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.