Monday, November 30, 2009

Dutch Story #1: "Goal 1: Learning Dutch"

“Goal Number 1: Learning Dutch”

“Het tuin is moi” was the only Dutch phrase I knew when I boarded the plane to Schipol Airport. And to make maters worse, the phrase wasn’t very helpful. I knew knowing how to say “The garden is beautiful” might yield a few amused smiles from my new host families, but it would hardly be of use when I had to find a bathroom or needed to eat. It was something, though. At least I had made an effort. After all it wasn’t easy finding learn-it-yourself language tapes for Dutch. Less than 19 million people in the world speak the very guttural sounding language, and very few of those 19 million lived in Iowa. I learned what I could before I left, but I knew from the start that learning Dutch would be one of my biggest challenges.
It took me until Thanksgiving to really get the hang of speaking and understanding Dutch. I had taken a ten day language and culture class a few days after I arrived in The Netherlands that late July. Although the class was really fun and helped me network with other exchange students from around the world, I don’t think I really learned much Dutch. It was the first of my four host dads who really helped push me along—may God bless him for his patience. My notorious stubbornness is what pushed me the other half of the way. Several pounds of dark Dutch chocolate and tasty glasses of throat-soothing milk should also be properly thanked for my slow but steady progress.


Dutch is tricky, and that’s all there is to it. It doesn’t follow the same rules as English, and it sure as heck doesn’t sound like it either. During the first few days of my exchange I remember feeling like I had been plopped down in the middle of a very foreign land full of extremely tall and very kind tea and cheese addicts who spoke something that sounded more like an even blend of gibberish and throat clearing than anything that could possibly resemble a language. With some patience and an eager-to-learn ear, what initially sounded like a steady stream of hacking and spiting, slowly turned into individual words.
By the end of the third day with my host family, I was able to pick out a few words like “moi” “leuk” and “gezeleg” which seemed to pop up frequently in conversation. I also noticed that the language had a rather chipper gate as the happy words joined together to make joyful sounding phrases. The cheerfulness seemed to match the meaning of the words I could recognize from conversations--- beautiful, nice, and cozy—and were also a close reflection of the kind folks who were helping me out. By the time I had really gotten the hang of the language a few months later, my Dutch friends would laugh at me when I said their language was beautiful. I was quick to find out that the Dutch are among the first to acknowledge their language sounds a bit strange.


With only a few days under my belt I knew I would be okay. And with a lot of patience, I could learn the language. I had comfort in knowing I had plenty of friendly faces to help me along the way and to get me through some of those awkward and very embarrassing language acquisition moments. I was right too. I did learn the language. Granted, I was far from perfect at speaking Dutch, and my knowledge did come at the cost of several embarrassing mistakes and lots of frustrated moments. By the end of my eleven month stay, however, I could get my point across and understand about 85% of what I heard. I like chalking this off as a “win,” considering I only knew how to compliment someone’s garden, when I first started my journey.
Of all the things I took away from my exchange year, I was probably most proud of the progress I had made in learning the language and all of the life lessons that went along with learning it. It wasn’t always easy, though, nor was it always pleasant. I had several moments along the way in which I wanted to throw my hands up and walk away or crawl under a rock and die of embarrassment. Those were the moments that taught me the most, though, and the moments that still stick with me today.

One such moment happened towards the end of my stay. It was the beginning of May, right around my 19th birthday and about ten months into my exchange. My parents were in town for a ten day visit and it was my goal not only to show them around The Netherlands but to also show off all of the fancy new things I had learned about life, culture, and of course, the language.
To celebrate my parents’ visit, all of my host families, my parents, and I made a dinner reservation at one of the finest restaurants in Oosterbeek, the town where I had been living. I had been there just one other time with the Bakkers, my third host family, and had fallen in love with the place right away. The restaurant was located in the historic Hartenstein building which automatically gave the place a rich sense of class that so often comes from such places in Europe. It was a more contemporary sense of class, however, with modern warmth radiating from its trendy gold and pumpkin orange painted walls and dangling, blue LED lights bringing the place into the 21st century. The food smells from the restaurant also were a source of warmth. Smells of slow cooked meat and a smorgasbord of other delicious sights and smells would win the heart of any person who walked in the door.


The restaurant was also very unique. Not only was the décor inviting and the food delicious, but the restaurant’s theme is what drew in so many from so far. The restaurant’s theme was based on Broadway musicals, and to accentuate that idea, the wait staff entertained their patrons by spontaneously bursting into famous American Broadway tunes. The town was extremely proud of their very classy and talented singing waiters and affectionately referred to them as “The Hartenstein Singers.” Considering that my mom and I are both avid fans of Broadway Musicals and that the restaurant oozed modern European class, it seemed to be the only fitting place to celebrate my parents’ visit and my accomplishments. Not to mention that the waiters sang in English, which would be a nice break for my parents’ strained American ears.
After we were all seated and had a chance to settle in at our table, the waiter came around to take our orders. I remember mulling over which delectable dish I wanted to try. Would it be the slow roasted spring chicken, or maybe a nice beef steak, so rare in Europe due to the Mad Cow disease at that time? I was towards the end of the table, so I had plenty of time to decide. This was a great thing considering I was also proudly helping my parents decipher the Dutch menu.


As the waiter finally got to me, I decided to show off some of my newly-conquered Dutch. “Mag ik het Pipe Coucken, austublief?” I said, pronouncing the word “Pipe” just as it sounds in English.
As I was ordering, Pieter, one of my host dad’s sitting next to me, was taking a long sip of water. The instant the word “pipe coucken” slipped out of my mouth, he began choking on his water and nearly spit it across the table. Then came the laughter. My host brother Wiecher was also sitting near by and had heard my order. He instantaneously burst into a loud laughing fit, while the others stopped and stared. My parents looked dumbfounded. What on earth was so funny? The waiter did everything humanly possible to keep a straight face. I was just praying he wouldn’t burst into some sort of song to bring even more emphasis to my mistake.
At this point, I had quickly realized I must have made a mistake when I ordered. Ten months into my stay, I was somewhat used to making either cultural or language-related mistakes and could spot the signs of a blunder from miles away. Although, I had made a million such mistakes throughout the year, the embarrassment never really lost its sting, especially not when those mistakes happened in a fancy restaurant in front of parents I was trying to empress.


I quickly turned to Pieter and asked what I had done. He struggled to regain his composure. In his heavily accented English, so my very curious parents and I could all be sure to understand, he said, “Well, Emily, in Holland we pronounce the Dutch word p-i-p-e is as pip. The proper way to order the spring chicken is to pronounce it as pip coucken.”


“Oh,” I said, “pip, not pipe. I get it.” Whew, it wasn’t that big of a mistake. Or was it?


“So, Pieter?” I asked.


“Yes” he replied, still struggling to stifle his giggles.


“What was so funny, then?”


“Well, Emily,” He said, still in his very direct English. “You just ordered a penis chicken, instead of a spring chicken.”


That was it. Everyone lost it. Everyone was howling. The waiter, all of my host families (who were all paying attention by this point), my parents, and even a few strangers from the nearby tables were in absolute stitches. After turning as red as the tomato sauce on a nearby table, I too began to laugh. I think I even ripped off a few of my famous snorts, which inevitably made the whole place erupt with laughter.


Even though I was embarrassed, I had learned from my many mistakes before how important it is to just roll with it—to laugh, learn, and then move on. Had I crawled under a rock and died of embarrassment every time I made a mistake while trying to learn Dutch, I would have never been able to make as much progress as I did. One of the most valuable lessons I learned while living abroad was not to take myself too seriously, especially when learning something new and foreign. I learned that learning can be tough, and at times embarrassing, but if you give up before the lesson is learned, you won’t get very far.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I'm back!!

Okay, I apologize for my two-month sabbatical from the blogging world. Well, maybe I don't fully apologize, because I have been busy doing other things, like teaching and all that goes with it. However, I am about to start teaching a writing unit to my dear little freshmen, and as my teaching philosophy goes, I would never ask my kiddos to do something that I wouldn't do or haven't done myself. Therefore, I have started a writing project. I am beginning to write a collect a series of short stories from my Rotary exchange year abroad to the Netherlands (July 2000- July 2oo1). I thought I'd also post my stories out here, in hopes of getting a little feedback and to help hold myself accountable for writing. So if you have a chance, feel free to look at the following tale. It's my lead-off story that will set the stage for my series of short stories/narratives to follow. Enjoy and feel free to offer feedback. Thanks! :)



“The Jumping off Point”

As I hugged my parents goodbye at the gate of The Minneapolis International Airport, I tried desperately to convince myself I was making the right choice. I was roughly five minutes from boarding a plane that would fly my 18-year-old self over my Midwest home, the Eastern United States, and the cold, grey Atlantic for an exchange program in The Netherlands. I was at the do or die moment. If I bored that plane, in less than 24 hours I would be thousands of miles from the only hometown I knew; thousands of miles from my parents, friends, and other family members; thousands of miles from being able to speak English without much thought. And, to elevate the risk, it would be eleven months before I’d be back at this very gate and into the safety of my parents’ arms. Eleven months! This was indeed the jumping off point. Was I really ready to spread my wings?

I fought hard against the giant ball of emotions that kept trying to choke me-- the ball my mom and I would later call “the gremlin” in our team effort to fight off my homesickness via a very long distance phone call.

“This is your chance,” I kept telling myself. “This is your chance to make your future grandkids proud. This is your big adventure, your chance to Carpe Diem. This is no crying matter. Smile and go, Em, Smile and go.”

And somehow, my positive thoughts worked. I managed to put on my finest smile and hide my tears from mom and dad that late July morning-- even though they could not hide theirs. I boarded that Holland-bound plane with my brand new rolling luggage set, one useless Dutch phrase I had learned via the only Dutch Learn-it-yourself language program I could find, some positive thoughts, and soul full of a naïve confidence. Little did I know how much I would rely on the latter two items during my year long quest to discover the world and myself.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Check it out...

I am a HUGE FAN of the National Parks. In fact, HUGE FAN doesn't even quite describe it. I fell in love with hiking when I lived and worked at a summer camp that overlooked the Long's Peek of Rocky National Park in Colorado. Now I'm only a 90 minute drive from Yellowstone. I've traveled through the South Dakota Badlands on my many road trips to and from Iowa. I've contemplated the "true history" of America's race across the continent at the Battle of the Little Big Horn in Wyoming. This year I bought my annual park pass in the north branch of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. And last year, I found myself again as I looked over Lake McDonald from the Highline trail in Glacier National Park. I've been so lucky to have seen so many Parks and to have had such a rich experience in so many of them. Yet, I want to see more.

Thanks to Ken Burns, I've had the chance to learn even more about the National Parks I've visited, the ones I've haven't visited, and their amazing history from start to present. If you too are a fan of The Parks, I highly suggest you check out his latest work: The National Parks: America's Best Idea. As I type, I'm watching the fourth episode of six premiering on PBS this week. Seriously, check it out. It's an intimate history of the parks and those who fought to preserve some of the most amazing land in America. The show highlights the lives of the Parks' tenacious founders and supporters some of whom include: John Muir, Theodor Roosevelt, Mr. Mathis, and so many more. It really is inspiring and eye-opening. You won't be disappointed!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Patriots' Day: Remembering 9/11/01

Tomorrow marks eight years since the initial terrorist attacks on the U.S. It's hard to imagine so much time has passed, but as we promised, we still remember. I still remember where I was and what I was thinking when it happened. Where were you? What do you remember? How has it affected your life and perspective?

I'm choosing to share the YouTube video below with my students tomorrow in hopes they will remember and understand just how important September 11th is in our modern history. The kids I work with were really young when this happened-- some of the youngest only being around seven or eight-years-old that morning. It will be interesting to have them think about that day, what they remember, and to have them consider how the attacks have affected their lives and our nation.

That day changed so much for so many. It has shaped so much in our modern history. How will you remember September 11, 2001?



Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A three generation teaching moment...


(Image from here)

The most amazing thing happened today. Actually, a couple of amazing things happened. To understand their significance; however, you first have to know something about where I come from and why I chose to teach. As many of you know I come from a pretty amazing little town in Iowa. We are known for producing good football teams and kids who have been taught how to follow their dreams no matter how big or unrealistic. Of course, none of this would be possible without great teachers and mentors. I am so lucky because I can't pinpoint which teacher impacted me the most-- and not just my teachers at school but also the other teachers in my life who weren't part of the school.

Because of these teachers, I became a teacher. I knew what it felt like to realize my dreams with the help of my teachers and wanted to make sure that I could return the favor to the kids in my community- wherever that would be. See, my teachers taught me a lot more than just reading, writing, math, history, and science. They taught the important stuff too, like how to keep a positive attitude, how to reach goals even when they seemed out of reach, how to be a good person, how to do the right thing, how to use the accademic skills they taught to solve real life problems, and so much more. My track coach, Mr. Kerns, was among those teachers.

At the end of the school year last June, I handed out a very Mr. Kerns-esque farewell gift to my students. In fact, I remember him giving me something very similar when I was on his track team. I printed up a little colored sheet of paper that had all of the important lessons I had hoped my kids learned from our class throughout the year. I handed it to them as a reminder of what they had accomplished and that what they had accomplished really does matter. I also gave them a little gold dot of tape to stick on their phones. It was to remind them that they really can reach their goals as long as they keep trying their best to do the right things... At the time, I didn't know how well recieved those little dots and slips of paper would be. Today was the day I'd find out.

As summer passed and I had gotten word of what had happened to Mr. Kern's best friend, Coach Thomas, I couldn't help but think of what Mr. Kerns was going through. I began to think about his situation even more after I had heard Mr. Kerns agreed to take on a co-headcoach position to help fill Coach Thomas's place. I kept wondering what I'd be feeling if I were in his shoes-- if my best friend were to tragicly die and how I'd react. After mauling it over for several days I decided to send Mr. Kerns a letter. I wanted to let him know that I still cared about him and what he taught. I wanted to offer a word of encouragement espeically whith his new task at hand. I wrote it. I sent it off, and didn't expect to hear much back, especially concidereing how time consuming coaching can be. I should have known better. Mr. Kerns always found time for us. Why would that change now?

Today was an amazing day. At school a few kids stopped me and showed me they still had their dots. They gave me a hug, and I could see the important lessons really did get through to them. As a teacher, this is the best gift. This is why I do what I do. It was great. When I got home, I started in on my usual routine. I said hello to my neighbors, blogged a little, and washed the dishes. Then the phone rang. At first I thought it was long lost family friend, but it turned out to be Mr. Kerns. He had gotten my letter and the little pop can tab I had included to remind him that he "can" get through the loss of his friend and still manage to find the stamina to coach the team. He wanted to thank me and shoot the breeze.

I'll be honest the whole thing was surreal. Today, I was able to thank my coach over the phone- the coach who taught me far more than just running. I also had the chance to tell him I was not only able to use his lessons in my adult life, but I was also able to pass them down to my students. I even was able to appologize for "stealing" some of his really great teaching stratagies (He responded with a humble, "Everything I used was stolen. That's the stuff that works the best anyway"). I had the chance to tell him that my kids, thanked me today for sharing his lessons with them last year.

I don't quite know how to explain what this feels like, especially because it all happened in such an ordinary, matter-of-fact way. The kids just stopped by with no prompt at all. He just called out of the blue while I was washing my dishes. The only thing I do know right now, is that I feel really lucky. I don't know that many folks have a chance to have an experience like this. I also have a feeling it's one of those situations that few can truly appreciate.

So, today I feel lucky. I feel lucky for having had the chance to be a part of a three-generation teaching moment. There really are no words to explain how amazing that feels. :)

Thanks for taking a second to share the moment.

Starting Strong...

(Photo from here)

When I ran the mile in high school I had to start strong. It was part of my style and part of my survival plan. I would toe up to the waterfall start, embrace the nervous energy that gurgled around in my stomach, and sprint like mad to get to the front of the pack. From there, I worked with what I had left and dug deep when things started to get tough. I was never the meet's most valuable runner nor did I make it to state, but I sure did P.R. (personal record), and I got better at almost every meet. It felt good. It made me happy. It offered valuable coping techniques that I still use-- sometimes more than I thought I ever would.

As I start my fifth year of teaching I sort of feel like I did almost ten years ago when I "toed up" to the line. Granted "the gun" went off almost a week ago, I'm still working hard to stay in front of the pack. It feels good to be out in front, full of energy, and anxious to get after it. And, so far, I'm off to a great start. Just like track, I can feel myself getting better. I can diagnose things sooner than the first years I taught. I've found more efficient ways to work and organize. I can feel myself getting stronger and building stamina. Maybe someday I'll be the master teacher I want to become. However, I really do like the getting better process-- even if it stinks sometimes! At the moment, though, I'm savoring the start. It was a good one, now I just have to figure out how to maintain...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Some inspiration

I posted a video below of how my hometown is doing. I don't mean to get stuck on this topic, but it really is inspirational and is worth taking the time (just under 15 min.) to look at. It still amazes me just how powerful empathy, faith, and perseverance can be in the hands of everyday folks. What's even more awesome is how contagious it can be. Feel free to "catch" the spirit and/or pass it on. It sure puts a different spin on things.





(Video from ESPN's E:60)

Monday, August 24, 2009

And we're off!!



We had our first day of school today (without the kiddos) and I was pleasantly surprised. Usually inservice days aren't all that uplifting, but today was different. It was a good way to start. I feel energized, empowered, and ready to go. Not to mention that I am really excited to meet the kiddos (Thursday). Now I just have to work on some of those finishing touches...

For those of you who are reading and are teachers, students, or parents I hope you have a great school year this year. I have a feeling it's going to be a fantastic year! :)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Eeyore vs. Tigger...


Dr. Randy Pausch (author of The Last Lecture) once suggested that we have a choice to either be Tiggers or Eeyores. I couldn't agree more. Unfortunately, I felt myself slip in a bit of an Eeyore mode today when I started talking about school with some friends, and it ticks me off. What's worse is that I think I spread a little bit of my Eeyore spirit, and I feel just awful about it.

The worst part about feeling like an Eeyore is that the transformation took me by surprise. I'm usually much more of a Tigger, especially when it comes to school. In fact, I vowed not to become an Eeyore, but alas I felt the Eeyores start setting in last year as I found myself dealing with a few students who really pushed me to my limit and as I let myself get sucked into some slimey school politics. I knew it, though, and thought that my very relaxed summer had chased the Eeyores away. Today I realized they decided to cling on a little tighter than I thought.

School starts in about two weeks, so that gives me a little less than two weeks to ditch my case of Eeyores. Unfortunately, I think I might need all the help I can get on this one...

P.S. I'm open to suggestions.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Interesting Concept...

I just read a book that has me scratching my head and wondering about things, so I thought I'd take a moment to share....

Yesterday I finished Kris Radish's book, Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral. It's a book about a middle- aged woman named Annie who has died and planned this fantastic traveling funeral for her best friends-- no traditional ceremony/memorial service for this woman! She sends them to the places that mean the most to her and where she left, or in some cases found, a little bit of herself. At each spot she asks her best friends to spread her ashes, in order to help them let her go. In the process of the funeral, the women find each other and are reminded how important it is to make the most of life at every turn. The women walk away as tight friends who realize it's important to remember those who have gone before, but it's also important to keep on living, loving, and forgiving. Generally speaking, it's standard "chick lit" (In other words, it's not Walt Whitman, Keating, or Hemingway), and it has it's really hoaky moments. At the same time, it still has me contemplating... musing, if you will.

I know thinking about life and death might seem morbid, but this is the kind of book that makes me think about life and death in a non-morbid way. It even sort of feels like a challenge to live life instead of letting life live me. I'll be honest, I'm sort of a sucker for books with this theme, mainly because I've been dead set since high school on living my life to the fullest and sometimes need a reminder or two to keep it that way. It also helps me to reflect on the things (both outlandish and not) that I have done so far, and it makes me wonder where I'd send my best friends if I were to send them on my traveling funeral... Morbid? Maybe. Intriguing? For sure.

So let me ask you, dear friends, where would you send your friends if you were to have them go on your traveling funeral????

Monday, August 10, 2009

The High Dive...

This Norman Rockwell picture pretty much describes it... even if it seems cliche. I'm at a very interesting jumping off point, and I feel a little like this kid... Only I'm pretty stoked about the jump. I'd like to think I'm embracing the butterflies that are swimming around in my stomach. The jump hasn't happened quite yet, but I'll be honest; I'm enjoying the anticipation and wouldn't change a thing about it! :)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Special B-day Shout Out!

(Photo from here)

My dear friend, Alissa, over at Grace's Birdcage is celebrating her birthday today, and I wanted to give her a little shout-out. She is one of my dearest and oldest friends (as in, I've known her since 8th grade). She deserves nothing but the best today. Happy birthday friend. May your day be filled with more glitter than you thought possible! :)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Julie & Julia

I'm very excited to see Julie & Julie today with a friend. I've been eying this movie for a while now and am so excited to finally see it this afternoon. I'll let you know how it is. :)

Ahhh.... :)

(The Trail)


It's always amazing to me how much better things seem after a nice walk and a cup of something warm.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Thanks Saphron...

My friend Saphron over at Tilting at the Universe has given me a tag/ Honest Scrap blogging award. She gave me the award and asked me to pass it along to ten other recipients. Apparently I'm to share 10 honest things about myself, as are those I tag, and then tag/give ten new folks the award. Should you be tagged, which is pretty much a certainty if you follow my blog, then it would be helpful if you followed the directions below so we can share the love with as many fellow bloggers as possible.

Here are the rules:

1. “The Honest Scrap” award is not one to hold all to your self; it must be shared.
2 . The recipient has to tell 10 true things about themselves in their blog that no one else knows.
3. The recipient has to pass along this prestigious award to 10 more bloggers.
4. Those 10 bloggers all have to be notified they have been given with this award.
5. Those 10 bloggers that receive this award should link back to the blog that awarded them.

Here is my "Honest Scrap":

1. I just became a fan of gardening this summer.

2. I don't really like the texture or taste of raw tomatoes.

3. One of my favorite hikes of all time is The Highline Trail in Glacier National Park.

4. I sometimes have been known to sing in my sleep.

5. I once fell asleep while I was teaching (However, in my own defence, the day before I taught a full day of school and then worked a shift at a restaurant until close... I was exhausted).

6. I don't really like peanut butter.

7. I was almost arrested for trespassing and skinny dipping in our public pool the summer I graduated from High School.

8. There's something in Chinese food that just outright makes me sick (literally).

9. One of my favorite memories about living in Europe was when I'd run down the road that ran next to the Rhine and to an old castle. The road was canopied in trees and dotted with bold magenta peonies. It was very enchanting.

10. One of the best gifts I have been given in my teaching career was a petunia from a student for Mother's day. He doesn't have a mom, and chose to give it to me instead. I couldn't have been more honored or humbled.


Now I would like to award/tag the following fellow bloggies with The Honest Scrap Award....

Kim, Dan, Don, Alissa, Peter, Mrs. Nesbitt, Ashlea, Mrs. Tabor, Jordan Albertson, and that's all I've got unless I tag Saphron again.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Blue.

I had such a good weekend. The New Chapter came home for a weekend visit from his work stint in North Dakota. We played lots of softball with our team. We made a fantastic, five-star walleye dinner for two, and we loafed around the house a bit. It was fantastic.

But, all good things must come to an end. Saturday afternoon, we walked off the softball field for the last time this season, and I must say I was a little surprised at how bummed I was. This morning we packed up The New Chapter's truck, and I stood in our driveway waving him off on his journey back to the work site while also trying to ward off "the loneliness birds". Then this afternoon, I looked at my calender only to realize this weekend pretty much marked the end of my summer, as the start of school is quickly approaching.

Needless to say, I'm feeling a bit blue this evening. I'm so glad the weekend was great and that The New Chapter was here. At the same time, I'm a little sad that summer is drawing to an end, softball season is closed, and that The New Chapter had to go back to North Dakota. I'm sure that "this too shall pass" and that I'll dream up a few adventures for this up coming week and even start getting excited for school, but for now I'm just a little blue and that's all there is to it.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Back in the saddle again...


(Image from here.)


It's been a while since I've taken myself for a good mountain bike ride, and yesterday was the day I got back into the saddle again. Due to a broken bike rack I had to bike to the trail head (quite a little journey in and of itself), do the 10 mile ride, and then bike home. Despite a rather long detoured trip home (I was trying to find an alternative route to avoid traffic), the ride was fantastic, and I can't wait to do it again!

The wildflowers were out in full force--thanks again to the wet summer we've had. The creek was clipping along at a cheerful pace, and the hill itself wasn't quite as steep as I remembered... whew! At the top, I took a little break at a quaint crossing bridge and then headed, full bore, back down the hill. When I wasn't thinking about how to dodge the next rock ahead, I couldn't help but notice how much fun I was having, especially on the downhill that used to terrify me. I guess I've come along way from where I started in the mountain biking scheme of things. Maybe there is something to "getting back on the horse" or "trying something every day that's just a little bit scary". Now I can't wait to find the next trail... Let's just hope I can fix my bike rack!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Yellowstone National Park...

(A geyser pool just behind Old Faithful)

(The Yellowstone Falls from the South Rim)

(On top of Mt. Washburn, the volcano that created the Yellowstone Caldera)

Every summer I visit Yellowstone National Park at last once. It's only about 90 miles away from where we live, and I figure if I don't take advantage of it now, I'll kick myself later. So when I looked at the calender after I woke up Tuesday morning and realized I had yet to take my annual trip and that the days of summer vacation were quickly disappearing, I quickly loaded up the car and headed off. Each year I've gone the trip has been great, and this year's solo adventure was no exception.

I saw lots of animals on this trip, more so than usual. From the safety of my car I saw a HUGE bull elk, a bear, quite a few cow & caff elk combos, and a few dear. From the trail I had the chance to see a heard of mountain goats grazing near the top of Mt. Washburn (the volcano that created the famous Yellowstone caldera), a mule deer fawn who looked rather doe-eyed, and an incredibly fat marmot. I of course saw lots of buffalo too, but that's always a given in Yellowstone-- I probably take seeing them for granted.

Outside of seeing lots of animals I saw more wildflowers than I've ever seen in the park this time of year; I'm guessing it's because we've had more rain than usual. I also was able to take in amazing views from the top of Mt. Washburn, Tower Falls, the Yellowstone Falls, Yellowstone Lake, and I of course stopped to see Old Faithful do her thing. I don't know why, but there are just some things, like seeing Old Faithful, that are a must for me-- even despite the hoards of people.

I also try to add at least two new things to my Yellowstone adventure each year. Last year I added watching the sunset over Lake Yellowstone while sipping on a glass of wine from inside the Lake hotel-- truly a magical moment. I also hiked the whole way around the famous Yellowstone falls (the North and South Rims)-- which was also beautiful. This year I added the Mt. Washburn hike and a walking tour of the geysers, springs, and pools behind Old Faithful. I'm glad I got to add them both in, but I think one of the highlights of the trip was actually finding a camping spot (almost impossible on a spontaneous trip to the park this time of year).

All in all, it was a delightful adventure, and it reminded me just how lucky I am to be only a couple of hours from the unique beauty of Yellowstone. Life is good. I feel lucky. Mother Nature is amazing.

What do you do, or have you done, that reminds you your life is good?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Check this out...

I thought I'd treat myself to a video from my local video store today. I haven't visited the store in a while as it seems like I've seen a good chunk of the new titles or that the movies just don't look that appealing to me at the moment. Today's visit to the store started out in that way, but then at the very last minute this independent film, Last Stop for Paul, caught my eye.

I happen to be reading a really good book at the moment based on a similar idea (friends spreading the ashes of another friend), and I love to travel, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. I'm so glad I did. It's a little out-there at times, but if you've ever traveled (especially outside of your own country) or have ever had the travel/adventure bug, you should really take a look at this picture. It will take you back to your favorite travel "out-there" adventures and/or make you want to find some new ones.

Another cool thing about this film-- which you can find and read more about under the "about" link on the movie's website-- is that there were really only three people on the entire crew at any given time. They also filmed the entire thing with one camera, a couple of wireless microphones, three batteries, and a rough outline for their story. Who says you can't do more for less in the film industry? It's hard not to be inspired by the creativity and resourcefulness used to create this film.

It really is a treat of a film. Enjoy :)


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ahhh...

A photo I took on a recent hike with The New Chapter


Today was a day

I could smile

and say,

"There is verry little I would change."

I'd love to hear about a day or a moment you wouldn't change, or at least wouldn't change very much...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Filters...

Photo of a flowery meadow on one of my hikes


As I've mentioned previously, I've had a lot to think about in the past few weeks. After thinking about all of those happenings and as I have tried to capture the beauty around me on film, I have come to an important conclusion and maybe even one that will become a truth for me:


Seldom are things worthy enough to be seen in black and white, and so I must dare
to think in color.


As I think about this idea, the more intrigued I become. Sometimes it's much easier to see things in black and white instead of seeing a situation in all the dimensions color offers. Seeing in black and white makes a complex situation simpler; it makes things more digestible; it tones down the graphics of it all. There are sometimes when seeing things in black and white works well and is the best choice. Sometimes the textures, angles, and shades of the situation are just so vivid, so beautiful, or so horrid that we just can't comprehend them in color, but a black and white filter simplifies it just enough that we can better understand what is at hand. There are very few situations worthy of a black and white filter.

Seeing in black and white limits our understanding. It flattens out those subtle textures, angles, and shades that can only appear in color; it flattens them to the point where those details disappear completely. As those dimensions disappear so does our full understanding of the situation. We don't see the blemishes. We can't tell if we're looking at shades of red, blue, or green. We loose that depth that only a color-filter can detect. As a result, we also miss out on the details that help us feel and think in 3-D. There are very few situations worthy of a black and white filter.

There are also those situations that lie in between-- there are always those situations. These in-between situations are some of the hardest. The full-color details are painfully vivid to the point where we are tempted to ease it with the black and white filter. But, when we try to put them in black and white they are muted just enough that we can't we can't connect with them in the same way we once did. Sure, black and white can take off the edge, but when we take off the edge we often lose a little bit of the truth. There are very few situations worthy of a black and white filter.

When I think about these two filters from behind my camera lens, at my teacher's desk, in my living room, or from behind the newspaper, I feel challenged. There are a lot of situations I'd like to put in black and white. It might make something look cooler; it might make something more acceptable; it might make something easier to deal with or come to a conclusion about. But, are those situations worthy of the black and white filter? Will it lose too much detail and depth. Will it lose too much of the truth? And so I have concluded: seldom are things worthy enough to be seen in black and white, and so I must dare to think in color.


Which filters do you use?

Yesterday's possibility...

Bell flowers overlooking the canyon.


Photo from the trail looking down on the reservoir shown below.


Photo of the reservoir before I took off for the trail.

After a short blog session and a few chores around the house yesterday I went, and I dwelled (in possibility, of course!). This is what I saw. Man, was it a beautiful hike! I especially enjoyed the vistas of the mountains around me and the vibrant green meadows filled with beautiful wild flowers. I'm not quite sure why, but the wild flowers have really caught my eye this season. We've gotten a lot of rain this summer, more so than any other summer I've lived in Montana; perhaps this is why the blooms are more plentiful and colorful than in past years. It is getting hotter though, hence the haze in the pictures above, so I'm sure the days of the wildflowers are numbered.

The hike must have been a bit more strenuous than I thought too-- my legs are still burning a day later. I guess the burning could be a sign that I'm just out of shape, but who wants to dwell in that possibility?? ;)

So what kind of possibilities dwell in your weekend? I'd love to hear about what you have planned or whatever just happens to happen. Happy Friday, and happy adventuring! :)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Possibility...

A photo I took on my way back from History Rock...


"Dwell in possibility..."
~Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My Quiet Solitude


(A photo I took on one of my solo hikes.)


It has been a while, okay a long while since I've blogged. I guess I was (and still sort of am) on a bit of sojourn. I don't apologize, though, because it was a much needed rest period. I needed to go home. I needed to process all that went on there. I needed to re-learn how to live alone again (The New Chapter is still away for work). I needed to relax to the point where I could sit at my kitchen table and only hear the hum of the refrigerator and the beat of my heart (This did literally happen. I'm not just being poetic nor was I having a heart attack-- it was just that quiet). I haven't had the chance to relax this deeply and be this quiet since I lived in that barn in that teeny-tiny, middle-of-nowhere-Montana town where I got my start as an adult. This quiet, alone time has been delightful. I feel like me again, and am revisiting the things that make me. It feels good.


In some ways I feel bad because I have let myself slip off the face of my social, every-day world, and some of my friends are worried. I haven't gotten that excited about starting school yet, unlike some of them. I declined an invitation to go with a friend on her family vacation to one of my most favorite places (the Highline Trail in Glacier National Park). I haven't picked up very many phone calls. I haven't invited anyone to go on the many hikes I've tried or invited anyone to do much of anything for that matter. I've just been in the process of being and remembering how to be. I assure you that there is no need for alarm. I'm quite happy and have been doing lots of hiking, organizing around the house, gardening, reading, and the like. I'm far from being depressed. I guess you could say that I'm just getting back to the basics of who I am and will be a much better for taking the time to do it.


I have also been processing a lot of things that have happened in the past year or two, and my best processing happens in solitude and silence. I'm pleased to report that my family is doing really well-- My brother is moved into his new house post-tornado, and my parents should be in theirs by the end of August. In other words, my family is really close to achieving their "new normal" daily routine, which is a HUGE sigh of relief for us all. My family is not alone in finding its new normal. My hometown is also doing really well. The progress I saw on this trip and the general emotional atmosphere is nearly resurrected from the rubble. Although, just as The New Chapter and I were driving home, we received word that our beloved teacher and football coach was shot in the weight room in a drug-related shooting by a former player. The shooting has left all us all feeling a little numb again-- maybe even more numb than after the tornado last May.


In fact, I can honestly say that the passing of Coach Thomas has made me take a hard look at my own life, where I am at, and where I want to be. This self-evaluation has been the subject of much of my musings lately, and I have a feeling it has been on the minds of the many he touched. He was just that kind of guy. He made all of us want to continually strive to be the best we could be. Even in his death we can still hear him coaching us to do the right thing, work hard, give our best, keep pushing through, and to have pride and passion in all that we do. The words are so clear that in some ways his death doesn't even seem real. Although, I wasn't as close to him as many were, I've come to realize that because he helped lay the foundation for much of what my hometown stands for and my pride in Parkersburg, I am more affected by his passing than I thought. That says something about his character and might explain why so many from my hometown are feeling even more numb now than after the tornado hit last May. The whole thing is a lot to process.


But, I can say with confidence that we will all rise up again and be better than we were before; he would expect nothing less of us. The ironic thing is that for a good chunk of us, it will be his mantras, or a variation of them, that will help us through this rough patch just like they helped us in the classroom, on the football field, during those tough times we faced in our adult lives, through the aftermath of the tornado... His mantras helped us then, and they will help us again as long we don't forget what he taught us and remember to pass them on--there truly would be no better memorial for a man who touched so many.


So in my effort to be my best me, and to pay tribute to such a great man and to my Parkersburg roots, I am in quiet solitude thinking about how I can and what i will do to achieve my goal. I'm finding that for some areas in my life, I have to go back quite a ways to find the answer; it's amazing how time has a sneaky way of leading us off track. While in other areas, the answer lies in a hybrid of things from my distant past as well as from my more recent past. I just hope the conclusions I come to will reflect in the way I live, and I hope I can find and embrace the chances I have to pass on some of the mantras that were given to me from my roots and have helped me get to where I am today.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

My reading list...



One of my goals this summer is to read as much as I can, and to read a wide variety of stuff-- both the fluffy and the classics. Right before summer started I finished Firefly Lane, which is a fantastic, light read by the way. Now I'm working on an American classic (at least I'd like to think it is) Gone with the Wind. I'll admit, it was a little hard to get into, but now I can't wait to watch Scarlet become Scarlet. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

Also on the list for the summer (mind you, some of this is to see what the kids are reading...)




What's on your summer reading list?

Monday, June 15, 2009

My project...

My mom loves wildflowers. She loves them so much that she really wants to come out to Montana and take in some of the blooms, but because of all the work that needs to be done on the new house, she can't come this year. She also lost most of her wall art in the tornado and is in need of some to fill up the walls of the new house. So, I'm taking it upon myself to create some wall art for her that I can hand-deliver in just over a week. I'm not sure how it will all turn out, but hey, it's the effort that counts most, right?

As you've noticed, I've been practicing to make sure the pictures are as fantastic as I can make them. They are, for sure, the work of an amateur, but I have surprised myself in some instances. Here's what I came up with last night on my stroll around the neighborhood... As you will see, I need a little help on the correct names for these guys. Any help you might be able to offer would be greatly appreciated :)
Larkspur (I think...)


Blue Flax (one of mom's favorites)

I'm not quite sure what this is...


Wild Lily of the Valley (I think...)



Harebells (I think...)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

One last thing...

The day after the wedding was probably just as entertaining as the wedding and reception themselves. I woke up on my friend's couch still wearing my little white, Jackie Kennedy party dress and black Mary-Jane shoes. As I lifted myself off the couch smacking my lips wondering what was yielding this awful taste in my mouth, I couldn't help but laugh when I saw there was still a blade of grass attached to the button on my shoe. I didn't look in a mirror because I'm certain I would have screamed in fright, so I contented myself by thinking I probably looked a lot like somebody's drunk Aunt Ethal after one heck of a night... My friend assured me this was so.

It's been a long time since I let my my hair all the way down... and I realized that the wedding reception was just the reminder I needed to not take myself so seriously. And so now, I vow to remember to laugh at myself more often and focus more on the light-hearted stuff than the deep, dark realities that seemed to have consumed a lot of my being this past school year. When I announced this to my very wise friend, she was quick to give me a high five and said, "It's about time you realized that... Welcome back."

At that moment we also decided that after we had tracked down my missing phone and picked up my car from the reception site (Ya, it was that kind of night... but at least i didn't try to drive!), that we would make the most of our hungover states by partaking in a really greasy burger and going to the movie The Hangover. We giggled most of the way out to my car as we started to recall the evening's events. What a way to start the summer! The movie also had us in stitches even if it was a bit off color.

Luckily our hangovers weren't too horrible, and we had a great day despite our foggy heads. So here, here to great friends, fun weddings, and not taking ourselves so seriously.

P.S.
I've included the movie trailer from The Hangover... oddly fitting for the themes in this post. :) Enjoy, I highly recommend it.

Congrats Dr. Chris & Dr. Sarah!

(Photo from here.)


On Friday, one of my former roommates was married to a wonderful gal. The wedding was absolutely beautiful and the party that followed was fantastic. The colors they chose were as bright and happy as their personalities. There were lots of wildflowers and amazing views of spring green pastures leading to the snow-capped Spanish Peaks beyond. It really was breath taking, and couldn't have been a more perfect reflection of such a grand pair of folks.





At the reception, which was held in a barn with windows overlooking the scene described above, the tables were clad with snow white linens, adorned with bright wild flowers, and held more than an ample supply of wine. Thanks to my friend Lisa and the encouragement of a few other friends, my glass was never empty. As a result, not only did I have a screaming headache the next day, but I was told the party had some rather interesting moments, including the little nose dive I took into the grass as I was coming out of the outhouse... I'm just glad I know how to tuck and roll and am able to laugh at myself when it really is the only reasonable reaction.





Regardless, it was beautiful wedding, and it was made of the stuff weddings are supposed to be made of... The wedding was about them and their commitment to one another, not about the wedding itself. It's so great to be at weddings like this when great people understand fully what they are about to begin, and it is obvious to all in attendance that it's a marriage that will last. It's fun, it's moving, and it's what weddings are supposed to be like. Thanks Chris and Sarah for inviting me to be a part of your day, I wish you the best life has to offer; you deserve nothing less. Congratulations on your marriage.

Found!! :)

From a distance


A close up of the Johnny Jump-up


A close up of the proud little mushroom

A shot from above

I found the pictures of my micro adventure... I guess the fairy didn't win this one! :)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Yesterday's adventure...

I wish I could show you this awesome little micro scene I found yesterday as I hiked to my second favorite waterfall in our area. It was so micro that I almost missed it as I strolled down the well-trodden trail, but the bright yellows and greens of the scene caught the corner of my eye. As I crouched down to get a better angle with my camera, I realized just how quaint this little scene truly was.

On top of a bright green-moss covered log and resting against a slate-grey bolder spotted with lichen, I found the tiniest mushroom standing tall and proud next to an aspiring, bright yellow Johnny Jump-up and a fully blooming one. The three of them were just hanging out together waiting for a little forest fairy or mini-gnome to come along for a sip of tea (or what ever forest fairies and gnomes find guilty pleasure in drinking) or to take a short nap underneath the shade of the mushroom's canopy or the coziness of the soft sheet of green moss blanketing the log... It was an amazing find.

The stage of this tiny scene seemed like it came right out of a story book. The colors were so vivid. The light brown mushroom in contrast to the dark grey of the bolder, the washed-out brown of the log, the bright, iridescence of the yellow blooms, and the many shades of green offered by the leaves and moss... The colors all worked together adding even more magic, existing only for those willing to pause to take in the little details or those tiny enough to live inside the scene.

I took tons of pictures, some better than others, all trying to capture some of the magic. But when I tried to download them onto my computer, I messed up. The pictures seem to be gone forever. I guess the scene was only for me...

Or maybe, just maybe, there really was a little forest fairy who was hiding underneath the soft sheet of green moss... And maybe she decided that I shouldn't have the opportunity to announce the whereabouts of her secret afternoon tea spot... And maybe, just maybe, she cast her little fairy wand towards my camera lens and cast a spell forbidding it to share the magic it so intensely tried to capture...

I guess I'll never know.

P.S.

No, I'm not crazy, nor was I partaking in hallucinogenic treats on my hike. Who needs hallucinogens when we have been given perfectly lively imaginations??? :)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Another Shout Out

Through my friend Alissa at Grace's Birdcage, I found another great blog to follow. This blogger, Kim, is witty and absolutely, positively hilarious! So if you're looking for a mood lifter or just need a good hearty chuckle... head on over to Antisdel Abstract .

This blogger also did a blog swap story with Alissa, and you can find Kim's story here. Brace yourself, it's beautifully crafted and will have you rolling on the floor. :)

Enjoy :)

Slipping into Summer...

(Palisade Falls)


(Yellow buds of something)

It always takes me a bit to slide into the routine of summer. It takes a while to slow down when I'm used to running 100 miles per hour five days a week and worrying about all that has to be done. But, I'm settling nicely. Last night after my run, I had a chance to go to one of my favorite spots around here. I took the camera with me to try to capture a few wild flowers and play with the functions on my camera. This is what I came up with... It was a great little adventure and I can't wait for the ones that will follow! :)

(Glacier Lily with friends)


(Glacier lily with sidekick)

Monday, June 8, 2009

A fun find!

Hello friends. I just have to let you know about a blog I found, Woodpixels and Narratives. This is a blog put together by a gentleman who takes photos and offers them up for narration. I fell in love with the picture below. For those of you who know me, I'm sure you can understand why this picture spoke to me. I found it over at pictures poetry & prose a couple of weeks ago and commented. Then low and behold, Dan (the photographer) found my blog, and so the blogging network story continues... But really, you should check him out. His stuff is great! It's hard not to be inspired.


"The Church"
Photo by Dan Felstead
Wood and Pixels Narratives -
http://www.woodandpixels.blogspot.com/
ETSY Shop: Wood andPixels -
http://www.woodandpixels.etsy.com/

Sunday, June 7, 2009

I'm back!!!

The end of school rush is officially over, and I'm half way done with my very thorough stem-to-stern house cleaning that has been put on the back burner for about three months. In other words, I'll be a much more active part of the blogging world... at least when I'm not venturing around our playground. The new chapter has also left for a long work stint in North Dakota, so I'll have more free time on my hands than I'd like.

In the mean time, I have taken a few pics around our neighborhood. One of the gifts the new chapter gave me for my birthday was a digital camera. I hope to master all of its functions so I can not only tell you about those ineffable Montana moments but show you them as well. Here are a few to give you a little preview of what you can expect in the future. Yay, for technology! :)
(A Montana sunset from our Deck 5/30/2009.)


(Sunset from our deck 5/30/2009)

(Lupine Lane with the Bridger Mountains in the background, not far from our house).


Happy Summer! Let the adventures begin!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Looking Back...

It has been a year since the tornado leveled my hometown. It's hard to imagine. So much has happened since I got those frantic phone calls from my friends and family making sure everyone was okay. Looking back on it know, the whole thing was eerie and really scary. Oddly, even though we're on the upswing of things, today I feel just as obsessed as I did the day it happened. For the last five hours I've been sitting at my computer 1,000 miles away from home, gleaning any and all information I can glean as to how my hometown is remembering what was lost and celebrating what has been reconstructed. Today I don't feel helpless, like the days that followed immediately followed the tornado; Today I feel homesick wishing I were closer to those who understand what happened.

On the positive side, I can also look through the old articles, posts, and videos and remember just how lucky I am. I'm lucky no one in my family was hurt. I'm lucky my parents and brother are doing well. I'm lucky that I am from a hometown that doesn't give up. I'm lucky for modern technology that helps me feel as connected as possible on a day that I feel farther than 1,000 miles from home. For these things, I am grateful.

In my quest to stay connected, I've found some video I'd like to share on the progress of my little home town. I was so lucky that I even found a segment that showed my parent's new house. The last time I saw the house (at Christmas time) the basement was full of snow and the trusses had yet to be put up. Now, it's nearly finished despite the harsh winter Parkersburg had. The progress really inspiring. (P.S. It's the square house with the chimney and the rock on the corner of the lot).

So on today May 25, 2009, I'd like to take a moment to pay tribute to the 9 who died in the tornado, the folks who survived it, and all of the folks who were there to put the pieces back together.



Here's a second video that helps capture what went on in Parkersburg today....

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A perfect day...

My idea of a perfect day was today. It wasn't over the top. I didn't go on any amazing adventures nor was I the outgoing social butterfly I can sometimes be, but it was still remarkable in its own ordinary way. There isn't a thing I'd change about it, especially not that amazing Montana sunset that marked its end.

I hope you have a perfect day. :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Changes...


I turn 27 this week, and I definitely feel different this time around. I guess it makes sense, a lot has changed this year. When I think through the list, no wonder I feel different. Hmm... I wonder what will change this upcoming year??? But for now, I think I'll enjoy the cake :)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Nuggets of Wisdom...

(Photo from here)

I'm not quite sure what the new chapter put in my egg sandwich this morning, but I feel like I'm bursting with energy and inspiration today. And, given this past week has been kind of tricky for me, and I'd prefer not to repeat some of my mistakes, I'm going to "take a post" to show what I've learned, or in some cases re-learned.


Teaching can be tricky sometimes. There's the teaching element (working with and looking out for the kids, preparing lessons, making assignments, grading assignments, etc.); there's also the social, work-place element-- the politics of it all. This year I've found myself in a deeper a political pit than I'd like to be. I find myself getting more worked up and drained by the social and political elements of my job than by the teaching/kid element. It makes me sad. I often pride myself in comforting some of my female students by saying, "don't worry, the social part gets better after high school," but does it? I'm not so sure. So I guess one nugget I've pulled out of last week is that it really is okay to spend the majority of my school time in my "hobbit hole". It helps me stay focused on the teaching part of my job (the most important part) and helps prevent me from getting sucked up into a world of social mishaps and politics that only leave me tapped out and depressed. Granted, I know it's important to emerge from that "hobbit hole" from time to time, but it does help to be reminded of the quiet sanctuary it can provide.


This week I've also realized I simply talk too much. I'm not sure what possesses me to talk so much sometimes, but I'd really like to do it less. There are so many interesting things out there just waiting to be read, heard, or observed, and most of them are far more interesting than what I have to say. Not to mention that my Chatty Cathy tendencies are also wearing on me during the time of the school year when energy is a much sought after commodity. A good friend once told me that we have two ears and one mouth and we should use them accordingly in that ratio-- we should listen twice as much as we speak. I'm going to try really hard to follow that advice. I'll keep you posted on how it goes. Who knows, maybe my progress will even translate to my writing style.


A couple of years back when I was having a really rough time, my mom sent me an amazing birthday card. I'm pretty sure it was from the Mia Angelo collection-- it has that simple and wise Mia Angelo tone to it. I keep it posted above my desk because it's chalk full of little nuggets of wisdom that are so easy to forget but often make all of the difference. One part of it says, "Listen to your heart. If you can't hear what it's saying in this noisy world, make time for yourself. Enjoy your own company." Boy, was that ever the reminder towards the end of this week. Thanks for the reminder Mom and Mia; I feel much better after some much needed me time. I can finally hear my own heart beating.


My mind rarely rests (one of the plagues of being a wandering spirit who musses), and sometimes I need a little help saving myself from me. I'm lucky to have friends who understand this about me and seem to instinctively know when I need help escaping from my own criticisms and weird need to please others. This time I found my help in the new chapter. I'm pretty sure he didn't even realize he was helping me-- I didn't say a word, nor did he-- but he rescued me from me none the less. After a particularly long session of beating myself up about stupid things and feeling really unbalanced, I emerged from my lady lair attempting to be composed, buried my head into the crook of his shoulder, and instantaneously the fight within stopped. Not long after, my brain shut off, and I fell fast asleep-- which never happens to me. I'm lucky. I'm so lucky.


And now I find myself at the start of a new week. I feel refreshed. I feel lucky instead of defeated. I even feel at peace enough that I can read for my own guilty pleasure, not because I have to read for work-- something I haven't been able to do in a long, long time. Ahhh....

The Date...

The date with myself was awesome yesterday. I feel much more like me and am ready to tackle the world. Funny how one day can change so much. I highly recommend taking yourself on a date day; it's one of the easier ways to get back to center.

I did some yoga, went for a walk, did some chores around the house, headed into town to catch a screening of Earth (great flick by the way), picked out a new summer read (Firefly Lane), ran some errands, rented a few movies (Marley & Me and Seven Pounds), and chilled out in my lady lair all evening long munching on Taco Bell, sipping on a glass of white wine, and taking in the films I rented. It was lovely, just lovely.

Now it's on to grade the 40 research papers I've been putting off while the snow keeps steadily falling outside my window... I guess I picked a good day to grade! :)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Getting back to center...

My friend over at Grace's Birdcage Wedding once wrote...

Do you ever have days where you kind of look forward to hanging out with
yourself? Not being by yourself - but like my mind was literally like 'hey you,
lets be buddies and chill together.


I'm having one of those days. I just want to hangout with myself. Life has been moving so fast, and I feel like there have been so many changes around me that I just need to take a day to slow down, screw my head on straight, and get reacquainted with me. It feels like it's been eons since I've hung out with myself, and I'm really craving that quiet, relaxed chill time.

The new chapter is out of the house for today, and the sun is actually shining (it snowed another foot at our house yesterday :( Boo! ). Maybe I'll take myself for a walk, go for a drive, have a nice lunch, get those running shoes I've been eying... the possibilities are endless. I like that! I can't wait to get reacquainted.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Groundhog Moment?

(Photo from here)
Winter this year feels like it has long overstayed its welcome. Just this past week (half way into April, mind you) it snowed almost non-stop for a day or so, leaving us with well over a foot of it at our house-- and to think, it used to be one of my favorite seasons, Ha! I'm not sure if it's because I'm tired of driving on winter roads, mustering through the cold, or the fact I didn't get to enjoy the snow this season through my usual winter adventures as much I am used to, but I am without out a doubt more than over winter. I want spring!
Another downer I've experienced this winter, is having the winter blues (a.k.a. cabin fever). The winter blues have been known to be corrallated to of a lack of sunshine (I don't know how the folks in Alaska do it) and a lack of activity. This year the blues have really taken their toll on me, which is a little unusual. I usually find a way to force myself outside to get that extra sunshine and activity, but for some reason that just didn't happen as much as it should have this year. As a result, I'm lacking my usual spunk and often feel like I'm tinted light blue around the edges with an intermittent splash of grumpy. This is not my favorite state of being! I'm ready to get back to my cheerful little self full of spunk and quirky energy, ready to tackle whatever adventures come at me. Where are you Spring?

Lucky for me, Spring sort of showed up this week. Friday was bright and sunny, at least for the last half of the day. Saturday was fantastic, melting well over half of the snow dumped on us earlier in the week. And, as I look out my window this morning and listen to the birds chirp, it looks like Sunday is going to be marvelous. Apart from the weather, we also had an invitation to start a local softball league. At first I was apprehensive; it's been a long time since I've fielded grounders and swung a bat, but after a little prodding from our friend, receiving a new pink and black glove (a gift from the new chapter), and a little practice in our backyard yesterday, I'm kind of excited. It will be an excuse to get outside, be active, and have some fun with new friends. Sounds like a great spring/summer activity to me!
Despite the long winter and the winter blues, it looks like spring has at least attempted to peek its pleasant little head out of it's burrow. The weather seems to be getting nicer, my mood has lifted a bit, I'm able to get outside more, and I'm starting to feel a bit more energetic. Let's just hope Spring decides to stay above ground for all of us to enjoy!

Happy Spring! Happy Sunday! :)