the red, oblong nose and yellow-rimmed spectacles and headed in the direction of the voice.
There on the loo sat an increasingly impatient little one who, when I looked at him questioningly for a moment, ordered [with some measure of annoyance at my slow heeding of the call], “Wipe my bottom!”
So I dutifully went to obey my orders and he duly bent over to assist in the operation. It was then that I realized the last time I was in charge of bottom-wiping was quite some time ago, and it was for a little girl. I was, in short, feeling a bit rusty in my bottom-wiping skills. But I did it and then asked if that was ok, not expecting a reply. He did, however, reply, to inform me that it was not, in fact, good enough. I tried again. Still not done correctly. And again. Finally I informed him that it was enough, and I had him hop up, pull-up, and re-zip.
But I suppose I must humbly admit that I am a failure at bottom-wiping . . .

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

on this day

Faithful blog readers may remember this post, as it's that time of year again . . .

I remember, this day--November 30--in 1988. On this day, I awoke excited--no, more than that--I was ecstatic. I was running through lines of the Christmas program in my head, eagerly rehearsing for the program that night. You see, tonight we were performing for our families, for my family. They were on their way by this time, I knew, beginning the drive early that morning that would bring them along many lonely dirt roads, winding through villages and across open plains, to arrive here.
It had been 3 months now since I last saw them, when I boarded the little Cessna on the grass strip of our village, clutching my stuffed bear in one arm and holding my sister's hand with the other. We stood there waving goodbye one last time on the boarding stairs, and then waved again out the window as we sped along the airstrip and lifted off into the air. I loved that moment of lifting off in the airplane--and have ever since--the exciting rush of becoming airborne and soaring faster and faster through the air.
That day, however, my excitement of the beginning was tinged with the sadness of knowing I would be away from my family for many nights now. The days were always full of learning, fun adventures in the bush with friends and with various creatures to be discovered and trees to be climbed. The nights were the hard part, though, when I fought the tears that often came in spite of my fierce will, silently dampening my pillow while I stifled the shortened breaths that may give away my tears to the classmates sleeping near me in rows of bunk beds.

The 3 months since that last flight had passed quickly--3 months of good books read, math problems solved, geography discovered, play weddings acted out in free time, and all manner of grade 4 activities. I had also turned 9 the previous month, and knew my family would now celebrate my birthday and my brother's 4th birthday 3 days earlier, as soon as we made it back home. While on a shopping trip in South Africa, my Dad had acquired our first car, so the decided to make the road trip instead of Helen and I flying home as we had always done before. So, I knew they were loaded up in the Isuzu, along with 2 village friends--a teenage student of my Dad's and the Zambian pastor he worked with in our Church.
So that afternoon, after various activities designed to keep all us boarding students preoccupied so we wouldn't be bouncing off the walls with the excitement of our families' arrivals, we all filed out the drive-up area to await the first arrivals. I had in my mind the perfect picture of what to expect, so as each vehicle arrived, I craned my neck to see my mom's long arm waving out the window and Alex's goofy grin peering out from her lap. But the cars came, parents claimed their clamoring kids, and my picture-perfect arrival still had not appeared. Finally, a lady I recognized as the mom of some friends who lived fairly near us went over to our Dorm Mother and said something to her, gesturing in our direction. She then came and told us to go ahead and get ready for the program--not to keep waiting for our parents there.
I was disappointed, but assumed they would arrive at any moment, so just kept waiting as we practiced our songs. My mental image just altered itself to adjust to a late clamor of hugs and kisses rushed in before the program started . . . but the program came, began, and ended, and they had not arrived. The next morning we were taken to the Cessna, and told we were going to go back to the village by flight after all. This time I imagined the whole family standing there on the airstrip, coming into focus as the plane landed, with eager smiles and waves--still, no. The parents of a classmate took us in their car instead--so of course I changed my expectation once more, this time thinking they were taking us to our house where the family would be, picture-perfect, waiting in front of our little home.
Instead we arrived at their house. Auntie Elaine (according to British habit, all family friends were "Auntie" and "Uncle" to us kids) finished up dinner preparations while we helped set the table. And then, instead of sitting down to dinner, she asked Helen and I to come and sit with her on the couch--"Anna, Helen--I have some really sad news . . . your Daddy went to heaven . . . " Before the sentence was finished, I had burst into loud sobs, Helen looked at me and started crying, and Auntie Elaine and her daughter were both crying and hugging us.

I don't remember any mention of the rest of the family at that point--nor did I wonder, as far as I can remember. The rest of the day, of the week, of the month, passed in a sort of a fog, in which my memories are clear but displaced, as if each memory was plucked from its proper place in the continuum of time and placed instead in some never never land of homeless moments.
I remember falling asleep with fitful dreams, waking up convinced I had dreamed reality, and that Daddy would walk in and comfort me any moment. I remember being reunited with my brothers, staring at Alex's discolored and misshapen head, and carting Ian around carefully in his body cast, propping him up against walls . . . supporting him and holding his modesty blanket over his midsection as he pinned the tail on the donkey at his belated birthday party. I remember visiting Mom there in the Zambian hospital, horrified at the sight of my strong, active, beautiful mother lying there on the stretcher bed unable to move herself. At one point during a visit, the nurse had to turn her over so that she wouldn't get a bed sore. As she did so, she let go of the sheet and mom was briefly exposed to us all in the room. I didn't know whether to blush, sob, or scream--I wanted to just run away, to disappear forever into the endless, dreadfully beautiful African wilderness. I hated seeing mom like that, and dreaded the visits . . . and I hated myself for feeling that way, thinking there must be something wrong with me if I didn't want to see my mother . . .

Somehow, time passed. My Daddy's funeral passed in a blur of friends, strangers, languages I didn't know, and wails I knew only too well. As soon as mom was strong enough to be transported, we were shipped to the U.S., where hospitalization and then physical rehab came for her. I hid in my books--in beautiful worlds of fantasy--to the extent that my grandmother still teases me for always having my "nose stuck in a book" as a child.
And eventually Mom was well enough to take over the care of the 4 of us again. I still don't know for the life of me how she did it--a paraplegic supporting and caring for a home of her own and 4 not-always-angelic children. She did it well . . . she loved us well.
On this day, when we were children, Mom beautifully commemorated the anniversary. She would buy what looked to me like hundreds of helium-filled balloons, bringing them home so that the house was bursting with balloons. Then she tied note cards to the string of each one, and told us to write notes on them--as many as we wanted, and whatever we wanted to say to a stranger. I remember writing things like "Jesus loves me this I know . . ." and "My Daddy died on this day, and he is now in heaven with God, because he loved God. I do too." I wrote silly notes, but meaningful ones, longing, in all my childhood intensity, to somehow tell the world that I had a great Daddy, and that some day I would see him again.
I still catch myself, when I am still enough to listen to the deeper desires of my heart, craving moments of remembrance of my Daddy, and eagerly clasping to memory any tidbits about him that people from his past may be able to share with me. And thankfully, my own mind clamped down firmly on all the memories I had of my times with him, out of a personal need for them and, I suspect, out of a nagging suspicion that someday, somehow, there would be a greater use for, outlet for, it all.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

honorable mention . . .

Not sure how noteworthy--if at all--this is, but I was just congratulated for the award of Honorable Mention at this writer's website:

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

the red lantern

When in decorating or furniture rearranging mode, I tend to climb on anything that looks reasonably likely to hold me. This morning I had a gift from China--a lantern presented by some Chinese guest speakers--and found the perfect spot to hang it. The only downside was that this perfect spot required getting to the high school ceiling in order to do so. So I crawled up the library bookshelves and thankfully found them sturdy enough for me to perch long enough to jimmy a hook out of a paperclip in order to . . . raise the red lantern?
Spying an unexpected motion out of the corner of her eye as she passed the library, one of the teachers came in and stared for a moment before making some sort of a comment about how it is not every day that one gets to witness a levitating librarian. And then using the only camera available--a cell phone--she snapped this shot, as visual proof, I suppose . . .

levitating librarian Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Yesterday an envelope arrived in my mailbox with a return address that made me hesitate to open it: The Embassy of the Republic of Zambia . . .
Once I had gathered my courage, I was immensely relieved to find an “Approved” stamp—my passport had been returned to me with an official Visa stamped within. On a significantly more frivolous note, I am also enjoying Zambia’s intricately lovely official emblem . . . getting closer :-)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

casting my vote

I sort of hesitate to write this, feeling a bit self-conscience about my bundle-of-contradictions-self, but . . .
I love to vote.
I get annoyed by voting coverage, I despise campaign ads, I hang up on solicitation phone calls, I turn off NPR’s coverage when normally tuning in as an NPR addict . . .
But before the polls opened this morning, I was there. I was eager as I confidently filled in the bubbles on my ballot, thrilled to be standing in line with my district neighbors, flashing my voter registration card, signing my name . . . and casting my vote. Is it odd for someone as relatively abnormally-citizened as I am to be so passionate about a normally-patriotic citizen duty?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

running, & re-running, in the rain

This update went out via email to some of you blog-readers, along with a visual aid . . .
We returned from the last Cross Country race in the pouring rain, each girl emerging soaked to the bone and quite bespeckled with mud splatters and smears. But what I am most proud about is the fact that not only did all finish, but all finished with at least a minute of a faster time than her best race so far. I teased them as they moaned about the rain pre-race, saying that the rain would make them run faster. One new recruit, still naive about my occasional propensity for sarcasm, looked at me curiously and asked "Why's that, Coach?" So I did not hesitate, post-race, to grin at her and say, "See? I told you rain makes you run faster!"

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

blessings and benedictions

So today I met with the headmaster, to tell him about the strange new opportunity on my horizon. I trembled with fear of the unknown as I broached the subject, knowing that I could not go through with this unless he not only said it was ok to leave, but that I could see that he really meant that it was ok.
As I began to explain the background and current situation he stopped and got up to shut the door [his office door is usually left open]. He got tears in his eyes, and then proceeded to tell me several instances lately in which he had been especially thankful for my work there. He said that I would be an asset as long as I chose to stay at the school. And then he spoke of how clearly God speaks to us through our lives at times . . . and he told me that I had his blessing if I went ahead with this plan.
I guess that pretty much clenched it for me: I spent much of the day on the verge of happy, decided tears: sad at the prospect of leaving but increasingly confident that I must follow this "unknown" path before me.
Incidentally, I also spoke today with the man who trained me in my first library job. He was preparing for a 2-year mission abroad, and I was blessed to benefit from his tutelage before he left . . . And now he and his wife are back in the U.S. trying to figure out where to devote their work energies. For this semester he is teaching 2 classes at the school . . . and he said he would seriously consider taking over the library if I were to do this. I would end up [sheepishly] training him in the ways of my library, if so . . . Strange to realize that this would bring us full circle, in a sense--in a bizarre, God's-sense-of-humor sort of way :-)

Monday, October 16, 2006

pursued by a dream

Africa has been pursuing me for as long as I can remember, but with a bit greater intensity for the past several years. I have not known if it is processing, writing, analyzing that is required or if it is a nudging towards something more active in nature. I have wondered if missions is in store, with a background that should presumably leave me prepared for it. But I always dismiss it as impractical for now-- But then again, I am wondering, perhaps my single, as-of-yet un-settled status makes it time to think about it after all. After spending time in France, China, Peru, Jamaica, Mexico, and other countries, my past several years of work as a teacher, writer, and school librarian have left me content and yet with a nudging in my heart towards overseas work that never quite leaves. I used to push it aside thinking that it would be more suited to once I was married. Now, however, in my late 20's, I am realizing that it is a cop-out to push God's voice to the background out of some sort of a fear of living an independently fruitful life . . .

So I wrote a few weeks ago. And tonight I am asking myself what I have gotten myself into . . . So what do I do when a dream is within reach and I, only I, can answer the question of whether or not I should take hold of that dream? Africa has been pursuing me . . . and this past week it caught up with me. Do I leave everything in my life at the moment in order to fill an immediate need for a teacher in Zambia? Because the need is there does it mean that I am the one who is meant to fill it? Is it right to change current commitments in order to answer an apparently more pressing need? So many questions . . . and so little time left now to answer them . . .

Thursday, October 05, 2006

today is . . .

According to a story on NPR, October 5 is the most common birthday in the world. Strange to me, as I do not know that many people with this birthday. So when the most common day of birth combines with the least common personality type [according to Myers Briggs], you get . . . ?? ;-)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

natural causes

Tragedy has struck in the hills. But after extensive investigation city officials have concluded that the victim died of “natural causes and was not the victim of a dog or coyote attack as originally feared.” All the same, protective measures are now being taken to prevent harm being done to the others . . . guard donkeys, it seems, are the solutions. These are no ordinary donkeys; these ones “know how to deal with dogs or coyotes with a strong kick” So the newspaper reported this week. We mourn the loss of one of our appetite-endowed goats. But we have emerged wiser and more prepared for potential attacks in the future . . . and there will be a replacement goat, our goat farmer assures us, so that we can continue fully-forced in the battle against kudzu.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

all dogs go to heaven

My neighbors lost their puppy this weekend—he swallowed something that lodged itself firmly in his intestines and a trip to the vet for emergency surgery was unsuccessful in saving him. That afternoon the 2 girls—3 and 7—had come to the market with me while Six [named for the six-shaped spot around his eye] was at the vet. Two events in particular made me realize how much they were grieving. First, a visit to the balloon man led to a prompt request for a puppy from the 7-year-old. When he asked what color she wanted, the myriad of choices displayed were not even glanced at; she knew it had to be white. And of course, white was the color of the puppy. Shortly thereafter, the younger of the two had abandoned her one-eyed frog [he did begin his life with 2 eyes but had sadly already popped one of them]. She then had persistently pleaded until sister agreed to loan out the puppy. She promptly resumed the same game that had led to the casualty of froggy’s eye—tossing the balloon into the air and letting it fall onto the concrete floor. Predictably, the balloon lost its life soon thereafter. What surprised me at this point was that, rather than an angry reaction from big sister, there was first a violent bursting-into-tears by the younger. I cannot help but assume that somewhere in her 3-year-old heart, a sensitivity to the whole family’s concern over their puppy caused her to react as if that popping of the puppy balloon was a bit too close to possible reality at the time.
And then, unfortunately, that “possible” became reality . . .
This evening I got a phone call from their mother thanking me for the card I had made for the girls. She said I should go into the Pet-Sympathies card business, as the poem I wrote about Six made the older of the 2 girls cry. Not sure if I should take this as a compliment or not, she then assured me that they were good tears, and that she had loved the poem. I can’t remember exactly what it was that I wrote now, but I am glad it was appreciated, as I did actually agonize over it a fair bit, in an effort to speak on an understandable level for the girls without talking down at all, or making the grieving process worse. It is a greater honor to speak to the heart of this little one than it would have been to move a room-full of grown-ups to tears . . .

Friday, September 22, 2006

to run the race

To those of you DBCS Cross-Country Fan Club members . . . if you will permit me a few moments of bragging, I must say that this was a huge victory for us, especially for the women's team. This time all my girls finished the race. Which may not seem like such a huge deal but for us, it was. You see, my asthma-plagued runner has not yet completed a course--she has difficulty running on her own and so, once her asthma gets to her, she gives up if I am not there to coax her along. So before this race I gave pep talks over and over . . . and over again, that they all could finish--they just had to remind themselves that they could. If they had to take walking breaks, so be it--but just keep going again. Walk, then run again. Just don't give up altogether--keep trying!
Well by God's mercy, they did . . .at the very end the other coaches were beginning to take down the finish line and gather the time sheets when I ran to stop them: "Wait! I still have a runner out there!" Then I turned back around towards the course and threw my arms up at the sight of my beautiful runner, solitary but steady, persistently nearing the finish . . . "KAT!!!" I beamed at her and shouted a few hoarse cheers as she finished. As she finished. Yes, it was a victorious evening, and the ride back that night was a happy one--a tired, sweaty, somewhat smelly, and contented homecoming :-)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

i spy

I saw them with my own two 20/10-vision eyes today . . . I saw the goats. A patch of black amidst the green caught my eye as I passed and, looking twice, I laughed heartily at my own luck. There they were, those famed goats, contentedly munching away and surrounded by tellingly sparse patches on the kudzu-covered ridge. One black, one white, several multi-colored . . . sure enough, the slow goats were indeed at work.

Monday, September 11, 2006

small tokens

It seems one of my runners has a propensity for sports bra stories . . . Updating me on her weekend run today, she told me her discovery. It was actually a timely revelation, as our conversation was centering at the time around the, um, convenience [?] of the bra as an in-a-pinch sort of impromptu storage facility. At any rate, she was on her run in the ritzy “Legends” neighborhood when she spied a shiny coin on the road. When she saw that it was a quarter, she was so excited that she exclaimed something to the effect of, “Oh wow—it’s a Legends quarter!!” And she just had to have that "Legends quarter" . . . So she quickly snatched it up and popped it, without a second thought, into her sports bra—as we all know, bras being the perfect makeshift pocket. She promptly gasped and stifled a cry upon the rudely shocking discovery that this lovely little legends token was also quite sun-soaked and, consequently, painfully hot to the touch. And now we know: what glitters may be gold but its acquisition may not always be pleasant--or painless :-)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

goats at work

My morning run the other day brought me to an unfamiliar sight on a familiar road. Newly adorning the neighborhood street were 2 large back to back signs declaring SLOW GOATS WORKING. What kind of a joke is that? I wondered, laughing as I passed. And how did someone ever come up with such an idea—and get away with it??
By the end of the day, however, I had forgotten all about it . . . until yesterday.
After school yesterday, we caravanned both the women’s and men’s teams to my neighborhood. Our plan was to hold practice there, for a change of scenery [running routes around the school leave much to be desired]. It was also a practicality, as after practice we had a beginning of the season ice cream party with the parents, there at my house.
The girls are understandably self-conscious about running near the guys, so I took them in a markedly different direction. Returning, in the loudly sweaty fashion high school runners are inclined towards, the guys were talking about “the goats.”
“Goats?,” I asked—“you mean the signs?”
“No—the real ones. And the news cameras filming them. Up there,” he said, gesturing up the hill.
Turns out there really are goats “at work” in my neighborhood.
Today’s paper included an article about the pioneer project beginning this year—starting this year and continuing for 2 more, goats have been commissioned to tackle the kudzu overgrowth. A local goat farmer’s team of 30 goats are now employees of the city, eating away the kudzu. Theoretically, after 3 years of clear-cutting-by-goat, the kudzu will be permanently damaged and unable to grow back the next year.
Who would have thought? . . never underestimate the power of a goat and its appetite!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

just a dream

It was only a dream. Only . . . except that it was heartbreakingly real. Except that I awoke with an exquisite ache lingering throughout my too-tangible being. I was left only with snippets of dream-moments . . . and a painful longing to return to the dream. There is no whole to it, as far as memories go, just bits and pieces. But what I do remember is a soaringly beautiful saga-like story. And so, upon remembering the dream since and being unable to grasp ahold of it once again, I cry with the ache of it. I even put a notebook beside my bed the next night and concentrated on the remaining memories of it right before falling asleep, in hopes that I could re-dream it somehow and be ready to write it down before rising in the morning.
I wonder what made this one so striking. In the past I used to dream often, and with great detail and depth. I would write them down and spend countless hours analyzing them, wondering about them. But I do not dream any more. Or at least I do not remember the dreams. Perhaps this is what touched me so--the loss of past dreamlives. Something in the recent several years of working, stressing, and generally attempting to live a responsible "adult" life has also stealthily stolen my ability to dream.
But maybe I have taken ahold of dreams again, in some subconscious awakening. Although I have not been successful in re-dreaming that one, so lovely dream, I have been dreaming since, for several nights in a row now. There is hope, I suppose, for even the most dream-deprived among us.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

quote of the day

Mmmm . . . I love the smell of rich neighborhoods
--from one of my runners shortly after we started out this afternoon, on our first run in a nearby gated community of depressingly [to me, at least] cookie-cutter homes.
Initially, I just laughed at the amusing absurdity of the statement. Since then, however, I've been pondering it and wondering if there may be some disturbing deeper significance behind the words . . . then again, perhaps it's just par for the course when it comes to random comments from prep school teenage girls??

Thursday, August 24, 2006

hell hath no fury . . .

We have taken to telling stories as we run. At first it was an unconscious action on my part, as I used our run to relay tales of the day that for whatever reason had come to my mind at the time. When I realized it was becoming a habit, however, I became intentional about it, as it seemed to be an appropriate way to both bond as a team and to engage them in a way that distracts from the physical woes of exhaustion, heat, aches, and pains. So now I hint about the stories of the day before we begin and then tell full, drawn-out tales as we run—I also invite each girl to tell her own that may come to mind.
Yesterday one of my runners admitted that she had a story to tell. Rethinking by the time we started practice, she said that no, actually she was too embarrassed to tell everyone. Further into the run her asthma forced her to take a walking break, at which point I stopped to check on and then walk with her. Curious, I mentioned her story again and she said that she just didn’t want her peers to know—yet. She suspected that it would get around soon enough . . .
Turns out she had lost her patience with one of her peers that day in gym class. They were playing ball and she had grown uncharacteristically impatient in the heat of the competitive moment. After a series of affronts, he got on her last nerve and she [having never before done such a thing], without thinking, just reached over and relieved him of his shorts. It shocked her, I think, more than anyone else, at the time. A moment of confusion passed before he shouted a threat of telling the headmaster.
So here she was, at the end of the day, fearing the moment in which she would be summoned to the principal’s office. Clearly shocked at herself, she assured me that she didn’t mean to do it, and that she had never been disobedient. And now she worried that her “spotless” high school record would be ruined forever . . .I laughed, and assured her that I did not think she had anything to worry about. In fact, I suspected that the headmaster would also be a bit amused by it. There may need to be some sort of disciplinary action taken, for appearances sake, but I really did not think she had to worry about her future. What I did not tell her is that I am secretly rather proud of my girl’s gutsy spontaneity :-)

Saturday, August 12, 2006

the best of intentions

I have now officially entered into the adventure of coaching a start-up Cross Country team and, one week into it, I am already growing proud of, and attached to, my girls. It would be wise, however, to let go of any aspirations I may have had towards championship trophies [ok, so maybe I never have actually had any of those :-)]. The following tale ought to demonstrate this necessity pretty effectively . . .
On our first practice together this week, I began our run together asking if they had done their “homework,” as I had called each of them a week earlier and asked them to begin easing into running before we met together. One of the girls promptly responded that she had “almost” done it.
Almost? What does that mean?,” I queried.
“Well I got ready to go out, and put on the running shoes I had just got since you said to get some. Then I was trying to decide what else to wear and I looked in the mirror. And I noticed that I looked pretty good in my sports bra. So I walked around in my sports bra for a while, feeling proud of myself for heading out to run. Then I realized I was hungry so I ate some potato chips instead . . . I really did mean to run,” she repeated.

And you know, I believe she did intend to. My private amusement did not stop me from sternly pushing them in practice that day though, like I imagine a good winning coach should :-)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

survey says [take 2]

The end of Session #2 [all boys] of Creative Pages led me to, once again, request anonymous feedback from my students. And, once again, the results provided some happy amusement . . . :

1. What did you like best about “Creative Pages.”
2. What did you like least, or what would you change about it?

1. The story.
2. Having it outside. [sure enough, soaring heat indexes had already forced us indoors halfway through the session]

1. Painting the book. 2. Nothing.

1. The different art forms we got to try out.
2. Nothing. Nothing at all. [In my head I imagine this response in a proper young British accent :-)]

Friday, August 04, 2006

story telling--the first time for my first children's story :-)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

pink and green plaid

So here’s the story behind the boots . . .
Yesterday UPS arrived on my porch with a large box. I was confused, not expecting anything, and even more intrigued when I saw that it had come from Northern California, from the mother of the bride from my “Just another wedding day” blog entry [January]. Inside I was delighted to discover the now famous boots I wore to trudge through the mud on our rain-soaked wedding promenade. In a sweet letter she explained to me that my story had made them famous amongst her friends, and that she had meant for some time now to send them to “their rightful owner.” Also included in the package were photos of Batman, Kiwi, and Mahina—the newest additions to the family. Any guesses as to the nature of these children, befitting the blog story? They are, according to Sarah’s descriptions in the letter, befittingly mischievous goat-kin :-)

Friday, July 28, 2006

calling any faithful blog readers . . .

If someone can tell me to which blog entry the photo visual aid below rightfully belongs, I'll tell you the story behind the picture :-)

what came in the mail today

Monday, July 24, 2006

with a cherry on top

My boss is awfully persuasive it seems [is that an oxymoron? ;-) ] . . .
After initially turning down his request back in the Spring, today I re-thought and gave him a final, reconsidered "yes." Granted, I suppose it could have been the student's request I was agreeing to more so than his. What it was that I agreed to was starting up, and coaching, a girl's Cross Country team. There is a small Cross Country team at the moment--has been for 2 years now--but it is only for boys as there has been no female coach.
My reasoning in not doing it was that I felt unqualified, having no coaching experience beyond my experience running on the team myself and running on my own ever since. Besides, the prospect of starting the team from scratch just seemed terribly daunting.
But this morning one of the high schoolers came to my desk in the library [after the headmaster had just asked me to think about it again], and she asked if it was true that I was going to start a team up this fall. I told her that it was true that I was thinking about it, but that I wasn't sure if I was up to it and explained why. Looking at me with a convincingly pleading expression, she assured me that there were only a few girls, that they would be "easy" to coach, and that she really wanted the chance to run . . .
And how could I possibly turn her down at that point?
Hearing me laugh as he walked by the library, the headmaster poked his head in and innocently asked what she had come to see me about, what she had said?
Laughing again, I replied that she had said "Please" :-)

Friday, July 21, 2006

lifestyles of the rich and . . . artistic?

An evening spent experimenting with oil paintings has just convinced me that I am not a true artist [visual, at least]. I think that a real painter would have been satisfied with the process as an accomplishment in itself. I, however, was not able to create the image I had in my head and consequently ended up feeling as if I had wasted my time. Hopefully more experimentation would lead to greater success in the medium, but my conclusion [about my artistic inclinations] remains the same. And unfortunately I doubt I will have many other chances to experiment like I have at the moment--this is simply due to a house-sitting stint in a lovely home that is equipped with an art studio. Like I said, not many occasions like this in my daily life :-) I'm afraid my own young art students do not have a teacher well-funded enough to provide them with such materials . . . so far they seem to be content with their watercolors, acrylics, charcoal, and ink, thankfully!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

special specters

I was given an unusual gift this week. While I was on my way home in the afternoon my neighbor called to warn me about a possibly easy-to-miss item in my mailbox. She explained that her 3-year-old had been hard at work on a project that she absolutely forbid her mother to see. All her mother was allowed to know was that it was for me. She then carefully wrapped it in tissue paper and delivered it to my mailbox--insisting on riding her bike for the great 20 yard trek between their house and mine. During the phone conversation, my neighbor explained that she was a bit concerned that the package may have been carried off by the postman, as it probably would have had to be closely looked for in the mail box. I echoed her concern, intrigued by the prospect of such a surprise and hoping to actually get it. Thankfully the package survived the mail delivery that day. Its packaging did not, I'm afraid--I assumed the torn bits of kleenex to be the "tissue" wrapping of the original gift.
So what was the present? Why, a list of spelling words of course--need you ask?! It was a small piece of notebook paper with lists of repeated words: "mother," "sister," "friend," and "love," among others. After a moment it occurred to me that my little neighbor would not actually have been the original scribe of the words--I have worked with her on writing projects enough to be pretty certain of that. A moment later, however, I happily discovered her personal contribution: the result of her reported laboring efforts--on the back of the paper was a small drawing that I instantly recognized as her artwork. Every time she is offered some sort of writing utensil and something to write on, the result is a figure that distinctly resembles a ghost. The dimensions may vary slightly, but the effect is always the same. It does make me curious to see what her artistic inclinations develop into as the years pass.
For now, though, I am quite content to prominently display my new ghost on the fridge :-)

Monday, July 10, 2006

my happy librarian-heart

The sight of my workplace this morning made me cry. Not in the way one might expect, mind you: these were tears of relief, and tears of joy. See, my school was vandalized in the early morning hours. I found out about it via an early morning phone call from my grandparents who had seen it on the news. They called in a panic, on my behalf, telling me that the school had been ransacked and fire extinguishers sprayed throughout.

What you should know at this point is that such action has the very likely potential to completely destroy a library—to completely destroy the work of this past year, in my case. I have spent a year designing and buying furniture, installing technology, buying new books, sorting through donated ones, cataloging, shelving, organizing, re-organizing . . . basically anything I could think of that was needed to turn a room and a library grant into a functioning school library.

What you should also know is that I am prone towards perfectionism at times. As a result, one of my work stresses is that it is difficult for me to find the time to keep it clean. Libraries are surprisingly difficult to keep clean, with the tendency for dust to settle in nooks and crannies, for old books to harbor mites, and for little hands to leave gifts of candy wrappers, pencil marks, and the like. So I notice accumulated dirt and worry about it.
Well this morning’s discovery was two-fold:

1. The library was wonderfully unappealing to would-be vandals. They walking in, picked up a few magazines, threw them on the floor, and left. The priceless collection of knowledge was left untouched.
2. Thanks to the school-wide mess, a cleaning service was hired [not the usual for our small, do-it-yourself school. They cleaned the library. They not only cleaned it—they treated it as carefully as if it were some proud librarian’s child :-) They dusted every nook and cranny, even lifting up magazines and books to dust underneath. I have never seen it sparkle so, or smell to fresh.

So I stared, gasped, touched surfaces . . . and smiled through my teary eyes. Blessings come from the strangest sources. And this morning the message to me was to let go, to not try to do it all, and to sometimes, every once in a while, be ok with just being.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

it's all in the kisape

This morning a ransom inspiration proved to be oddly fitting, in a symbolically ironic sort of way. It all began when I started making deliveries to my students, taking the newly-bound version of their completed books to them. Two had just finished their stories, artwork, and cover designs, and so I had planned to use this morning to present them with their fine works of craftsmanship.
Both lived within easy walking distance, so the first delivery was made on foot. By the time I was to make the 2nd, however, I was running low on leisure time and decided to bike rather than walk. Normally when I bike I simply carry whatever I need with me in my purse, as it is [intentionally, for this very purpose] a small backpack-style bag. This book, however, in the bag I had packaged it in, was definitely too large to fit in my backpack.
Brainstorming for a quick way to make the trip, I had an “Aha!” moment and thought “My kisape!”
Here I should probably stop to explain, as only a handful of my readers will be with me still . . . A “kisape” is the all-purpose cloth used by Zambian women [or at least that was the term in the area where we lived: it is called by many different names]. This one is the one we brought back to the U.S. with us, and it is what Mom used to cart the 4 of us around while she worked. It is simply a large rectangle of cotton, normally brightly colored in one of infinitely many beautiful prints. The Zambian women also use their kisapes for head cushions [under a load of firewood, for instance], wrapped clothing, and all manner of other practical uses.

This morning, however, I used it draped over the book, under one arm and over the other, the way Zambian children are carried. So, in essence, I thought as I biked, I am carting this book as if it were a child. And then I realized that my student should certainly be informed of the same, so she would know [as if she did not already] the great value of her creation . . . At least that’s what I reported when I arrived and undid my small bundle in order to make the presentation :-)

Monday, July 03, 2006

survey says

As I have definitely decided to hold Session #2 of “Creative Pages” Camp, I asked my Session #1 students to provide a bit of anonymous feedback as to:
1. What should be changed about Creative Pages for next time?
2. What did you like the best about Creative Pages?

Listed below are some of the responses my students offered me. As you will see, a few did little more productive than merely providing a bit of an ego boost :-). All the same, mind you, all gave me seriously helpful/useful things to think about. And we must not neglect the ever-helpful pleasure of a few good laughs. . .

-best. books
-change nothing
-ritinge in ore book [translation “writing in our book.” This was in fact from the disliked part of the survey]
-I think we should do more canvas paintings.
-pating leaves
[translation “painting leaves”—a watercolor & leaf project we did one day]
-I did not really care for the homework.
-learn more writing skills

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

so afraid

It is another day in which I am proud of the creative words of my students. Today, however, it is a floored--and saddened--sort of pride.
Floored by talent.
And saddened by simple honesty.
Below is a quote from a 12 year old, a portion of the poem she wrote for one of the assignments I gave her. As you may guess, she and her family are preparing for an unanticipated move to another state.
Moving, Moving . . .
I don't want to move
I want to stay where
I am . . .
. . . so afraid

Thursday, June 22, 2006

h is for . . .

I am feeling rather proud, in a teacherly sort of way, after a day of being thoroughly wowed by my youngsters’ imaginatively creative output: poems, sketches, stories, watercolor, prose, pastels . . . no art form or media seems to intimidate them. It makes me wonder if I could have ever been so bold as to unconscientiously consult my own muses when I was only 11, 9, even 6 years old; I highly doubt it, as my memories of those years are those of a timid youngster, stilted in my creativity by a lack of encouragement in the arts. For that matter, I do not recall even learning there was such a talent as that of creativity until well into my teen years—rather, it seems that I only knew to think of the arts as a sort of hedonistic pleasure to be indulged in only when there were no other “productive” activities left to be accomplished.
That is part of the reason I suspect I have been so passionate in my attempts to spread the good news of the creative arts among children in my sphere of influence. My deep longing is to teach them that it is a good thing—and a productive thing—to spend time pursuing creative talents . . . and to teach the worthiness of Art as an end in itself rather than solely as a means to an end.
All that to say that, again, I am proud. And as such, here is one of the works of the day, by a 6-year-old budding artist:
The assignment for them was that of a Letter Poem, and below is the poem itself:

H is for mynam [translation “my name”]
H is for horses
H is for helpforechusr [translation “help for each other”]H is for Holly [as in the green and red variety seen at Christmas time]

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

with love and paint-splatters

In the mail last week I received a copy of a book recently published by a Doctor, about his almost 40-year career in Zambia. Gazing at the book’s striking cover [blazing orange sunset over unmistakably African plains], the author’s name brought a flood of bittersweet memories. Unaware that the book existed or, for that matter, that any book about my home village had ever been written, I opened it with an uneasy thrill: thrilled to revisit memories of those close to my childhood heart, and uneasy with the fear that it would be in some manner deficient in its portrayal of the home I loved so deeply. Or worse: that it would fall prey to the easy temptation of all outsider perspectives on a native culture—that of devaluing, even in the most unintentional or miniscule manner, the society’s ways of living, of being.
So the other night I set aside my lesson planning, school readings, and ongoing art projects, and read the book: To Africa with love, by Dr. Jim Foulkes. I did not put the book down until I reached the end that night [barring a mid-reading break to take a phone call].
It was no doubt more meaning to me, with my particular interest, than necessarily to your average reader. And the writing itself was not award-winning, at least from my limited experience as a Creative Writing teacher :-)
But the stories that were told—and more importantly the people about whom they were told—were tremendously inspiring. It is humbling to realize how caught up I get in the stresses of daily life here in the U.S. [the minor, fleeting stresses], when daily life for some involves stresses as to . . .
whether that was an innocent fly on little Jacob’s knee earlier . . . or if we should suspect a Tsetse fly and be wary of Jacob’s drowsier-than-usual little eyes . . .
Granted, I try not to downplay any one manner of life stresses as inherently less valid than others: I am fully aware that we are placed in this one life, in this one season of life, by divine providence—“for such a time as this . . .”
It behooves us all, however, to daily remind ourselves of the grander scheme of it all, and of the relatively minor nature of many of the things it is so easy to waste worrying energy on. I, for one, am prone to forget, at any given moment, that when all is said and done no one will care about [to draw from one current scenario in my daily life] the spot of “Dove Gray” paint that mysteriously drifted from Bradley’s paintbrush, over his head, and squarely onto little sister’s new light yellow Pocahontas purse. What will matter, however, is the burst of excitement and artistic achievement that caused Bradley to swing his paintbrush-laden arm into the air to begin with.

This is my reminder to myself, at least, after a day in which I was disappointed in my own ability [or lack thereof] to remain focused on students’ learning processes rather than on interruptions to my day’s to-do list . . .

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

about that princess

My friend, you suspected correctly--turns out she was not the pink sort: she was delivered to her new bedroom outfitted solely in sapphire and sterling.
In fact, I did not break out the "princess pink" until today, for Acrylic day with my Art Camp students . . . the bottle actually was almost depleted in one day, thanks to my eager student's dashingly pink Walrus on Canvas :-)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

the gimp speaks

Every once in a while I inadvertently make a public display of the normally private oddities of my quirky brain. Case in point:
Thanks to an injured foot, I have spent the past several days hobbling about in an increasingly halting manner—“increasingly” because of my stubborn tendency to ignore the injury and continue running on it until I have significantly worsened it. Before a chorus of chastisements comes my way, I should at least clarify, in my own defense, that 8 years of running has left me spoiled by an odd lack of normal runner’s complaints. The worst of my injuries is usually a nagging pain that just goes away on its own.
This particular one, however, is worse. I don’t know how it happened, but the nurse I talked to said it is probably just a sprain but possibly a fracture. An x-ray is necessary to determine that for sure, and I’m not financially ready to spring for that one yet.
And so I hobble.
The point of all that is that, being spoiled like I mentioned, I am beginning to get rather childishly sulky about it. It is decidedly frustrating to not be able to run, and to not be able to stand without pain.
So last night, after hitting my limit of being out and about, my brother and I settled in for a game of Scrabble. At some point in the course of the game I was trying to convince him of something: probably the use of a word that I technically should not have played. He justifiably balked at my plea, at which point I continued more insistently.

Come on, Alex, just this one play . . . I have a good reason for whiny gimpishness at the moment . . .
At that point, eyebrows raised, Alex looked up from his letters. “What did you just say?”
What? . . . just that I needed to display my whiny gimpishness.
Convinced that he had heard me correctly this time, Alex snickered. He then proceeded to roar with laughter, apparently unconcerned with the fact that he was laughing at me, not with me.

And I continue to hold unswervingly to the perfectly normal nature of my descriptive phrase.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

the not-so-little princess

She so far wears a golden tiara and silver-white gloves, is looking up at a crescent moon, and has a partially-painted sapphire-blue dress. Decidedly girly, I dare say. I have not yet found a place for the "princess pink" paint, but it does seem like I shall have to do so, does it not??

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

tybee tales [take 2]

I tripped over a shell and it squirted water on me. That was kind of nice.
This was Cassie's report to me upon a query as to whether she had found anything of interest on her morning run.
My own report, from a slightly earlier run [we have a bit of a running joke about how her schedule tends to run about an hour behind my own], involved an oddly poised severed snake--missing the rear portion of its body. Initially I assumed it to be dead, but my curious poke promptly proved otherwise.
And that is about the extent of our Island excitement 3 days into the vacation.
Not that I'm complaining, mind you--boating and beach-bumming could scarcely be considered a hardship:
One could do worse than be a . . . bummer of beaches?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

you asked for it . . . my already-grown-out new do

Sunday, May 21, 2006

today [take 2]

Thanks to another Church day accompanied by my 7-year-old friend, I got to take home a most delightful note after giving her doodling paper for the service . . .

Today is Sunday
20, first 2006.
Dear Anna,
You aer a good naber.
I wish you have a
grat day! Love chloe

p.s. I am assuming the "first" came after she asked me if today was the 20th
p.p.s. Below the note was a drawing of a hung "hang man," with the word "chloe," perhaps hinting as to the fact that this week, for the first time, I did not play hang man with her, telling her I was going to listen to the service this week :-)

Friday, May 19, 2006

just call me frida

spiderman and i, we're tight--yes, as of tonight, me and the man in . . . crimson and indigo . . . we are one

Thursday, May 18, 2006

being bob

"sky blue" or "baby blue" overalls? round or oblong ear lobes?
Yes, folks, I admit it: I have spent the evening agonizing over the finer artistic details of Bob the Builder. Who knew such decisions could be so crucial? . . .
Having been commissioned to paint wall hangings for 2 child's bedrooms has proven to be an intriguing adventure for me over the past few days. More specifically, I am to paint 1 Bob the Builder, 1 Spiderman, 1 Angel, and 1 Princess. So I may never be the next Picasso; but I bet you I could give him a few pointers at the moment as to Bob's acrylic-on-canvas creative characteristics.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

mom's day mix-up

There was an old lady who lived in a shoe. Had so many kids she didn’t know what to do.
Well maybe she shoulda given my Mama a call—said “Hey, Ms. Jan, how d’you handle your clan?”
But then again, maybe Mom’s not the best. Maybe she shouldn’t answer such an open request.
I know my Mama—she’s not one to tell: she’d say somethin’ silly like “I didn’t do well!”
When we all know the truth is she’s some sort of saint—who can say how she does it all? Lord knows, I cain’t!

Why all the world over, who could ever compare?
Oratin’ like Oprah: when Mama’s a-speakin’, the whole world’s a-listenin’. . .
Judgin’ like Judy: when Mom’s made the decision, none dare dispute . . .
Gardenin’ like Gertrude: when Mother’s been digging the whole earth’s a-bloom . . .
Managin’ like Martha: when Mom cleans house . . .oops [so maybe some analogies don’t work so well].

Well anyhow, you get the picture:
Suffice it to say, on this Mother’s Day,
That I love my Mama more than words can tell.
More than brown paper packages tied up with string. . .
more than warm woolen mittens . . .
even more than ice cream!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

recipe for en-lightenment

You know, it is really quite easy--surprisingly so--to rid oneself of excess, to shed societal trappings and to, in the process, significantly simplify the process of morning get-readiness. Are you inspired and ready yet? Alright, go to it:
Buzz the hair.
I definitely recommend it ;-)

Friday, May 12, 2006

mopsy, flopsy, and pete

Yes folks there is in fact a real live Bunny Lady. And I happen to know where she lives, a mere 45-minute drive from me. She has an official “Bunny Lady” business card. And she lives in a fairy tale sort of tucked-away house on a winding road on the mountain. Her yard is brimming with rabbit habitats and small animal statues, and the sign on her door proclaims it to be a Rabbit-Safe Zone.
It all began when 2 high school boys surreptitiously snuck through the halls carrying a large white bucket—not the normal sight in our suburban private school. As the past the lounge, one of the teachers summoned them back, where we discovered them to be carting around a tiny baby huddled in, and dwarfed by, the large bucket. They explained that they had been instructed by their drama teacher to bring the bucket from her car to her desk. [They had missed, however, her instructions to sneak it in through the back door].
Peering down at the little thing, June loudly proclaimed it doomed and then walked back to her lunch. I interrupted myself in the middle of cuteness-gushing, interfering with her attempt to return to her soup and salad—
What do you mean?!? How do you know?
“Oh, we tried dropper-feeding one once. They just don’t last more than a day. And now that he’s been handled, and Mom’s long gone . . . he’s as good as dead.”
At that point I knew this little bunny’s life was my mission.
First step was tracking down the teacher he “belonged” to. She first looked up and said, “Oh no, you’re mad at me too, aren’t you?” Once I had assured her I was not, I got permission to take it off her hands if I wanted to try raising it. She had brought it in to show her students and intended to release it back into her yard later that evening [her husband had almost mowed over it the previous night, so they had just decided to bring it inside for the night, for lack of any other ideas].
Permission gained, my next step was to call the Wildlife Center. There I was redirected to a Lost Animal Center somewhere in the tri-state region [a long distance number]. They immediately referred me back to my own area, informing me that the Regional Rabbit Expert lived in my own town. She, they assured me, would know what to do.
A phone call to this lady informed me that the little one was too young to survive on its own [less than 4 inches, ears not yet upright, rounded tips, not pointed]. She was amazed that it was still alive, explaining that little ones are so prone to stress that they tend to die of heart attacks if taken out of their habitat. And she then advised me to bring it to her immediately.
I did. I quickly grabbed my car keys, made sure I had the hour and a half necessary for the trip before my next group of students in the library, and stuck a “Out to deliver a bunny” note on my desk. A mere 45 minutes and 1 wrong turn later, I was in Bunny Land itself. She welcomed me in and quickly ushered me to the weighing station. “I thought so . . .” she quietly proclaimed as she wrote down his vital stats in her notebook. “11 or 12 days old. Probably been separated from his family for 2 days already—see how scrawny he is for his length?” I nodded knowingly, unable to think of any intelligent response. “Well hello little one,” she cooed as she cupped him in her palm and held his face up to her own. “My other babies already had their lunch, so you’ll get a late one. I think you’ll get along just fine with the other youngsters.”
I agree. I left there happily contemplating the future of the little guy. Soon I was back in my normal workplace, surrounded by my usual “youngsters,” but left lighthearted over the whole experience.

So hey, be kind to your cotton-tailed friends: the life you save may be . . . Peter Rabbit’s?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

there were [more] roses

I stole a rose. Ok, so maybe I stole 2 roses. On a slightly different running route, I passed a yard that I hadn’t seen up close before. The house itself was tucked back almost out of view, and when I looked more closely I saw a house that appeared to be at best run-down, at worst condemned. But the roses . . .oh, the glorious roses!—and the same blush-pink brimming sort of bush that had drawn me back in my “there were roses” days, in my old house. And I knew I had to steal a rose . . . There are so many . . . and maybe no one lives here . . . maybe the house is actually condemned . . .
The only problem for my theft was that the rose bush was right next to the road. So as I bent to start picking a rose, I heard an approaching vehicle. I shot back up and began to innocently jog in place. Looking perfectly inconspicuous no doubt: jogging in place, next to a main road, in front of a rose bush . . . You know. The kind of thing folks do all the time.
The car passed. I resumed my theft. And a few thorn-pricks and briar-scratches later, another engine hum reached my ears. This time I thought more quickly and ran forward rather than in place, presumably maintaining a better air of innocence.
The car passed. I jogged backwards [thus primed for innocent forward-running should another car come]. This time I successfully picked a bloom—then a second.
Returning home, I began to feel rather guilt-ridden—until a flash of inspiration showed me the perfect act of penance:
I printed out a copy of my “there were roses” story [see 11/7/2004 post in archives], folded it, and on the outside wrote this note:

Dear Neighbor,
Passing your lovely rose bush for the first time, I was struck by its beauty. It reminded me of this story, so I am offering you the tale now.
Thank you for adding a bit of beauty to the world.

I sort of neglected to mention the fact that I had actually taken 2 blooms. But what I decided was that offering an amusing story to them would be a way of thanking them without potentially angering them [if in fact someone does live there].

And there you have it—my confession to the world, or at least to one little blogging corner of my little world :-)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

quick on the draw

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. I have used my power for evil, potentially scarring an impressionable youngster for life . . .
So remember when I was ranting about my students the other day? Well it seems I have crossed the threshold, discovering a new side to my mild-mannered self . . .
"My name is Anna, and I am sarcastic."

As happens more often than I'd like to admit, I was exasperated again yesterday. How difficult can it be, I thought, to convince the 4 students not away for the college tour to quietly write an in-class essay? Tremendously difficult, apparently.
The first 15 minutes was wasted on queries as to the wording of the assignment, complaints about the loudly lecturing teacher down the hall, comments about Ms. Mabel’s latest fashion statement . . . and the like.
Managing finally to get so far as handing out papers and explaining assignments, I was then faced with a flurry of questions as to the particulars of the story’s plot, characters, theme, conflict, and various other questions rightly belonging in the private lines of each student’s essay. So I told them as much. Several times. Finally the room quieted down.
Until Courtney forgot she was not supposed to be asking such questions anymore. She raised her head to reveal her perpetually furrowed brows and innocently wide-eyed expression and shot into the silence: “Was Jerry the one who ended up stealing the money at the end?”
Before anyone could venture a reply, I just-as-innocently said that No, that was Wally.
“Wally??” Courtney then began frantically shuffling pages until one of her classmates kindly explained that there was no Wally.
“Oh . . . ok,” And she began writing again.
Until she forgot that she was not to ask such questions. “So why did Jerry give the money back to Sally?”
Because Sally wanted to buy a bicycle for Billy.
“She did??” With a grimace of utter dismay, Courtney again began rifling through her text. A classmate kindly interjected again, and then turned to me:
Miss J—do we need to send you out into the hall?At that point laughter won out over wit, and I relinquished to my quick-tongued young student’s chiding. I was an utterly nice teacher for the rest of the class period. Promise.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

baby steps

As a beginner yogi, with about 2 months now of as-close-to-daily practice as I can manage, I have so far been relying on different videos and dvd's that I found at the library. Realizing I was ready to stretch myself further, I browsed the book shelves at the main branch yesterday and came away with 2 intermediate/advanced books. Playing this afternoon, I have just made a delightful discovery: a pose I had seen and been amazed by is, in fact possible. And I am able to contort my own limbs into the joyous position of Urdhva Padmasana in Sarvangasana. Simple pleasures? Perhaps. But oh, how gratifying simple pleasures can be!

Monday, April 10, 2006

as i was saying

“So that marvelously executed interior paint job,” you were wondering, “how, pray tell, did that miracle-working occur?” I shall happily tell you the story. It happened one Friday . . .
As soon as the bell released the students and, yes, the teachers, I was on a mission. To my beloved Lowes to peruse the paint, consult with the store experts, and definitively place my paint-mixing shade order. To my car laden with “Lighthouse”-hued Matte Interior paint. And to my apartment for project preparation.
In between, however, was a phone call to my Grandpa: “PaCharley? Hi . . . so remember when I mentioned to you the possibility of helping when, sometime in the future, I would repaint my place—you remember? We were planning for, say, close to the summer when things calmed down at work? Well I kind of couldn’t wait that long. I know I’m being impulsive, so please don’t feel like you have to help now but—yeah—I decided to start tonight . . .”
Of course, it being PaCharley, by the time I made it home he was in full painting gear, laden with rollers, brushes, drop cloths, step ladder, paint sticks, bucket, paint can opener, etc. etc. . . In other words, anything you could possibly need, he was prepared for. And he was waiting at my door.
Several hours later, he bid me goodnight. I happily hugged him, thanked him profusely, and returned to the project, which I was finished with by the end of the next day. As I worked, I thought.
And I realized that I needed that project. I was desperate to be instantly, obviously productive. I was also in need of the wise counsel and sweet companionship of my Pa Charley. He listened to my ramblings and to my fuming. And he offered in return his gently challenging feedback as well as the simple, sweet gift of his quiet company.
You see, I was angry. I was frustrated with the effort of pouring my energies into lesson planning and passionate lecturing, to be greeted by teenage apathy and carelessness. I had pleaded with them to listen, if only for 5 minutes. I explained that I was prepared to spoon-feed them with the basic literary knowledge that would carry them into college prepared. I begged them to understand how vital of a role this poet had played in the civil rights movement, in the empowerment of African Americans, and of women. But they did not care—or at least gave no indication of caring. They giggled over bodily functions and gossiped about comments made by peers, and by teachers. And in the end, I gave up. I spent the end of the day changing the subject until I stumbled upon a topic that caught their interest. Then I joked around with them.

I do love these students, and have enjoyed the year of getting to know them slowly through subbing stints and library consultations. And I know better than to cling too dearly to my own plan for what they will take away from any given lesson. But I do cling, all the same, in spite of knowing better.
So this past weekend, I recognized my frustration and—gulp—yes, my anger—and I did something about it. I reclaimed my own space, my own home, my own life. And I dare say, my Lighthouse-hued walls look da** fine :-)

visual aid #2

Sunday, April 09, 2006


So my intent this afternoon was to write about the photo "visual aid" below: my completed painting project and the odd manner in which my inspiration for it came about. But instead, I must interrupt myself with today's tale . . .
My 7-year-old neighbor Chloe accompanied me to Church, providing the particular treat of getting to pass the time drawing and playing hang man with her. Afterwards, I took home with me both of our artwork scratch paper--an act which afforded an unexpected delight.
Copied below is what I discovered on Chloe's paper, and what was the obvious outcome of her periodic queries as to the spelling of particular words, the day's date, etc. Further words from me are not necessary, I am sure . . .

is April 9th Sunday
I am at church
I am lisning
to God.
I am with

Saturday, April 08, 2006

let the sun shine in . . .

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

the journey's end

It was no walk in the park. It was not even a “challenging” trip. It was a grit-your-teeth-and-survive sort of excursion. More so than any other outdoor trip in my memory, this one was so much more difficult than any of us expected. Part of this was due to the cold front that blasted us with biting winds sideways blasts of sleet. Part of it was due to the downpours that left numb fingers to fumble with cookware and tent-stakes when all we saw to look forward to after a day of sodden-shoed trudging was a wet sleeping back and another day of the same. And part of it was due to the patience-trying nature of differing levels of fitness and fortitude and impeding injuries.
But it was not all bad. We had moments when the sun burst its way through, making us squint through rain-darkened lashes. And not every night was a cold one: one evening I crawled into a sleeping bag that shocked me with its welcoming warmth. That was a long night of deep slumber and rambling, fit-less dreams.
The best part of it all, however, was getting to watch the troops rally: I felt proud and parental when I saw how these teenagers—none of whom had even been on this long of a backpacking trip—stepped beyond their own levels of comfort and fatigue in order to cheer each other on. I was both humbled by my own weakness of body and spirit, and buoyed by their youthful optimism. And every once in a while, God even saw fit to grant me the precious gift of internal strength—when I knew that none of my own strength remained—that allowed me to encourage another traveler along the way.
Perhaps I chose to step out into the unknown of this voyage, at a time when my life was a swirling mass of unknowns, in order to reclaim my life—to choose my own terrifying “unknown.” And that it was. It was terrifying, in that [as with many of life’s experiences], had I known what I was stepping into I would probably have never accepted the challenge. But I did it. We did it. We did it. The future, in all its unknowns, can hold nothing that our Maker cannot more than adequately equip us for. And experiences such as this one, though extremely short in the grand scheme of it all, are intensely significant in their life-changing capacity. We all need such times, I suspect, to shake us out of our complacency and ease, and to remind us that strength comes when we need it, not a moment earlier and never too late.

Friday, March 10, 2006

gaiters and gorp

I have recently discovered that the internet world is not terribly friendly towards a librarian who is planning to lead an outdoor excursion. Somehow, my library science training has not adequately prepared me for navigating the online presence of outdoor enthusiasts. Or perhaps it has been helpful, and I am just impatient . . .
Either way, it took me longer than I expected to compile and create detailed “plans” for my upcoming week-long excursion on the Appalachian Trail. But I persisted, neglecting my library this week while I tracked down caloric expenditure charts, teen backpacking tips, packing lists and checklists, sample menus, backpackers recipes, carrying-weight charts, per person guidelines, and shopping lists.
Finally yesterday, satisfied with my work, I collected my final versions of a packing checklist for the students, menu planning chart for the week, corresponding recipes divided into Breakfasts, Lunches, and Dinners, “cheat sheet” tips for cooking all manner of trail foods [dehydrated eggs, rice, milk powder, etc], and a shopping list in chart format, to be completed with per person/per meal amounts.
Hunting down my co-leader for the trip, I found him as he enjoyed a leisurely lunch in the teacher’s lounge. Probably interrupting his bantering conversation with another teacher, I presented him with each document, explaining my thoughts concerning each one. Then I waited. He humored me, thanked me for all my work, and kindly looked over it all.
Reading between the lines, though, I came away pretty sure that he, with years more leading experience than I have had, surely [and rightly] must think I am overdoing it. When it comes to outdoor trips of this length, I do have enough past experience to know that the planning I do is more for my own peace of mind than anything else. There is something comforting about “preparing,” even though once out on the trail it is difficult to really be “prepared.” Prepared for the nitty gritty realities of being out there, at any rate . . .
Well, who knows: I guess we’ll find out next week how much help my extensive, librarian-ish preparations have been “ :-)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


What is one supposed to make of two intense and markedly near-death experiences within the span of the same number of weeks? Who knows what one is supposed to make of it . . . but I can tell you what I make of it. I think I can, at least.
Perhaps before I do so, however, I should tell you the second of the experiences [the first having been relayed quite recently already on this blog]:
This week I had the privilege of representing my school, and county, for the Annual Library Legislative Day, held in the state capitol. It was a wonderful whirlwind of a couple of days, filled with inspirational moments, inspired brainstorming, and spirited conversations. While driving back home, contentedly peaceful in my Barbara Kingsolver book-on-tape reverie, my world was suddenly shattered. Or at least, my windshield was.
I watched the scene unfold in slow motion before me, as the 18-wheeler met with the 2 x 4, which cracked in half. One half of the wooden beam careened in, hitting my windshield squarely in the center and shattering it in what I later discovered to be a lovely pattern of ripples-in-water-like concentric circles.
As I do when instantly terrified, I began to hyperventilate. And my heart quickened till my ears rang with the clanging of my internal beat. But I stayed squarely on the road, made it the rest of the way home with only the delay of a state trooper report, and the only casualty was one windshield.
I still have to catch my breath when I replay the scene in my mind. But moving past the fear, I realize what I know to be true . . .
I know that I am loved by a silver-haired and golden-hearted couple. When my grandmother offered to bring me dinner upon my arrival, I accepted, knowing I would not have time to cook before class started that night. This rapidly-moving woman who is always quick to declare herself “unsentimental,” delivered my meal in a carefully packaged box of individual containers enough for a week of dinners. On the top she had placed 2 brilliant Camelia blooms, clipped from her bush and carefully tied together. She did this not out of any aesthetic inclinations of her own, I know—it was simply a gesture of love. She knows me well enough to know the great pleasure that simple blooms can bring.

I also know that, for whatever reason, my time here on earth is not yet done. It was of course the sort of freak accident that happens every day. And we all could die, at any given moment. But I cannot let slide the tangible closeness of death that this, and last week’s incident, have given me a taste of. I cannot not be more mindful of this precarious life that only I can claim as my own. I do choose to own it. Whatever it is that I am meant to do yet on this earth, I choose to do it well. I choose to live intentionally.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

a beauty's day

“She walks in Beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies . . .”
Thus spoke Lord Byron of his delight,
And I am sure he spoke no lies.

But dare I say . . .
If I may . . .

That I’ve a sister [her name means “light”],
Who outshines the Light of Byron’s eyes.
His Beauty, sure, was quite a sight,
But Helen needs no nightly guise

For every day
Bows, Helen to obey . . .

Yes, Helen Kay’s a true Grand Dame,
Whom one cannot but address as “Ma’am,”
But have no fear: she never frightens,
She needn’t, for others’ lives she brightens

So on this 22nd day of Fevrièr

I wish for my Helen a love-filled Birthday!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

But at my back I always hear . . .

So I may never know for sure what happened to me on that hellish night. It seems to have worked its way through my system—for the most part. My muscles feel today as if I recently ran a marathon, with a tight and aching soreness. And I am rather frightened still, hyper-vigilant and on-guard. Not having my Potassium levels tested in the midst of it all, blood work at this point would probably show nothing, even if I were ready to shell out the cash required for it. Mind you, I am not silly enough to completely blow it off: the slightest recurrence would have me dashing to the hospital with no financial qualms. I simply suspect that I would feel silly about spending the income I have had to stress so much over lately if there is no foreseeable benefit for doing so. So like I said, I may never know for sure what happened . . .
But this I do know:
I am thankful. I am thankful for a body that, up to this point, has served me faithfully. Too much of my life has been spent taking my health for granted. I rush along, blithely assuming that whatever I set my mind to, I can do. It is humbling to realize that if my body is off-kilter, no matter what I may want to do, this corporal cloak could prevent it.

I am also thankful to be blessed with people I can count on. I have a friend. A friend who, when I called to start to tell her what was going on—in the middle of a work day—she interrupted me to come see me, to hear the story in person, and to check on me. A friend who came back, after work, to take me out to dinner in celebration of wellness, and to spend the evening with me. A friend who I know I can count on to be there—so that when I called my mother to relay the past few days’ events to her, I cried when I tried to explain how thankful I was for count-on-able friendship. So my hope, my prayer, is that I can be such a count-on-able friend.

Friday, February 17, 2006

time's winged chariot

It is a strange thing to be close to death. I almost died last night and did not know it. And I am not yet over the hump. I was miserable all night, for sure. But not until this morning did I figure out the cause: it seems a Potassium overdose cramped up all my muscles, overloading my entire body. A salt substitute was the cause: in my attempt to choose a “healthy” alternative to salt the other day, I discovered a product that just about killed me. Literally. I spent last night alternating between sweats and chills. Periodically I would get up to, painfully, use the bathroom. I tried to drink water, but it was difficult to force into my throat. Now I know that even my swallowing muscles were hindered, making it difficult for me to swallow, speak and, dangerously, breathe. By the time it was late enough for me to gratefully give up my vain attempts at sleep, my muscles were so constricted that I stumbled around in an attempt to walk. My body was just refusing to function. A few anxious phone calls later, I reached a doctor-friend who “diagnosed” me and coached me through the next few steps. So I wait. I watch for signs of further danger, and I wait for my kidney, liver, and intestines to flush out of my system this necessary for life—and deadly—mineral . . .

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

one boy and his world

While writing an email this evening, I realized that part of my day needed to get out, in a sense . . . that I’ve been saddened by a discovery. I should have realized this earlier, I suppose, when I thought about it during the last class of the day and found myself fighting tears. It could have helped that we were watching a DVD about Tsunami’s at the time, mind you—tears are of course odd things sometimes, cropping up when you least expect them, but telling more by doing so than any “expected” tears could ever tell . . .
So anyhow, as I began to say, school involved a rather rough realization . . . the kids I was subbing for started talking about the latest news:
A large chunk of the students are on the ski trip right now, along with several of the teachers. It seems that last night a teacher found drugs on one of the kids—a discovery that his classmates were not at all surprised by. They all knew that when he was roaming yesterday afternoon [and he popped in to the library as well, leaving with a disconcerted shake of his head when I asked if he needed me], he was nervously looking for his dealer to arrive.

How disheartening--I really liked the kid, for all his oddities. He is a sweet boy, and eager to please, eager to be helpful when asked. And it's so sad that I suppose that as a school we'll have to lose him now, to a world that is, I fear, not so kind to teenage boys . . .

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

mission statement

When my headmaster asked us all for a new year's goal, I found I had trouble narrowing my thoughts down to an average sort of goal. What I ended up sending to him, as a result, is the following "Mission Statement":

As a librarian, my goal is to challenge assumptions. I would like to surround the students of this school with reminders, via the vast and limitless world of learning, that they do not [regardless of what they may think] know it all. There are mysteries and unknowns abounding, and just waiting for the occasion to astound students with the thrill of new knowledge. So I will stock this library with the best of what the world has to offer, in the way of cool facts [Reference materials], worlds unknown [Fantasy], strangers to get to know [Biography], and situations to experience [Fiction] . . .
As those in my profession are still stereotyped as relatively inaccessible or quiet or shy, my goal is to be a presence that students are happy to come to. I want to cheerfully be open to questions, to welcome “interruptions,” and to not let busyness with work to be done prevent me from always keeping one eye watching for questioning kids and one ear cocked for a whispered wondering.
Finally, how can I dare to promote a library if I do not devote myself to a lifetime of learning? I must pursue my own educational development. I cannot pretend to know it all already, and I cannot sit complacently in any semblance of “been there,” “done that,” or “know that.” I must get excited about new subjects to study and new skills to learn. And I will be transparent in my giddiness upon new discoveries. By doing so, I hope to impart to others the sense that it is a good thing, and a right thing, to be excited about learning.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

petit prince

just another wedding day

It was not your average wedding. Drizzles turned to torrents as the mother of the bride read, causing the Petit Prince’s wonderings to be nearly shouted not merely mused. Guests periodically turned to neighbors to relight hand held candles after gusts of wind had extinguished them. We performed mini leg lifts as we stood, in an attempt to revive numb toes. As the priest painstakingly broke the bread with his frozen fingers, raindrops dribbled down the back of my neck from one hole in the leaky tent.
But we were actually all quite relieved at the recent improvement in our circumstances. One hour earlier, as I was putting the finishing touches on the bride’s makeup, the lights had flickered. Moments later, astonished cries erupted when the house was suddenly abuzz with lights, whirs, and hums—“astonished” because, after four days without power, we had grown quite resigned to the certainty of a candle-lit, fire-warmed, stove-less-catered, and “charming”ly rustic wedding and reception. Indeed, we were such creatures of the dark that, suddenly illuminated by intense light, I flipped the switch off, preferring to resume the makeup process lit only by rain-darkened rays filtering in through the window.
And frankly, as far as makeup was concerned, it really didn’t matter all that much; makeup and hair completed, Glenna [being who she is] had promptly re-donned her mud boots, shot out the door [with neither hood nor umbrella], and commenced with dragging benches across the marsh of a yard. Rain pouring down her face, she then grabbed the backhoe from the shed and began digging trenches to allow the deepening pond under to wedding tent to drain. Thankfully, by this point I was on one of my delivery runs to the tent, and I caught the bride in her soggy glory. I shook my head with a groan and quickened my trudge to a soldier-worthy march. I knew better, however, after three years as roommates, to put too much faith in my scolding pleas when head to head with Glenna’s dogged persistence. So I breathed a sigh of relief when she simply rattled off a string of preparation instructions and returned to the house for more bride-ish activities like, say . . . donning her wedding dress?
Half an hour later our motley crew of a wedding party assembled for the processional—if one could call it that—through the rain. As we took a quick head count the bride’s brother rushed out to join us, apologizing for his inability to locate a pair of matching shoes. I easily reassured him, pointing out my own: having drenched my feet during preparations, I abandoned my shoes for the sake of borrowed wool socks and green & pink plaid rubber rain boots. Not once did I regret that decision.
So out the door we went. Arm in arm, the two of us bridesmaids “dum dum da dum”ed a multi-pitched rendition of the Wedding March, while the groom adjusted his bride’s wayward dress strap for her. The goats looked up from their grazing as if noting our nuttiness, while the bride tugged her heel out of a sunken mound of mud. And all was oddly perfect. I could not, for the life of me, conceive of any place I’d rather be than in the mud on this day—January 3, 2006—in flood-ravaged Northern California.
No, it was not your average wedding. But God in His heaven smiled down.