What I learned this summer

September 5, 2018

[linking up with Emily P. Freeman for this seasonal series]
What I learned this summer (in no particular order)
1. I’m really bad at hospitals, when someone close to me is involved. I’m especially bad at being wife of said involvee. More about that here.
2. My husband is not the only one who can garden. While I may have a black thumb, I do seem to have developed a reputation as the school gardener. So perhaps, more accurately, I’m not good at the gardening but am pretty good at talking up the joy of compost and dirt when surrounded by troops of kiddos. More about that here.
3. I don’t like giving up if I have not yet proven to myself that I can do it. Part of my goal this summer was to make some progress in the long-term scope of my seminary progress. I was not sure what that meant, when Peter and I first talked about our goals for the summer, but soon I realized that this would be my chance to “redeem” my experience with Greek. When I took the course last year, I struggled through what was supposed to be a summer but ended up taking me an entire semester afterwards as well. It was a humbling experience to struggle so much with a foreign language, after spending much of my life feeling like language acquisition was “easy” for me. So this time around, I decided to do it right. I began by redoing each of the classes from Greek I, corresponding with my professor over the summer about this plan. I am now enrolled in Greek II, with the goal of a more solid go this time around. And so far, I’m getting pretty jazzed about the translation projects . . . no more on that. Yet ;-)
4. I like animals. More precisely, I like consuming all things produced by them . . . and yes, the animals themselves. No doubt I could thrive as a vegetarian, but my body is, ideally, most happy when metabolizing significant quantities of protein.
5. I like books. This may seem an odd thing for a librarian to say but, it comes after going through an embarrassing stint of many years not reading. I was flitting around the world and “too busy” adjusting to new jobs to make the time for it, so I started to fear that I was not a real reader after all. Two years ago I revisited one of my all-time favorite books and, since then, there has been no stopping me. I devour books—sometimes so rapidly that I have to remind myself to slow down and appreciate the process. It has given me a renewed passion for my job as I teach young ones how to experience the same joy I discovered over 3 decades ago. Just call me nerd. Sometimes I also talk to grownups about books. More about that here.



August 23, 2018

It was with a twinge of guilt that I realized today that the happiest moments of my work life, over the past few weeks, have been, in a sense, stolen moments. Rather than the times spent in the classroom or dealing with library logistics, the moments I have anticipated have been those of little productivity. I have been carting the daily compost from lunchtime leftovers over to the garden, dumping out used coffee grounds and, while there, collecting any vegetables that need harvesting. I have taken to inviting various elementary classes over with me when I do, as they are often on recess when I head over. I ask if they know we have a school garden. Now most do, but when I began posing the question, many had no idea why we had been setting up bins by the trash cans at lunch, instructing them to separate their waste. So I’ve been taking these kids over with me, explaining that their extra food has been feeding the baby plants so that now we have new vegetables to begin the cycle all over again. No, this is not my actual job . . . but I have somehow not felt too terribly guilty about spending to time to do it. It is a well worthwhile “wasting” of time, I cannot help but believe . . .

*Disclaimer: my husband did the hard work of planning and growing this garden. I benefit from the fruits of his labour ;-)

Blood, sweat, & tears

July 25, 2018

So it goes. Another summer over. Another flight across the ocean. Another round of goodbye hugs and “See ya next year!”s.
As she dropped us off today, mom said she looked forward to when we would be sticking around a bit longer. I reminded her of how I’d quipped a joke I was rather proud of (as I get when I manage to say something that impresses others with my witty sense of humor …or perhaps, more precisely, that impresses me with my own!): “Well, we better come back to stay sooner than later, as we’ve invested blood, sweat, and tears into this place for the past month-Peter’s blood and sweat, and my tears!”
Yes, this has been a summer of blood and sweat for him, laboring on landscaping, roofing, and plumbing, and literally putting “blood equity” into our roof, as his sister noted when I told her about Peter’s nail gun mishap. That day in the ER, I displayed a side of myself that wins no spousal medals. “I’m going to be very mad at you for quite some time,” I promised, as soon as it was clear there was no lasting injury. I attempted to prove my point by shoveling a plastic spoonful of stir fry into his mouth. “This hand is fine,” he noted, attempting to take the spoon from me. I ignored him and continued my spoon feeding, quickly enough to prevent further arguments that might mix logic into my emotional angst. “So much for my special dinner tonight,” I added, sulking over the interrupted meal prep that had been quickly piled into styrofoam before heading to the hospital. And as the hours passed that evening, I began to pace the hallways, impatiently stalking nurses to wonder what we were waiting so long for. “I can see why people try to escape from hospitals. Want to try to hide your arm band and just walk out of here with me?” He smiled at me with a slight hint of bemusement, and it occurred to me that I was probably the one acting more like an impatient than he was. I glared at him then, wishing he would at least grimace from the pain of the hole in his hand. When we finally did leave, he didn’t even let me remind the doctor of the promise to give us something for the pain. “Really, it hardly hurts at all. I’m fine,” Peter insisted.
Did I mention tears earlier? Why yes, I neglected to mention that I did indeed break down into a few rounds of weepy messiness that evening, as if I had not yet sufficiently proven my ability to feel sorry for myself as if I was the wounded party. Not a shining moment for our summer memories, for sure.
But when all was said and done, that day of discomfort, and the necessary days of business following, play their part in the chapter that this summer has been for the story of our life. As unlovable as I felt myself to be, his steady love in the midst of it left my heart stronger where the scab healed over; the space where insecurity has reigned is now covered over by a scar of secureness-in-love. The ugliness I stuff into hiding has spilled out and, instead of being met with horror and rejection, has been calmly accepted. And I realize that he has seen through those walls all along, and loved what I have tried to hide. He has loved me–the “me” I’ve tried to hide.
Lest it appear as if my husband is a bright shining pillar of perfection, I can assure you that we are both very “normal” in our humanity. He is the first to remind me of this fact each time I lapse into “I’m so messed up!” moments of apologizing for my existence. But I am truly awed by the gift that has been given to me, in the form of this man–and this realization may be the main gift that the summer as a whole has been for us. In working through the series of life issues that this season has brought (financial stresses, health failings, family conflicts, and passport emergencies), we have done the business together.
I am a nut for saltiness, in all its forms. If I get a chance to swim in the ocean, I will refuse to shower for days afterwards, relishing the feel of saltwater on my skin and in my hair. Sweat itself, for that matter, can happily live on my skin for longer than might seem natural, if one follows Western standards of showering frequency (are you, dear reader, relieved to be reading and not in my presence at the moment?😉). We’ve joked that I should have been a villain in one of the original Star Trek episodes … beware the salt vampire, then, cause he’s my type!

Thursday’s thrill

June 22, 2018

Kids. Grandpop. Sparklers. And a match. Perfect.
Having to say goodbye to these three kiddos for another year. Less-than-perfect …and a reminder of the less-than-perfect shortness of our days for this not-so-young-anymore auntie.

Wednesday’s wonder

June 20, 2018

PaCharley: What was it you got your degree in, again?
Peter: Math
PaCharley: Ah yes. You know about “e = mc squared”?
Peter: Yes, that’s from Einstein-the theory of relativity.
PaCharley: Right, the theory of relativity … would you like for me to explain it to you? Of course, I don’t have enough time at the moment, but … (laughter ensuing all around)

I might have laughed hardest tonight at PaCharley’s dinner table joke. Not sure if it was the sheer humor of the joke that did it, the belly happily full of fried chicken, or the eclectic company surrounding us at the prison ministry meal. Probably some combination of it all. But it somehow made sense of my morning’s surprise sighting. A hope. A promise. A light.

Tuesday’s turn

June 20, 2018

You just never know …
I was not exactly a happy camper upon discovering we were car-less today. In our usual life, it’s no big deal to rely on feet and bicycles …that’s just, well, life. But here, in rural America, we lapse into vehicle reliance like everyone else. And not used to this particular area, we also don’t know the mechanics to trust. So the first part of the day was spent on the phone, looking at maps, and refiguring how to (and whether to attempt to!) accomplish the intended errands and business of the day. Some things just would have to go. When all was said and done, though, we found a recommended repair shop that had a space for us, we managed what was necessary, the car ended up just needing a simple tune-up, we ran into an old friend and caught up a bit … and in the midst of it all, we managed a rather too-good-to-be-true-interlude as we explored on foot …you just never know :)

monday chronicles

June 19, 2018

A girl. A hen & a chick. A relaying of my grandma’s fresh breath trick as the two of us pluck fresh parsley and munch on it. An ordinary Monday …

Memorably ordinary

June 17, 2018

Four years. And being the old farts that we are, we commemorated the day in a delightfully ordinary way. We ran. We (I) swam. We talked. We walked. We shopped. We mopped. Ok, scratch that last one. We didn’t mop …but surely no one who knows this wordy nerd is the least bit surprised by my inability to resist a rhyme …
Ok, seriously, though, the highlight of the day was a rambling conversation with our new, and future, neighbor. Virginia shared with us all the local buzz, and shared a jar of her apple butter. We hardly managed more than two words at a time during her rapid-fire oration. We learned about the neighbor whose trade is firearms and blades, and about her recently deceased relative who was a fire and brimstone preacher for decades …”Maybe you’ve heard of him…?” We shook our heads apologetically but I don’t think she noticed as by that time she had moved on to relaying the shenanigans of another neighbor’s recent party. I missed a fair bit of the details Virginia shared but, truth be told, I didn’t much care. I am smitten, still grinning ear to ear at the thought of her delightful self. Yep, pretty darn good on the anniversary celebration front!

Bring on summer!

June 14, 2018

I’ve noticed a tendency I have to feel that only the “important” or “productive” parts of my days are worth documenting for public consumption…ironic, considering the truth of things is that I am more propelled and energized by a genre of life events that I would be more apt to call “silly” in my normal self talk:
-the first sip of a perfect cup of coffee (admittedly, in my world, creamed and sugared. I so want to be a black coffee person. I so cannot seem to get myself there!)
-a good swim, when the motion of my arms and legs seems synchronized with the water flowing over and around me, and when my thoughts shift into an almost fluid flow along with my physical self.
-the feel of sun soaking into my skin after a swim, warming, soothing.
-the taste of a food I’ve missed while out of the country each year
-seeing something that makes me, and my husband, laugh together as we shake our heads in an old fart “what is this world coming to?” sort of way.
These are the sorts of things that get me out of bed in the morning. The small and the mundane. So as much as I want to do great and significant things with each of my days, and as much as I may want to put those great things out for the world to see, those great things just aren’t the things that mean the world to me.
Realizing this about myself, I’m wondering if this summer is a time to come to terms with this reality, and document the daily, no matter how trivial it may seem to be. We have the gift of a summer that is removed from the”daily grind,” as it were. We have six weeks of time to be off the school clock, to travel as we see fit, and to be with the people we are so far away from for so much of the time. What if it is right and good, in this season, to be at peace with less outward productivity, and to not be ashamed to share small goodnesses with the world, without trying to justify myself or prove how I am earning my keep in the world when not doing the 7:30 – 4:30 workday/international/service life? See, there I go again-making sure it’s obvious that summer freedom is not my normal state of being!
All that to say, I would like to do a little personal experiment this summer; namely, I want to share the mundane here, with no apologies, no justifications, and no unnecessary explanations. I will share the gifts others are giving to us, in the forms of hospitality, hosting, time, and love. I will share the small (yes, “silly,” even) things that make me smile, that lift my spirits, and that motivate. I may even share the not-so-pretty, if that is what the day brings. I don’t know for sure what it will look like, as summer brings us a lot of unknowns and needs for openhandedness (not my perfectionist, productivity-oriented, super-scheduled forte, I can assure you!). But so be it … and bring it on!

*photo of mom’s broccoli salad, which she not only makes in large enough quantities for me to consume giant bowls of upon stateside arrival, but that she also delivers to me if I am not staying at her place at any given time of any given summer

It had been a rough week. With the end of the school year looming, tension runs high and patience, too often, runs low. In our household, we were feeling the extra pressure that Peter has at this stage in the game, when one of his least favorite parts of work (running sound for performances) is amped up with occasions such as graduation to plan and orchestrate. My own library end-of-year demands are a bit less public, so my personal stress in this period tends to revolve more around a wifely-worrying mindset. I find myself torn between the desire to care for my husband’s needs and a tendency I have unfortunately discovered in my married self: an inclination to sulk when his personal state of mind makes him less attentive to my own needs!
But back to this week: specifically, to secondary chapel. Peter was at his customary post in the back, behind the sound desk. Towards the end of the chapel talk, I came over next to him to see if his water cup needed refilling. At this point, a closing prayer was announced. As heads were bowed and eyes closed, I had the urge to rub his shoulders. Beginning what I thought would be a quick rub, I then realized that this was going to be an extended period of prayer time. I decided then to take the opportunity to sneak in a good massage for him, while others were occupied with more spiritual matters, and he was stuck at his post but not needing to do anything particularly demanding for the duration of the prayer. I got into it, launching into full official massage technique mode, getting onto my tiptoes for better leverage as I kneaded and pounded. Looking up, I realized that one of the students had turned around and was watching me. She didn’t have any particularly noteworthy reaction, so far as I could tell, but is a student I get along well with; so I looked her in the eyes and nodded my head in acknowledgement of her presence. She nodded back and then, a moment later, turned back around in her seat. Should I feel guilty right now? I then wondered. Am I being a bad example while others are dutifully folding their hands and bowing their heads? Should I . . . ?
I don’t know if I should or not but, truthfully, I did not. And I still do not. Unspiritual as it may be, I cannot help but suspect that this back rub was, in itself, a prayer.