Friday, December 26, 2008

Warning!! Christmas Confessions

I wanted to blog lately but I didn't have anything nice to say... I've been haunted by harsh emotions that have mostly revolved around three main states of being...
(1) piercing sorrow (perfunctory tears...without provocation)
(2) flagrant rage (i want to punch a face... i want to break my knuckles on someones jaw)
and...
(3) extreme self-loathing (for feeling the above two emotions)

I mean... it is Christmas. We are celebrating Emmanuel. He humbled himself, became a baby, shed salt tears, had pooped that smelled (I mean literally, HOLY CRAP!) He became human. The cross was a horrible, painful ordeal. But think...LIMITLESS God confined himself to being a human. That must have been a very difficult change.
I should be shocked by joy. Filled with gratitude. Awed by mystery.

Instead, I have been choking on my own snot. Crying uncontrollably into my pillow until I'm so fatigued that I fall asleep. I want to be sedated... as The Ramones say.


Here is a snap-shot of my current living quarters I've shared with my sister. (There is Darby smiling sweetly in the picture. And she should be smiling! Wes proposed to her on Dec. 23rd! Hoooray! That was one very happy night. Like I said earlier... my emotions are like a miller's wheel whirling through rapids.)

My mom's house is like the inside of a high-school cafeteria microwave...there is stuff splattered everywhere. All of our family's collected crap, as well as all my step-dad's family crap, are crammed into this house. Twenty-five years of stuff. Living in this space enrages me. Especially, since I have tripped, stubbed, and fallen my way around this room... and the fact that the door to the driveway is in this room...so people are always walking through...when I am sleeping... or trying to change clothes.

Did you notice there is no door in the doorway? I should be able to get over this. This shouldn't be a problem. I know that I am being really immature and selfish and mean and ungrateful.

and Dad is so alone. He doesn't want to talk on the phone. He worked the entire holiday. He worked and 18 hour day on Christmas eve and spent the night in Pittsburgh, alone, in a hotel room. (my step-mom died in october... ) joy escapes me. My dad is physically alone... brother is off with friends... sister is off with fiance.... mother is off with husband and his odd relations.

but still... I have a roof over my head. A warm place to sleep. I have everything I need and more. my family loves me. God never forsakes me (no matter how LAME I am being...like right now)

The Lord has impeccable timing. I am reading two books by Shane Claiborne (The Irresistible Revolution and Jesus for President)...unveiling the absolute anit-Jesus way of life that suburban Americans tend to be living surrounded by their material belongings. Shane sleeps in the streets at night to love and spend time with the homeless. He discusses the rich young ruler from scripture... you know... the one Jesus tells to sell all his stuff and help the poor. And literally does that.

But more importantly than that...Shane discusses love... he would be showing some love to the strangers... I mean "relatives" that have now married into my life and inhabit most of the house (including all the rooms with doors...grr....trying not to be jealous...trying not to be jealous)

conviction. no one is seeing Jesus in me.

everyone, I humbly repent.

Lord, I repent.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

sighting the demon-beast

We had all piled into the Subaru to get some sushi from our favorite sushi place. All four of us were buckling up and I was backing out the driveway... and turning the bun-warmers in the seats up to full throttle. We were all chattering about the amazingness of sushi and how happy we were because we were about to devour some.

WHEN...

...jetting across the road from the neighbors yard... like a streak of lighting with two reflective evil eyes... a strange beast... I can't use the word "crossed" the road... more like flashed across the asphalt.

My mother screamed out... "its the demon-beast!" ...and we all sat with faces full of registered shock!

Stories of the demon-beast started circulating a few weeks back. When my mother was driving home from work late one night. Right down the street from our house... she saw this creature. or glimpsed it. In it's mouth was a fluffy snow white victim. Mom was shocked. She could not believe how fast it was moving. She chased it down the street in her little silver sports car... and could not catch up with it. Mother felt sad for the little white "bunny" that the thing had captured.

The next morning little "Fluffy" the white kitten's MISSING posters were all over the neighborhood. Mom called the number. A female voice answered... Mom then preceded to share the story of Fluffy's probable demise. When the lady on the other end of the receiver started uncontrollably balling...mom realized she was talking to a little girl. Who aparently sounded a lot like an adult and had deceivingly good phone manners. Mom started to call the creature the "demon-beast" as she is wont to make all things as full of hyperbole as possible.

BUT tonight! I actually saw the beast itself! It really was unexplainable. Quite deserving of the name "demon-beast." It emerged from the side-yard of our neighbor. From right under the swing-set they keep for their grandkids. It really moved so fast that its features were undistinguishable. At first I thought it was a deer, because it was so tall! It was huge. It was a tan golden brown color. Yet, it didn't bound. It moved so swiftly. No loping. No jumping. Just streaking. It's head (only dectecable because of two reflective eyes) didn't move as it ran. And it's eyes were boring at us through the windsheild as it ran...reflective, green, round, and quite large! It litterly lept over a giant red fence and dissapeared into the dark shadows of a neighbors horse pasture.

We searched the field with our brights. It was gone. We stopped at the stop sign. Flapping in the breeze was another "MISSING" sign. Apparently, there have been quite a few missing posters. Each week, a new little punting dog or precious kitty disapears. Hmmmm.

Tonight... we were watching TV... I hear howling. I mute the TV and there is a chorus of dog howling coming from the neighbor's yard. There is one shrill yap that I know to be the neighbors little punting dog. Suddenly the yapping stops! and there is only silence. Has the demon-beast claimed another victim?

it is too big for a bob-cat. definetly not a coyote. What is this thing!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

procrastination? or should I call it something else...


locked in this photo... is the image of my favorite restaurant in Chengdu. it's my favorite time of day. dusk has settled. and we would wonder down from my friends apartment around the corner and order home-made noodles layered with meat in a tomato, onion, and pepper sauce. all the lights would start glowing up and down the street. the temperature would start to cool as we sipped on steaming hot soup. they always gave us free soup while we waited for our food to cook. the steaming brew was some kind of broth... filled with exotic spices that tickled your throat. the porcelain kept my hands warm as I cupped the small bowl... there were no spoons... we just sipped from the bowl like a tea cup.

tonight I'm in east texas... and I am going out for Chinese food tonight. I know it won't be the same but I am still excited. lately, I've been caught up in busy routines and following strict schedules. I am ready to escape and break free a bit. my wandering nature is starting to get a bit jumpy.

i don't take well to confinement. if my week is becoming too mundane... i have to do something spontaneous. go for a moonlight walk. find someone to talk with. try to cook thai food. call my friends quite randomly with plans for them to join me in some venture... if they're up for it.

Spontaneity is so attractive. but at the same time... I have not been getting things done. my list of responsibilities keeps getting longer and longer and longer and longer....

...and then...this happens in my backyard...

...and all I planned to work on... lays forgotten on the shelf.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

my cousins are hilarious...

video

one of my cousins, Jack, "impales" the other, William, with his new samurai sword. He is going to be a ninja for Halloween.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

embracing and battling the cold...

the other night I was driving home late...flying down the winding road with only my headlights casting light into the darkness. I love driving. This was one of those moonless nights. The air felt a little wild and I knew a cold front was blowing in. The brown leaves scuttled across the road and spooked me for a moment, fearing some animal was attempting to cross the road.

It was an October night for the record books...leaves falling, wind howling.

This is the weather I love.

Of course, sunny days are glorious in their time. But everyone loves the sun. And even rainy days in their gloom have a special appeal for movie lovers...curling up on a rainy day is a nice treat. But I am one of those oddities... that champion the cold!

I love the cold, blustery days. Especially, the first ones of the season. I love the crispness it brings to the air. I love bundling in soft, billowy sweaters and scarves... that I get to pull out of the closet. Remembering... oh yea! I love that sweater...I've missed you all summer.

I love warming my hands by a fire. or snuggling up next to a friend while we walk in the cold.

I love the holidays!! Coming into a warm house. Drinking something in a green mug...that is sweet and steaming.

When I think about it...autumn and winter are also really harsh and terrible. I can enjoy them because I am provided for. I have a sheltering roof over my head. clothes to wear. refuge and friends. I can not deny the stinging feeling when you are miserably cold. the ache of cold muscles.

I guess the season reminds me just how grateful I am. I love you Lord for providing for me. I love you who have watched over me. I love you family! I love you friends that warm my heart! Thank you!

I love You who paints the trees in autumn and designs the frost on the grass.

Show me what I can do... to help make sure everyone feels warm this season. on the inside and out.

Because there is a lot of cold out there...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

currently...


I’m trying to be as quiet as a church mouse; although, the wind blowing through the open window is making enough noise to veil the small clicking of fingers hitting the keyboard. My Dad is asleep nearby, and this is quite a a feat. He hasn’t been able to sleep more than a few hours each night, due to his injuries from a motorcycle accident which wounded him and fatally wounded his wife, changing our lives in the worst possible way.

It is nearly 11 in the morning... and he is still snoring. Halleluia!

I was so nervous about this weekend. Roles were reversing. My siblings and I were going to take Dad under our wing. He wanted to stay with us. First, I picked Dad up from his parents house (my grandparents: Peep and Pop... for a little insight into their delightful characters read a previous blog from last spring). Then we drove through the cool October night up to Norman, OK, where my brother and sister attend OU. The moon was really lovely, hanging bright and mostly full in the sky, but it was hardly a distraction from my weeping father in the passenger seat. I listened to him tell the whole story of the accident to a friend who called him on the phone. How many times has he told this story? Too many times now... I am sure. Still, I suppose it needs to be told... it is amazing how many people each of our lives touch.

We made it to Norman. We all gathered in in the living room. My sister, Darby, my brother, Sean, and Wes (Wes is practically my brother; he has been dating Darbs for nearly five years...so he counts as family already). We haven’t been together like this in a very long time. We all sat down and watched the most hilarious episode of the The Office, with scenes of Dwight giving birth to slippery watermelons flashing across the screen, our tears gave way to chuckles. God bless The Office. Can I get an amen?

My Dad was really awed by my sister’s decorating skills. She has an engaging taste. She could be a designer. She built her own coffee table and actually put coffee beans under the glass. It is the only true “coffee” table, she says. It fills her little living room with a pleasant aroma. She has lanterns hanging from the ceiling and fresh yellow flowers in a vase next to the couch. My Dad was really floored by her creativity.

This afternoon, he is going to join me at Sky Ranch and see where I “live” too. It is a little strange...that it would take this much tragedy for Dad to finally see and get to know us in the spaces where we work and live. We always had to meet him where he was...

... now he is here. with us. seeing our daily selves first hand. for the first time in a very very long time.

I was nervous about this weekend...but the first morning we were together...I couldn’t believe the miracle in front of my eyes. We were all together, goofing around and making breakfast, and I looked up to see Dad sitting in a chair and reading through a Bible...

... it actually felt like Christmas morning.

Monday, September 15, 2008

that cool truck once looked like this


before that lovely tiger paint job...it had to be scrubbed.

I am so grateful

thankful, appreciative, filled with gratitude! Today I returned to the wonderful Sky Ranch school programs department. When I was in France, I got a few emails from the leadership here at the Ranch and everything just fell into perfect place.

First, there was an empty spot for me because one of the new staff can't come until January.

Second, the leadership offered me the same room and board that the Sky Ranch interns have.

So basically, while I am here in the U.S. my Sky Ranch family is taking me in, providing me a home, and helping me work and provide support so that I can return to France.

And finally, the most incredible fact of all! I get to return and work with some of the best people in the world. With my friends! There are a lot of new faces in the Outdoor Education department but everyone is so amazing.

Driving to work this morning, the full moon still hung in the sky casting moonly light into the morning. The colors of dawn morphed from deep blue to absolute liquid gold. The trees were vividly green in the morning light. The temperature was cool and refreshing. I could wear one of my favorite scarves quite comfortably. When I arrived at work, each hug from each person just filled me with so much joy.

All I could think... "Lord, I love you so much! Thank you so much. I can't believe that I get to work here while I raise my support."

I'll remember this later. when the floor drops. it will remind me to keep breathing. but right now... all I can think is

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

there is no title to this blog...

because I'm not exactly sure where this subject will lead me. It starts like this: recently I had a thought.

This thought entered into my head for two reasons.

In the Musee d'Orsay this week, which I visited twice, I wondered the large halls and exhibit rooms. In total awe. Of course, there are the famous names...Monet, Manet, Van Gogh. (the last of these, left me speechless, in person his paintings hit you in the face with vividness and dimensional gobs of color). Each piece was a marvel, yet I was especially drawn to the depiction of death in the art. Don't know why.

Very negative imagery. Skeletal figures. dark shades. eyes clouded with fear. death if symbolized by a figure was ugly. it had talons. its victims were martyrs.
When I looked at the date of each piece...I noticed that each was from the last century or earlier. None later than 1920's.

Reason #1: Seeing death portrayed in art from the last century

Then I started to think about a line of poetry from Ryler Dustin, from the book Glenn let me read this summer.

"Look out for Ryler.
I overheard that kid talking to himself
for the first time in eight years
about how suicide is starting to sound
like another word for clean"
-from Blackbirds

Reason #2: I started to think about how death is depicted in our generation

...mostly in music.
The New Frontiers...
"Baby scream when they are bored,
So I'm not afraid of passing on"
-from Passing On

This song is not about taking your own life...I think it might be more along the lines of being willing to let go of life when the time comes...But the point is...death isn't so shrouded in darkness as it once was. Is this a blessing? a hope for us? or can it also be a curse?

either way... death is thought about differently in our generation. J.M. Barrie's Hook took the stage in 1904. The start of a new century. An age of technology. and Captain Hook says, "Death is the only great adventure I have left..."

I began to wonder.

The thought: Has all the mystery of the world been lost in our technological age?

Is there anything left to explore in life? Unknown lands. Unexplainable feelings? Unsearchable questions? Or do we explain everything to such an extent... that we are left curious about the only truly unknown that all of us will experience: death.

maybe some would admonish me...

Admonishment #1: there is plenty of mystery in the world. a ton of things unknown. but my argument would be... that to the average person. It is easy to forget that. when you live in a concrete jungle. in education systems that explain everything with the scientific method. with psychology that even explains your feelings. you have to escape from this to find mystery. not all people have that much gumption...

Admonishment #2: death isn't such an unknown after all. As Christians, we go to heaven to be with God. That isn't unknown, is it! but do we have even a fathom of what that will be like! only imaginings.

I was thinking about this all week and today something happened. I am staying at my mom's house. One of the neighbor's daughter committed suicide.

She chose death.

I guess it just looked too good. has it always been this way... or is our generation making it look better than before. It is so horrible. this choice has cast a net of darkness that hurts people far beyond even those she knew.

Friday, August 22, 2008


The "bridge" building at camp was once partially demolished by an avalanche in the 1960's.  It was rebuilt... but is still essentially 150 years old.  It looks like an old stone barn.  Enter this building and you will find a small twisting wooden stair.  If you ascend these stairs you will find four tiny offices.  In the third office on the right, right now, you would find 5 people on computers.  Including myself.  Even though this space is only 10 feet wide.
Like my comrades, I am enjoying some new free time.  Family camp ended today.  The French families were wonderful.  Although, I was really intimidated by them at first.  My French is much better than it was 10 days ago.  Today when each family left I couldn't help but wish I had a little more time with them.

I am currently in a state of mourning for my digital camera.  My beloved Nikon.  is .  dead.  c'est mort.  

I have repeatedly felt the sting of wanting to take a certain picture and remembering that my camera is gone forever.  and that it is my fault.  for trying to cross a mountain stream with the camera in my hand.  It was horrible... that moment I watched my camera flying through the air and felt the morbid splash of digital death.

I thought it had a chance when it dried out... but I was wrong... it officially died this week.

The day I dropped it in the water I took some truly beautiful pictures of mountain scenery. The picture above is one of them... from my camera's last hours of life.

It was strange saying good-byes today.  I was harder for me, because I feel like it is my turn to say good-bye next.  Only about two more weeks left.  My mind is starting to wonder about what I'll be doing when I get home.

I am even a little frustrated.  I have started to feel at home here, my French is coming along, I have grown closer in my relationships with French friends...and now...stop everything.   
Time to go back home... for a bit.  
Time to transition into a whole new world again.
Time to attempt explaining to people what happened here and find I don't have the words.
Time to get frustrated with people because they really won't care to hear about everything that happened here.
Time to miss out on the relationships I have been carefully building on here.

I guess it is also time to see wonderful loving...

family
friends
possibly sky ranch OE kiddoes

consume a few....

Dr. Peppers
Mexican food dishes
pieces of sushi

and I have a lot of work to do!  It's time to get others involved in this enterprise.  

So much work to be done.  

For now...I am about to board a bus for 5 Euro and 10 centi.  Arrive in Grenoble later tonight.  Stay with one amazing Candide and a sweet and spunky Australian named Jess.  Hopefully, eat delectable French cuisine on Candide's balcony in the dusky evening light.

and we'll all think about the beauty of being the children of God.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

a time to pause

This blog has been so neglected, but for good reason.  The last month I have been fully engaged in an English camp for French youth... and it has been lovely.  We had two camps.  One for youth under 18 and one for adults 18 to 30.  The last Peugeot (French car brand) left camp completely stuffed with luggage.  With their bags and packs, the last campers left and I felt a little hollower.  Last night, we pulled mattresses onto the soccer field to gaze at the night sky and shared thoughts, stories, and cups of tea.  A pattering noise suddenly loomed in the distance and suddenly rain fell and chased us indoors.  glanced at the clock and it was 4am.  it was unfortunate that I had to wake up at 6:30 to help make breakfast... or so I thought... when I emerged from my cave and spied the most beautiful early morning clouds.  French baguette and warm chocolate milk helped battle the angst of fatigue.  

Everyone left at camp has hidden away in their various holes to rest.  I am sitting on the stairs outside and camp seems to be a ghost town.  But it's really peaceful and gives me time to think.

I am so eager to start my year here in France.  I am trying extremely hard to learn something new in French each day (or should I say "chaque jour").  Quite a humbling enterprise.  Chaque jour I make some kind of hilarious mistake.  On morning, I meant to say... "do you like..."  and instead accidently professed... "I love you..." to one of the French guys.  I desperately wished for the gift of invisibility after that faux-pa.
There was also the time... I asked for the camper next to me to "pass the green beans" in french.  Too bad my pronunciation needs more work.  Instead I asked him to "pass the alcohol, please."  I guess that is not such a mistake here in France... libations flow freer... still... they got a good laugh.  

I have been sitting cross legged.  so the blood flow to my feet have been sufficiently thwarted... resulting in the unpleasant sensation that the French compare to a thousand ants biting you.  My camera battery is also running low.   So I am signing out for the afternoon... From this stone stair case... under the tree by the volleyball court, under these rocky cliffs, and alpine skyline.  Love to all.

P.S.  the birch leaves shimmer when the wind blows

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I'm still alive and blogging

So...it is camp...which means that it has been entirely too long since my last blog.  I am really too busy to submit something of substance now too.  I have about four minutes before dinner starts and I rush off to eat delicious French cuisine.  

I am going to write a truly entertaining blog and put it up here...sometime soon.  If anyone on the OE dream team reads this blog...I miss them!

Monday, June 2, 2008

living in a tent


I feel like an uprooted tree lately. On Sunday afternoon, I found myself at BRANGUS steak house in McAlester, OK. Squished away in a darkly light wooden booth, munching on onion rings which dripped with oil, I found myself feeling homesick.

(Notedly, the whole week I have been away from "home." I have been trapped...I mean...I have been privileged...to spend my recent days in small town in eastern Oklahoma. This town in so small, it doesn't even have a wall-mart. I am here for work and we've been busy running camps for about 150 students. playing games, shooting water guns, throwing oatmeal, teaching challenges, and listening to Jim Franks stories. One delightful refuge in the midst of this ilead fandango is the large and beautifully old Victorian home in which we sleep. Lyndsey and I have the best room. There are windows in the closet. A beautiful sitting room with windows in our room. AND a rocking chair. in which, I am rocking now as I type. )

but the feeling of homesickness startled me. I haven't felt that way in a very long time. A tight knot was tying itself in my belly. I felt transplanted. and the weirdest feeling of all, was the wonderment of trying to figure out exactly...Where is my "home?"

I don't feel at home in my parents homes. I usually feel at home at my apartment in Mineola, but my little abode is a complete wreck as I pack up to move out. All the faces of my life with OE this year have either left, or I am about to leave them.

I realized I was feeling anxious about the upcoming move to France and all the changes that are outside my control.

As much as I adore France, I haven't built myself a "home" there yet. (although I would like too!)

So currently I am a little "homeless." and I am wondering, will I ever find a place to rest my roots? or is my transient life a blessing in disguise?

Maybe I am an Abraham nomadically living and following God where He leads. Who knows where the next door will take me. I start to feel excited when I remember that. There are some surprising places yet to go. and there is a certain divine dependence that can only be learned living in a tent.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

another great reason to work at Sky Ranch

I've counted up the hours I have spent at Sky Ranch (where I work) in the last three days. Its been about 38 hours. Admittedly, some of those hours, about 4 or so, I was not working. Merely, enjoying the use of Internet or hanging out with summer staff. But I would say that 34 hours of work in the course of 3 days is still pretty exhausting. So today when I was finished grating zucchini for the giant Iguana (which has been dubbed Jub-Jub although Vernon still calls him Razor) and finished washing the feces out of the sugargliders food bowls (one of the worlds most disgusting mammals though they are deceivingly cute)...it was only 5:30 in the afternoon. I was finished early! My entire being radiated with a fatigue that only working at Sky Ranch (during the week that OE, iLeads, TCA, and summer camp staff are ALL jostling for spots on camp) could cause.

I felt like a warrior that had just fought a great battle and survived. Instead of sword wounds, my wounds consisted of...
leg muscle cramps
a burnt thumb (thank you char making)
splotches of mud covering my legs
ferret hairs clinging to my shirt
sweat tricking down my face
corn-cake dough inside my nose (YES! inside it! I had so much dough on my hands that when I wiped my nose...which was running...it got stuck inside...and I discovered it all hardened just inside my nose about an hour later)
paint on my face
sore smoky eyes
knots in my hair
zucchini under my nails
AND a usually cheerful persona now subdued by a mob of raving children and unsure adult chaperons.

I knew when I got into the car...I had to treat myself to something truly enjoyable. Solution: Go eat a panini and drink tea at Rockwell's. Call a few of my best friends. Talk to potential supporters for my upcoming mission work in France.

And! I ate the most delicious cinnamon roll. for desert.

Apparently, I forgot to take my Sky Ranch nametag off and TWO guys (at different times), both pretty handsome, started up conversations about Sky Ranch. Soooooooooo, working crazy hours and jobs at camp does have some perks.

Conclusion: At least in East Texas, working at Sky is a great conversation starter for flirting with guys in Christian coffee shops.

Monday, April 28, 2008

medical update

Thanks everyone so much for keeping my family in your prayers. Sean's surgery went great. They took out all the old hardware (the screws and metal plates that held his shoulder together after he broke his clavicle a while back). They thought they would have to file the bone and do some other painful stuff...but they didn't have to! So his recovery should be faster and less painful.
More amazingly, my time in the waiting room with my parents went absolutely stunning. Better than I could ever have expected. I actually got them to laugh...I read them my blog about the grandparents. It was a nice relief.
I am so grateful.

BY the way...while we were driving to Dallas. I saw a billboard for a strip club called "Peppermint Rhino." I thought. That is an oddity. Why rhinos? Why a peppermint one?

my multifarious weekend...

...ends with a new addition to my vocabulary. Maybe Nick and Courtney know this word, "multifarious," because they've been studying for the GRE. I discovered it today. Multifarious is having many varied parts or aspects. That describes my weekend perfectly. Let me break it down for you.

Friday night: Arrive at my mom's house. She is not there. However, my 18 year old brother and 20 other members of his high school are. They are having a small party in the backyard. The teenage girls are screaming shrilly every minute or so...probably some dense web of high school flirtation being played out within my earshot. I just know it is extremely annoying. All these girls seem to be shallower than a puddle (and by the way...very "pretty"...if perfect blonde hair...and thin...and wearing juicy couture...is your style). My respect for my brother is plummeting quickly. I overhear a thickly "valley-girl" accented voice tell the shocking news that "so-and-so is an atheist!" and watched the registered shock hit the other girls faces. How much damage will these girls do to the name of "Chrisitan?" I shiver to wonder at it.

Saturday morning: 6AM wake up. entirely too early. My sister and a friend from OU are competing in the "Old College Tri," a local triathlon. I'm to be their photographer. Kara, the friend, is very nervous because she has never done a triathlon before. I would have been nervous too. 300 meters of swimming, 13 miles of biking, and 3 miles of running. basically 5 hours of non-stop gut-wrenching exercisers. Your surrounded by major muscles and super fit people, that make you feel in comparison like jello jigglers. Yet, I had a good time. This was more of an amateur contest. My sister and I (after she finished....wonder woman that she is) stood about 400 meters from the finish line and cheered/whooped everyone as they slowly sauntered along. That was a blast! Darby teared up...she thinks its really precious to see them get some energy from the cheers.

Saturday evening: Visit with old youth minister! And she is going to support me for France! Then I went to the Village Church with her. Oh it was a wonderful respite from the dry crunchy church environment out in east Texas. It was a nice glass of cold water.

Saturday night: Teach my grandmother how to use a DVD player. Have to explain to her that the menu display is not the movie playing.

Sunday morning: attend the 39ers Sunday School with my grandmother. 39ers seems to describe the year that the members of this class were born. although my grandmother was born in the 20's. so maybe they were older. they certainly were a wrinkly, well-dressed, old bunch. They were lovely, of course, and I gleaned wisdom from their slowly spoken exchanges. At one point the withered teacher asked if anyone knew a certain fact...and another old grandpa stuttered..."why don't we google it?" WoW! I am impressed, they all knew how to google?

AND I actually sat in front of Mel Brewer, founder of Sky Ranch, in the church service. He wore a faded banana-yellow leisure suit. Shook my hand and was very glad to see me. He is so cute!

Sunday afternoon: visit my other grandparents. Peep and Pop. Pop always cooks something extravagant when I come over. Even though he can hardly walk. This time it was crawfish étouffée. He can't chop things anymore...really he can only stir the cauldron of cajun goo. So Peep and I were running around to do his culinary bidding. Cut this, Peep. Open this, Shannon. Hand me the green chiles. One of the most important aspects of this dish...the ingredient that really makes it superb...is the roux, a mixture of fat (esp. butter) and flour used in making sauces. Anyway, my Pop is obsessive about his roux. He and Peep continually antagonize each other in comic exchanges as they scurry about. (or really Peep scurries and Pop sits on his chair...stirring above the oven).

Pop: Aren't you finished cutting the onions, yet. Hurry up!
Peep: I can't hurry! If I went any faster I would cut my finger!
Pop: Oh don't do that. It would ruin my roux.
Peep: I'm not talking to you anymore today.
(5 seconds later)
Peep: What time is it?
Pop: I'm not going to tell you.

Later that night he called her his "sweetie-cutie." They are a pair.

Monday at butt-crack of dawn: Could anything more random happen this weekend? ...I ponder in a surgery waiting room...while my brother goes under the knife.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Restless


I have three giant boxes full to the brim with old National Geographic magazines. The most recent issue is over twenty years old...so I relish in 1970’s advertisements. I often chuckle to myself when I spy an old car, a past king of luxury. Or ads for technology, in a world where computers were the size of an entire room and barely accessible to the normal joe. I actually should spend the cash and buy a year long subscription, now, in the present age. Yet, I am having so much fun peeking through these old journals. I have barely plumbed the depths of articles and pictures. The boxes were a gift from my grandmother, Peep (that is her grandmother name. I’m the oldest grandchild and somehow my toddler mind decided that “Peep” was the only name for her. It may have had something to do with the fact that she always poked my nose and said, “PEEP.”)
This sultry evening (thunder echoes in billowing waves...first distant...now closer) I’ve been reading from a 1980 edition of National Geographic. First, I read an article about water. Since I teach a class about Limnology (the study of fresh water) at Sky Ranch, I found the article very informative. I know I need to remember that it might be out of date...but I found the data about the Colorado River to be shockingly up to date with an episode of Planet Earth. The mighty river doesn’t manage to trickle into the Pacific Ocean some years. Too much of its water is pumped into our thirsty western lands. Even in 1980, the river was reduced to a trickle by the time it reached Mexico. I also read about Hans Christian Anderson, an ancient Mayan civilization, and the city of Milwaukee.
I was focused to such an extent that the contents of my tea cup, long forgotten, were frosty (or so it seemed). I could hear music echoing (along with the thunder) from my computer in the living room. The song: Ramblin Man’ by the Allman Brothers Band. As the lyrics wound their way into my room...”Lord I was born a ramblin’ man...” I heard in it a kindred realization. and felt this overwhelming hunger. A need to “ramble” somewhere. I am so tired of living a routine of work, even though I do enjoy my job, tons!
The first flash of lightning interrupted my typing. The thunder is now growing monumental. It adds excitement to my current small town life. I truly feel that I am a rambling woman. I haven’t been able to stay in one place for more that two years, since I graduated high school. I adore travel. I adore picking up and starting over. There is something so exciting about packing. I love choosing a favorite shirt to travel in. When I buy a piece of clothing I think in terms of...how well does this pack in a suitcase. Could I wear it on a mountain?
I like to surround myself with items from different places. In Mexico, at a small town mercado. I bought a bright yellow “moomoo;” you know, those old lady bag-like dresses. The abuela that sold her wares, stroked the fabric with her weathered hands, and assured me, “Hecho de mano.” Made with her hands. I couldn’t leave it behind. The treasured moomoo hangs over my closet door. A bright hand-woven beacon of a distant place and a remarkable old lady. It hangs there, a decoration. Feeding my longing to go somewhere again.
I know that I don’t have long to wait. I leave for France in two months. Yet, tonight, those two months become two eons. The phrase “I can’t wait.” Literally, resonates throughout my being. I want to go....I want to go...I want to go

Sunday, April 20, 2008

a nice place to stroll

I have recently discovered a wonderful place to walk or bike around. The Mineola nature preserve. In a town, where the store fronts turn dark and lock their doors at 5pm, and restaurants remain open only a few hours longer. (not to mention the lack of funds in my pocket book) I find myself searching for things to do, quite frequently. One of my searches lead me to the preserve. The Sabine River flows through this little sanctuary, or rather flows over. Its flooded banks wind through the trees and make the forest floor look like it's made of glass. As far as you can look, the woods grow up through a watery forest floor. My Pop (grandfather) told me a story once. When he was a boy in the 1930's, the woods around their cabin in Pennsylvania flooded and then an unusually late and shockingly cold spring freeze turned the woods into arctic playland. He and his sisters tied blades to their feet and ice-skated through the trees and ice clothed leaves. I watch his face when he tells me this story and I can see in his eyes: gliding through the frozen forest is one of his happiest memories. It must have been stunning. so out of the ordinary. like a tall tale. Could this really be happening? I plan to borrow some rubber boots (the ones that reach up above your knees) and splash my way through the woods sometime soon. The water is no more than 6-8 inches deep. I was going to invent a new recreational activity...hydro-biking. And try to bike through the water covered bike path. A friend pointed out that wouldn't be a wise option for bike chains. The rubber boot option sounds like a good romp, though.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

discussion about a topic that is talked to death: Leadership

One of the leaders at my work just came up to me.
Clinton: “Shannon, I need you to work an hour (later than scheduled) tomorrow. Which would you prefer to work? 4-5pm or 5-6pm?”
Hmmmm. Let me think. Of course, I picked the earlier option. I had plans for the afternoon that included a bike and a rocky dirt trail at a nearby park. Then I heard my boss talking to himself as he walked away.
“Good, I’ll work from 5-6.”
Immediately, I wished I had picked the later time.
‘Wait! I will work from 5-6,” I called after him.
Yet, he insisted. He would work the later shift.
He didn’t have to ask me. He is in charge of the schedule and could have assigned me a time. But he did ask.
I think all of the staff I work with would undoubtedly agree. That Clinton is a great leader.
None of us would quail from completing a task he asked us to do. We can trust his character and know that he is the one who never shirks from doing a job harder than the one he is asking us to do. I have seen his selflessness numerous times. He has earned my respect as a leader.

I think respect is important for a leader. I have a hard time submitting to a leader I don’t respect. In fact, my behavior turns downright rebellious.
What I’m trying to determine...is if this tendency is a good or bad thing.

In some ways, I think it is a bad thing. There are authority figures in our lives that we should follow. If we don’t want to loose our job, we need to adhere to the orders of our boss. When we were teenagers (I can’t believe I am admitting this now) we needed to listen to our parents. Most hormonal teenagers aren’t the best judges of authority. With a few exceptions, our parents really did know that being home the night before a test was better than staying out until 2 am. Even if I was just innocently spending time with my friends.

Some institutions/occupations (dangerous jobs, fireman, police men, armies, I guess) can’t function without rigid rules and complete submission to authority without question. Lives hang in the balance. One miss-step could lead to disaster. I can only wonder...
who would want to be in that leadership position?

Civil War generals decided which regiments marched into the face of enemy muskets first. Those men would march their last step. Would they take those orders without a whole-hearted respect for their general? If their general displayed laziness, or never kept his details straight, would they have followed the order? Maybe this is a bad example, because they really didn’t have a choice. Leaving the field of battle without authorization meant receiving a bullet for desertion. I guess...the “cause’’ of the war factors into a battle situation and not just the leader. So perhaps I digress. But I’m sure a respected general’s troops were more productive.

Back to the main subject.

Is respect a requirement for a leader? Or am I totally wrong when I grow rebellious?

Questions I have pondered this week...due to a discussion with a friend...in which we did not agree. What do you think?

As an ending note... the respect I have for a friend is different than that for a leader. Leaders must earn a more demanding respect than people I love to hang out with!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Setting out...

am I joining the popular trend of blogging that is circulating around our office? of course. I am a band wagon jumper, apparently. and of course, I shall refuse to use proper grammar. especially, proper punctuation. or complete sentences. because I like short choppy monologue. I am joining the rabble. of blogging. I like rabbles. I looked it up. I guess that sometimes the word could have a bad connotation ("disorderly mob"). but another definition is "ordinary people." I want to join them. the millions of brilliant minds that perhaps shall never be famous or grace the surface of a television screen or hear their words quoted by generations to come. instead they log them in digital history in online blogs. great stuff. great stories. imaginative. comical. all by "ordinary" minds.

then again. maybe they will become famous. and millionaires. that would be great.

I know that I have had a spectacular evening. and I probably could not relate with human words (maybe if I was a poet, I could) how much I enjoyed my bike ride through a twilight stricken swamp in east texas along the Sabine River wet lands. Or how delicious my turkey artichoke pannini was...slowing savoring each taste as I sunk in a giant leather chair next to a stone fireplace. fire radiating heat while it danced. or how much I loved talking to an old acquaintance on the phone. and remembering our memories. or how much I love driving with my windows down. on a warmish cool night. with great music. or how much I laughed at an extremely awkward and long anticipated episode of the Office. or how funny my friend's dog looked while I rubbed her ears. or how much i love my new old hat...from the thrift store...that may have once belonged to a very old gentleman.

so it has begun...I have a blog. and i have less hours of sleep tonight. than i originally intended