Tuesday, December 30, 2008


I didn't know what to expect when I saw my home town for the first time in six months after the tornado. The last time I had seen it (this June) I couldn't recognize streets, houses (there were none left), or anything really. In fact, I dreaded having to see it; it just hurt too much. But when my dad and I pulled over the hill above town on Christmas day, I was amazed.

In just under seven months my town went from being completely flattened and unrecognizable to almost normal. Over 300 homes were completely totaled but there are nearly 200 that are completely up or being constructed. If I didn't know what had happened on Memorial Day weekend, I wouldn't have known that Parkersburg had been hit. It just looks like a new subdivision right now with beautiful new homes and amazing new high school. There is still a long way to go in terms of construction, but I'm amazed at what I have seen so far.

The other interesting thing is that the spirit of my little home town hasn't changed a bit. People are still upbeat and positive. Sure the conversations now are all about the building process, but generally speaking it's as positive as it always has been, and these people lost everything.

It's amazing. I know the people in the rebuilding process, including my parents, don't feel like it's going very fast, but it really is. Consider Katrina... that happened nearly four years ago and there are still so many families without homes. This tornado hit my home town just last May and already a good chunk of the town is rebuilt. Amazing. Amazing. Amazing.

As my mom would say, it really is a miracle.

Needless to say it was extra special to be home for Christmas this year. All of my brothers made it and we all got together at my parents' temporary home. Amazingly enough it still felt like home, it still felt like Christmas, it still felt normal. This is a gift for which I'll forever be grateful.

Now if only my bags would surface... I was one of the many who got stuck in Chicago on Christmas Eve and my bags have still yet to surface... small potatoes, I know, but it really would be nice to have my underwear! :)

Merry Christmas! :)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I'll be home for Christmas...

In just over 24 hours I should be landing at the Des Moines airport. I'm so excited. I'm so excited to see my brothers, niece, nephew, sisters-in-law, girl-friend-in-law, parents, grandma, best friend, and the rest of the clan. I've been waiting for this day for a really long time, and it's hard to believe it's here. I can't wait to be home for Christmas! :)

Merry Christmas to all! :)

Christmas Perfection

Luther College's Annual Christmas Concert aired on PBS last night, and I had the luxury of watching it with my good friends while drinking three rather robust glasses of wine. As the snow fell outside, we were warmed by the music, wine, and glow from the Christmas tree inside. It was no short of Christmas perfection! :)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Santa's Workshop

Today I've been finalizing my Christmas presents. I bought what I had to buy and have been making the things I am going to make. I must say, making these presents really has put me in the Christmas spirit. The hand-made presents aren't quite done yet, but I'm shooting to have them done by the end of the night. I just hope they turn out as I originally envisioned. I guess only time will tell. So far, I know I'd like to be the recipient of one of the hand-made presents... It also helps that my friends are generally good sports about this sort of thing. :)

Anyhow... I'm just waiting for the stain to dry; then I can move on to the next step in the finishing process. In the mean time, I have a nice cup of hot cocoa and lovely Christmas tunes playing in the background.

Life is good; it's really good. :)

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The art of giving a good gift

I have a dear friend who decided he was going to make all of his Christmas presents this year. He's an amazing woodworker, so his gifts were, of course, beautiful. He made some great porch chairs for his friends in WI, a toy storage unit for his niece, and another unit for a friend's daughter. When he showed them to me, I was not only convinced of his character and why I am so drawn to him, but he also reminded of the art of giving a good gift. It's not about the dollar amount associated with the gift or fulfilling some one's wish list; it's more about giving something that is genuine and heartfelt to show how much we care.

Some of the best gifts I have ever received aren't the ones that I was longing or wishing for, but the ones that were the thoughtful, unexpected gifts from the heart... a handmade blanket, a quote book my friend scrap-booked together, a scarf, an inspiring poem with a hand-made border of stamps from a family's heirloom collection, pictures or maps from adventures, a tiny flashlight to help make sure I didn't loose my way, a pair of mittens to keep my hands warm in the sub-zero weather, a quarter that my oldest brother gave me the day I was born. Although some of these things seem trivial, they aren't. These gifts are about so much more than the object itself; they are the things that remind me I am loved and that I love.

So taking my friend's lead, I'm doing my best to make sure the gifts I choose this year not only make the recipients smile, but also serve as a reminder of how much I love those who will receive them.


I've been skiing for a long time now, since I was five-years-old, and sometimes it just doesn't thrill me like it used to. Don't get me wrong, I still love to do it; I still love the thrill of cruising a top speed on my own two feet. I love seeing the beautiful mountain ranges, and of course I love playing outside. I just don't get up at the crack of dawn to get first tracks anymore or ski top to bottom from first chair to last.

Yesterday, however, I had the pleasure of teaching one of my good friends how to ski, and it put the fun right back into it again. It's funny how sharing something that you've always done with someone you care about can put a new spin on things. It's even cooler when you know you helped someone check something off her "bucket list."

Yay for the mountains. Yay for good friends. Yay for skiing! :)
Unfortunately, my friend found out the day after that she pulled her MCL, and yet she still wants to get back on the hill as soon as possible. No wonder why she helped put the fun back into it! Next time, I'll try to take it easier on you, Lisa! Sorry you messed up your knee.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A New Chapter

One of my favorite things is to start something new. Don't get me wrong, I like old things too, but there is just something about the challenge and mystery of a fresh start. A new start is even better when it has the potential to be the start of something really amazing. Let's just say this... over the past couple of weeks one old, tired chapter has finished, and a new and exciting one has begun--and this one is a page turner. Now I just hope I don't turn the pages too fast, but that's a different story for a different time.

Here's to new and happy beginnings! :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The wishing basket

A few weeks ago in church there were folks who got up to tell their thanksgiving stories. It was fantastic to hear different perspectives from folks I didn't know very well. I connected to each story in some way which gave me an incredible sense of peace and belonging.

There was one story in particular that stuck out to me. One woman got up and talked about the struggles she faced as a single mom teaching in a private school in the Caribbean. Times were really tough, and she wasn't quite sure what to do. So, she and her two sons developed a ritual. They took a hand-made basket, made by a friend of theirs, and turned it into a wishing basket. Then, each time the family had a need they would go to the ocean, pick out a coral to represent that need, number it, and record it. When a need was met they took that need's coral back to the ocean on a clear and starry night, thanked the universe for its help, and then gave the coral back to the ocean. It was amazing to hear how the universe provided for this woman and her two boys and how they were grateful each time.

I latched on to this woman's ritual. I found a wishing cup, picked up stones for each of the needs I had, and kept track of them in a little book. The interesting thing is, my needs are starting to be met. One by one, little by little. I am so grateful. I am so happy. I am so blessed. The whole scenario reminds me of our parting song at church...

From You I receive;
To you I give.
Together we share;
Together we live.

The universe really is an amazing place. Sometimes it's hard to see it's beauty when it seems to continually take from us. At the same time, though, it always provides in one way or another. There is beauty in both the giving and the receiving; for this, I am grateful.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Winter Wonderland

It's cold-- really cold, fifteen-below-zero cold. Yesterday I was snowed in; today I'm frozen in. I dig it though, as long as I don't have to be outside for very long. :)

The best part of the weekend definitely included the Christmas party I went to last night. It was a house party thrown by some of my roommate's friends. My roommate's band played (once the power came on-- it was out for the first three hours of the night), we chatted by candlelight, I caught up with folks I hadn't seen or talked to in a long time, and I even made a new friend. It was one of those nights when you forget to look at the time and when you do, are surprised that it's five in the morning. It wasn't an over the top party, it was just a good one, even despite the snow and cold. It had good music, good people, and good conversation. What more could I ask for? So yes, it may be cold and snowy here, but I'd still like to think I'm living in a winter wonderland.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells

I was so lucky today. Our high school choir sang "Carol of the Bells" in our hallway this morning. There's really no better way to start out the day than with a full choir rendition of a Christmas tune, especially this one. Needless to say, listening to them not only put me in the Christmas spirit, but I also had a fantastic day.

So I hope, dear readers, that you too have a fantastic day and that you are able to keep a lovely little song in your heart! :)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Posts to think about...

I was flipping through the blogs that I follow today and found these two really great posts from my fellow bloggers, Peter and Don. I don't think these two guys know each other, but they made a really good point about perspective today. So if you're looking for an attitude booster, stroll on over to these posts ("What about Me" by Peter and "Affirmations: a lightning rod for goodwill" by Don).

I see the moon

(Image from here)

I went for a much needed walk tonight under the nearly full moon (and yes, part of the reason why I needed the walk was because my kiddos are experiencing the full-moon effect!). The night sky was beautiful and reminded me of a good-night song we used to sing at a summer camp I once worked at in Colorado. I happen to like this song a lot because it's so sweet and makes the world feel smaller-- in a good way. Here it is... enjoy :)

I see the moon and the moon sees me.
The moon sees somebody I'd like to see.
So, God bless the moon, and God bless me.
And God bless the somebody I'd like to see.
Good Night!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Diorama Party

I'm very excited about one particular Holiday party that I plan on attending next weekend-- the Second Annual Christmas Diorama Party/Contest. If you don't remember from your grade school art days, a diorama is, according to Webster,

a scenic representation in which sculptured figures and lifelike details are
displayed usually in miniature so as to blend indistinguishably with a realistic
painted background

My roommate and I hosted the party for our friends last year, and it was quite a bash! I even took third in the contest. The theme was "Christmas Vacation," so I made a two-dimensional evening ski scene in a very foxy shoe box. This was, by the way, a small feat for me given my lack of artistic ability-- just ask my students!

Now I'm getting geared up to score big in this year's contest with a "Christmas in Cinema" theme. There are only two rules in the contest: the diorama cannot be a model (we had some issues with that last year from our architect friends), nor can it use pyrotechnics (don't ask!). I pretty much have my idea nailed down; it's just a matter of making it a reality. I'll have to keep you posted.

Let me ask you this, my fellow bloggers: If you had to create a diorama with this year's theme, what would you create?


I seem to be coming across a lot of texts, references, and movies involving India lately. I don't know if that's a sign that I need to go on a trip or what, but I'm starting to become really curious about this culture that I don't know much about. The more I learn, the more curious I become.

Outsourced is the latest movie I've seen that takes place in India. It's a great independent comedy that highlights some of the sad, and sometimes humorous, realities of Western commerce as well as the quirky things that happen when one is in culture shock. If you've ever lived abroad for more than six months or have an appetite for cultural diversity, you'll really appreciate this film. Not to mention that the soundtrack is fantastic! :)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Love Poems From God

My best friend over at grace's birdcage wedding, is doing a blog series on poems written hundreds of years ago and have been republished in a book called Love Poems from God. I've been reading them as she posts and am usually blown out of the water by how the poets understand God and love. It's amazing these were written so long ago and from the perspective of so many different cultures; I guess this further reiterates that the subjects of Love and God are timeless universals. The fact that my friend has decided to post these particular poems with these particular themes is indeed one of the many reasons why she's my best friend. :)

So head on over to Grace's Birdcage Wedding to check out her series of tags on "the poems." I don't think you'll be disappointed. :)

Twinkle, Twinkle

(Photo from here)

I had the pleasure of walking home from a rather festive night on the town Friday night. The walk reminded me just how magical a winter's night under Montana's big sky can be. It's kind of a long walk from downtown and requires hiking up a large hill that overlooks the city, but I was glad to do it.
When I got to the top of the hill, I stopped for a moment to look. There's something special about pausing in the dark to silently watch the city lights twinkle below and the winter stars and moon light the sky from above. I swear time stopped for a just a moment as I paused in this special place between the hustle and bustle of life below and the quiet stillness of the universe above. I whispered a soft and humble "thank you," waited for just a few silent moments, and finished out the last half of the walk with a gentle peace that I haven't felt in quite some time.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Solitude is a funny thing. When I didn't have it, I craved it, but now that I have it, I can't help but feel a little anxious. I used to be so good at doing things on my own (living alone in a barn out in the middle of nowhere forced me to be). I was even proud that I was so content being by myself-- after all, it's not always easy. But things seem to be different at the moment, and clearly Solitude and I are out of touch. I'm just not used to those empty moments that can creep in with Solitude. My friends and family have been fantastic at helping me ward off these moments, but there comes a point when it's just up to me. And it is at this point, my dear friends, when Emptiness sneaks in as Solitude's unwanted sidekick.

I've found that one of the best ways to chase away Emptiness is to stay busy, and I've been doing that. I've had cocktail connections, brownie bowl parties, pink pearl snap nights, and the like. The problem is, I'm getting a little weary around the edges. I want to relax and just be. I want to make friends with Solitude again, but I'm afraid Emptiness will sneak up on us. This fear is silly and irrational I know-- fear always is-- but it is what it is, and right now the thought of an unwanted visit from Emptiness is making me a little anxious.

But, as my grandmother said, "this too shall pass." It always does. I am just out of touch with Solitude and haven't had to single-handedly ward off Emptiness in a while. With a little patience, though, my angst will go away. Soon I'll be able to shake hands with Solitude, and together we'll send Emptiness packing. :)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Cocktail Connection

As a wandering spirit, friendship can be hard sometimes. Because I have a tendency to wander around, my dearest friends and family aren't always close by. This can be especially problematic when life gets hard or frustrating. But thank God for technology (a.k.a. phones and the Internet)!

Tonight I had the chance to have a 3-way-long-distance-cocktail. See, I started chatting with my best friend from college while sipping on a glass of wine, and before I knew it I was also chatting and sipping on wine with my best friend from home via the Internet. We all sort of know each other, so I started sharing what I was hearing from both ends of the conversation with my two friends, and before we knew it we had a long distance cocktail party that joined three very good friends from three very different locations (Kansas City, Montana, and Oregon).

I know this may sound silly, but when you find yourself so far away from the friends who have known you the longest, the friends who keep you grounded, and know you for who you really are without a need for explanation, this is a gift.

I feel lucky. I haven't laughed that hard in a long time. I have such good friends even if we live far apart....

Thank you Lord for amazing friends, the technology that helps us stay connected, and for a good glass of wine. :)

Monday, December 1, 2008


(Photo of Alpenglow in the Tetons by Ron Niebrugge)

Two of my ultimate favorite parts of the day are just before the sun completely rises and just before it sets. I've always liked this time of day because it's that magical hour that's filled with wonder and reflection. In the morning it's filled with the wonder of what the day will have in store. In the evening, it's a magical hour to reflect on what the day had in store. Being the reflective dreamer that I am, I'm sure you can understand why this is such an important time of day for me.

I didn't know that this time of day actually had a name until I moved to the mountains. Apparently the name for this magical moment is alpenglow, or Alpengl├╝hen in German. According to Wikipedia it is "when the Sun is just below the horizon, [and] a horizontal red glowing band can sometimes be observed on the opposite horizon." In the Midwest, this time of day was more about the feeling for me (mostly because there wasn't much the "red glowing band" could reflect on :) ) But in the mountains it involves more than just a feeling; this is the time of day when the mountains actually glow. The refelction off the "red glowing band" reflects on to the mountains and turns them all shades of orange, yellow, and pink. It only lasts a moment, but if you can catch it, it's one of the most breath-taking moments of the day, especially when the mountains are snow capped and the sky is crystal clear.

Today was a particular special day because I was able to observe alpenglow twice against our big, crystal-blue, Montana sky. I was able to catch it at sunrise while I drove through four different snow-capped mountain ranges on my way to work, and I was able to catch it on top of a hill during my evening run. It was magnificent. It is yet another reminder of why I love the mountains so much. They constantly remind me of how majestic nature can be and how lucky I am to be alive, living out my dream in this most beautiful place.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


I just saw Australia yesterday, and now it's on my favorite list. It's got this old Western flavor which helped with the cheesy, "awe-come-on" moments (which are definitely there), and it made me want to take a trip down under. It's a feel good movie for sure which is great this time of year. Check it out! :)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A National Day of Listening

In church last week, a woman spoke briefly about a National Day of Listening. Apparently NPR declared the day after Thanksgiving a "National Day of Listening" in which we should make a conscious effort to listen to one anther's life stories, record them if possible, and share. This project is sponsored by Story Corp, a group dedicated to uniting people by allowing us to share our stories. I think the quote from the National Day of Listening Website describes this project best:

By listening to their stories, you will be telling them that they matter and they won’t ever be forgotten.

How cool is that?? I double-dog dare you to check it out, and I triple-dog dare you to do it! :)

I hope you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving. Mine was one for the books. My cup overfloweth. :)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I can't help but love a holiday that asks us to take a moment to be thankful for what we have. This year has taught me that I have a lot to be thankful for, to the point where it's even hard to talk about. I'd like to take a moment to share the top ten things I'm most thankful for (in no particular order). I'd love to hear what you are thankful for too.

This year I'm thankful for...

Life. The more I experience, the more I realize just how fragile it is. I love life even with its ups and downs. There is no better feeling than to feel alive.

Family. Mine was almost taken away, and as a result I value them even more than ever.

Friends. I would not have made it through this year without them, nor would I have gone on as many adventures.

Teaching. I'm learning that teaching really is just a way of life that not everyone understands. It can be really hard but is more rewarding than anything I've ever done.

Mountains. They aren't just my playground; they are also my thinking place and where I find peace. They make me stronger and help me remember that there are very few things that we can actually control.

Words. If it weren't for being able to read, write, speak, and listen I'd be lost.

Freedom. Sometimes it's easy to forget just how good we have it here in the states. Sure we have our issues, but at least we have the freedom to talk about them, the freedom to believe what we want to believe, and the freedom to choose what works best for us.

Music. It makes me whole.

Community. I've learned there is very little we can accomplish alone.

Getting by. There have been moments this past year that I barely scraped by financially, but I was always able to find a way to make it work.

Boot straps. Not everyone has them, but my parents made sure I did. I would be in pretty sad shape if I didn't have them to pull myself up with when things get tough.

(This is a video of an interview with my family. It goes to show just how much I have to be thankful for.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I've been tagged...

I've been tagged by my friend over at grace's birdcage wedding. I'm supposed to tell six quirky or boring things about myself and then "tag" a blogger or two to do the same... I thought it might be kind of fun and a light-hearted way to start out Thanksgiving Break.

#1 I sometimes put juice on my Rice Crispies. I don't remember where I picked up this weird habit, but I remember trying it out once and thinking it was delicious. I still do it now but only on occasion.

#2 I can speak Dutch and thoroughly enjoy singing the Dutch birthday song at the top of my lungs in public places for my friends. I don't think they appreciate it quite as much as I do, but it makes people smile none the less.

#3 I secretly enjoy a good skinny dip. I became addicted after my first attempt at a camp out with some high school classmates. I'm usually extremely modest, but I get a certain thrill from being a tad bit rebellious and liberated while swimming around in the dark (it must be dark!) in my birthday suit.

#4 I was once a fair princess for my county (a title that still makes me giggle). I didn't quite have the pleasure of being the beef queen or the pork princess, it was just Ms. Butler County. It didn't last long though. Less than 30 minutes after the coronation, I had to give up my tierra because I couldn't go to the state fair competition. I had bigger fish to fry-- my year as an exchange student to The Netherlands was to start the same week as the state fair.

#5 I snort when I laugh. It's funny how people react to this quirk. Either they look at me with disgust and say, "Excuse you," or they erupt in laughter. I have a phrase or two that helps me own this quirk: "Been snorting since '82" or "It's just part of the package." Usually these lines work to gloss things over when it gets awkward.

#6 I sing "I'm a Little Teapot" when I get scared. For some reason going back to my pre-school day memories helps ease my nerves. Perhaps it's traveling back in time to Mrs. Lawler's Wiggle and Giggle Preschool where there were bright colors, fun toys, and lots and lots of singing that puts me at ease. And maybe that's why I still like to sing an array of songs for any occasion including "The Iowa Fight Song" and the fore mentioned Dutch birthday song.

Okay, there are my six quirks. What are yours? I tag my followers: Don, Peter, Saphron, and anyone else who wants to play.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Wii

Last year, my friend invited a bunch of the newbies (all teachers who had just moved into the district) to chill out and play Wii. I'm not really into the whole video game thing, so I'll admit, I was skeptical at first. Little did I know that Wii is not your average video game.

The cool thing about Wii is that it's interactive, and the players actually have to move to play the game. So when we play golf, we actually get to practice our golf swings. When we bowl, we actually get to do the pendulum motion with our arms and that cute little foot slide-over/follow-through move at the end of a roll. The first time I played it I was amazed at how fun and life-like it was.

We haven't played Wii in a really long time. In fact, the last time I played was in Kansas City last May after my best friend's wedding. Needless to say when my friends suggested we round up the troops and play after watching a disappointing football game, I took them up on it. And, as usual, it was fantastic! :)

So here's to the Wii with all of its quirky little sound effects, cool characters, and interactiveness! Yay for Wii! :)

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Last night I had to have a hard conversation with someone I care a lot about. It was one of those conversations where I had three choices-- I could be honest and straightforward, try to sugar-coat the truth, or sweep truth under the rug and pretend like it wasn't there. Over the last six months I tried the later two approaches more often than I care to admit (which didn't get me anywhere but stuck), so I decided to try for the first approach-- being honest and straightforward.

It was messy. I spoke the truth, but he didn't want to hear it. Maybe I went too far, maybe I was too honest, and maybe I should have kept some of the truth to myself. But, I just laid it all out there as naked as a j-bird. After the fact (and even during the fact, for that matter), I felt bad for him--the issues at hand were not easy ones. At the same rate, I couldn't help but put myself in his shoes. If I were him, I'd want to know the truth, I'd want to know it all-- no matter how much it stunk to hear it, and I'd want to know it now. Regardless of my convictions and best intentions, the conversation ended with curt answers, slammed doors, and me standing at the window watching him pull away. Truth is messy.

On the other hand, being honest feels pretty damn good. Being surrounded by others who feel the same way is a gift and was a gift last night. After standing at the window for a second, letting the conversation soak in, I called up one of my best friends. I told her what happened, and before I knew it she was at the end of my driveway in her Soccer-Mom Yukon grooving out to some cheesy dance music that I could feel through the concrete as I walked toward her car. I had to smile. I had just left one conversation where truth wasn't very welcomed and was now jumping into a Yukon where truth is just the norm. Truth feels good.

At the end of the day, I don't regret embracing truth. Sure it was hard to be honest, and it was hard to watch someone I care for pull out of my life, but I had to do it. Truth is messy, but sometimes being messy is just the right thing to do.

I just submitted this to NPR... After four years of assigning the This I Believe essay to five different classes, I finally submitted my own. Yee Haw! I don't know if anything will come of it, but it sure felt good to write. I really do encourage you to take Edward R. Murrow's This I Believe challenge.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Edward R. Murrow Challenge

During my first year of teaching a friend/parent introduced me to the NPR radio show called "This I Believe." It originated from Edward R. Murrow in the 1950s as an attempt to unite the American public-- to help Americans see that we are all human and shouldn't let fear or differences drive us apart. Murrow initiated the show by asking Americans just one question: In 500 words or less, what do you believe to be true about life?

Wow! Talk about a loaded question. As a teacher, I saw this as a great opportunity for my Juniors and Seniors. Not only do I use it as a tool to talk about what a climate of fear can do to a group of people (as in the cold war, or even now for that matter), but it's a way to help kids really think about what they, not their parents, believe to be true. It's amazing what I get back from some of them and how close they let me get to their thoughts.

I'm a huge believer in practicing what I teach, but this assignment has me a little flustered. It's so hard to solidify what it is exactly that I believe. There are so many topics I could delve into like the importance of giving back, being human, forgiveness, empathy, making the most of each moment-- just to name a few. But how do I talk about those topics in just 500 words?? Now I fully understand why my 16-18-year-old students look like deer in head lights when I first present this assignment to them!

But, holding true to my pedagogy, I have decided to take Murrow's invitation as a personal challenge. After all, how can I ask my students to do something I haven't done myself? It might take me some time and require some space, but I'm going to do it. I think it's such a valuable exercise to think and then share what we believe. It helps us be human and helps us to recognize other humans-- something that is pretty rare in our society at the moment.

Wow, Murrow was smart! For that matter, whoever invented this whole blog thing is smart. I can't help but notice since I've started blogging how powerful it can be. I'm still amazed at its ability to unite perfect strangers just by allowing us to be human. There's important power in that. I just hope I can share that with my students and also continue to be a part of it myself.

Anybody else up for the Murrow challenge?? What do you believe to be true about life?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Art of Letting Go: Part III

(What was left of my parents' 2-story home after the EF five Tornado that hit this past May)

It's time. I think I can finally let this poem go. I wrote it as part of my letting-go process. I guess I've been kind of nervous to let it go because it helped me let go, but I'm ready.

"Blow Away"

The rust-colored bricks, its dark green siding, and the improved garage roof Dad put on.
The long, curved sidewalk, the wild flower beds, and the evergreens that had grown so tall.
The soft living room carpet, mom’s hand-made blankets, and those big East windows that let in the sun.
Grandma’s last quilt, Grandpa Doc’s pocket watch, and Great-Aunt Rofkins’ China buffet.
Our dinning room table, the print above the piano, the souvenir tiles mom had hung in a row.
My brothers’ boyhood toys, Mom’s Christmas pearls, and the skis Dad waxed with such care.
Mom’s wedding dress, the prom gown we both wore, and my first emerald ring.
Five years worth of my journals, four sets of baby pictures, and exotic trinkets from adventures abroad.
My favorite napping spot, my thinking place, and my refuge from the world.
All stripped away in just sixty seconds, never to be seen again.
I know it’s just stuff-- that our family made it;
I’m grateful for that everyday.
But, it still hurts to think
Of my childhood home and all that went with it,
And I hope that pain
Blows Away

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wine, Frozen Pizza, and Dessert

I'm about to have a seemingly ordinary night. I'm about to go over to a good friend's house for dinner, wine, and a good long session of cheesy, prime time television. I'm planning on bringing a few brownie bowls and a fresh bottle of Ten Spoon to celebrate the moment.

To most, this sort of evening is pretty ordinary, but I assure you it's not (hence the brownies and wine). See, I've learned there are very few people out there with whom you can just sit and be -- they're not flustered by the silence or the ordinariness of it. I'm lucky because I've always been able to find one of these friends no matter where I've lived, and they have all been responsible for saving my sanity at one time or another. I know I'd be pretty lost without my wine-frozen pizza-dessert night-buddies. So even though tonight might seem ordinary, I know that it's not. How could it be when I get to hang with a good friend and just be?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Pink Pearl Snap Kinda Night!

I have this fantastic pink gingham pearl snap shirt that I bought at Wall Drug on my way home one summer. I know it may sound weird, but this is a really special shirt. Upon first glance, it's just a shirt, but when I look closer I can't help but grin as I think of the solo road trip I was on when I found it, the old cowboy boots and paisley friendship flask my best friend gave me that coordinate so perfectly, and all of the crazy Montana adventures I've had in it. It's just one of those shirts.

Last night I decided that it was going to be a pink pearl snap kind of night. I've been short on pink pearl snap nights lately and was looking to remedy that. So I pulled on the boots, snapped myself into the shirt, and headed out on the town with friends. It was fantastic! I saw a lot of friends I hadn't seen in a long time, made new friends, and even twirled around the dance floor a few times. Man, did it feel good to get out there again!

Despite my throbbing head this morning and that weird hazy feeling that often follows a pink pearl snap night, I can't help but wonder why I've been denying myself these kind of adventures lately. Life is too short to just think about work all the time, the tragic stuff that has been happening back home, or to isolate my time with only one or two of my friends. It feels way too good to forget about all of that stuff, throw on the pearl snap, and cut loose. So from here on on out I'm going to make a conscious effort to have more pink pearl snap adventures-- even if they make my head hurt the next day. After all, I wouldn't really be me with out a good pink pearl snap story to tell! :)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Eric Hutchinson

Now here's a guy I've been groovin' out to for the last few months especially on my commute to and from work (yes, I am proud to say I'm that crazy lady who boogies out in her driver's seat). He has great lyrics and a beat that makes me want to cut a rug-- no matter where I'm at. It's rare to find a musician that can make me think and groove out at the same time, but this guy has it figured out.

Dance it up friends! Dance it up :)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Matt Coughlin

I did end up going to Wild Joe's coffee shop to catch some live music. The musician is the son of one of my fellow teachers. His stuff is acoustic and very moving. He kind of reminded me a little of Ben Harper only less mainstream. You should check it out:

A well-rounded day

We had quite the treat today at school; the Shakespeare in the Schools acting company paid us a visit and performed Much Ado about Nothing... what a great play! I especially loved how they changed the setting to more modern times (the 1920s) and put a gangster spin on it. It's been a while since I've been that entertained. It was nice to see a comedy too, we often study the history plays or tragedies in our school, so it was nice to have something a little more light hearted. There is definitely something to be said about a live performance!

Not only did I get to see Shakespeare, I also got to go to one of my student's first art shows. He's quite the sketch artist. His mentor had him put on a reception at our public library; it was so great to see his work and to see how proud he is of it. I love it when kids have opportunities like that. I'm thinking about commissioning him to sketch a picture of my niece and nephew for my brother... we'll see if it pans out.

There's a good chance I'll also get to take in some live music tonight too... (other than my roommate's practice session that I'm listening to right now) It's turning out to be quite the day! :)

Yay for the arts, and yay for Fridays!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Art of Letting Go Part II

...and what do you know?? When I let go, it felt like a giant weight was lifted from my heart and a gentle peace took its place; it's a sad peace, but it's peace nonetheless. I haven't had that feeling for a long time-- surely a testament that it was time. I feel like I'm one step closer to center and a one step closer to me.


Thanks for the extra support, fellow bloggers and friends. You amaze me with your kind words, wisdom, and patience.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The art of letting go

Life has been a giant roller coaster lately. Yesterday was a really good day, and today started out fine but ended up taking a turn for the not-so-great. When I take a second to reflect on why today ended on such a different note, I can pretty much trace it back to one thing. For some reason I have a really hard time letting go.

I have a hard time letting go of battles that aren't worth fighting. I have a hard time letting go when I lose someone or something I hold dear. I have a hard time letting go when things won't go my way. I have a hard time letting go when I know it's time to let go, and a hard time letting go when I know the end is inevitable.
RRRRGGG!!! I feel like I've been forced to let go of a lot of things lately, more so than usual, and perhaps that's why I find myself on this crazy emotional roller coaster. The weird part is, I don't remember ever thinking I struggled with letting go. It almost feels like I woke up one day and "bam" it became an issue. But, maybe what really happened is that I woke up one day and opened my eyes to reality as an adult.

As I watch the people I respect most navigate through life, I've noticed that there is definitely an art to knowing when to hold on for dear life and knowing when to let go in order to embrace life. From my observations, it seems that the better one gets at deciphering when to say "when," the better off that person is.

"Lord, please grant me the wisdom to know when to hold on, when to let go, and the strength and grace to do both well."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A really good day

It was a really good day in the classroom today. It's days like this that remind me why I'm a teacher. Now, don't get me wrong, it wasn't a perfect day, but it was a really good day. That being said, I'm sure you're wondering why I chose the label of one of my favorite wines as the image for this post-- isn't it the bad days that warrant wine?? But, because it was such a good day, the only thing that could possibly top it off would be a glass or two of my favorite label and a good book. :)
See, I have this student that I'm kind of worried about. He's very smart and is an amazing writer; he just doesn't seem to care all that much about school and is thinking about dropping out. Today was different, though. We're learning about persuasive writing in his class, and I was trying to show the real-life relevancy of the skill. As we started talking about it, his apathy seemed to evaporate right before my very eyes. We even connected for a moment as he realized I was actually trying to help him, not teach him some bullshit fact or skill that he'd never use again. For the first time, he was the one drove our lesson with his questions and made it ten times better than I anticipated. I can't tell you how awesome it was to see this kid have this kind of moment-- now I just hope he sees the same potential within himself that I witnessed today.
This my friends, is what us teacher types call a "teaching moment." It's when everything we work so hard for suddenly pays off-- our message gets through, and the students "get it" -- not just a school "I get it" but a real "I get it." These moments make it all worth the effort.

With that fuzzy thought and a big glass of ten spoon to keep me cozy, I'm going to curl up with Eat, Pray, Love (the new book I'm falling in love with) and relish in the moment.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Shhh... I played hookie today

I'm trying to get my online teaching certification which involves taking some online classes. I'm in the fourth class of five, and so far the classes have taught me a lot. It's just hard to stay on top of it sometimes with a full-time job. So props to all of you out there that are doing the full-time job/taking classes gig. Your efforts have my utmost respect!

Needless to say, I played hookie from school today to get caught up. Save for one break (I just had to take a Naked Noodle lunch break), I've been sitting behind my laptop creating a blog I could use for class and learning about how to use the web to teach. I think I can stop for good today, though, and take in one of my favorite shows How I met Your Mother.
Thank goodness for sick days!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Sigh of Relief

Whew... I have my plane ticket home. It works out that I'll get to see not only my family but my best friend as well. I can't begin to explain just how much weight has been lifted off my shoulders in getting that figured out. I am so excited to get back. I feel sort of like... well, like a kid waiting for Christmas.

A Sense of Balance

I've started to do yoga on a regular basis in conjunction with a nice long walk/run. I'm amazed at how taking a few moments to stretch, breathe, relax, and move can help keep me centered. My walk is probably one of my favorite sections of the routine because no matter the route I choose, I am surrounded by snow-caped mountains. It's beautiful. It helps remind me to keep it real. It's so easy to get caught up in the questions, in left over stress from work, in the what-ifs and the what-the-hecks from relationships, and the general pressure to live at Nascar pace. It's so nice to take an hour or so and put things back into perspective-- to get back to center.

This Sunday, I've started with a nice yoga session, am about to enjoy a nice hot cup of coffee, go to church, and then get ready for the week. I'm starting to like this Sunday routine. It's nice to start off the week at center instead of drooping heavily to the right or left. So hurrah for the sense of "om" and for the fresh start of a week. Who knows what this week will have in store! :)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Figuring Things Out

It seems like there is a lot I'm trying to sort through at the moment. Including trying to plan my Christmas trip home to Iowa. Although it's a HUGE bummer that the economy isn't doing very well, I'm selfishly excited for affordable airfares. Being a teacher, I'm always on a tight budget, so finding the cheapest way from the-middle-of-no-where Montana to the-middle-of-no-where Iowa can be quite the trick. The process seems easier this year, though, and for that I am truly grateful.
See, it's really important that I get home for the holidays this year. I'm pretty homesick at the moment and have had a pretty rough go of things this summer and fall. I'm hoping a trip home will bring me back to center. More importantly, however, I need to go home because my parents' home, my brother's home, and about 3/4 of my home town were all completely destroyed by an EF5 tornado this past May. We lost everything including three of our next-door neighbors and a man from from our church. It's really important to get back for my family, friends, and for me to help continue the overall healing and grieving process.

There's a good chance it could be a really hard Christmas, but I think it will feel pretty good to be around my family. After the tornado, I started to realize just how fragile life can be, and now I'm trying to realign my priorities. One of the priorities that I am struggling with is being closer to my family and friends. Lately, I've been wrestling with whether I am ready to leave the mountains so that I can be closer to home. In some ways I'm hoping this trip will help me know what I need to do.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Carpe Diem

I'm feeling pretty lucky as far as my job goes these days. This is really great given that this school year got off to a less than favorable start. I've learned a lot from it, though, like how there are some things that can change, others that probably won't, and some that never will. As a result, I'm trying to focus mostly on what can be helped and not waste too much time, effort, or emotional energy on the things that aren't going to budge. Although I probably can't change the way an institution works or change some of the decisions the higher-ups might make, I can fix/control my attitude and the things I teach my students-- the whole reason I'm there in the first place, right?

In one of my classes we're learning how to find theme in all sorts of things-- poems, short stories, movies, essays, and lectures. I tried to choose pieces that had a theme dealing with Carpe Diem ("To Virgins: To Make Much of Time," The Last Lecture, The Dead Poet's Society, "Contents of a Dead Man's Pocket" just to name a few). I can't helped but be amazed at what some of my kiddos are taking away from these pieces. Watching my kids not only learn an important skill but also think about what Carpe Diem is and looks like for them reminds me of why I choose to do this job. It's not about tardy policies, legislation that is setting us up to fail, or the paycheck that barely gets me by. It's about helping my kiddos learn to think and chase after their dreams. It's pretty exciting to be a part of that.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Wandering Spirit???

It was over a cold brew and a good conversation with my two favorite bachelors that I first explored the concept of a "wandering spirit." At that point in time, I was one year out of college and trying to survive my second year of teaching in a tiny mountain town (less than 500 folks big) nestled in the Tobacco Root Mountains.

That night, we were sitting in my friend's weaving studio, located on a two-block main street that looked like it came straight out of a magazine from the 1950s. We were trying to solve the problems of the world and were shaking off the last part of a long week. Soon the conversation drifted off to different types of people and thier personalities. We eventually decided that there should be a category of personalities named "the wandering spirits" and that the three of us would definitely fall into it.

Now, I don't remember the original definition that we came up with-- there was a lot of brew involved that night-- but I do remember that we thought the term did a really good job of describing us and how we ended up in this little one-horse-town west of the Mississippi. I also remember really liking the term and connecting to it. It somehow gave me a sense of peace about myself, a sense of belonging, and it reminded me of the wanderlust that carried me so many miles from home.

Now, two years later, I find myself somewhere new (go figure), and missing those Friday night happy hours with my fellow wandering spirits. I miss those deep conversations about life, love, and happiness. I miss playing "brain-pong" with some of the locals, listening to stories from those who had seen and done far more than me, and I really miss being surrounded by the idea of having to "make our own culture" to survive some of the tougher moments of small-town life. Those moments helped me feel whole and connected when feeling whole and connected seemed impossible. Those moments also taught me a great deal about what is really important and what's not. And, of course, they reminded me to have fun.

In an effort to pay tribute to my fellow wandering spirits, other dear friends, and to the lessons learned during the magical time I spent in that little mountain town, I've decided to create this blog. I'm also hoping it will serve as a reminder to me of what's really important and that it will help sustain the wanderlust, independence, and spontaneity that has become so central to my being.