me: hey grampa, it’s beth! how’s it goin?
grampa: hey honey. right good. right good. how you?
me: well, i went sailing today for the first time this summer, and my friend, paul, let me steer the boat! must be something about the name “paul” that makes a good sailor (my grampa’s name was paul)!
grampa: how’d you do?
me: well, if it’s anything like my golf game…
grampa: ha ha
me: i didn’t kill anyone or hit any boats. but i was amazed they let me steer, even though my first move was to nearly get crushed between the motor boat and the huge sailboat as i attempted to climb aboard.
grampa: ha ha
me: i’m serious, grampa! the waves were insane, and the boat was rocking, and i was trying to hold on to the boat. everyone else let go, and the motor boat drifted back. i just kept holding on–i can be stubborn sometimes– and ended up dangling from the sailboat until my friends could pull me back on. it was quite the rough start!
grampa: he he he.
me: what was your favorite sailing memory, gramps?
grampa: (i can’t even predict the answer, as i honestly don’t know. my grampa died exactly two weeks ago, before i ever asked him. i learned recently how much he loved to sail as i looked through his old photographs and read his “life history.” he apparently volunteered at the marina so that he could go sailing whenever he wanted. he would have loved today. i can, however, predict the rest of the conversation…)
grampa: thanks for calling sweetie.
me: yep! talk to you later! love you grampa!
grampa: love you, sweetie.

man, i miss him.

So, during freshman orientation in college, I remember having to take the Meyers-Briggs personality type test.  You think, cool, right?  As I look back, I remember genuinely not knowing the answers to almost all those questions.  I barely had a personality at that point, and if I did, I certainly didn’t have the self-awareness to take a test on it.  I think I chose the answers that sounded the “nicest.” (At the time, my most prized virtue.)  Ha ha.  I don’t even remember what I got.

I recently took a free online version, as there are some with pretty accurate results without stupid questions like if you were a flower, would you be a pansy, snapdragon, tulip, or petunia?  (is that even a question? i mean, we’d all choose the pansy).

Anyway, the answers are broken up into 4 areas, with 16 different possibilities.  Categories, in this order, are as follows: 1. I (introverted) or E (extroverted) 2. S( sensing) or N (intuitive) 3. T (thinking) or F (feeling 4. P (perceiving) or J (judging).   I could go into explanations of these, but really, you all have google and wikipedia.  Don’t be lazy…

Anyway, apparently people with Es and Ss are more common or something.  Yeah, you can use google for this too.  I have some friends who are INTPs, and they are very proud of it, claiming that category as rarest.  I never even questioned it (cause I really don’t care THAT much), However, I did some extra google research tonight and found that to be debatable.  And that, in fact, one of my types is rarest.

Now, I say “one of my types” because I flex.  I am pretty definitely an INF (yes, of course the F–there’s truly little room for debate on that), but I switch back and forth between J and P.  Judging is like doing things according to plan, acknowledging long-term effects of actions, and P is basically spontaneity, I think.  Again, don’t trust me–trust google. I digress.

Apparently, back to rare-ness, INFJs are super rare too–some studies show them rarest–take that INTPs!  ( They claim to be rare, but really, I know two of them.)  Anyway.  My other personality is INFP (I have to confess, it was weird to type “my other personality.”  I felt like I should have ended that sentence with “is named Bob and likes to beat the shit out of helpless guinea pigs with the national geographics that my third personality, Alex the zoologist, receives monthly and stores chronologically on the bookshelf in his “reading room.” )  But, yeah, INFPs are described as idealists or something silly, and the website I checked out listed some personal examples of such people, like Helen Keller, Carl Jung (makes more sense than BF Skinner, anyway), A.A. Milne (author of Pooh), and then Mary, Jesus’s mother, Homer, and Virgil.  The last three, I’m not sure how they typed with the little info presented, but I’ll take it.  My personal favorites listed are Calvin (from Calvin and Hobbes) and ET.  ET?

So, apparently, half the time I’m super rare, otherwise, I’m E.T…?

Nice.

(PS: I’d love to hear what you all are according to Meyers-Briggs… Enneagram is for a different blog, I think.  That one’s a little more involved…)

I Amaze Myself

July 27, 2010

Sometimes, I wish I didn’t.  Let me explain.

So, I was driving to visit my grampa today for the first time in maybe a month.  Over the last year or so, I have driven to his house possibly 8-10 times, each time, needing to ask for directions.  So, I thought yesterday, “I know where I’m going.  Something’s bound to at least look familiar.”  Those thoughts should have been warning enough.

So, I’m driving in on 494 (Let me quick explain something.  Every time I get directions, I ask a different person.  My aunt swears by the 494 route, my mom and uncle recommend 394, I barely know the difference.)  and I start looking for a familiar sign.  My aunt said something about highway 6, or was it 7… wait, that sign says 5.  Well, I’ll hold out for a 6, but if I don’t see one in a few minutes, I’ll settle for whichever odd number is closer.

Aha!  6!  Now, hmmm… left feels right.  Ooooohh.  I recognize that road name.  Oh no, I recognize that one too.  In fact, I recognize almost all the road names.  Which road do I take?  Which way do I take it?  Let’s put it this way, I prefer to explore all of my possible options before going the “correct way.”  So, a half hour later, I arrived at my grampa’s house, about 2 miles from the exit.

The best part is, every time, my grampa reminds me of “Paul Windmuller’s Rules for Life #2: If you want to get where you’re going, never ask a woman for directions.”

I apologize to females everywhere, I definitely give us a bad name.

Addicted to Storms

July 24, 2010

My first summer in Madison is proving to be quite satisfactory in many areas, particularly the area of storms.  I love thunder.  I love lightning.  I love rain, puddles, and Gene Kelly–you know, the works.

You see, I’m the silly child who ran outside (to screams from my younger siblings, “No Elizabeth!  Don’t!  You’ll die!”) during tornado watches and thunderstorms to play in the rain or lie down in the lawn and stare at the lightning. Thankfully, no random lightning bolt or wind-blown tree took me out, as promised by my younger sister, Andrea.

Strangely enough, this recent plethora of late night storms has become problematic for me.  It seems that I cannot sleep.  It’s not the noise or even the beauty of listening to it (though it is beautiful), but moreso the excitement that is generated in me.  It’s like the electrical charges in the air impact the electrical firings in my brain.  Not in any logical sort of way, as the thoughts that are generated can’t even be put into words.  Suffice it to say, with this “revved up” state of being, it is quite difficult to sleep.

So, I read some David Sedaris–also not conducive to sleep, as I’ve found out.  His books are quite interesting and amusing.  I think the next book I’ll try will be either boring or utterly confusing…maybe even in French.  If I can’t bore my brain to sleep, I’ll just have to overwhelm it, leave it with a self-complex of inadequacy, and hope that it eventually gives up.  Depression of the brain.  Do they make a drug for this?

Ooooo… a yawn.  Yes!  Let me try this sleep thing again.

Goodnight.  I hope.

Grampa Don

February 8, 2010

Thank you, wordpress editing system.  “Grampa” is not a word.  Correctly spelled, apparently, it’s g-r-a-n-d-p-a.  Whatever.  I like grampa better.

Some of you may be well aware of my grampas and their recent health issues.   Well, Grampa Don has courageously battled stage 4 cancer over the past few months.  He was cancer-free for a while by great treatment, lots of prayer, and God’s grace.  I remember hearing that the doctors had said the cancer would eventually return, and when it did, it would be stronger and more aggressive.  I didn’t think it would come so soon.

Last Wednesday, we learned that it has returned in his lymph nodes and brain.  Treatment was offered to extend his life by 3-6 months, according to the doctors, but grampa has made his peace.  We’re looking at not a whole lot of time.

My grampa has the largest hands of anyone I know.  I don’t think he stands any taller than like 5’10,” and is moderately built, but his hands are enormous.

These hands have…

skillfully made cabinets

and furniture

even helped me make a guiro

probably spanked my dad, and his other 8 children out of love

planted huge gardens

pulled potatoes–i remember that

worked hard in tough, tough times

fixed cars, my own included

and everything else that broke

shoveled his driveway, the neighbors’ driveway, and for anyone else who needed it (same with mowing lawns)

dealt and lost and continues to deal and lose to my gramma at cards

These hands, palm up and open, also aided him in giving countless pieces of advice and love to his family.

These hands were open to everyone and anyone.

I will miss my grampa.  I will miss his hands.  I will miss his heart that guided these hands, extended these hands beyond himself and his own desires, to care for his family, his friends, his neighbors, his enemies, the loved of society, and the rejected of society.

Because of that, I will not be the only one missing him.

First of all, did I spell kindergarteners right?  It looks very wrong.  Plus it has a red underline.  Is it even a word?

Secondly, I don’t know.  But, if I say first of all, I need to say something about a second, or a next. I just remember that from my English classes in high school.

As some of you know, I have the wonderful and amazing opportunity to sub as a classroom aide in the schools here in Madison.  This job is kind of amazing, and it keeps me on my toes.  Today, I had the great opportunity to help out in a kindergarten (no red line this time… hmmm) classroom.  I was sitting in on the music class next to this quiet, but rather inquisitive little child.  She asked me a few questions, like my name, and what was on my neck (I think she was referring to a mole or freckle or whatever those lovely dark spots are (when you’re young and ashamed of them, adults call them “beauty marks,” attempting to turn your embarrassing oddity into some sort of prized attribute.  I never bought it.).  I answered her questions quietly and succinctly, hoping to encourage her to pay attention.  We were in music class, my favorite, afterall, so I didn’t want to miss out!

But one question caught me a little off-guard.  So much so, that I didn’t hear it right the first time.

“Do you have boobs?”

I could have sworn, or maybe just really was hoping, that she said the word, “boots.”  So I pointed to my shoes and said “Not today” and tried to redirect her to the singing that was supposed to be happening.  She tried again.

“No.” She pointed to her chest. “Where are your boobs? You know, nipples.”  She further clarified.

I said, “Oh.  They’re there.”  And yes, I did look down to check, for fear that something may have happened over the last few hours without me realizing.

No, this conversation is not yet over.  She had one more question for me.

“Why don’t you have big boobs?”

I had absolutely no answer for this.  Um… genetics?  I’m not yet a mother?  All of these answers would require a little more than a one-word explanation for this inquisitive kindergarten student.  So, I just answered the plain and simple, “I don’t know.  That’s a good question.”

She kindly comforted me in my deficiency, nodding in understanding.  She doesn’t really have them yet either.

For the first time in my life, my tendency to wear baggy clothes resulted in discomfort.  But no, dear friends, particularly those of you who claim my clothes are too big, I will still keep to my ways and remain baggy, comfortable, and apparently, also “boobless.”

Cambodia Update

December 28, 2009

Wow.  This is all so weird.

For those of you that did not receive the lovely mass email directly, I thought I would post a new blog entry.   Possibly with a little more and a little less explanation.  Yes, that is entirely possible.  My email focused on one aspect, and this blog will focus on another.  Cryptic?  Possibly.  If you have a question, just shoot me an email.  Geez, look at all the suspense I could be creating.

OK, I have decided to indefinitely postpone my return to Phnom Penh.  There are at least 2 large reasons, and I will focus on one of them.

I think earlier in a blog about Apple Cider Vinegar I mentioned the ways in which volunteer organizations warn their volunteers about the emotional and mental phenomena that occur once one returns home.  Now, I honestly didn’t take it too seriously.  I’m a little flighty, but if there’s one thing that I keep in very good touch with, it’s my emotions.  (Yes, yes, my friends.  You can stop laughing now.  That statement is all too true.)  Anyway, let’s just say, I had a slightly delayed reaction.

As I was leaving Cambodia, I was already writing letters to ask for support to stay (which a month after I returned, a very wise person recommended I take a few months off of life, get a fun job, and then decide if i want to stay in this line of work.  I should have listened to him.).  Anyway, I loved it there.  I took some time to try to figure out what the pull was, and I will be honest when I say that it was not the work.  But, I also want to be clear that I thought God was calling me to stay.  I loved the people.  I loved the style of life.  For the first time in my life, I wasn’t thinking “what should I do next?”  In Cambodia, I learned how to live and interact as part of a larger community.  It was beautiful.  And though God was guiding the work we were doing, as He always does, it truly wasn’t work that resonated within the core of my being.  So, I come home in April.  Before I leave, the director of the program looked me in the eye and said, “Now Elizabeth.  I recommend that instead of going home and trying to come back, you stay a few extra months on the remaining money you have.  Most volunteers say they want to come back, but they go home, start grad school, and move on with their lives.”  I thought, pish-posh, Kristin.  I am different.  Plus, I would have no idea what I’d go to grad school for anyway.

So, I go home, and I’m caught up in my body adjusting to the temperature (a frigid 60 degrees F compared to the normal 95 or so!) and my biking skills adjusting to the more organized, less attentive traffic situation around me.  So caught up, in fact, that I do not even begin to process emotions about returning home and stuff. 10 days after I return, I take a 5 day road-trip out east to DC with Jennie.  It’s fun, it’s great, it’s world hope, and my processing is delayed.  I get back, and my little sis graduates from high school. Family pours in.  It’s great, it’s fun, it’s crazy Schrader/Windmuller family, and my processing is delayed.  Then, two weeks later, Jennie (my fellow white Cambodian) gets married.  It’s great, it’s fun, new friendships are formed, and processing is delayed.  Then two weeks later, I head out to NY to work the summer.  It’s amazing, it’s fun, old friendships are revitalized, it’s autism, and I start to doubt the return to Cambodia as soon as I got a job description from World Hope.  I cannot tell you how confusing it is to have two conflicting things within you.  An absolute love for children with disabilities, and a love of a previous experience that you were quite confident was going to continue.  So, I ignore it.  Ignoring important things is not always the best idea, i’m learning.

I move to Madison and learn Khmer and connect with friends early on in the fall.   The whole emotional processing thing was starting to happen.  I was starting to feel displaced and confused about life direction and sad and all of that.   I’m continued to remain conflicted but refuse to look at the situation.   I noticed a change in my prayers from “God, get me back to Cambodia however” to “God, if you don’t want me to go, please don’t provide funds.”  You see, I was afraid of backing out and disappointing people and even myself.  Let’s just say, honesty, particularly with oneself and God, is always the best policy. 

So, as I was feeling this way, some friendships dissolved (yes, many of you who know me are also laughing at my casual, generic sentence… thanks for letting me be vague:), and that was (and still is) really tough stuff.  But strangely, God used that to allow me to look at everything for what it was.  He took away the things that I had been attaching myself to and through some very specific experiences helped me see what I kinda knew was always there–He has given me a love and passion for people/children with disabilities, and I do believe I need to pursue this.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the girls in Cambodia and the people–I will never meet such beautiful people as I have met there.  However, psychotherapy/music therapy is not where my strength and passions lie.  So, I am intending to begin pursuing a master’s degree and teaching certificate in special education possibly as soon as this fall.  I was hoping to return to Cambodia sometime this spring, but i’m not sure how/if/when. And as I look back at the last 3 years of my life, I realize that I have spent little-no time with family and those important to me.  This time is currently difficult for my family in many ways, both sides, and I feel the desire to remain here somewhat indefinitely.

So, this is incredibly humbling and humiliating and strange.  I do hope to return to Cambodia someday, but the timing of it seems much less clear now.  I also hope to return in a different capacity–working with kids/people with disability.  But, only God knows.

It’s amazing how we make plans, we feel a certain way, we hope for certain things, and God kind of has a different agenda.  I mean, I guess He should know–He made us:)

So, please address me with questions if you have any.  I’m feeling particularly lame about this, so rude comments or criticisms are welcome.  I agree with you completely if you want to attack my character.  I’m not even kidding.

Note to myself:  Do not write particularly sad/humble blog entries while listening to Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony (#6–check it out!). 

Much, much, much love to you all, particularly those who have supported me since my return home.  It’s been a ride.  Though I love rollercoasters, I’d be much happier at this point with a carousel.

Meet Octavious!

December 25, 2009

Ta da! It's Octavious!

No, I did not have a child.  And did any of you think I would actually name my first-born Octavious?  Well, maybe I would.  Not a bad name, but just think of the nicknames!  Oct, Octy?, Octopus, Octagon, Tave, Vy, Us… Not sure about those.   I’ll have to think on it.  I certainly got time… 

And no, I didn’t get a pet.  I may consider it now that it looks like I’ll be in the country a bit longer.  Any ideas?  I’ve always loved turtles… And I’ve heard good things about hermit crabs and hedgehogs.  I should probably start slow though.  Goldfish might be the best idea… 

So, yes, Octavious.  Octavious is my new friend.  He spontaneously grew from an enormous snowball that my brother, mom, and I made.  We basically rolled it until we could physically roll it no more.  It stood close to four and a half feet tall (before we built on it) and was about 14 feet in circumference.  Beautiful, beautiful thing.  Yes, a large, dirty snowy ball in the middle of our yard is a beautiful thing. 

So, mom and Kevin decided that we absolutely must make it into a snowman.  I tell ya, I was satisfied with just a big ball.  I mean, throw some coal on it, stick some sticks out the side, what more do you need?  Apparently, most snowmen call for a minimum of 3 segments… like ants… or something.   So, we rolled up the rest of the snow in our yard to create another ball that had a circumference of 9 feet (is that right, Kevin?  where did we put the measurement list?  yes, we are nerds.)  This wasn’t well thought out, as we created this ball we didn’t consider the fact we wouldn’t be able to physically lift the sucker on top of the other one.  My ingenious, hopefully someday engineer (making the big bucks) brother, Kevin, came to the rescue with a plan to build a ramp upon which to roll the ball on top of the other one.  We tried a large wooden plank-it bent.  We tried reinforcing it with snow–too steep.  So then we made a ramp over 9 feet long with an incline of about 13 degrees.  (Wanna check my triangle?  It’s been a while, so I’d appreciate it :)  OK, the two known sides of this right triangle are 112″ and 25.”  So, yeah, use the pythagorean theorem to find the missin side and the cos of the angle A business… I think…)  Anyways, it was quite the construction!  Wish I had a better picture for you! 

fuzzy ramp, other angle

 

Anyway, once we got the belly on, mom and kevin started constructing the head.  We got out some step ladders and buckets to stand on to make sure we could reach.  The thing had serious facial deformities, but we worked really hard to make him into a beautiful Roman god–complete with plants on his head.  Our perennials would have to make due for the lack of olive branches… I do not remember the rest of the face.  It all happened so fast.  We basically got stuff out of the fridge and cupboard and kept sticking it places.  All we need is a top hat and it should come alive, right?  At least that’s what we were singing about at school last week…

8'9"

 

Yes, that smile is a banana and his button nose is broccoli!

So, this is how we spend our snowy holidays in the midwest!  That and a little Garrison Keillor.  And a little yulekaga and lefse.  What more could you ask for?

Changing the toilet paper roll.

Chances are that if I have stayed at your house for more than a day or two, I have changed your toilet paper roll for you.  Maybe I tend to go through it quickly, but that’s not my point.  Just think, this is the only chore you can complete in less than 10 seconds while actually going to the bathroom. 

It’s amazing.

That’s all.

So, I got to go home for Thanksgiving this past week.  And it was lovely.  I ate pie for every meal.  Spent time with family and friends.  Saw both of my grampas.  Played a little harp, piano, football, basketball, and chess.  I am so overwhelmed and thankful.

(Hopefully, by now, you will realize that I do not intend this blog post to be sarcastic or humerous. Yes, it shall be boring… but not if you participate.:)  You’ll see what I mean–no, i won’t do the “list the things you’re thankful for”… wait, did you want me to?).

I got to visit my grampa who has cancer this past Saturday.  In a weird way, this illness has brought me closer to him.  I’m disappointed in myself for not taking as much initiative before he was diagnosed, but again, as always in my life, I have received grace.   In this case, more time.

So, about my grampa, we always have amazing conversations about life, politics, people, gardening, wood-working, music, you name it.  Saturday’s topic was our changing culture.   There are so many theories and so many predictions and hopes and fears in regards to our country’s future, but it was nice getting the perspective of someone who has lived through and observed so many changes.  In that respect, as in many, he has more wisdom than I.

We don’t always agree (initially, though I find he typically has a much more thought-out/lived-out position than I🙂, but we agreed on one thing immediately.  Our way of life is changing.  Changing is vague.  More specifically, we are moving/have moved from a culture of community and interdependence to a (false) sense of community and independence–dare I say, isolation? loneliness?  Now, this is tricky because in many ways, we feel more connected to people than ever.  We have our iphones that allow us to access our email/twitter/facebook accounts at anytime in addition to receiving phone calls and text messages.   We have these communication devices with us all of the time.  I remember back 10 years ago (even less) when you had to call someone on the home phone and wait for them to respond to you.  For some reason, I was never anxious if they didn’t.  Now, it seems if I call someone on his/her cell phone and I don’t get a response by a certain time, I get nervous.  What if so-and-so’s angry with me?  What if something happened?  I have to say, for having communication at the touch of a button, our anxiety (I should just say MY… sorry to generalize it to you all!) doesn’t seem  to be decreasing any.

In addition to that, the communications that are being had are not directly with people.  They are with/through electronic devices.   Clearly (unless you are skyping/video calling), there is no eye contact, no tone of voice, no facial expression.  Our communication is down to merely words.  Words which can be, and many times are, taken completely the wrong way.   Additionally, my grampa spoke of a time (which I kind of remember living this way as a child), where neighbors met each other.  Talked to each other.  Times when the men in the neighborhood gathered to play horseshoes or poker or basketball.  People knew their neighbors.  They relied on them.  They helped them.  Now, we don’t need them cause our entire fam/friend system is carried around in our pocket, simply a text or phone call–button push–away.  Question: Are these devices truly improving communication?  Is more communication necessarily better?  (Notice:  I didn’t even mention the cheapness of the communications–how easy it is to push a button and send a nasty email vs. having a nasty conversation or mailing a nasty letter or the plethora of miscommunications that happen b/c of the lack of tone… you all know this.)

Speaking of more communication, my gramma mentioned how mothers/parents nowadays call or text their children all of the time to make sure that they are okay.  I don’t think that’s a result of bad parents.  I bet if I were a mom (yes, we’ve covered this, it’s a very good thing that I am not… ha ha), I’d probably text all the time too.  How is the whole natural parent-child separation and independence thing supposed to happen in the age of technology?  And when you think of it, how much is that replacing actual parenting?  How much parenting happens by text, that could and possibly should, happen face to face in the living room on the couch/rocking chair?  Maybe even with a hug?  Or a good cry?

Here’s what’s funny about this entire thing.  We all know this.  And we all kinda think it’s maybe not good, but we either don’t want to admit it, or don’t really think it’s that bad afterall.  I’m starting to think that it possibly is “that bad.”

I was reading a book by CS Lewis the other day called Mere Christianity.  And I love the book.  And whether or not you would consider yourself a Christian, I think it’s an excellent read.  At one point in the book, he starts talking about the decisions you make affect your heart, your soul, your mind.  The idea that these parts of you are not static entities, but constantly moving in a certain direction.  In his opinion (and I seem to agree), moving either closer to or further away from the creature you (were) intended to be.  One of a heavenly sort–not necessarily in appearance/action–please don’t misunderstand me.  But a creature full of joy, peace, love, kindness.  A creature that would naturally react to life in those ways, no matter what is going down.  (At a different part of the book, Lewis makes the argument that you actually can see a person’s character more clearly when they are taken off-guard by difficult or unpleasant events.  Interesting thought… really!)  The other creature is of a hellish sort.  I’m not talking of one consumed by external things like pornography, alcoholism, or gossip, but one who is internally full of rage, hatred, fear, and LONELINESS, no matter what shows on the outside.  And those characteristics to their extremist points (increasing over infinity) is what Lewis would consider hell.  Again, I think I agree.  And that’s a terrifying thought.

Loneliness, specifically, seems to be the biggest problem with this new(ish) wave of communication.  We are not spending time with people, but with things–computers, phones, etc.  The scariest thing is that we think that we are spending time with people.  Are we?  Are we increasing in peace, love, joy, etc. as a community?  Do we even really have human communities?

So, here’s the participation part.  Let’s work together to change our culture.

“Yes, Elizabeth, that’s nice.  But you have a facebook, blog, twitter, myspace, cell phone, etc. too!”

“Dear friend, I know.   I recognize change needs to happen on my end for sure.  But what does that look like?  Does that mean getting rid of those parts of life?  What other changes could/should I/we make?  How can I/we use this new technology without losing human interaction?

Or… am I off my rocker?  The answer to that question is quite possibly a resounding yes!

If not, if true change needs to take place, let’s visualize together what our communities COULD/SHOULD look like and work towards that.  Together.  As a community.  As people moving away from loneliness towards togetherness.  No matter how initially uncomfortable.

“I’m trading comfort for human life.  And that’s not just murder, that’s suicide.”  –Derek Webb

Let’s not do that.

Much love and a desire for true community to you all!

The Embodiment of Grace

November 14, 2009

Any of you who have seen me ski, ice skate, or even at times walk, know that either this blog title is not at all referring to me, or is itself actually sarcastic.  In any case, you may want to read on…

So, as mentioned, I have never been one thought of as coordinated.  Simple things, like running, shooting a basketball, or throwing a frisbee, did not come naturally to me.  And quite frankly, still do not.

Let me provide some more concrete examples for you.

During the winters in high school (cold, icy and wonderful Wisconsin winters), my friends would strategically walk behind me on the sidewalk.  To block the wind, you might assume.  Well, maybe, but in addition to providing that important service, I also had a knack for finding the ice spots–quite dramatically.  Complete with arm flails, full spins, and at times, complete wipe-outs.  I went to a Christian high school, which, as any good Christian school should do, mentioned, on multiple occasions, the story of the good samaritan.  This apparently was lost on my friends.  Rather than attempt to help me prevent numerous injuries (even during basketball season), they used my clutsiness to their advantage.  Yes, I was their sacrifical lamb.  Too dramatic?  Maybe… maybe not.

Another example can be found on the ski slope–specifically, the bunny hill.  My first day skiing, the concept of edging or weaving didn’t stick.  I think the technical term is “bombing?”  Yes, I was quite the bunny hill bomber, each time punctuating my high speed dive with a full body crash at the end.  My sister, Andrea, on the other hand (markedly more coordinated than myself), skied gracefully down immediately and did not fall.  Finally, on attempt number 10 (or was it 15) for me, my goal was no longer to maintain control of my speed by weaving down the hill.  I had accepted my bombing tendency, and focused my efforts to staying upright at the bottom of the hill.  I followed my sister up the lift and watched as she carefully began to ski down the hill.  Without even attempting to pass her, I began (as usual) gaining an uncomfortably high amount of speed.  As I felt myself approaching her, unsure whether or not I could stop myself from hitting her, I thought it best to casually and calmly inform her of my presence.  “Andrea!…. look out! I… can’t… stop!!!!”  She did what any other person who had just watched me attempt to ski for 60 minutes would do.  She immediately collapsed in a heap.  I, on the other hand, skied down full blast and miraculously, possibly accidentally, spun around, maintaining my balance, and remained upright.  Out of shear joy, and possibly intense shock, I began to pump my ski poles in the air.  (You might agree with everyone else watching that my enthusiasm did not quite match my accomplishment.  However, you try crashing the bunny hill 10-15 times unsuccessfully while 70 year olds and 4 year olds alike ski down gracefully.)  As my fists hit the air for the 3rd time, I noticed my sister in a clump on the hill glaring at me.  Yes, at this time, we both wish I was more coordinated.

So, why, you might ask, and I too, did I just spend all this time talking about skiing.  Not sure.  I think I want it to snow.  The main point of this story was to provide the context (for those of you unfamiliar with my natural athletic skill) for the story tonight.

My friend and I had just spent the night out on the town, mainly wandering around, but also telling stories and laughing.  She told me this amazing story (she’s a writer, I’ll have her tell you) about the two times she fell over on her bike.  Recently.  As I listened to her stories, I felt secure in my biking abilities, as if nothing like that would happen to me.

One hour later…

We are biking back along the trail.  Thankfully, my friend led the way, as I would have preferred biking on the street.  As I was biking, I noticed my right foot start to feel tense, as if a shoelace was wrapping around it and sticking to the pedal.  Well, it was.  The next part of the story gets hazy–it happened oh so fast–so, I’ll give you Lauren’s version.  Apparently, I yelled, “Lauren, hold on!”, threw both of my arms into the air, and completely tipped over to the ground.  I do not remember being quite so dramatic, but I guess it doesn’t surprise me.  Not only am I a clutz.  I’m a total drama queen.

My favorite word?

October 23, 2009

I’m currently in the middle of registering for something online.  I know, this post probably should be about the dangers of identity theft, but it’s not.  So, I get to the password section and type in my usual, and then scroll down to the security question.  I was expecting “What’s your mother’s maiden name?” or “What’s your father’s middle name?”  or even “What’s the name of your first pet or significant other (apparently the same for some people…)?”  Nope.  None of the usual.  The security question is, you guessed it, “What’s your favorite word?”

My favorite word?

This security question is guaranteed to even keep me out of my own account.

First of all, at least for me, my favorites change semi-rapidly.  Two weeks ago, my favorite ice cream was chocolate peanut butter, but then I was introduced to Ben and Jerry’s “Chunky Monkey.”  And as I ate that, I was remembering other Ben and Jerry’s flavors, and then Blue Bunny flavors (Twins Graham Slam), and Cold Stone’s cheesecake ice cream and DQ’s oreo cheesecake blizzard.. and oh, I digress.  But choosing favorites is already complicated with ice cream.   Plus, I am 25 and still don’t really know what my favorite color is, much less if I prefer rain to sun to snow…

Secondly, there are so many dimensions to that question.  I mean, what criteria would you use to choose a favorite word?  How it sounds when you say it?  Like the word “lollapalooza,” for example.  That sounds like so much fun to say.  But I couldn’t use it cause I don’t think I’ve ever used it before now and would therefore NEVER remember it.  Then there are words that produce certain memories, like names of people and places and such.  And then there are words that when you hear them, make you feel happy.  Like “sunshine” or “sparklers.”  (See, didn’t you at least feel happy just thinking of sparklers?  Unless, you’re one of those who had a far-too sparkling experience… in your case, maybe change the word to sprinklers…?)  And finally, there are those serious words with meaning, such as “love” and “forgiveness.”  And then, if you choose one of these, which form of the word do you use?  The noun?  the verb?  the adjective?  And which tense?

So, if I were you, I’d begin pondering this now.  Have it ready.  Cause it’s definitely gonna take me the rest of the afternoon…

My Favorite Day

October 12, 2009

When I was a little kid, I did what all little kids do–you know, complained about not being able to fall asleep when in reality all I really wanted was just to be told Icould stay up late.  My mom never fell for it.  Instead, she told me to imagine my favorite day.  Being slightly belligerent, I said, “But I don’t have any favorite days.”  To which my mom told me the most wonderful thing ever.  She said it didn’t have to be real.  Some may claim that I have been living in an imaginary world from that point on.

But at the age of 10, here’s what my imagination came up with:

1.  The day would be extendable–not limited to 24 hours, but if, by some terrible mistake,  something went horribly wrong, I could end the day at any time.

2. I would be pretty without trying or caring.

3.  I’d play in a Hallie league softball game where I would get a hit nearly every at bat–showing up all my coaches who thought less of me.  Now, you may be wondering if I could choose, why I wouldn’t hit a home run every at bat.  You see, that’s TOO perfect.  Too perfect that it’s in fact, quite boring.  So, I would get an infield single (yes, I know, quite the stretch of the imagination.),  a nice liner somewhere–maybe a single or double, a walk, a painless HBP (that of course appeared painful, so I would limp to first, the applause following every heroic step). Anyway, you get the idea.  In addition to a stellar performance at the plate, I would also throw out someone trying to steal and perfectly field a bunt.  Ahhh… it was a great game.

2.  Depending upon my awake status, the day would continue with Chuck Knoblauch (yes, I had an 10-year old crush on a Twin…hmmm… sensing some themes in my life.  Anyway, I wrote him a letter.  It was serious.) watching the game and realizing my amazing skills.  He would tell the coach–Tom Kelly–and before I knew it, I was signed by the Twins.

3.  There would be absolutely no fights with friends, and the friends that were mean to me in 5th grade–you know who you are–were entirely jealous of my “Little Big League”/”Rookie of the Year” life.

4.  I would eat ice cream and pizza for every meal and not feel sick.

5.  It would be sunny, but then a little rainy so I could tap dance with Gene Kelly… but then sunny again.

6. I could go swimming and turn 12 somersaults to finally beat Erin’s record of 11.

7.  And the characters in the “Indian in the Cupboard” books would be real.

Recently, in stark contrast to my 10-year-old imagination,  I realized that for the first time in my life, I kind of want a normal life.  I want an actual job in my profession.  I want to settle down. Maybe not for life, or for more than 2 years, but for more than 3-6 months–the maximum amount of time I’ve been anywhere in the past few years.  I know this is crazy talk, but I’m feeling worn out.  But, here is God setting up another short-term volunteer trip to Cambodia.  And I believe with all my heart he’s behind this, and I know that once I get there it will be great, but I’d be lying if I said that I’m entirely gung-ho about it.

So, I started remembering my favorite imaginary days, and I realized that everything in my those days had something in common.  Everything in it seemed to immediately benefit me, and just me.  I thought about my life–and how what I want is to have everyone validate me and to have things work out for me.  And then I realized what a different thing Jesus calls us to.  To live beyond ourselves, which if we actually believe all of what He says, should be less of a struggle.  I long for this to be much more natural than in me–to wake up in the morning and be automatically concerned with others’ happiness before my own. To jump excitedly on a plane to Cambodia or wherever and not worry about the life–of which I am entirely too possessive–that I’m leaving behind.

And maybe even someday, to imagine my favorite day and think of others doing wonderful things and not just me.

What They DON’T tell you…

September 29, 2009

Before I begin, I must clearly state that I do not regret any time volunteering, especially overseas.  Giving of one’s time for free always has the potential to be an extremely valuable experience, probably filled with warm fuzzies.

Now that that’s been said…

If I were one of those forward thinkers, you know, the planners, or any human of somewhat reasonable intelligence, I would have asked this question precisely one year ago as I was packing my bags for Southeast Asia.

What happens when you’re done?

Oh sure, they psychologically and emotionally prepare you well.  “There will be transitions.  You will feel lost.  Things that once were normal will now feel strange.  You will feel distant from your family and loved ones.  You might get depressed.  You will feel and think A, B, and C.”

The thinker would say at that point, “Oh, that’s nice.  I’ll feel that way.  But what about the practical things.  You know, jobs, living arrangements, de-worming treatments, HEALTH INSURANCE…?”

I, clearly, am not a thinker.

So, here I sit, 5 months after returning home, with my apple cider vinegar (ACV) and water treatment for my sinus infection.  Not sure if it’s clearing out my sinuses, but it’s clearly clearing out the rest of me.  Come to find out after-the-fact, this solution is the same as the home-remedy  for constipation.

Oh, just three more ounces…

Word to the wiser:   If you have health insurance, please use it.  Use it for me.  Make something up so that you can go visit your friendly family physician for free.  And if he just so happens to prescribe you anti-biotics…  well, you know.

Take them all, you thinker, you.

Bite Me!

July 7, 2009

No, actually, please don’t.

I don’t know who originally thought this would be a tough and cool thing to say, but whoever it was has not been bitten.  I, thankfully, have only been bitten twice in my life.  Both times by humans,  both times by children, and actually both times at the same place. 

Today was the second of its kind.

As some of you know, I am currently working at a summer program for kids with autism and other disabilities.  It’s kind of, or completely (actually) amazing, and one of my favorite places in the entire world.  I have yet to experience the camp (which I will lead the music for Tues-Fri), but today I subbed as a TA at the school site.  The site containing my extensive bite history.

The day started out lovely (actually, it started out with a bite.  One of our guys bit another little guy in the first 5 minutes, but we’ll pretend that didn’t happen to make my bite more dramatic… thanks.)  But my little friend, we’ll call him Blake (Hippa, his name isn’t Blake), came in uncontrollably giggling.  Now he’s normally a pretty positive guy, but not this giggly.  He was giggling and laughing and looking at the ceiling, which got me looking at the ceiling half expecting to see Steve Carell up there in his Michael Scott glory (which I know totally would have amused “Blake.” That or a bubble… either one).  Anyway, there was no Steve Carell, or bubble for that matter, and he continued giggling for most of the morning.  It was a happy morning.

Lunch went well.  Playtime went well. He raced me all over the school (intentially taking advantage of my bum knee which any non-verbal child with autism would do–please, please sense the sarcasm) and we swung on the swing (which any person with autism or myself, would truly do).  So after our swings and running, we were tired. The whole class went in to rest.

Blake laid on his back with his foot up on his knee, looking angelic, so I joined him.  Pretty soon, another friend, we’ll call him “Scooter” (Hippa, his name is not Scooter), joined us, and snuggled up with me on the other side.  It was all too cute.  And everyone (but me) knew it wouldn’t last.

As I remember it (the details are a bit hazy and it happened so fast), Blake instantly changed into a werewolf, complete with fangs and fur, and bit me right in the arm.  I thought he was gonna pull the arm right off, so I very calmly said, “Dear Blake.  Please stop.  I thought we were friends.  You wouldn’t want to eat your friend, would you?” translation: “There is no biting.”  But there was biting, and he didn’t really let go, so my calmness turned a little panicky, and maybe a not-so-pleasant word came out of my mouth as I called for help from staff. 

After which, Super Katie (Hippa, that is her name, but she’s my co-worker, so it’s okay, right?), came to the rescue and removed the Blake-turned-werewolf, or “Blake-wolf” from my arm.  My super-elasticky skin survived.  No blood.  No puncture.  Just an amazing bruise, that I’m actually really excited about.. Don’t tell Blake.  I really don’t want another one…

Anyway, the next time someone says “bite me,”  do it.  Bite the person who so carelessly used that phrase.  They will never say it again.

So, there are a few habits I may have developed in Cambodia that are apparently unacceptable by my home culture.  Of course, I didn’t realize I had possibly (I’m sure everyone’s exaggerating) picked them up until I got home.

The first one is smacking my food.  I do vaguely remember one, or both, of my parents telling me at a young age “Now, Elizabeth, chew with your mouth closed.  Not everyone wants to see what your food looks like all mushed up.”  In my 4 year old wisdom, I decided not to take them too seriously at first, cause afterall, they mushed up Andrea’s  (my younger sister’s) food and put it on a plate for all to see.  So, you tell me, who’s the gross one? 

But anyway, when I first came to Cambodia, I do remember being surprised by the volume of noise produced by eating–not talking and eating–just eating!  One Cambodian friend in particular, who shall remain nameless, chewed his food so loudly that I had a hard time making it through a meal without choke-laughing on my food.  But, enough repetition turned something amusing into something ordinary.  And, I learned in a college class once, that repetition is vital for special learners to acquire skills.  Yes, I am putting myself in that category… because while learning the Cambodian way of life and culture, I was a kid on the “short bus” or bike or moto…

But yeah, since years of politeness training apparently was lost on me, my mom has tried a more subtle approach than when I was 4.  “Elizabeth, do people eat really obnoxiously, distgustingly loudly in Cambodia?”  Me: “Well, yes mom. Why?”  Mom:  “Oh, no reason…” (definitely thinking ‘if Elizabeth can’t figure out why, we have bigger problems on our hands than smacking food.’)

Another bad habit is picking my nose.  I hope my unashamed confession is enough to get you to think twice about our cultural perceptions (possible misperceptions) of this healthy practice.  Cambodians will pick their noses mid conversation.  Which was startling at first.  I almost turned my face as if to save them from embarrassment, but I realized if they are popping their fingers in their noses while making eye contact with me, there’s little shame on their end! 

So, I confess, I might not be quite as bold, but as I bike or drive, I definitely get the hard boogers out of my nose the easy way.  (No tissues if you get my drift… and NO I don’t EAT them!) Combination thumb and first finger is my usual tactic.  I tell ya.  Try it!  Pick your nose!  It may change your life and the way you are perceived!  But really, all who gawk are just jealous.  And deep down inside, you know EVERYONE wants to do it.

So, I have to say I made out OK when I think of all the habits I could  have picked up from Cambodia.  I mean, I don’t eat infestacious insects, spray my food with insecticide, or pee on the street.  Not yet…

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