Friday, December 28, 2012

From 8/9/10

I am feeling a bit lost.

As I continue choosing steps that walk me farther from Spain, I feel like a small part of my identity is left huddling about three steps back saying "but... I don't know if I want to go there yet!"

Last Wednesday, my friend Amanda and I embarked on a great American road trip... to Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Nebraska (mostly in that order). We also passed through Oregon and Paradise [park]. I didn't realize when I carefully stored my Shakira, Alejandro Sanz, Jarabe de Palo, and Maná that I might be carefully storing a little part of me that's becoming increasingly difficult to get back.

Life is interesting y da muchas vueltas. I left feeling nostalgic about Spain, wanting to write letters to every one of my friends and acquaintances. In between excellent conversations about adapting, self-disclosing, and making community after college, I felt something hard dissolve in myself. I was part of a group, my group, my friends. We encouraged each other to love better, to see Christ in others, to be healthier. We laughed and cried and prayed. I realized I hadn't prayed aloud with a group of people since May of 2009. That's a long time ago.

I remembered, reinhabited the intellectual side of myself. I had to ask what words meant. I found myself saying "oh my gosh! me too!" or "me neither!" countless times. We understood each other, this eclectic group of people from Michigan to LA.

It's so weird though. I loved it with every fiber of my being. I ended with a cold and danced up a storm, but...

There's a "but".

I am different now. Part of me exists that didn't exist when I was in college. College feels like a lifetime ago. My year in Spain was four years of education crammed into one. And so as much as these friends are home to me, so is my colegio where I taught and they don't know or understand that. It's not their fault. It's just strange to feel so torn and divided. 

Best day ever...

[From 12/17/10]

"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."



Both, and

ways we spend time

making space for others



peace with emptiness


beginner's mind (life-long learner?)



i'm coming to grips with what it means to be a searching, wandering 20 something...



Sometimes I wish I were Spanish.

In first grade, some of the kiddos and I have been talking about how we are all different. Even if you have freckles or don't have freckles or have skin that's different from your neighbor's, you are still you. And that's valuable.

But sometimes... I really wish I were Spanish. :)

Sex + Money

Last Monday, I had the opportunity to see a screening of the documentary Sex + Money: A National Search for Human Worth. It is about slavery right here in the USA.

I was blown away.

First of all, I think this is an issue we all need to know more about. With that said, I will add the trailer at the end of the post.

Secondly, the quality of the documentary is just outstanding. Seriously.

Thirdly (I'm going to switch to a numbered list now, because I don't want to write numbers with -ly at the end.), I got to meet the filmmakers and they were... wonderful. Any description I give will not convey how much I enjoyed, loved talking to them. They were exceedingly gracious and

4. Did I mention I think this is important? I have a lot of opinions and thoughts on it, but don't really know how to put them into a blog-friendly format yet. I'm also not sure that this is the best place for me to share that. It really reminded me of my time in Amsterdam, which was my closest experience with the whole matter.


[A post from 9/21/11]

Today I found myself eating lunch with a colleague, a man who used to work where I work, a man from Costa Rica, and a woman from Peru. We were all speaking English - mostly.

Later I walked outside of the cafeteria and was surprised to find myself it what I will call "expat" mode. "An expatriate (in abbreviated form, expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of the person's upbringing or legal residence." (Thank you wikipedia) What does that mean for "expat mode"? It means that I have turned on a filter to the best of my abilities to make my English as non-regional and dialect free as possible. This includes not slurring words together: "I'mmina go" as well as specific cultural references: "hipSTER" and probably more things than I can just list off consciously.

I was snapped out of my expat mode, or perhaps snapped into awareness that I was IN expat mode, when I walked past two students in full small-college-in-the-midwest jargon. Regrettably, I have not experienced this enough times to be able to tell you how this is different. I will keep listening and practicing awareness, but know that my experience of it was "Wow! Those people talk like I do when I'm not in a foreign context!" Then I realized that all my students were experiencing Kansas City English with all its eccentricities the same way that I experienced Jerez Spanish. It was trippy. This led me to ponder: why do people leave their countries? What causes someone to become an expat, to uproot themselves from the familiar context of home and move far away? Feel free to weigh in with a comment, but I'm going to share a two loose categories I have observed in my many hours logged with foreigners.

The Party-er.
I think we can all relate to this relocating person. I mean, who hasn't wanted to go to Europe for a month and take in the culture? For some, this means excellent sights, museums, wine, food, or villas. For others, perhaps ranging in age from 16-30, this means late nights in discotheques, no getting carded, no parents, and no responsibilities. I have students like this and it's weird to see them enjoying the party life in... suburbia USA?

The Expat
Perhaps they started a successful business and simply decided to stay. Maybe they fell in love with a local. Or maybe, they just found that they culture they moved to fit them better than the one they left. Maybe it's a retiree who always wanted to move to ____.

These are two categories and there are certainly more. No one, of course, fits into one category all the time. That's just how people are.

What do you think? What makes people (or you) leave their countries of origin?

Pringles and Patience

[post from April 2012]

"Hey baby girl, you want some Pringles? Yeah, Pringles. Mmm. You love Pringles!"

I try to squash the thoughts that come into my head about my fellow shopper at Aldi. "Oh gosh... all of the chemicals and additives... gross... No, Ellen. Just focus on why you're here. Don't judge." I scan the shelves of nuts, wishing Aldi would carry unsalted cashews. And chickpeas. I really wish for cans of chickpeas...

But the commotion in the cart next to me draws my attention once more. The baby, somewhere between 1 and 2 is whimpering. "No, we can't open them now.... No. I said NO... JEEZ. JUST STOP IT." Then the mother hisses insults at her daughter. "You're so stupid! Cut it out! Quit it or I'mmina hit you. I'mmina beat you up. Shut up!!"

I am ashamed to say that my first thought was not very nice. "Well, you're the one who dangled those nasty chips in front of her in the first place. And what's she learning from that kind of talk? Not helpful."

My next thought was, "That could be me."

That mother. Does her reaction seem a bit overblown? Have you ever been stressed out and overreacted? I sure have. I have been pushed too close to my breaking point enough time to understand how out of control you feel when your reserves of patience have been depleted.

For reasons I don't quite understand, that's been me a lot lately. Depleted in every way and not quite sure how I ended up flipping out over something so seemingly small as a daughter who wants Pringles. (Here, I need to clarify that I firmly believe it's never okay to threaten a child with violence or things that lower their self esteem.)

I have been stressed about money and my job and sometimes those two things can just infiltrate my life like that and it's like becoming a different person. That's why it seems critical to give people space, to not judge them. Even when it's hard. Even when it involves Pringles.


[post from July 2012]

A question from a  job interview this year: "Tell about a time when you had a lot of deadlines to meet and had to prioritize."

If you gave me that question now, I would have a lot more examples. On May 15 of this year, I got a text message from my roommate, a high school Spanish teacher, planning two week trip to Spain with her students. "Julia's (another Spanish teacher) mom is sick and she can't go. Are you sure you have to work??"

Confession. I was driving to work to sign my summer contract when I read this message. I called Carolyn immediately and said, "WHAT? ARE YOU SERIOUS?" She was. I drove to work and spoke to my boss. He said, "Well, I don't see how I can tell you no."

And just like that, I was going to Spain.

That night, I had a job interview for a part time job teaching swimming lessons. The next day, I turned 25 and actually started to believe that I might be going back to Spain. By the next Friday, I had been hired as a tutor for a sweet little boy and had purchased a plane ticket to visit my Spanish home of Andalucía while the girls did homestays.

Have you ever been on a ride at a carnival, or even a merry-go-round at a playground and experienced the sensation that everything is spinning around and around? You can see colors and maybe whatever is moving on the actual merry-go-round, everything else is out of focus. My life has felt like that for the past month and a half. Most of the things spinning out of focus are positive and beautiful, and for a while, they jump onto my merry-go-round a few at a time and I can see them and enjoy them. But I sort of wish the whole thing would just hold still.


[post from July 2012]

The United States is a great country. I don't ever make the claim that anything is the "best" (this even includes never picking a "best friend" my entire life), but we have a phenomenal amount of diversity in this country. We have deserts and forests and plains and mountains and rivers and oceans and bays and seafood and top technology access and running water and electricity.We are in the middle of a DROUGHT in the midwest and yesterday the water companies said "We don't have a water shortage, just problems with the pipes handling the demand."

We also have an unfathomable (to me) amount of debt, lots of pollution and waste, startlingly clear lines children who go to schools so underfunded and worn down that you can pretty much write their report card when they first walk in the door.

Clearly, we've got some problems. I haven't even talked about hunger, poverty, homelessness, and joblessness.

But wait. Isn't this country also extremely educated, talented, and creative? We have all these problems, but we have so many resources.

Here's the problem. I will illustrate with a story:

The mayor was on the radio. I personally like the mayor. I think the mayor is very competent and has great ideas and is not too fiery. I think it must be a huge asset to remain cool when you are involved in politics. I am happy to have the mayor in charge of my city. So the mayor was on the radio and a woman called in with some concerns.

She was trying so hard to be respectful of the mayor and how he had said that his number one priority was education. But the emotion kept creeping into her voice as she asked him what, exactly, our taxes were paying for with sky-high water bills and not exactly awesome schools.

The mayor (kudos Mayor) kept calm and must have heard the fear in her voice. He tried to assure her that it was hard to pick only one priority to be "number one" and that in no way negates the importance of education. He continued, but I was so struck by how well this illustrates the problem of conflict resolution that I don't remember everything else that was said.

We are scared and our fear makes it really hard to work together. We're scared because we're tired, we're in debt, it feels like no one cares, and our tummies kind of hurt. We feel excluded, not safe, and polarized. No wonder it's so hard to work together.

We've all experienced fear. It's crazy the way it fires up our insides and keeps us from thinking straight. Have you ever been on the outside of a conversation like the one I heard on the radio? Fear kept this woman from being able to understand the mayor. It was paralyzing.

When we can't put ourselves in the place of someone else, it makes resolving the conflict next to impossible. Both parties must be able to turn from confronting the other to standing next to them. And until that happens, polarizing fear will keep us apart.

Let's stand next to someone today in love, this week, instead of standing across from them in fear.

Late night celebrations

[post from fall 2012]

It's not often that I feel like staying out until almost one in the morning. But tonight was a special night celebrating a special woman. The gifts we bought were cards written with affirmations and blessings. Shana is in transition and we were marking the end of her time in a leadership role.

We filled our tummies with yummy food, saffron lemonade, wine, and moscato. We filled our hearts with laughter and our eyes with tears. No one judged anyone for eating 12+ oreo/cream cheese truffles. We knew we were celebrating and enjoying.

Shana shared metaphors with us about what the transition was like, explaining that the soul speaks in imagery and not words. After listening to her metaphors, we prayed for her; and as each woman spoke, it was clear that her vulnerability had once again reconnected us with that place in ourselves.

It's funny when a leader in your life transitions out of a leader role. Suddenly, I realized that Shana wasn't awesome because of her role in our church. She was simply awesome. Her way of being was no doubt deeply influenced by years of conversations in and around the church however her being, her essence, her presence is simply who she is. We didn't have a rock awesome women's ministry leader. We had a rock awesome woman leading ministry. A subtle distinction, no doubt, but it encapsulates that she will continue on, though not in the same role she once filled.

Driving home, through unknown neighborhoods and on the interstate that winds under city buildings and leads to known neighborhoods, I pondered the conversations I'd had. I felt grateful for the time spent out late, knowing it was worth every minute. I am starting to recover from a season in my life where I automatically answered every invitation to spend time somewhere negatively due to hectic days. I can now answer, "Yes! I do want to do that!" and then do it. It's weird to let myself begin to flip that switch...


[Post from November 2012]
[a very honest post]

Well, not exactly unemployed. I nannied for three days a week and sometimes taught up to three yoga classes every week. Friends bought or gave me almost all my food. I clamped down an iron fist on my earnings, paying only my rent and student loan bills every month. Oh. And gas.

I stressed out a lot, but I also read voraciously, laughed really hard, cried honestly, took photographs with a camera and with my mind, and last week, I even BIG cleaned my house. I applied for lots and lots of jobs, interviewed extensively, and learned that sometimes people who are interviewing you for a job actually don't really know how to interview someone. They asked me lists of questions that had little to do with the position in question, and seemed to be from an online how-to article. It was a good reminder that all of us are human, all of us can be prone to put off something important until the last minute, and all of us are still trying to figure things out. I hope we never stop.

The reason I am writing this post is because Monday, I start a full time job. I loved the organization, loved the interview, and got a good sense of the atmosphere of the company. Nonetheless, I am full of trepidation. I am an idealist at heart, and it's one thing to imagine and wonder and ponder; it's another thing to dive into a real job, with hours and wages and an office.

I am wholeheartedly grateful to be moving into a place where I can provide for others as I have been provided for; while working in a supportive place doing work I believe is meaningful and important.

Thanks to what I might refer to as my sojourn from the working world, I understand some important things though.

1. A job is a job. It neither completes nor defines me.
2. Anxieties and worries occur working or otherwise. Some jobs (and I've had one of these) directly increase our anxieties while decreasing our ability to cope with them. These are worth leaving. In other instances, we look for a place to pin our often nameless fears and worries. Jobs are convenient. So are family members and loved ones. It's good to be aware of this.
3. We live in a country with more than enough, that constantly tells us we need more. We don't. There is always enough.

These are some of the lessons I hope to take into my new job. I am hoping to give myself lots of patience and plenty of time to transition. It takes a long time to transition. I learned this in Spain, in coming back from Spain, and in starting other jobs.

Here we go - the beginning of an end and the beginning of a beginning. 

The Story of the Tomato Plant

Someone very wise once told me that while our minds try to explain everything, the heart speaks in pictures and metaphors. This is the story of a tomato plant that speaks a picture better than I can explain.

This spring, my roommate and I were suddenly inspired to garden. We went on a long walk past a plot of community gardens and picked up a brochure.

"Carolyn?" I said to her. "I wonder if Bill (our landlord) would let us garden in that raised bed with those tiny ugly bushes."

So Carolyn called him up. I was sure he'd say no. I listened to Carolyn's end of the conversation.

"We were wondering if we might do a little gardening in the raised box outside our house... Yes the one with the bushes in it...Well, we know it's not very much room, but we'd like to try!... Okay, thank you!"

And just like that, we were gardeners! I went to work clearing some of the very sketchy mulch, saving it in my old humidifier box, in the unlikely event that Bill wanted it back at the end of the summer. I planted zinnia seeds we'd been given at church and documented their growth with my camera. Despite having almost no money, I went to our local hardware store and splurged on a trowel, a pack of four marigolds, a flowering plant that promised to come back year after year, and an heirloom tomato.

Caleb, my boyfriend, gave me a bag of potting soil to work into the heavy clay soil so common in this area. He also brought me a pair of gardening gloves which I stained black and green with nature and earth. I turned the potting soil along the row where I planned to plant things, watched the box for the times of day it had full sun. I planted the marigolds in intervals throughout the box, the tomato plant in the corner where it would get the most sun, and basil and sage from our CSA. I also planted the flowering plant, but it withered and died only days after.

It was one of the hottest summers on record. My May dreams of harvesting my own tomatoes were deferred again and again. I worked three jobs, still made almost nothing, and went on an unexpected two week trip to Spain. While I was gone, Caleb stopped by our house every day to water the tomato plants and others. The tomato plant grew, and grew, and grew. It put out flowers. It dropped the flowers. It grew some more.

I came back from Spain. Caleb's beard was enormous. So was the tomato plant.

The summer and I synced our rhythms, racing around frantically, knowing that the heat couldn't last forever and neither could this pace.

By July, I was weary. I watered the garden out of sympathy for our mutual heat exhaustion. I lifted up tomato branches, searching for a sign of red and spotting, again and again, the tag I pushed into the ground with pictures of what I hoped would be coming.

At the end of July, I quit my job as an ESL instructor, much to my parents' surprise. It was a huge relief. As the summer finally started to wind down, I found myself watering the garden while carrying the baby I began to nanny. I let him pull at the zinnias and tomato leaves.

In late September, I looked at the tomato plant. The thing was a giant mound, ten feet by ten feet. I had pruned it several times, to see if it would spark anything. It had been in the ground since May and had yet to produce a single tomato. I thought about Jesus cursing the fig tree and wondered if I should just rip the darn thing out of the ground right then and there. It had been, I decided, a waste of water to water the thing since May. Oh well. I love plants, and I don't like it when they die. I could never have killed one with intentional neglect.

The first two frosts came. No one could understand why, including myself, but I covered the tomato plant with two sheets (One wasn't big enough.)

And then a miracle happened. The tomato plant flowered, and almost overnight it was filled with tiny green tomatoes. They grew, and grew, and grew. Some were the size of softballs and still green. I could only laugh. It was October. The season for squash and pumpkins and greens. Not tomatoes! I pulled off the flowers where no tomato had yet formed so that they plant could put all its efforts into the tomatoes it already had. The plant had a mind of its own and put out more flowers than I pick. Tomato after tomato grew forth. I covered it for the frosts again.

Eventually, I picked those tomatoes and put them in my windowsill. Slowly but surely, they ripened one by one or two by two and I had garden tomatoes when I least expected - all the way through December.

Carry on friends. Don't grow weary in your waiting. The time will come.

Yobbity, yob

I am living a new kind of existence. Every day, I wake up at the same time and get dressed and leave my house. Recently, I've been walking but sometimes I drive.

I go to work.

From about mid-August until the end of November, I didn't really do that. A very, very sweet baby was  delivered to my living room two - four days per week and I walked to a local yoga studio to teach classes. After a blisteringly hot summer full of activity, a two week trip to my second homeland (Espain), and working three jobs flung from all over the city, I was ready for a break. So I quit things. And hoped and applied for others.

I don't think I realized it at the time, but it refreshed my soul in a way I still don't understand fully. One day I was sitting in my grandparents' armchair, which I've inherited. I was feeding him a bottle, hoping he'd fall asleep before the bottle ended. I realized, "Why would I want to be anywhere else besides right here with this little baby?" At that moment, he closed his eyes and went to sleep.

I don't know if you've ever been schooled by a seven month old, but that sweet baby taught me how to be present to my body, mind, and spirit. I am learning this still. I am learning gratitude and that God always, always provides.

So I have this new job now. And most of the time, I love it. When I was first starting, someone said to me, "The money's not great. None of us are getting rich here." I snickered inside my head and thought, "That's what you think. This is more than twice what I was making before starting here!"

Starting a new job is an adjustment though. It's been good to walk to work, to be at work, to feel like I am getting things done everyday. Watching a baby sometimes does not feel like getting anything done. I'm glad for both practices though. One job of presence and one of task accomplishment. They overlap though. Presence is something that I often feel the need to race through in order to complete something. I am actively fighting this though, and trying to take the time to linger at lunch and when speaking with a coworker.


Sometimes I start a blog post with an idea of what I will be writing, and by the time it's finished I no longer remember what I was going to say in the first place. I think, mostly, I am writing to remember the woman I became in those four months of liminal space, to hold on to it, and to carry it into this new place in my life called work. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Simply having an wonderful Christmas time

When I was a little kid, I loved Christmas. No school for a week or more! Presents! Lingering meals and time with cousins! Lights on houses! Christmas songs! One year, I even got to dress up as Mary. That was epic and my life-long fifth grader's dream.

Now as an adult, I observe the same things I observed as a child. It looks different though. I see homeless friends on the street in the midst of the Christmas shoppers. I pause as people swirl around me to say a few words to the man ringing the Salvation Army bell. He looks worn and tired. I watch as Christmas decorations go up around my neighborhood. Flashing lights nearly cover one house and I wonder how they sleep at night. "Silent Night" ironically croons out of the temporary speakers they've installed.

Don't get me wrong - I love traditions and meaningful decorations. I just wonder, sometimes, if the best way to prepare for Christmas might be emptying our homes, our selves, our lives of everything that distracts us. How much more meaningful would remembering the gift of Christ be if we had spent the first four weeks of December quieting our souls?

I don't mean to be cynical or to sound judgmental. I did not spend the first four weeks of December quieting my soul or emptying my life of excess clutter.

And this, in some ways, is the message of Christmas. Christ comes. Ready or not, God becomes flesh and moves into the world and into our lives. Mary would have probably preferred to have the baby with her female relatives surrounding her, close to home for her first childbirth. God comes anyway, letting the shepherds know to be not afraid. God meets us where we are, whether or not we think we are ready.

May we be transformed by the little baby who comes into our broken, over-cluttered world. And maybe I will start giving away my possessions to those with less.

This post was inspired by two of my favorite bloggers:
Amanda's post
Mary's post (This one gets into some things I didn't cover here, but feel very strongly about.)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The meaning of penúltimo

Once upon a time, I lived in a magical land where it was warm all the time and people planted olive and palm trees for fun. I picked pomegranates and oranges from trees. I sometimes stayed out until the absurd hour of three in the morning. I sneakily eavesdropped on English speakers as I pretended to not understand.

Well, actually it wasn't warm all the time. In fact, I froze in my unheated places of work and home in the 40 degree weather. 40 degree Fahrenheit, folks, Fahrenheit. 40 degrees Celsius would have been scorching.

It was magical, but as in all good stories, there was a problem. I was lonely. As a means of solving this problem, I signed up on a website that connects people from all over the world. You just type in a city, town, or region, and other member's profiles pop up. You can ask to sleep on their couches if you are visiting the area or you can ask them to show you around. I decided to see if anyone wanted to be my friend.

One of those people, let's call him Ignacio, said sure, let's be friends. Have you been to the zoo here, I asked. Not for a long time, he said. And just like that, we decided to go to the zoo. I told him the intersection where I lived, and he said he'd pick me up.

As I got into his small SUV, I thought to myself, "I am so glad my mother doesn't know what I'm doing right now." It was a thought I'd had many times before, like when I was biking along the highway after getting off at the wrong train stop. And I had the same feeling many times afterwards, like when I was lost at midnight in Paris with no phone and only a very creepy man trying to make me get in his car.

This time, however, the man was slightly less creepy, we spoke the same language, and I was willingly getting in his car. As I opened the door, I realized I was violating several rules from childhood. Don't talk to strangers. Don't get in their cars and ride away with them. Always tell an adult where you're going.

But this time, I was the adult, and I sort of knew Ignacio, right? Right? I had met him on the website. And people you meet on websites are always safe... right?

Fortunately, we did exactly what we said we'd do. We went to the zoo (See picture above). Then we picked up a friend of mine and went to the movies. We saw Up in the Air with George Clooney. George Clooney's voice should never be dubbed. It's too weird. Then we dropped off my friend and Ignacio asked if I wanted to go get dinner. Eek. I wanted to say no, but he was offering to pay and take me to a I have a hard time resisting when in foreign countries. We found out that we exercised at the same gym. Oh no, I thought. I hope he doesn't walk by when I'm in my belly dancing class. I might hide.

After dinner, I was ready to go home. After all, we'd met at 3, and it was now close to 10. That's a long time to spend with someone you don't really know. Then, Ignacio suggested we get drinks. No... I said. I'm pretty tired. "Venga," he said, come on. I know a


Now, two years later, older, wiser, I know how to put my foot down. How to say, "Heck no, techno. I'm tired and want to go to bed." But then, I was just learning. Plus... not my culture. And heck no techno doesn't really translate.

And so we got drinks. And then he asked if I wanted another drink. I said no. He said venga. Come on. El penúltimo.

Now. I didn't know what penúltimo meant, but I heard the word "último"  and I was on board. "Okay," I told him. Último means last. As in the last one. No more. Fin. The end. Ellen goes home and goes to bed. You know, Último. Nope. he said PENúltimo. Penultimate. It's a cognate, but that didn't help me when I didn't know the English word to begin with. It means the second to the last.

Thus, I sat and drank two bottles of water while he drank two more (the second to the last and the last) of whatever he was drinking. All the while, I was cementing the meaning of "penultimate" in my head. Not last. Second to the last. I will never forget it.

Might I have a cookie? It will be my penultimate.

For times of transition...

This is quite an interesting time in my life. Someday I will write about it. Maybe when it's over. For now, suffice it to say that I have some pretty great friends and I spend a lot of time around my house. And it feels like it's moving toward something good, most days, but other days it feels long and endless and I just want to buy new things as a means of making myself feel different. But I don't. (Was that penultimate sentence a run-on? Probably.)

As I make my way oh-so-slowly toward the new and different, I am encouraged by a sermon emphasizing these parts of 2 Samuel. I wanted to share.

From 2 Samuel 7:8-11

‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.

I took you.
I have been with you.
I will provide a place for you. 
I will give you rest.

Monday, October 1, 2012

What to do when your cake falls apart...

A few weeks ago, my roommate and I were assigned to bring desserts to a party. Sweet! 
She made a very amazing trifle with chocolate cake, pudding, and whipped cream. I planned to make a light and fluffy lemon cake. Alas! I did not line the pan with parchment paper (always read the recipe BEFORE the cake goes in the oven...). My cake overflowed in the oven and then came out like this.

It was so sad when my cake looked like this. The second half came out in crumbs.

I looked up various solutions online. It appeared my options were cake pops, frosting the heck out of it, or making a trifle. 
But woe to me, for my roommate had, an hour earlier, cut her beautiful cake into squares and made a trifle. 

Not that trifles aren't delicious, but one seemed plenty. And I didn't want to go buy more ingredients so I took a break and went to my room to think about something else. This is a vital step in any mini kitchen crisis. (Except when you've spilled butternut squash soup everywhere. Then you just have to clean. But that's another story.)
I then looked through my cupboards and found the can of powdered egg whites my mom once bought and then only used once. I had confiscated them when I moved.
Meringue was born.
I pushed the cake into a springform pan

... and whipped up a meringue from powdered egg whites

...spread it on top and baked it!

It was so good. And who'd have thought meringue would freeze so well?

Do you have any unusual suggestions for fixing a broken cake? This trick worked especially well because this was a very, very moist cake. I'm not sure how well it might work for a more dry cake.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Thursday adventures

I am in job limbo. I'm taking care of a sweet baby and teaching mommy-baby yoga classes while waiting for some interviews (one TODAY!) for some exciting things that I'm really passionate about. (Not that I'm not passionate about yoga or the baby, but they are very much part time.)

In the mean time, Caleb is working as a mechanic and has Sundays and Thursdays off. Since I pretty much have every day off, except Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Thursday is like our new Saturday, although I still have normal Saturday so that's cool.

Yesterday, we decided to venture to a spot where Caleb had seen paw paw trees in June, laden with unripe paw paws.

As an aside, paw paws are the only fruit native to North America. They are sweet and custardy and sort of taste tropical. They used to be called the "poor man's banana". After purchasing two for $6 last year at a farmers' market, Caleb and I decided that they are actually the rich man's banana and the poor man's banana is... a banana. My how the times have changed. More on the low prices of bananas here.

In my mind, our paw paw adventure was going to consist of driving along a road, parking, getting out and rooting around the brush for paw paws.

I was wrong. There were no longer almost any signs of paw paws, but we did have one of the coolest 45 minute adventures I've had this side of the Atlantic in a long time. Enjoy the pics.

The journey begins


Huge fallen tree




I am loving this song called "Dust" by Trevor Hall. Here are the lyrics:


Well, I’ve been told of a hurricane
The type of love where you forget your name
I ask the question almost every day,
“When will it find me?”
All around me castles falling down
Well they were never real anyhow
Through the story and through the sound come up upon me

Who am I but the dust of the Most High
Drifting like a leaf in the summer sky
Hoping one day you will see, that what’s inside of you, is what’s inside of me
Who am I?
But the dust of the most high
Drifiting like a leaf in the summer sky
hoping one day I will see that what’s inside of you, is what’s inside of me

I reminisce of a simple town
Where constellations grow from the ground
Where trees whisper such a common sound
Do you remember?
So many seeds we have planted in this soil as we wait for it to boil
Mama told me it would spoil
Remain loyal to the king as he laughs and weeps and sings
Will I ever have the vision of no division?

Who am I but the dust of the Most High
Drifting like a leaf in the summer sky
Hoping one day you will see, that what’s inside of you, is what’s inside of me
Who am I?
But the dust of the most high
Drifiting like a leaf in the summer sky
hoping one day you will see that what’s inside of you, is what’s inside of me

Who am I?
Who am I?
Who am I?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

If life were a park...

If life were a park, we'd set up our picnic blanket together.

He'd sit still looking and listening to the world around him.
 I'd be frolicking about chasing butterflies. Or blowing bubbles and doing cartwheels.

Every now and then, I'd grab his hand and we'd run around, blowing dandelions and laughing at the wind.

Then he'd grab mine and we'd sit still, watching the world around us.

Friday, August 24, 2012

today I believe

Expressions of faith
Lord, You have always given
bread for the coming day;
and though I am poor,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always given
strength for the coming day;
and though I am weak,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always given
peace for the coming day;
and though of anxious heart,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always kept
me safe in trials;
and now, tried as I am,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always marked
the road for the coming day;
and though it may be hidden,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always lightened
this darkness of mine;
and though the night is here,
today I believe.

Lord, You have always spoken
when time was ripe;
and though you be silent now,
today I believe.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012


It is currently afternoon nap for bébé. He's 6 months old and I'm babysitting him - or bébésitting him twice a week.

During this season of my life, I'm trying out many things. I've started doing Mommy-Baby yoga, or rather leading a friend and her tiny son through it, since I (fortunately at this time) have no babies.

But that all changes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Bébé gets dropped off at my house and we do all kinds of fun things. Especially interesting for this developmental psychology minor, I observe him as he observes the world. He's learning all kinds of cool linguistic stuff. I speak to him only en Espanish and encourage all the sounds he makes. Babies can make all sounds but then, due to reinforcement, they prune their sounds down to the ones the grown-ups get all excited about. Bébé is also discovering the use of his arms and hands and claps quite joyfully. You would too if all of a sudden you realized that these long things hanging off your shoulders could be CONTROLLED and actually MAKE NOISE! Mind.Blown.

But one of my personal working hypothesis is that babies can understand language. I'm trying to explain things to him as if he understands everything I say to him. I got this idea from the book Bringing Up Bébé, which is about an American mother who can't understand why French children sleep through the night early, are well-adjusted, and eat bleu cheese as 2 year olds. It's kinda, sorta, FASCINATING!

A friend came over with her 2 month old today. The babies sat on our laps and Bébé made a baby noise at her son. She said to him (in a kind voice, but not in baby-talk), "Do you want to say something back?" And sure enough, he responded with his own noise.

They understand EVERYTHING. Seriously.

Later, Bébé was mad. He finished his bottle without falling asleep. Scratch that. He was WIDE awake. I was unsure of how the looming nap would go without that bottle to drowse him into dreamland. He played for a bit (see third paragraph) and then had a mega-diaper change. The kind that sent us running for the bathtub. He was screaming and I was laughing, because really, what else could I do? We didn't need two screamers.

After he got all cleaned up, dry, and snuggled into new clothes, he was still not happy. So I clipped him into the baby carrier and wore him around. I could tell he was getting tired, so I decided to give my hypothesis another shot.

I gently told him in Spanish that I could tell he was getting sleepy and that the best thing for him to do would be to not fight it. I told him that I'd hold him for a while, but I couldn't hold him for his whole nap. I also explained that I was about to give him all the instructions he needed to fall asleep:

"The first thing to do is to close your eyes," I started. Bébé gave a long blink. "Holy cow," I thought. "This might work."

I continued, "Good! Now leave them closed a little longer. Also, you need to let your mind just get quiet." I touched his head lightly. He gave another long blink and lay his head on my chest. "Yep, just like that." I quietly affirmed him. "You don't have to worry about anything. You're safe, I'm going to lay you down in a minute and I'll be close. You don't have to worry though."

And by golly, wouldn't you know it, the kid fell asleep! I placed him on the towel I was using post diaper change in lieu of his blanket. He woke with a jerk about 8 times and each time I gently whispered to him that he was safe and I'd be close. Then I told him that he simply needed to close his eyes and go to sleep. And he did, every time!! Finally I said, "Next time you feel yourself jerk awake, don't worry. You can just go back to sleep."

Voila. Sleeping bébé.

Monday, August 20, 2012

[Nobody wants to read this]

"Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world - the cravings of sinful man (and woman), the lust of [his/her] eyes,  and the boasting of what [she/he] has and does - comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the [man/ woman] who does the will of God lives forever." - 1 John 2:15-17

"All around you, people will be tiptoeing through life, just to arrive at death safely. But dear children, do not tiptoe. Run, hop, skip, or dance, just don't tiptoe."

"Too often we just do what makes sense to us and ask God to bless it. In the Beatitudes, God tells us what God blesses - the poor, the peacemakers, the hungry, those who mourn, those who show mercy on evildoers... Rather than do what makes sense to us and ask God's blessing, we'd do better to surround ourselves with those whom God promises to bless, and then we need not ask God's blessing. It's just what God does."
- The Irresistible Revolution p.225 and 219

"There is enough for everyone's need, but there is not enough for everyone's greed." Gandhi

"Ellen, don't end up driving a Prius and buying organic produce and think you're changing the world" - Dave Nonnemacher

I am unemployed. (Sort of.) I babysit two days a week. One job ended on Thursday and I quit the other one close to a month ago. And you know what? Being unemployed is a blessed place to be. As my jobs spiraled to an end, I started to learn what it means to trust God. I started praying. After each of my two "last days of work" I was filled with a space and openness I hadn't felt in a long time. I am not foolish (well maybe I am), I know that I must look for a job because rent, car insurance, student loans, and food are very real things that must be paid for. For once though, these are not consuming me. I am filled with a sense of trust. It will come. God will provide for my needs.

In the meantime, I am wrestling with these passages above. What about getting a good job to pay off my bills and save money? What about saving up to buy a house in the right neighborhood to send the kids to a good school?

I am becoming increasingly convicted that when Jesus tells us to love our neighbor, he means it. I have a funny feeling in my tummy that my mom isn't going to like where my life is headed. I am starting to think that serving the poor and homeless doesn't just end with donating to a food pantry. For the past few years, every time I drive or walk by someone asking for food or money, I do something. I look at them. I see myself in their eyes. I let God transform my thinking until I can imagine that Jesus is standing there as I drive by.

I drive by.

Sometimes I have stopped, given them an orange, a granola bar, a can of soup, or a dollar. But when it comes right down to it, I roll up my window and go to work. Or to my house. Which has a couch. Where, theoretically, someone could sleep.
See the dividing lines? There are several. Why does Jesus call these people blessed and then say in Mark 10:25 that "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."

What the heck, Jesus? A camel through the eye of a needle?

I have struggled with these things before. Many times. But I usually go back to whatever I'm doing at the moment and this time I CAN'T. Because I'm not in college any more. I'm not working. I'm starting to pray again and this is what I keep coming up with. I keep bumping into Jesus and he gives me a hug and tells me to love my neighbor and he'll provide the rest.

But I keep wondering when I'm supposed to work on my resume and apply for all those jobs I found.

I have no good conclusion to this post because I'm not sure there is one. So here's some food for thought:

Love everyone with the same love a mother has for her child.
The best thing to do with the best things in life is to give them away.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Phone tucked into the strap of my red one-piece bathing suit, mask and goggles on, I drag the five gallon bucket outside. I check one more time to make sure my phone won't fall into the bucket of calcium hypochloride. It's secure between my sweaty shoulder and strap. This was my least favorite part of being a sophomore in high school and it is my least favorite part of being a swimming instructor. Chemistry. I adjust the mask and goggles, put the gloves on and take one more breath of fresh air before unscrewing the lid... My phone rings. Shoot. Right glove off, mask down. I answer.

"Your first student is running late and may not be there at all."

Ten minutes later, with the pool's chlorine level adequately restored, my phone rings again.

"He won't make it today."

I look over the empty pool with newfound anticipation. two minutes later, I am in the water. I swim the obligatory freestyle down and back one time. Then I just float. There is a window above me and I look up at the sky. I breathe deeply and relax. This is why I love swimming. I float suspended by water for a timeless while, then take a breath and flip over, slinking my way to the bottom of the pool.

The water looks like glass from below, and if you can manage to hold your breath long enough, the ripples start to slow above you and you find yourself in an inverse world only limited by the need for oxygen. The sky above and the outline of the pool start to seem like a dream that you look at through a lens at the eye doctor's. "One or two?" she'd ask, and you'd yell out the number that caused you to see THIS. It's all so clear and yet it ripples in the movement of the water ceiling above.

My lungs burn for air and I must heed their calling. I emerge or submerge into the space full of air (that doesn't really feel like reality from down here) and take a breath. I am surprised to find that I am panting. Newly oxygenated, I return to the world where air looks like silver umbrella-shaped bubbles that flip and turn playfully to the intersection where air and water cannot mix.

I lay there in watery bliss and immeasurable time until my lack of breathing reminds me that somewhere, a clock is ticking.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


The first thing I did was to make cookies that spread out and stuck to the bottom of the pan, as if refusing to leave. They still taste good.

 I saw some sweet kids that I love. We practiced math, reading, and turned their closet upside down and inside out looking for a missing library book. We sat on the floor laughing and sorting piles of all their schoolwork since kindergarten, Beauty.

We started out by making veggie burgers and brownies and found ourselves laughing on the kitchen floor.
(This is not uncommon.)

We drove down flag-lined streets and talked about the women, girls really, of Liberia having babies too soon. 13 is too young. The freedom that we celebrate so greatly is somehow linked to those girls. We are right to celebrate, but also find ourselves more responsible for the world around us.

We looked at pictures from a month trip to Zambia of happy and serious chubby babies in orphanages and sweet kids in schools. We swam in the lake and sat on the dock, surrounded by a family that wasn't ours, but was lent to us for the evening. Fireworks exploded in the sky and over the water.

Today, 5. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The fives: number 0

In just a few days, I am turning 25. I really like the number 25. It has a square root (√25=5), it's the value of one of our coins, it's a quarter of 100. It's not evenly divisible by 2, but I am okay with that.
Another reason I like the number 25 is because it breaks down into such nice groups of five. Five of them. And if you skip count, you can hit all of them (5,10,15,20,25). I thought it might be nice to skip count through my life...

Today, I will start with the number 0. I'm not sure if that's cheating or not, but I'm going to start with the day I was born. I was a few weeks early, my parents were not quite expecting me to burst onto the planet so soon! I don't have too many memories of this (as in zero), but I'm going to try to include some pictures for each age. Here are some pictures of baby me.
There I am!

With mom!

My mom worked very hard to get that sweet point going on my hair. Maybe I will repeat this hairstyle.

CSA: Week 1

Hmm. I was kind of hoping my last post would lead to some comments about what beautiful books I should read next... oh well. I'm sure I will find some. I accidentally joined some book social network thing... I might have to figure it out. 

This is just a quick post for now... my super-duper awesome roommate and I got ourselves a CSA for the summer. CSA stands for community supported agriculture. Basically we contacted a local farmer with a CSA program and agreed to pay in advance for a share of produce. Obviously this is pretty great for the farmer. They get the cash beforehand in order to buy seeds, compost, or whatever else they need. But it's also pretty great for us because since we paid for it up front, we now get what feels like free produce for the rest of the season (until OCTOBER!). Being special insiders, we get the "first fruits" at a cheaper rate than we would have at the farmers' market. Our CSA is super awesome because the farm we have not only has delish organic vegetables, but also free range eggs and fruit!

Here's a picture of our first week's haul:
The bag at the top of the table is lettuce. I think next week we get strawberries. I will keep you posted!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Se busca: libros bellos

[photo: from the book collection of one of the oldest Protestant churches in southern Spain]

When I was little, I loved going to the library. The public library was just across a non-major street from my elementary school. Once every few weeks, we’d walk over there. Initially we would listen to a story from the short-haired librarian whose soft, low voice gave me goosebumps and just made you want to be quiet. (Side note: I wonder if she’s still working there... I might have to make a trip.)
Later, we were released to pick out books to read. I knew exactly where to go: The Boxcar Children. Once I finished those, I headed for the Nancy Drew series. After I finished the Nancy Drew series, I meandered around the Nancy Drew area. In fourth grade, my school bought another building farther away from the library and my library visits mostly ended. Which was okay, because I was a little lost after having read most of the books in the few sections I frequented.
Where do you gravitate when you enter a library or a bookstore? My mom makes a beeline for the magazines, as she is a visual reader and likes to SEE what she’s reading about. Some people hit up the music section. Especially around high school. I definitely hit up the music/ DVD section in high school. For awhile, I would browse the theology/ faith section, and later the psychology area.
In recent days, I have found myself a little bit lost when I enter the library. When I take my two tutoring kids, we go to the Spanish section and then to the easy children’s books. Today, however, was different. Today I went to the library alone. I didn’t have anything on hold, and there was no Spanish section. (Seriously?! No Spanish section?)
I found myself perusing the recent releases, and later the poetry and fiction sections, but I didn’t find anything I wanted to check out except Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendack. The section I wanted to go to simply does not exist at my local library. Or any library for that matter.
If I could create a section full of books I wanted to read, it would not be brimming with Nancy Drew mysteries or even Sherlock Holmes mysteries (which I recently devoured with great gusto and remembered why I am severely near-sighted.) No, if I could create a section of books, I would fill it with books that are strikingly beautiful. Fictional stories like The Help or Anne of Green Gables or maybe even a few mysteries or nonfictional stories of people on journeys like Eat, Pray, Love. Books that make me laugh out loud by authors like Anne Lamott and Spanish and English children’s stories. Literature for adolescents, such as Seed Folk. I’d fill this section with books that I could sit down and read until my eyes hurt and my head spun from being transported to another place and time and then coming back to reality; and I’d fill it with books that made me slow down to digest each tiny bite of wisdom like The Novice by Thich Naht Hanh or Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr. Of course I’d intersperse some pop psychology or sociology like The Blue Zones and some poetry like that of Ted Kooser; but mostly, I’d want to read stories. Beautiful stories. Like Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers or The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
So. There is no section like this in the library. That is okay. I will go about weaving a section with epic tales of Narnia, children’s books like Habría Que and The Shadow Spinner, and more that I have yet to discover...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Shh, it's a secret.

 I know the sweetest woman in the world. She doesn't speak English.

Lucky me. I speak Spanish.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

things that break my hea ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah art

People being excluded.
From what?
a country (even if not my own)
a classroom, education should be for everyone.
a good meal, healthy food
birthday parties
a safe place to sleep at night and a place to bathe.

and yet... I know I exclude people on a regular basis.

How can I make space for them while maintaining space for me?
(And why does that sound selfish when I know it's wise?)
What are boundaries?
Where's the line?
Is there a line?

What is love?
(baby don't hurt me)

just wondering...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.” - Frederick Buechner

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Changing locations on the web

Hello blog followers,
I am transitioning my blog over to tumblr. Here is the address:

I'd love to have you come visit!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring time wonderings, childhood questions

We say some interesting things to little kids. Sometimes I think about the repercussions. We gush over little girls who are dressed up, proclaiming them beautiful only when they are looking most made up. We ask children what their drawing is supposed to be, instead of letting it be simply an exploration of how to hold the pencil and using different colors. And we ask them "what do you want to be when you grow up?"

I'm not sure how I feel about the last question. It certainly helps to clarify the child's interests and help him/her imagine how they could pursue them all the time. But to me, it also made it sound like growing up was a destination. "What do you want to do after you cross that line that is college and find your destiny!!?"

Welp. I got to college, got that diploma, and here I am. Me and a lot of my peers. Wondering what exactly happened - or didn't happen - and if I'm in the right place. But let's go back to little Ellen for a moment. What did she say when people asked her that ever present question, "So, what do you want to be when you grow up?"

You know what I said? Two or three things. This is how it went:
Little me:"I don't know!"
Adult: "Oh really??"
Little me: "Yeah, I mean probably a mom, but I don't really know."
Adult: "Like a stay at home mom?"
Little me: "Yeah. I think that'd be cool."
Adult: (Varying responses, usually affirmative and letting me know I could be a mom AND have a career. If I wanted.)
Little me: "I guess maybe I could be a teacher. Maybe. But I really don't know. Or I want to be a mom"

When I think back about this experience, so many things strike me. The fact that my mom was an awesome stay-at-home mom. How I thought her job was awesome because she could pack our lunches and write sweet notes, pick us up from school with a cooler that had two popscicles in it for after school snacks, bring us snack trays when we were playing, help out with our school and sit with us when math was just too hard. (long division is TRICKY!) How I still think my mom is awesome and everyone should be blessed enough to receive one of her care packages. That to me, being a teacher was sort of like second class interactions with kiddos, but I thought maybe I could settle for it if I had to.

I think there is some value in going back and remembering your own answer to this question: What did you want to be when you "grew up"? That little person is still inside you somewhere. Did you become that thing? I'm super interested in your answers, so whether you comment or start a conversation with me, I'd love to know.

Now. Obviously I am not a mama. And that is OKAY. (Don't freak out y'all.) Where does that leave me, though? What the heck am I supposed to be doing right now if it isn't that and if teaching has been feeling a little murky lately?

What the heck am I supposed to be doing? THIS. This is what I'm supposed to be doing. Living with my roomie. Dating my boyfriend. Hanging out with my friends. Doing yoga. Cooking lentil soup. Learning to not rush through or into anything and to be satisfied with less. Practicing being content in a less than perfect world and opening myself up to others in love.

I don't always feel that way. In fact, most days recently, it seems like I am swimming in anxiety over what I'm doing or not doing with my life. Why is X not happening now? Why can't I just Y? Why does money suck? Maybe a better question for little kids (and big "grown up" ones) is "How do you want to be when you're older?" I want to be peaceful, spacious, and joyful. I want to be connected with God, others, nature. I don't want to swim in anxiety over what I'm "supposed to be doing" when what I am doing now is okay. My discontent about certain things is worth listening to, but I will no longer allow it to steer the course of my emotions in a day.

And you know what? If I asked a little kid how they wanted to be when they were older, I think it might lead to some great conversation about how good and beautiful and wonderful and special they are right now. Don't stress about the future, baby. The present is good.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


I live in the same town I grew up in, a bicycle ride away from my childhood home.

There's something really nice about that. It's nice to feel rooted in the patch of earth where I spent those magical, hazy years called childhood. This is my place. This is my home. And yet... living in a context that is familiar to you makes you question fewer assumptions about it. Today, I am thinking about the American value of work. I think hard work is important. I also think rest is important. Yesterday and today, I have been resting and resting and resting. I have spent most of the time in my pajamas in my bed alternating between reading Sherlock Holmes and Eat, Pray, Love, watching online TV, and surfing the 'net. Sometimes I change it up and lay on the couch, sometimes I wander into the kitchen for a cup of tea or a snack.

In any case, these things are only the very start of rest. Because sometimes you have to be rested in order to rest.

Friday, March 9, 2012

ellen amanda barcelona... take two

Tonight, my dear friend Amanda and I watched one of our favorite movies, Vicky Cristina Barcelona. We first watched it on a snowy March night three years ago. I shared the joy of Spanish tinto (dry red wine mixed with orange Fanta) as we were whisked off to Barcelona. Amanda and I watched the movie again two months later in May. In October 2009, we decided to live out the trip to Barcelona by meeting there. I was living in southern Spain, Amanda in England. It was delightful. We stayed at a friend of a friend's piso, drank sangria (a little too much acutally), road on a boat, experienced the Sagrada Famila cathedral, and relished in each other's company. A friend from the past sharing the present experience of Europe was a treasure to us both.
When I returned from Spain, Amanda had just moved to my city. Again, a friend from the past with which to share our current experiences... Most of my life has had very clear stages with only one friend from each passing into the next. On entering high school, I lost contact with everyone I went to grade school with except one person. On going to college, I kept in touch with only a few people. After college, I have continued that pattern - for some inexplicable reason.
And so, as I have woven together a life in my city, Amanda has been a link. She has been someone I don't just call to catch up with, but actually live normality with.
After we watched the movie tonight, we reflected. Amanda and I often say that we bonded over tea and toast, broken hearts, and a love for Europe. The first time we saw this movie, we were in college. Since then, we have graduated, traveled to Barcelona (together!), shared a lot more tea and toast, and even gone on double dates with our super awesome boyfriends. Life's beautiful, isn't it?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

oh hello spring!

Spring feels so new and surprising, though after an unseasonably warm winter, it feels less so. The link is to a really thought-provoking blog about this by my friend Mary... she's a great writer.

However, the recent humid, blustery days mark that it IS March and not February. A lot has been blowing around in my life too. The winds of spring feel like the winds of change; and there is almost no aspect of my life that has been left un-fluttered by my swirling thoughts.

Today has been a day where my body said to my mind, "Sorry lady. No more of this running around, blowing to and fro. Time to just rest. I can't do it anymore." And my mind said, "Okay body. That sounds good to me too." My mind and body are not always synchronized as one. I need days like today has been when I can remind myself that I am my body and my mind.

One of the best things I did today was talk to a farmer. A real organic urban farmer. Named Lew. In my Internet wanderings, I found something on a CSA page written by Lew. (What's a CSA? Awesome. Here's more info. ) Farmer Lew said that he is always looking for people who like to wallow in the dirt to help around planting time.

HELLO! This whole week, I have been thinking about how it's the time to plant seeds and how I wish I had somewhere to plant them! I emailed Farmer Lew right away. He called me within an hour. We're planting tomorrow. I can feel the life it will give me already! I'll keep you posted...

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Saturday morning review...

It's Saturday morning (yay!!) I slept in, read Sherlock Holmes, made pancakes, and am now ready to start my plans for next week. As I learn to be a teacher (or to be a better teacher), I wonder what is or isn't effective. Some things I learned this week:

1. REVIEW!!! Review, review, review. Every day, I ask my students what we talked about yesterday. If we learned a new grammar structure, I have them write examples on the board. I ask questions about it. I think it helps them reconnect with the material since they go from class to class. It's also another chance for me to see if they understand or not.
2. Explaining learning outcomes for the students - Learning outcomes seemed novel to me at first, but then I remembered working with first graders. Every day, we wrote on the board "Today's language goal is: ... " I have really only implemented this in one of my classes. We have a great book that weaves one question for the unit through every activity. So, at least once a class, I point it out and ask my students how what we are reading connects to it. Goal: do this in more classes.
3. Be able to laugh. It makes class more fun.
4. Have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish in each lesson. This is a goal for the week. I was reading a blog my my friend Kelsey (not about teaching) and I read this. Warning: If you click on that link, you may never be able to stop reading her blog. She's an AWESOMEAWESOMEAWESOME writer. And I don't just say that. So yes, I guess I'd never thought about that before. I think this week, I'm going to try to write my lesson goal for each class at the top of a paper and then tell them. We'll see how it goes.

Do you have any teaching tips?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Back to school

Here it is... the night before school starts. I find myself feeling inexplicably anxious, nervous, worried. I stop my thoughts and start to wonder why...

I think every break I vow to myself that this is the break when I will spend an hour every single day planning. I'll be so prepared I won't even know what to do with myself. I will establish a routine, be prepared for work while balancing my relationships, eat only when I'm hungry (and only healthy foods), go to bed every night by ten (still might make that tonight), exercise and have everything under control.

What an illusion.

But that's the temptation, right? To imagine that, at some point, in the distant or near future I will have everything figured out and live in total bliss. And then to live in a state of total discontent until I get ....... (x) there. And until I reach (x), where I wake up everyday feeling totally jubilant and refreshed and my hair is perfect and my house is always clean, I will slog away at some lesser version of my life that is characterized by compulsive facebook surfing as a coping mechanism.

But you know what? I had a great break, even if I didn't start my planning until last week. I cooked and hosted a Christmas dinner, hiked up a mountain in Utah, had really beautiful times with people I care about deeply, thought about my life and what might be next, read a TON of Sherlock Holmes, went for countless walks, did a yoga mala (that's 108 sun salutations), and spent plenty of time in the pajamas I'm wearing right now. (Yep, I own one of these and if I could wear it all the time, ...well I might. Maybe just once a week. Or twice) I learned a lot about myself over break and I wouldn't trade that for an hour of planning every day. It was so good.

So get yo'self OUT of here, anxiety! I am enough just the way I am today and I don't have to have everything figured out. Because life isn't found in some unknown, imaginary future I invent just so I can feel in control. Life is about NOW. Break was good. But now it's over. And school is here in just 11 hours! Seeing as how it's only 10:02, I might try to get to bed. It's a school day tomorrow.