Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

(This probably will need to be edited. I wrote it for me and am sharing it because it feels right. I'm a feeler. )

The whir of the kitchen aid mixer resounded in my ears as the front door swung shut behind me. My body knew what to do. The cold air enveloped me, swooshing in the holes in my shoes. It didn’t matter. I kicked the shoes off, climbing the ladder and through the net. The trampoline was frozen, causing the mat that covered the springs to break from its usual soft thud into a loud clap, every bounce clapped louder and louder.

Thwack. Thwack. Thwack. With each bounce, I exerted more of my pent up energy, stored from the feasting of Christmas and the family-directed regimen of the day. I hadn’t wanted to sit in the kitchen for the card game. Thwack. I can’t believe I ate that gummy candy. Thwack. Why couldn’t we be one of those active families that goes on hikes together? Thwack. I’d put my foot in my mouth too many times to count today. Thwack.

As my legs pushed harder and harder into the trampoline’s surface, I wished I could fling my body in the millions of flips I’d seen my brother do. Instead, I hopped around, starting each hop with purpose. I’d had my fill for the day and we had yet to eat Christmas dinner.

As my bouncing incarnated my tension, a strange thing happened. With every push deeper into the surface, my body refused to rocket up as high as before. I was exhausting myself, and my throat rasped as I drew in each cold gasp of air. The anxiety faded as I was left with only the desire for a full breath. My jumps grew smaller in the still pre-dusk, my breaths louder. Such is life for an exercised-induced asthmatic. Phlegm always fills those tiny, critical pockets in my lungs when it’s cold out.

Panting, I dismounted the trampoline, sliding into my clogs. I noticed only my breath as I walked into the house. It felt holy somehow. Just me and my breath.

In Judaism, one of the names for God is unpronounceable. However, some scholars have noted that the name written in English as YHWH sounds a lot like someone breathing. So when Moses asked this unseeable being what his name was, he heard the sound of God’s breath. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

Yoga would not be yoga without the emphasis of breath. There is a profound awareness of moving with your breath, lengthening each draw in and release, settling into your own body’s rhythm. Each movement occurs on an inhale or an exhale. That breath must be yours, not your instructor’s, not your neighbor’s. Within each pose, there is a dynamic balance of the ebb and flow of oxygen. Those waves of breath hold you in the pose, draw you deeper, release you from it and transition you into the next one.

If God’s name, the very identity of God, sounds like breathing, it is no great leap to say that God is in each breath we take. And if, as in yoga, our breath moves us from place to place, holds us there and leads us out, perhaps it is unnecessary to search for God “out there”. That’s what incarnation is, isn’t it? That’s what Christmas is - celebrating that God, this “other” being/existence became a human. Encountering God went from a usually petrifying experience some spirit that was hovering or in fire, clouds, water, or the stillness of a mountain, to eating, fasting, drinking wine, or even giving birth. Our humanness becomes a way to experience God. Or rather, God experiences our humanness and leaves us with new eyes to see it as holy.

So friend, know today, on Christmas, that you are holy. You bear the presence of God in your body. When you least feel that way, take a deep breath. Enjoy the air and the miracle of life that you are.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

Best day ever...

Listen to quote

"So, Dad, I planned out our whole day. First we'll make snow angels for two hours, and then we'll go ice skating, and then we'll eat a whole roll of toll house cookie dough as fast as we can, and then to finish, we'll snuggle."

Monday, December 6, 2010

Open arms

Hello blog readers,

How are you? What's going on in your lives as you read this? Are you mindlessly internet surfing? Looking to see if I've updated the blogaroo? It strikes me that blogs are slightly weird. Well, they're weird in a lot of ways, but especially because I feel like sometimes I click the link that says "New Post" and then proceed to word vomit all over the screen. It's like when I start a phone conversation with a close friend and it jumps from "Ellen!!" to me rattling off "So, today at work..." without so much as a hello back to the other party. This even happens to me at work. A teacher comes in the room and I jump in with both feet, "Where do you want me to stack these papers?" Almost every single time, I think "Dang. I just skipped the greeting and went for maximum efficiency." My Spaniard self HATES when I do that. What about the relationship? What about the obligatory "How was your weekend?" I wish there was a less clichéd way of saying "How are you?" I really mean "It's good to see you. Is there anything going on that you want to share with me (because I'd be happy to listen) or shall we dispense with pleasantries and move on to what's happening now?"

Perhaps this is why the question gets boiled down to a quick, "how's it going?"

ANYWAY, all this as an intro to what complused me to come straight up to my room and jump on Ned the MacBook, click on Firefox (what a strange name for a browser.), and go to Blogger before I even did the compulsive email/ FB scan.

I've been wondering why sometimes I feel uncomfortable around Christians. This may strike you as odd if you know that I do - in fact - profess faith in Christianity. But for some reason, for a number of years (two), I have been much more comfortable in public* settings that are decidedly achristian. (This may be an invented word. Let's hope so.) I have struggled with articulating why this is to those who are more comfortable in Christian contexts.

Today I found myself in a situation where I thought I might be being evangelized. To diffuse the situation, I hurriedly explained that I too was "a believer"**. Immediately, I felt as if this kind woman created a little wall around us that separated us from the rest of the world. WE were Christians... THEY were on the outside. Except... I feel more similar - I think - to those on the outside. And I like it out there. I can think creatively... outside the box... outside the expectations of those inside the box. It's only outside the box that I feel like I CAN be a Christian. Because it's not uniform. It's just part of me. So in building aforementioned wall, I felt isolated.

And the other, more important part of this analogy is that Jesus never says a lot of good things about walls or about people who try to hang with only the ones on the inside. Au contraire, Pierre. Jesus likes to hang with the folks*** who have been kicked out for NOT being religious.

I am certainly a measly beginner when it comes to this. But I want to keep trying to begin, no matter how daunting it seems, to meet everyone with open arms, even people who have a more closed view of life.

*I almost forgot the "l" in public. That would have been awk.
**A strange term in itself. I'm pretty sure everyone believes in SOMETHING, even if it is that you believe in nothing. HA paradox... Anyway, yes, I'm a believer in lots of things, including that my father should not tuck his casual shirts into his jeans. Also I believe in love, that peace is a better way, and that fashion should not cause anyone - wearer or seamstress- pain.
*** My English textbook in Spain cited "folks" as the American way of saying "relatives/ parents." I was unaware that this is a distinctly USA-ian noun, but it makes sense.

PS. I think that it was a very natural reaction for that woman to create a little world of Christianity around us. It's natural to seek community with those who are similar to us... as if we'd both just discovered we were from Tennessee or given birth to quadruplets. Or both.

PPS. I do not edit my blog posts. I might look this over once it's published, but otherwise, it's straight from the horse's mouth.

PSS. (Does that even come next?) If you're still with me, kudos. Also, in closing, have a good week and hasta la próxima!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

beauty and breath and bodies and rhythm

listening to people counting

carbs, calories, grams of protein

makes me sick.
but sometimes I do it too.

Then i feel the wind blowing through my hair.
it whispers: there`s something more than that. life is bigger

love is bigger.
God is bigger.

stop counting. it´s eating you.

Today I´m on sick day numero 4. It is old. I´d like my body back please, and maybe a yoga class.
But - alas - I am not ready for that yet. Yesterday I made progress on my book list. I read ALL of Girls of Riyadh in about 4.5 hours. It was glorious. This is why I am terribly near-sighted. Because I read books like a fiend and my eyes don´t have time to adjust to looking far away.

Anyway, I am totally captivated by the stillness I´ve slidden into while being sick. I don´t think slidden is a word. Whatevs. I like it. And so today I almost took a nap on my car just to be outside in the humidity that carries me back to a million other humid memories... strolling along a beach in Spain, one unseasonably warm day in a January of my childhood when my grandparents were visiting, and even my a service project I did in Texas my freshman year of college. I ended up getting a little chilly, so I retreated inside.

This post is pushing close to rambling, but it could be because I just want to get out of being sick, even if that means sending only my words into cyberspace.

Bringing me back to focusing though, I believe life is threaded with meaning and depth and a heartbeat we can feel if we just take the time to settle ourselves out of counting calories or money in the bank or days till Thanksgiving (4!!) or facebook status updates, or whatever it is that I´m keeping tabs on that day. I read in the newspaper today that a large number of my generation is actually addicted to social networking sites. I am not innocent of this. But I do think it´s a little sad, just for our souls, whenever I get a chance to experience the fullness of life outside of a dark room with a bright screen. As I´ve laid in my bed, I had the chance to thumb through a website that reminded me of this beauty - It´s the story of one mother as she captures beauty, pain, and everyday life as an attempt to remember that

And so are we all, weaving our various tapestries of days and weeks and months into a life.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Reading list

Stones into Schools by Greg Mortenson

Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea

Decoded by Jay Z

Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist

So this is my list. Let´s see if I can make it happen...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

adulthood. hello?

After writing this, I found that it ends up sounding a bit ego-centrical or narcissistic (a word I am still practicing using). I don't mean for it to sound that way, I just wanted to share some observations with you. And they are about me. Maybe someday I will laugh at these very ideas, but I'm okay with that.

Back in the day, which was a Wednesday, I was a sophomore in college. I mean I was a sophomore for more than one day, but you get the gist. My fascination with developmental psychology and consequent minor led me to take Adult Developmental Psych. I was enthralled with the concept of "emerging adulthood" which essentially means that there is no social norm for humans who have been on this earth between eighteen and thirty years. I found it fascinating that people who were in their late twenties still did not feel like "adults". There really was no standard time when people felt like they had crossed that threshold line to be "grown-ups". In fact, the only consistent predictor of it was whether or not the person had their own children. Generally, people who are married with kids feel like adults. I have found this to be true.

Well, this week I realized that I feel like an adult. Despite having a renewed enthusiasm and childlike appreciation of all things awesome (squishy mud, ramps instead of stairs, that extra crunchy leaf, bouncy balls, giant exercise balls, bubble wrap... you get the idea), I have been awakened to a growing sense of self. I can thank my parents (thanks!) for acting as somewhat of a foil for my discovery that I am different. We are family, but I have discovered that our relationship is more one of three separate people than as parent-kid. Perhaps this is because I have somewhat of a range of experiences now that are not shared with anyone. This is quite formative.

I still think the idea that people exist outside of communities that shaped them is a lie. We exist in a web of relationships, links to God, people, nature. However I have started to see my own individuality.

Friday, November 5, 2010

cuentos del primero...

... ¿qué queréis que os diga? trabajo con niños... y dicen unas cosas.... (Claro que escribo con el vosotros aquí... lo echo de menos junto con la ceta y la palabra "coche" en vez de "carro".)

1. Un alumno usaba su gluestick (pegamento en barra) con sus amigas. Me dijo "mine white. she have purple." Él tuvo uno con pegamento blanco, y las niñas tuvieron de morado. Le pregunté si importaba porque los dos pegan igual, ¿no? (de hecho, me han dicho que el color purple en español es purpúla* y hasta los padres dicen librería en vez de biblioteca...). Luego, al mismo chico del gluestick blanco, se le acabó el pegamento. Me pidió otro y cuidé en encontrarle uno con pegamento morado para que fuera igual. Le daba el gluestick y me dijo "It have princess." Y justo como dijo el niño, miré y ¿qué veo? es un gluestick con las princesas de Disney!! Le di otro sin princesas :)

2. Hoy dibujamos nuestras comidas favoritas. (bueno, nosotros no, pero los estudiantes sí) Y un niño dijbujó un helado del mismo tamaño del cabeza del niño en su pictura. que buenoooo!

3. Esto lo cuento en inglés pa que no se aburran la gente guiri... We were looking at a map in Social Studies. The teacher pointed to a four pointed star on the page and said, "This is an instrument we can use to tell direction. Does anyone know what it's called?" One little boy raised is hand confidently and said, "I think it's called a violin."

*por lo visto en, purpura se puede referir a un color violeta-rojo, pero lo del librería tiene que ser puro spanglish.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I'm addicted to you*, Shakira

This is the most beautiful song ever. Like really. It's fine, you don't even have to speak Spanish.

"lo que más"

*"I'm addicted to you" is another Shakira song, but in Spanish AND English. oh my gosh. De verdad - ha salido el sol con este disco.

Monday, October 18, 2010

surprise! it's not what you think...

Can I get a holla if your life has turned out to be nothing like how you thought it would be?

My personal first example of this is that I did not turn out to be long lost princess of some nation in turmoil. And I think we've all discovered that being a "grown-up" is a lot more work than it looks like from 2nd grade.

More seriously though, I can't really think of anyone whose life has turned out like they thought it would even just three years ago. Heck, even two years ago. To me, it seems like days keep rolling in like waves and I keep swimming, but it sure doesn't feel like I'm going anywhere. Then all of a sudden I realize I'm not where I was a year ago or even a month ago. And now doesn't look anything like what I thought it would. The stories that I keep trying to narrate for myself simply fall flat in the daily task of paddling my arms and kicking my feet.

And yet, God meets me - us - in those awkward flailing movements. I have begun to read Stanley Hauerwas' book Hannah's Child and he quotes Sven Birkerts: "there is no faster way to smother the core meaning of a life, its elusive threads and connections, than with the heavy blanket of narrated event."

I had to read that twice. Out loud.
I am learning that it is precisely in the disruptions, hiccups, and breaks from how we think life should go that God meets us. And sometimes, like the disciples en route to Emmaus, we don't even know until after it's over that it was God walking with us in what felt like pure disorientation and hell.

May you meet God on the route to wherever you're going today. And may God give you the grace to recognize it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

quick quote

I created a flickr account this week since I was maxing out my picasa. My browser is set in Spanish, so it automatically started my flickr account in Spanish. This morning it greeted me:

"Howdy Ellen ¡Ahora sabes saludar a la gente en inglés!"

Translation "Howdy Ellen - Now you know how to greet people in English."

Thanks Flickr. And howdy everyone.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Sometimes I forget that my students are just six years old.
Me, age 5 and 7 months:
Today I remembered. We had an assembly with African dance and music at school. As the awesome West African dancers called students up to dance with them, I saw how tiny mine were compared to the 4th graders, the 6th graders. I thought to myself, "They're just kids, Ellen." I try to treat them like real people, explain things at their level without talking down to them. But at the end of the day, they are only six (or seven) years old. They don't know what a problem like this means:

They tell funny stories when they aren't supposed to about how one time they had a campfire, but it wasn't cold cause it was summer and it was fun and their friend Annie was there. They have no point and are simply memories. They all say eww if someone's body makes an interesting noise, chew on pencils and erasers, and touch everything that's on their desk when they aren't supposed to. They stare out the window and wonder aloud what those kids on the playground are doing mid-math time. When I walk in the room, I have a student who will immediately raise her hand and look at me until I pass by to hear her judgment on what I am wearing that day. "You look nice today," she whispers.
They forget my name and refer to me as "Miss.... ummm..." or my personal favorite "um, Missus, can you help me?"

On Monday, my dear first graders were not at school. We had teacher training. I was shocked to see how quickly I had a pen in my mouth and was fidgeting with all the things on my table, wondering what the people in the hall were doing, hoping I could go use the restroom to get up and not be bored.

We are not that different from first graders. We just know the expectations now and cover it up better. But not all my learning experiences have been like sitting in that room on Monday. No, no. If they had all been like that, I would not have gone to college. I think the most powerful learning doesn't feel like learning at all. You are spellbound, captivated by wonder. We've all had a teacher that made something come alive, from World War II to PreCalc, French I to human anatomy.

How can we tap into that more often? I wondered as I sat in teacher training, "How in the world can a teacher teaching teachers about teaching be uninteresting?! Shouldn't there be enough general knowledge in this room about what creates good learning?"

I still don't really understand. But here's a quote from Henry Barnes, a teacher with the Waldorf schools:

"When children (I'd say "humans") relate what they learn to their own experience, they are interested and alive, and what they learn becomes their own."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

the discipline of living in one place

Spain in January. Costa Ballena (Whale Coast. Don't be fooled. There are no whales)
As summer stickiness turns into frost on my windshield in the mornings, I realize that this is the first time since 2005 that I have experienced autumn in Kansas City. Already wearing my Spanish winter apparel, I remember that we've still got 4-5 months of colder weather in front of us. I remember how nice it was to stroll along the beach in January.

I rabbit trail (something I've learned to control in conversation, but not in my own thoughts), dreaming about life in Argentina, France, Chile. I've browsed scholarships to do research in those places. Then I read about my friends who've moved to Spain. I accutely felt and feel their stress as they search for apartments, churches, friends. I do not envy having to relearn how to use a washer, negotiating customs, starting a new job in a place where you have no mental map of society.

In many ways, living in KC is a luxury. It's glorious to be able to stroll down the streets of childhood, to know that Antioch is one street west of Metcalf, to innately understand the culture of this place. Going to Brookside gives me a deep sense of being home.

Nonetheless, there is something about traveling, about experiencing a new place that I love. I love walking around the city streets and sensing out the mood of the city. Each place I've visited has it's own feel, and if pressed, I could probably describe them, from Tangiers to Paris, from Salt Lake City to Seville. I have not left KC since the first weekend in August. (well, I guess pilgrimage and Lawrence. Lawrence doesn't count does it?) However, that's the longest stint of me being in one place since... 2008. I traced back that far and I'm not sure that's even accurate.

Living in one place, even a place as big and diverse as KC (that's no joke), does take some discipline after traveling so much. I am not imagining new destinations or planning and packing. I LOVE not packing so much. *sigh of relief*

Home is where I am. Welcome home.

Monday, September 27, 2010

So many thoughts and so little organization...

Today I walked Chelsea* to the kindergarten bathroom. They were repairing the first grade bathrooms. Afterwards, she got a drink from the short kindergarten drinking fountain. (Seriously, I could probably sit "criss-cross applesauce" on the floor and drink from it.) She exclaimed, "Why is it so short now? It was taller when I was in kindergarten!"

Classic, textbook dev. psych. love it.

It's interesting how days start to turn into weeks and months when your life is somewhat stable. In retrospect, one of the reasons Spain was so exhausting is that I never had monotony. This may sound romantic and glorious, but part our brain loves autonomization. (sp?)

I'm listening to Silvio Rodriguez right now, a South American musician who masterfully disguised critiques of colonization and corrupt Latin American governments behind the most beautiful love songs I've ever heard. It makes me wonder how I'd view life if my childhood would have been filled with violence. I'd probably have a very different view of the world. What that has to do with the first story, I have no idea. Go figure. I feel a little bit like my brain is trying to think about many things and in order to tell you about them all, I'd have to sit down and word vomit. And I don't feel like doing that when I could be taking the trash out and reading a book.

this is why I am not a good blogger when i am not in a foreign land.

*Name changed, as usual.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


there's not really anyone who can live my life for me.
interfaith work is really rich.
it's really easy to not dive into something. it's much easier to just sit around on your keister all day and entertain yourself with the idea that the right combination of eating, exercising, and sleeping will bring you true contentment.
i want something. i'm just not sure what it is...
i have a habit of waiting for life to start. and it's already happening!!
for a long time, i thought that my story was going to be found in a building at 42nd and genessee. Nope. i'm already living it.
if i could describe myself with a really large venn diagram, there's a part of me that wants to study theology, a part of me that wants to run an ultramarathon, a part of me that wants to do a st. francis (in many ways), a part of me that wants to travel all over the world - and hike machu picchu!, a part that just wants to be settled, and part that wants to sit around and eat ice cream out of the container while i mindlessly cruise the web. (that one's my least favorite).
i'm not really sure what that means.
i pray that God would connect the dots and patch me together.

Friday, September 17, 2010

My dad is a sandwich

I took a delightful walk this evening with my parents. It turns out that eating right can really change your level of energy. I was literally running in circles around them, full of joy about life, the sunset, and the fact that I can run.

As is often the case when I combine joy and a lot of Spanish exposure in a day, I was singing rapid, out-of-breath Juanes as I twirled around my parents. In a tone meant to be funny, my dad said, "I'm the sandwich generation. My parents jabbered away in Czech all the time and I never had any clue what they were saying. And now my daughter is chattering away in Spanish, and I'm clueless again."

I wanted to laugh, but the laugh caught in my chest as I realized how profoundly true his statement was.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Today or I heart NY

Nine years ago
I was in Ms. Boe's English class.
They pulled her out of the room.
We went to Assembly
with rumors of car accidents and tragedy flying.
But not flying as big as what hit New York..

And since this has happened...
We MUST work towards reconciliation. Reach out.

Psalm 120

A song of ascents.
1 I call on the LORD in my distress,
and he answers me.

2 Save me, LORD,
from lying lips
and from deceitful tongues.

3 What will he do to you,
and what more besides,
you deceitful tongue?

4 He will punish you with a warrior's sharp arrows,
with burning coals of the broom bush.

5 Woe to me that I dwell in Meshek,
that I live among the tents of Kedar!

6 Too long have I lived
among those who hate peace.

7 I am for peace;
but when I speak, they are for war.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

not expecting a lot of commets here...

españa, t exo d menos.

Kansas city, te quiero, pero echo de menos a españa. más que nada, echo de menos a la gente, pero también echo de menos mi castello, mi andalú, mi bici española MUY incomoda, la ceta, mi alumnado, los puestos de sol, y esa idea de que mi vida era una aventura total, on the whim of fate.

kansas city, te necesito. Me estableces, me das vida, me llevas a mi misma (never did understand if that was mí mismo, mí misma, mi misma, mi mismo, mí... oh well, it gets the point across).

inglés, eres la lengua de mi corazón, pero llevo el español muy cercita también.

Vida, tengo un amigo italiano. escribió en su Facebook "l'opposto di amare è rinunciare" (y aparte del hecho de que me encanta buscar sus statuses en google translate) me encanta lo que dice "the opposite of love is to give up"
Pero una amiga suya le escribió "ne avevamo parlato una volta.. l'opposto dell'amore è la paura." y significa "the opposite of love is fear" Y esto me lo creo mucho.

Otra frase italiana... "Dios non allontana" Dios no aleja. Me encanta esta frase también porque me amigo italiano me lo tradució con su mano. Dios no nos... empuja más lejos. Dios nos acerca. Los que nos alejamos son nosotros, es el trayecto de la vida. viniendo y yendo como la marea

¿te has dado cuenta una vez de cuanto has cambiado? Y no en mucho tiempo tampoco.
Pienso en como era hace dos años, hace tres años, hace cuatro. es increíble.

Esta mañana, hacía centering prayer, y pensaba de una idea que se ha enterrado dentro de mí. Es la idea que vivimos una narrativa. Life as story. Mi vida tiene que ser una historia, un cuento, porque es increíble. Quiero que Dios siga escribiéndome, que mi vida mueva hacia unos puntos culminantes, hacia unos propósitos.

¿Os cuento un secreto? Quiero casarme con un español. Pero dentro de este deseo es más un deseo de casarme con el español. (Aunque tampoco me vendría mal casarme con un español... tall, dark, handsome. jajajajaja. y, por favor, que hable claramente para que le entienda!)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

the 'nets

Picture this:
A group of five people is sitting around a kitchen table together. All are laughing, their attention held captive. Each takes a turn entertaining the others; every turn inspires more conversation, laughing, or thought-provoking moments. They are watching YouTube videos.

Moments like these are becoming increasingly widespread, worldwide. Perhaps more surprisingly - to me anyway - the moment above happened several weeks ago with my aunt, uncle, cousin, and mom. It resembled an evening I spent in Madrid with people from four countries. Youtubing crosses cultures and SES*, even is beginning to span the generational gap for the tech savvy. (What a great word - "savvy")

As I sat around the table two weeks ago, laughing at an improve musical about napkins pulled up by my cousin Katy, I reflected on the situation. In the screenlight, I looked at the faces around me. Everyone was laughing. I thought about other times around this table, playing board games, cards, talking. Technology in this instance was not detracting from those; but instead it was simply adding another option.

For a long time, I harbored the belief that technology killed real life. Even now, I sit at the same kitchen table, listening to a choir of cicadas, the whirl of the washer. Those things seem more real to me than this blog post, these words I type on a white "New Post" screen.
I think I may have judged the internet too harshly though. While many times it has sucked life right out of me with endless facebook clicking, net surfing, and sore eyes, it has also been a lifeline when I was far away and lonely, a means of sharing my world with people I love who are hours or time zones away. I have seen God in cyberspace - because we are the internet. God dwells with us and when we start dwelling online, guess where God shows up?

Technology, like money, food, large corporations, and time is what we make it. It is not inherently good or evil. I think it has tremendous possibilities for good, for community, for learning. Heck, we watch online videos in first grade math. They are interactive. Did you watch videos in math? Yeah, me neither.
I find this YouTube video fascinating. I recommend it and the one I linked above. Let me know what you think.

*Those who are fortunate enough to access the internet anyway. Contrary to a quote I heard once that made me really angry: If you don't have Facebook, you DO exist. As with any social change, we MUST watch out for those with no voice.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Today, I got up and didn't have to go to work. I slept in all the way to 7:37. It rocked. Then my mom and I had mother-daughter time. We started by getting some antibiotics for my sinus infection (woo hoo!), then proceeded to purchase some non-jean pants so that I can wear something other than skirts and dresses to work. We then stopped at Dean and Deluca, because it's somewhat of a tradition for us on special mornings or afternoons.

One of the most delightful parts of my day though, was realizing that I'm not going anywhere. In fact, I'm planning on being in this city, near this house, for at least another year. Yep. That's twelve months within the same area code. In the same (2) state(s). I asked my mom what it was like to live in the same building for a continuous amount of time. She said it still feels like she's adjusting to things all the time and lives with a family in transition.

Every August for the past four years, my church takes a weekend trip away. We go on pilgrimage to a youth camp. We stay in cabins and tents (cheaper), eat together, pray together, sit in silence together, and play, play play. Swimming pool, lake, games, walks. It's glorious. This year, on Sunday, a woman aptly named Charity shared that she was in transition and had been for about a year. She said that when she had shared this with someone they had promptly apologized, "I'm so sorry." And Charity wanted to know why. Why are we sorry? She said that transition is perhaps life's truest state. Think about it. How often have you felt like your life was stable? Like, really stable. Maybe in retrospect, but in the moment, did it feel stable?

I had a conversation last summer about stability with my dear friend Heather. We called it "being settled." It was before I went to Spain and I was telling her about how I was excited for Spain, yet a little more apprehensive than I'd hoped to be. I had, for the first time in life, experienced this desire to be settled and knew that Spain wouldn't be a very settling place. She felt it too. As we were talking, we realized slowly that "settled" is a condition of the heart more than a condition of residence in one geographical location.

So perhaps settled and stabilized can mean more than simply living in one place. I want to be present to my life and to dwell in my relationships now, in this moment. In whatever unfinished condition I find myself, my room, my life, I want to accept it and see the beauty in it now.

I pray...that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, and being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (ephesians 3)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

aaaand Fast-forward

to now. I am employed. I have to choose some benefits soon. I'm currently sitting a house, two dogs, and one cat.

I might be acquiring an Hispanic accent. Is "hispanic" capitalized?

At my job, I say things all the time like, "Jayden*, can you please stop hitting the desk with your pencil even though you don't want to?" "Kayla, can you sit up and pay attention to Mrs./ Mr./ Miss ___, even if it's hard?" And my precious little students are learning to grit their teeth, stop fidgeting, and say through sometimes clenched teeth "Yes."

Some stories: while playing a math game with a first grader, I corrected her sentence "I'm winning you!" (perfect, btw, in Spanish.) She asked me how I knew it was right. I explained that I had already completed first grade, so I already learned that. She was very surprised to find out that I was not, in fact, a very tall first grader. "You're a teacher?!!?" she remarked in unbelief.

I was supposed to teach the first graders how to use the playground equipment. I had been told that first graders are not as imaginative these days. I spent about ten minutes imagining it was a giant travel machine in preparation. (Seriously, how awesome would a road trip on a vehicle that looked like a jungle gym be??) When it was recess time. I went over the rules - going down the slide on your bottom, no tag or chase at this school, no pushing, etc.). Then I said "We're going to imagine it's a giant magical machine. It's a..." and Marissa yelled out "MARSHMELLOW MACHINE!" I was taken aback and agreed. Then the kids dispersed to play random games of catching chocolate fish, strawberry fish, and gummy worm fish from the chocolate syrup sea. Clearly, this group needed no instruction on imagination.

There's a lot of room for improvement in education. My school is awesome. They do a great job helping students "to excellence." We are well-funded. However, it's a dynamic field and always will be. I remain convinced that all students should sit on exercise balls. Yep. All. Not just the ones who need extra movement. I watched seventeen six year-olds sit and look ("Do not touch") at laptop computers we placed on their desks for five minutes. They could control themselves on exercise balls.

Technology in the classroom is way behind the technology curve. This is something that will change. I taught some very small students "Ctrl+Alt+Delete" today. And how to use a trackpad to "tickle" the computer awake.

We have this natural curiosity that is sometimes squelched in today's structured learning environments. Today I caught Guillermo measuring his pencil with the ruler on his name card. I didn't have the heard to ask him to please put his pencil in a safe place while the teacher was talking.

Bilingual schools - I think it would be unbelievable to get some positive enforcement of Spanish in our schools. We learned syllables today. We could clap Spanish words too, point out that they also have sílabas, and see that in "ca-sa" there are dos. The date could be done in Spanish every other day, small things like that anchor concepts and meaning in two languages and that would have exceedingly great results.

Again - I reemphasize - I love my school. They are doing a fantastic job. I'm often blown away by the teaching that happens there. However, I have been trained to look for means of improving things, so that is what I do.

*All names changed.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Love and marriage...

I am currently reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Committed. It's her second book after Eat, Pray, Love, which I highly recommend. There's a reason it sold so well. It also coincided really nicely with my life.
So, in this book, she's discussing predictors of successful marriages. I know I learned this in adult dev. psych, but I forgot. These are technically correlations, and difficult to quantify, since measuring happiness is a little bit fuzzy. However, the correlations are apparently statistically significant.

Age: The divorce rate for teenage marriages is actually about 75%. So that throws off all the other marriages. Statisically, couples who marry after age 26 seem to have a much greater shot at staying married.
Education - the more educated the couple is, the better chances are. Also, a highly educated woman with a career is more likely to have a happier marriage. Eat that sexists. (This probably has very much to do with identity development and having a stronger sense of self.)
Babies - new babies put a lot of stress on a marriage. Interesting. Of course, new babies put a lot of stress on... anyone and everyone. I think that if the marriage is good, having a baby in that relationship would be actually less stressful than single parenting.
Cohabitation - it's true. Cohabitating couples pre-marriage actually have a slightly higher divorce rate.
Heterogamy - the more similar the couple in age, ethnicity, cultural background, and career, the more likely they are to see that golden anniversary.
Social integration - having a tight-knit group of pals. Buzzword: community
Religiousness - being religious has a slight advantage.
Gender Fairness - Egalitarian marriages do better than ones with stereotypical male-female roles. Perhaps because the pair can divvy up responsibilities based on skill, time, and careers rather than assigning the dude to the lawn and the lady to scrubbing the floor.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Writing is like enjoying a decadent piece of chocolate cake in my soul. Except... better. When I finish, I feel strong, like I've just run five excellent miles on a crisp day. I love playing with the words and letting them flow onto the paper or through the keys on the keyboard. I like putting my writing online sometimes because I like to share it. I have a friend who says she writes for others, because others like her writing. Not me. I write because it's something that gives me pleasure, perspective, and it reminds me what my own voice sounds like.

Writing is like diving into a cold pool (which are getting really hard to find in Kansas City) on a hot summer day. I feel like I glide along weightlessly, wriggling with sheer joy in my proficient English.

hello writing. i love you. let's be BFF.

song of the summer

'tis a worshipful experience
to walk barefoot on the hot earth,
my voice joining cicada and frogs
singing under a million stars and
noticing how my body adapts to
cushion the blow of the cement,
then my stride softens with the grass.

Friday, July 16, 2010

distracted... a confession

I have noticed that I often don't know what to do with myself in the morning. (I know, I know. At this point, you are all thinking "Gee, Ellen, maybe you should get a job..." I'm working on it! But for now I'm enjoying paying attention to the way I experience emotions in many of the same cycles every day.) So. I have noticed that I like to start my days off pretty relaxed. I think my ideal day would begin by waking up around 7:30am (assuming I had gotten enough sleep). I'd then do some centering prayer, have a light breakfast while reading or talking to someone, then read a book or the newspaper. About an hour after eating, I'd walk around to make sure laundry and dishes were all taken care of, then I'd do some yoga or go for a bike ride or swim. Then I would start in on some meaningful task... writing letters, running errands, preparing the house for company, applying for jobs, researching schools, talking to friends, or something.

Doesn't that sound nice? Now, I ask myself, why - if I have no schedule and no real committments - do I not do that in the mornings? I generally wake up and don't feel like praying. So I skip that. Then I carry my book downstairs and proceed not to read it, but instead focus entirely too much on my bowl of cereal, which is followed by tooling around the internet for a while until I have completely lost any sense of direction for the day I might have retained from the night before. Then I think that maybe I should have a snack and start over, nevermind that I am actually not yet hungry.
Today has shaped up a bit like this, though I did do yoga this morning. However, the day is young, it's only 12:14 pm... I think I will try to make the most of the afternoon.

I'm going to start by copying, by hand, a passage on a blog I really enjoy that articulates that sometimes pain is only the gateway to something more beautiful. I like copying passages of things by hand, I think it's a bit of a lost art.
I also like blogging. It gives me a bit of perspective on my life, it reminds me that I have thoughts other than "Cheerios or Grape Nuts?" Oh. I haven't had Grape Nuts in a long time... hmm.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

a bit about myself

I went to a small, Christian, liberal arts college. We were required to attend chapel an average of three times a week. During my four years there, I heard my fair share of speakers - pastors, students, faculty, alumni, parents, etc. There are a few "chapel speeches" that stand out to me. There was the time Moriarty asked us to take of our shoes and leave them there to donate them to the poor. Why? To practice letting go of something with no notice in case we ever met a person with no shoes. There was the alum who told us about when she and her classmates parachuted mice in from the ceiling. It was so vivid I actually imagined experiencing it myself.
There was also a student named Emily who shared with us her penchant for making lists of things she liked or ways she defined herself. I liked that one a lot. So, partially in order to remember who I am, partially to capture that person online at this particular moment in time and space, and partially to give you an idea who is writing this, let me hook you up:

I am currently sorting out a lot of experiences. College, study abroad, a random assortment of jobs ranging from washing the football team's laundry to filling out citizenship apps for permanent residents, to teaching English in Spain for a year. Oh yeah - I just lived in a foreign country for a year. Well, technically nine months. Da igual. Spanish often comes out when I mean to be speaking English. More things: I recently updated my resumé and while looking over it I thought, "Dang. I forgot I did this stuff."
I don't swear in English. Ever. But I do sometimes in Spanish.
I generally enjoy working in the kitchen in the morning. I don't know why.
I am a vegetarian. And I like it.

That is all for now. You know why? Bed time!

Bubble writing?

Why the name?
Why the blog?

It turns out I like keeping a blog. I like paying attention to things and then writing about them descriptively. I think it's relaxing and life-enriching. I also think that while my life coming back stateside may not make for good travel magazine material, it's worth writing about.

bubble writing:
possible definishions (oh my. that's atrocious):
1. like a speech bubble coming out of my mouth
2. a metaphor - capturing moments in writing sometimes is like attempting to write on a piece of bubble gum that is inflated into a bubble.
3. This is probably where it came from - I like bubbles. I like writing. I recently spent some time at a monastery in Atchison, KS. One of the previous guests had left a giant tube of bubbles there. I spent a good amount of time swinging on the porch swing and blowing bubbles with a rod that was approximately twelve inches long.

That experience reminds me that sometimes, for all my striving, I really just need to sit and blow bubbles. Or blog. Or do some other thing that is valuable only because it brings me joy.

Welcome to my journey. A twenty-three year old with internal encyclopedias of knowledge, experience, people, and places... looking forward expectantly at life...