Saturday, January 29, 2011

Bad Decisions

All bad decisions have consequences and sometimes those consequences are realized immediately. For instance, I decided to come home during my lunch hour yesterday to take a nap, but I had forgotten that our landlady had hired someone to paint the upstairs hall that afternoon. I was irritated when I saw the painting van but still determined to take a nap so I went upstairs, said hello to the strange, elderly man and headed to my room. I thought he was leaving and I didn't want to wrinkle my slacks, so I stripped down to nap in my underwear. Bad decision. I didn't close my bedroom door all the way because I thought elderly, Asian man had left. Another bad decision. You can see where this is going. Mid-nap, I was awakened to creepy old man's voice calling down the hallway that he was bringing me his business card. "DON'T COME IN!!!" I yelled, just barely avoiding a very awkward, very vulnerable moment. Clearly, some bad decisions have immediate consequences.

But then there are other bad decisions in which the consequences are not felt until much later. On Thursday, three of my past bad decisions came back to haunt me. In fact, they made for the longest, most painful 30 minute walk I've ever been on.

Bad Decision #1- A few months ago I bought the following UGG sandals:
I'll be honest, I bought them because of the name brand and because I found them for 30 bucks when they usually cost 70. I realize the tiny fluff of fur on the heel is completely unnecessary, inane really, since if fur on your shoes is needed, you probably shouldn't be wearing flip flops. But I love the color teal and I love finding a good deal. Plus, sometimes I try to look cool and I thought these shoes would help in that endeavor. When I bought them, I told my friend Megan about them. She said, "Oh Katie, keep the tags on those and return them. I bought some and they are terribly uncomfortable and not worth it." If only I had listened to her.

Bad Decision# 2- On Monday, I was overly aggressive in practice. This decision has become a very costly one which my bank account and body will be paying for for the next month. We were scrimmaging and I was guarding our best player and was roughing her up a bit because she needs to get stronger. But then I went and dove for the ball and full on tackled her. She is no rag doll and shoved back. But while she walked away with a small gym burn, I pinched a nerve in my back and now have crippling pain shooting from my lower back to my toes. I typically solve the problem of pain by ignoring it but I was literally collapsing to the floor when I would step wrong so I made an appointment with a chiropractor.

Bad Decision#3- All week I was busy and tired and procrastinated. I kept putting off something that I will never put off again: getting gas. The light went on and I made the decision 4 days in a row that, "Oh, I'll get gas later." By Thursday, the light had been on all week.

Thursday afternoon was to be the culmination of my bad decisions. I finished practice and could hardly walk from the pain but was not too concerned because I had a chiropractor's appointment. As I left school I said to myself, "you should probably get gas right now." But I didn't want to have stand beside my car for 3 minutes so I put it off again. Once home, I changed into dry clothes and looked in my closet at my shoe selection. I picked up my running shoes but decided it would be too much of a hassle to put on socks that I'd have to wash later. So I put down my comfortable running shoes and picked up the teal UGGs pictured above. I had completely forgotten about them until this moment. Here was my thought process:

"Crap. Megan was right. It's been months and I still haven't worn these shoes. There really isn't ever an appropriate occasion for furry flip flops. I think I'll prove her wrong, though, and wear them today. She said they weren't comfortable but I only have to walk from the parking lot to the chiropractor's office so I'm golden. Plus, I got a pedicure last week and no one has seen my painted toes yet except my cat. I can't let these cute toes go to waste."

So I put on the UGGs. Bad decision. I drove to the chiropractor's office and about a half mile from the office, all my bad decisions caught up with me. I ran out of gas. I was in the left turn lane and my sweet, reliable, crayon-scented Jetta went kaput. I sighed, groaned, reprimanded myself and then put on my hazards and signaled to the cars behind me to go around. I sat in the middle of the road completely stuck. Here was my thought process:

"Crap. How do I get people to help me move my car? Should I stand outside my car and look confused? I wish I had worn cuter clothes. Maybe if I just keep trying to start my car, it will miraculously start again."

So I tried about 12 more times and then reached for my phone to solicit help from my roommate. Right at that moment, though, a man's face appeared in my open window. I'm not going to lie. I thought I was getting car-jacked. He was wearing a Raiders hat that covered his eyes and his sagging pants were held up by a spiked belt. Not your typical "good Samaritan." I hadn't seen him coming but suddenly, there he was with his hoodlum friend, both of whom I probably would have avoided in a dark alley, and they were pushing me to the side. I was immensely grateful and hoped he hadn't noticed my initial look of fear.

This was the time I really began to regret buying those stupid, furry flip flops. Megan was right. They are terribly uncomfortable. So much so that after about a minute, I took them off and walked, I mean limped, the rest of the half mile to the office in my bare feet. After getting adjusted, I walked to a gas station not too far away and bought a gallon of gas. However, I asked the man working to show me how to use it. Apparently, he was as clueless as I because he managed to break the lid.
While I trudged back to my car, I could only laugh at myself and how I was now paying for all my bad decisions. I was grimacing from the shooting pain in my back and left butt cheek and from the cramping in my left foot and toes as well as the pain in my right arm which I had to use to carry shoes, purse, and gas since my left side was crippled. I found myself saying aloud, "owie, owie, owie" as I slowly plodded along and all the while, gasoline was sporadically splashing all over my bare feet. At one point I passed an elderly Mexican man who clearly had lived a hard life. He looked at me, shook his head, and said, "I'm so sorry." I laughed. I won lots of pity from strangers that day but I actually didn't deserve it. I had made poor decisions and they had come back to bite me in the butt, or the back, or the feet. Whatever.

I hope I remember myself on this walk the next time I find myself at a crossroads. The next time I'm deciding to procrastinate or make a purchase and can't foresee any consequences, I hope I envision my pathetic self on that walk.

The next time I'm deciding whether or not to spend the time reading the Word or put it off one more day, I hope I remember that poor daily decisions can have long-term consequences.

The next time I'm conflicted about whether or not I should hold my tongue or get a laugh from people and slander someone, I hope I remember that all bad decisions have bad consequences.

The next time I'm debating whether I should listen to my conscience or ignore it, I hope I see myself barefoot and in pain and remember that the consequences of bad decisions might be long in coming, but they will most certainly come and wreak all sorts of havoc.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Classroom Confessions Part 3

I wish that everyone could teach high school for one year. Not because I want you to lament with me about grading and understand how hard my job is and petition for higher salaries. (It's actually not that hard.) Not because I want you to experience a kid writing "penis" on your white board in another language to see how you would react. Nor because I wish you could deal with freshman who love to make fake farting sounds during tests and will inevitably ask the same question 17 times. No, I wish everyone could teach high school for a year because I wish everyone could experience what we get to experience this next week: a new semester.

I wish everyone could experience a fresh start in their job. We get one every year and it's one of my favorite things about teaching. Well, two fresh starts if you count summer. No matter how many mistakes I've made, how many lessons I've taught terribly, or whole units I've bombed; no matter how many awful moments I experience or how many terrible classes periods I have, I know that it will end at the semester and be no more. I get a fresh start. It is hope and it is grace and it is lovely.

It is finals week and as the students walk the halls frazzled and stressed and overloaded with information, I've been leisurely cleaning my classroom- leafing through paperwork I meant to get to months ago, sorting stuff that's been piling up and looming on the side of my desk and in the back of my mind. I've been tossing lots of papers and lots of worries and de-cluttering my room and simultaneously, my brain.

A fresh start. A new beginning. A spoonful of hope and a dollop of grace. I can't wait for Tuesday when I get a fresh batch of kiddos- some new faces and some old. I get to start over with them. Not that first semester was a disaster; it actually went quite well. But now I get a chance to do it better. It matters not how terribly I did at teaching grammar last semester. I can find ways to make it more interesting and applicable this time around. It matters not how unorganized I was or how awful that essay prompt was. I have a new opportunity to create a new system and write a better prompt. It matters not that I was cranky and impatient some mornings and snapped at kids asking stupid questions. I have a new resolve to live more intentionally, overflowing with joy and patience. A fresh start. A new beginning. It really is one of the best perks in this job.

In teaching there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. I'm not just talking about Spring Break or Christmas Break or even summer, although those all do offer immense relief. I'm talking about the change in the middle of the school year. I'm talking about the hope that a new semester brings and the grace that accompanies it. I am renewed and rejuvenated and I wish that for everyone in the working world.

The slate has been wiped clean. No one cares about my mistakes from last semester. Those mistakes will probably only be remembered by me. And the quicker I can let go of them and forget, the easier it will be to move on and be a better teacher for this next semester. It sure feels biblical. Except I don't have to repent to anyone about my lack of organization.

However, I do feel the need to repent just a bit. Maybe this will help me forget about my errors and move on and have a better second semester. That being said, here are a few more

classroom confessions

* I walked into a closed door. I was proctoring an exam and not paying attention and walked right smack into the door. The kids don't even know me and they all laughed. Some pointed. I told them to shut up and get out of my classroom.

* I've come to school without combing my hair. I sleep with it in a bun and roll out of bed and do nothing to it. This happens about twice a week. In fact, I'm sporting that look today. On days such as these, I'll often wear pearls and heels to fancy myself up a bit and distract from the bed-head mess.

* I cried in front of all my classes. This is nothing new. It's not even embarrassing any more. Homeroom almost grew to expect the long awkward pauses during the morning prayer. I laughed though when one girl in fifth period said, "Oh good, we finally got to see you cry" when I read aloud the part about Kat dying in All Quiet on the Western Front. Apparently, period five had been feeling left out that I had been able to control the waterworks in their class period while I had been falling apart in period two. I was grading papers and didn't even look up to watch the last scene of The Crucible but I still lost it. Daniel Day Lewis has that effect on me.

* I mixed up the two Korean boys in period 1 all semester. They look nothing alike except for their black hair and I felt terribly racist every time I did it.

* Speaking of racist, when passing two hispanic students, I asked one a question and after he answered me, I said, "por que?...uh, I mean, why?" I know about 4 words in Spanish. Why oh why did I have to use one of them right then? Terrible.

* I imitated a peacock sound just as a fellow teacher opened my door. I blushed and he raised his eyebrows and said, "that was awesome." If you don't know what a peacock sounds like, it's similar to a child screaming for help. There was a reason I was imitating a peacock but now I can't seem to remember it.

* Right as the principal came in for a formal observation, I was in the middle of telling a joke about an owl. I really wanted to abandon the joke but could think of no clever way out so I was forced to proceed with my lameness. He probably forgot about my dumb joke-telling bit when I started singing, "physical, physical. Let's get physical." And no, this was not the day I had an averse reaction to a prescribed drug. Sometimes a girl just has to sing a little Olivia Newton John.

* I scared the class with a yawp. We were talking about the line, "I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world" by Walt Whitman. I asked them to do their best "yawp" but none were willing to give a yawp with any real gusto, so I yawped quite loudly and scared them all. I made them all try again and they were later yawping at me from across the quad. Yawping is actually quite fun. You should maybe try it.

* I laughed at inappropriate times. My immaturity amazes even me at times. A girl told me that she heard that I was "easy" and I instantly giggled. She didn't get it. I think that's a bad sign when my thought process is less mature than a 14 year old's.

* I taught my junior class the following very valuable information:

1- how to execute a face rake: when someone is telling a boring story or saying anything in general that you do not like, simply say the words, "face rake" as you comb their face with your fingers. Shuts 'em up every time.

2- how to save face once you've told a boring story: assuming no one has already raked your face, and you reach the end of your story and realize it wasn't nearly as great as you thought it was, or it was definitely one of those 'you had to be there' moments, the only way you can save face is to do the following: at the very end of the story, throw in that you then found 20 dollars. Not only does this suddenly make the story interesting, it alerts others to the fact that you realize your story just bombed and they can laugh rather than feel awkward and pity you and your lame story. Warning: I only have so much tolerance for 20 dollar story-tellers so please keep these to a minimum.

3- how to execute a grave digger: simply stick your hand right under someone's rear the moment before they sit and slightly curl your fingers. It will make them jump and squeal. Hardeman rules: if you have food or drink in hand, grave diggers are not permitted. Also, if you are the victim, you must yell, "pounder" and then can pound on their arm until they remove the grave digger.

I'm guessing my students will remember these lessons much more vividly than anything I taught them about Romanticism.

* I taught these boys how to pose like girls. They still haven't quite perfected the "pop your hip out" move that I was trying to show them but check out that sultry expression in the center.
* I taught one freshman class about chafing. The word was in our novel and someone asked what it meant. How would you explain "chafing" to 13 year olds? Maybe you would give them the proper definition but I went a different route. I chose to tell them the story of my father running in Palm Springs. It was the late 80's, a time when men wore ridiculously short shorts, and my dad went for a run and experienced chafing of the thighs. He's always taught us to be problem solvers and he solved this problem by running into Rite Aid, opening a jar of vaseline, applying a generous heap, and then running out of the store. This conversation then escalated to the topic of "bleeding nipples" and I told them about the 4 men I saw in the half-marathon with two trails of blood streaming down their shirts because of chafing nipples. I'm guessing that is an image they will remember and they'll probably never forget what "chafing" is.

Despite all these strange moments in room A1, I get a fresh start on Tuesday. I'm still destined to say and do awkward and inappropriate things. I will most likely still cry and I'll still make plenty of mistakes. But I have a chance to do things better this time round; a chance to create better lesson plans, to teach with more pizzaz, to inspire and convict and encourage with more enthusiasm. It is a beautiful thing, this second semester concept. I wish you could have one too.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Trivial Highs and Lows

I do most of my writing while lying in my giant bed, propped up by several pillows and swimming in a sea of blankets. I write at night when I've guzzled Mountain Dew during the day and am consequently quite wired and unable to sleep. Or I write on Saturday and Sunday mornings, still lying in bed, eating cookies because I'm typically starving 5 minutes after I wake up. Or I write at Panera when I'm supposed to be grading but looking for ways to distract myself because I slightly abhor grading. Or I write because my blogging friend Kimberly asks her blogging buddies to write about different topics and I use it as an excuse to write about things that aren't quite as trivial as "movie-going rules." The latest I wrote for Kimberly was about a teacher who influenced me.

Lately I've been writing at night, after having read a chapter of Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. It's a book about writing and every chapter inspires me to want to write more, to want to practice and get better. I lie in bed, lost under the covers, ready for sleep but wanting to read "just one more chapter." Then often times, like tonight, am compelled to grab my computer and get back under the covers and type. With sleep just moments away, instead, I choose to write because of Anne. She makes writing seem like such a glorious, difficult, and worthy process that after hearing from her, I am driven back to the keyboard, and forced to try to string together the words that are swimming around in my head.

In the introduction she describes herself in the following way: "I started writing when I was seven or eight. I was very shy and strange-looking, loved reading above everything else, weighed about forty pounds at the time, and was so tense that I walked around with my shoulders up to my ears, like Richard Nixon...I was very clearly the one who was going to grow up to be a serial killer, or keep dozens of and dozens of cats."

See why I like her so much? She is so real and honest and funny and so stinkin good at writing that I can't help but want to be like her. Something else she wrote in the introduction stuck with me: "One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore. Another is that writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches by and tramps around."

Indeed, I have found that keeping a blog does give me an excuse to do things and to pay closer attention to life as it passes. I experience awkward moments in a new way because I often think, "Oh this will be perfect for the blog" instead of, "Oh I wish I could bury my head in a hole right now." When talking about the oh-so-glorious process of being set up, I voiced my hesitations to my brilliant cousin who gave me some very wise counsel. My first hesitation was that this guy was too serious and not weird enough for me. She said, "Katie, he could be a closet-case of weird. You never know." I thought this was genius. I've fooled plenty of people into thinking I'm totally normal. Then she said, "And hey, you could meet and it could go TERRIBLY but then you could blog about it." So now I'm kind of hoping for REALLY bad dates to write about. Blog-worthy bad dates.

I especially love the line by Anne about life "lurching by and tramping around." Life definitely seems to be doing that lately. Because my life isn't that thrilling right now. I used to write this blog while I was living in Mozambique. Every day was a random adventure. Life wasn't "tramping around." It was boldly leaping and soaring and roaring around. There was no missing it. If I wasn't getting chased by three-legged dogs or wild elephants, I was running from potential muggers who were following me in sketchy areas of town. It was marvelous.

The only people who chase me now are my nephews. Last night they chased me around the house threatening to throw their dirty, pee-soaked diaper in my face. (Doesn't make for a great story but I did run just as quickly away from that wet diaper as I did from the rapid dog.) It took me awhile to start blogging again because I thought I didn't have any stories. Nothing to write about. Nothing bizarre or blog-worthy in the all-too-safe suburbs of southern California.

But I missed the process of writing, or rather, I missed being forced to observe. I found myself going through life and experiencing it but not really savoring it. Writing forces me to savor the flavors of life, even if they are nasty. Or rather, WHEN they are nasty because let's face it, there are some parts of life we all want to spit out. Writing forces me to stop and consider what I'm seeing or experiencing or learning and take note. And this process of "taking note" has enriched my life this year. Plus, I'm learning to search for adventure around corners, to find the bizarre in the seemingly banal, and to enjoy the mundane. I'm learning to love the ordinary. Or if not "love", at least find the humor in it.

A teacher friend was recently talking to me in the lounge about my blog. "You write about such ordinary things. You're stories aren't crazy but you make them seem crazy." On the one hand, I fear that I am glamorizing my life- making my days seem much more interesting than they actually are. But on the other hand, the hand this friend meant by her comment, I am finding joy and pleasure from the ordinary. I am observing the common, every-day experiences and finding that "common" isn't so bad- "common" can actually be amusing if you stop and appreciate it. "Common" ironically becomes "uncommon" when you hold that moment in your hand and inspect it.

On my Mozambique blog I'd often record the "highs" and "lows" of the week and there were some beautifully high highs and frightfully low lows. But the following list is neither. It's just me observing the trivial things in life that have brought me momentary pleasure or pain. It's me holding those moments, tasting them, smelling them, and then recording them so others can take note of the thousands of moments swirling around them and grab hold of a few and do the same. So, in the spirit of appreciating the common and taking note of those typical, ordinary moments which normally are ignored, here is my list of recent

Trivial Highs and Lows

High

* I made it through 2 consecutive yellow lights. It felt as if the universe was conspiring to help to get me home 1 minute faster. And it felt incredible.

Low

* The car in front of me on the freeway mistakenly kept their hazards on. This bothered me more than it probably should have but I couldn't look away from those obnoxious flashing lights and the driver did not understand that the car behind him was repeatedly flashing her brights at him for a reason.

High

* The new shopping carts at Target are fabulous. They are large and sturdy and have a perfect place to put your feet to ride it like a scooter. There is a slight hill leading from the store to the parking lot and I make it a point to always ride the cart to my car. Bad mood or not, lots of people around or not, I force myself to ride. It always cheers me up.

Low

* I started a fire in my car. Just a little one. But big enough to make me scream. No obscenities though. A Reeses foil wrapper had fallen into the cigarette lighter that I use to charge my GPS. I tried to get it out by poking it with a pen and suddenly there was a bright spark, a little shock and flames. It went out when I closed the lighter but smoked for a good while. Then I tried to retrieve the foil wrapper with a pencil. It caused another mini-fire. And another scream. I was already late and had no idea where to turn so I had solve this problem fast. So, going 80 miles per hour on the freeway, I fished out some tweezers from my purse (necessary for all stray eye brow emergencies) and with a steady hand, pretended I was playing the game Operation, and successfully removed the fire-starting foil. Moral of the story: don't leave your candy trash all over the car.

High

* I made a bet and won. I love being right. Possibly more than I love candy. When others disagree with me, I love to make bets for the sole purpose of reveling in my victory of being right. While in my car, a song came on the radio and one of my girls guessed that it was Lifehouse. I knew that it was not. So I bet her that she was wrong and set the terms: loser must bring the winner a cookie. We shook hands and googled the answer and the next day she delivered this to me:
How cute is her note? I really love being right. Especially when there are snickerdoodles involved.

Low

* I was wrong. Okay, I've been wrong a couple times but this particular time was a low because I was so certain I was right and thus, looked like a buffoon when that I wasn't. My girls were doing their homework and one asked me a math question. I am terrible at math. Really terrible. There is no reason I should have spoken with such confidence. But she asked me what 2 divided by zero was and I thought for sure I knew the answer. I said that it was 2 because you divided it by nothing. My logic made perfect sense. But she didn't trust my math skills (go figure) and posed the question to the rest of the team. They said it was zero. I knew THAT couldn't be right so I loudly declaimed that they were all wrong and I was right. I believe I used the word "suckers" somewhere in there. But then some girl looked it up and found that actually, it is "undefined." I lowered my head in shame while they all laughed. Maybe that's why Proverbs talks about the importance of holding your tongue and not boasting.

High

* Vander was a walking cannon. Can't envision it? Well picture a stark naked 4 year old boy running out of his grandparents' room announcing, "Naked boy!" First, I made him stop and do a slow motion run while I sang the theme song from Chariots of Fire. Then, just when we thought we could laugh no harder at a naked kid, he bent over, stuck his rear high in the air and did a backwards bear crawl towards us. All the while he announced, "I'm a walking cannon! I'm a walking cannon!" When asked what he meant, he explained, "Guys, I'm a walking cannon and I'm shooting my toots at you." Sure enough, we smelled the after effects of this "walking cannon" as he got closer.

Low

* A student wrote something inappropriate on my whiteboard. What's worse is the fact that I was completely oblivious because he had written it in Korean. The next day in first period, one of my Junior Korean students said, "Um, Miss Hardeman, you should probably erase that from the board." When I asked him what it said, he blushed. I shouldn't have pressed for details but now I was curious and needed to know if I should give a detention. He paused and whispered, "It says penis....but they spelled it wrong." It took every ounce of maturity not to laugh aloud. I thanked him and then talked to the guilty party later that day. I had set out two detentions and had these two freshman boys terrified. I told them I should call home to tell their parents what they had done.

They cringed.

And I should give them each a detention for such rude, disrespectful, inappropriate behavior.

They cowered.

But instead, consider this a warning and never do such a thing again.

They breathed a sigh of relief and thanked me.

It's moments like these where I love my job. Not because people write "penis" on the board in other languages. But because I have the opportunity to teach lessons about appropriate behavior and the chance to offer grace. And because it is never the same two days in a row. I was giggling inside the entire time I was talking to them about their inappropriate behavior and still don't know how I managed to keep such a straight face.

High

* My bunco group played in our pajamas. I may need to write an entire post about this group one day. An ex-member is presently in prison and another current member won the mega-lotto a few months ago. (167 million dollar check, if you were curious) We are an eclectic group. It is our fifth year and we've started having monthly "themes" and January was "pjs." I wear my pajamas in public probably more often than most, but having an excuse to do so was just plain fabulous. I was telling a teacher a story about the group and the boys' basketball coach overheard. He said, "Um Katie? You probably should never start a story with, 'at my bunco group.'" I'm certain he's just jealous.

Low

* I missed a large clump of hair while shaving. And I missed the same area about 3 times so when I finally discovered it, I had a field of curling ankle hair. I was so disgusted that I busted out the emergency tweezers and started plucking. And plucking hairs from your ankle is surprisingly painful.

High

* I saw this sign while in a hole-in-the-wall burrito joint. I waited until they turned their backs to take the picture in case I be classified as "obnoxious."
I love their specificity.

Low

The clasp on my pearl necklace broke. This might not seem like a big deal but I love these pearls. I bought them in the Philippines and they always remind me of my family still living there. Here was the real reason I was upset though: the clasp broke while I was wearing the necklace and so the necklace was stuck around my neck. I wore fancy pearls in the shower and to bed until finally, two days later, I fixed the clasp.

High

* I scared the neighbor's cat. This black and white pest has been frequenting the balcony to use Dotty's litter box. Dotty has a certain meow which communicates, "I'm looking at a cat and I don't like it," so I rushed out onto the balcony to scare it away. But then it just went on the neighbor's roof and stared at me. Mocking me. Something had to be done. So I pretended to go back inside but I crouched down low and hid behind the wall on the balcony. Dotty and I worked as a team and when she did her crazy meow, I knew it was game time. I jumped from behind the wall and made that uninvited critter jump 3 feet in the air. It was awesome. I yelled, "High five, Dotty!" and then realized I was trying to high five my cat.

Low

* The song, "I'm a barbie girl" got stuck in my head for an entire day. It was not a pleasant day. Oh dear. It's back.

High

* I tried a new flavor at Baskin Robbins and it was fantastic. The server sold me on it because I didn't even know what "ganache cake" was. But they were out of Daiquiri Ice and I love using those tiny, pink sample spoons so I got a sample and was pleasantly surprised.

Low

* The toilet seat in our house is freezing. I realize that some of you live in cold places and will have no sympathy for me here but I'm saying it anyways. Yes, it is 71 degrees today but early in the morning, that seat feels like it's below zero. I may need to invest in the "Toastie Tush" product I just found on Amazon. I'm serious.

High

* My classroom smells incredible. I brought in my candle from Anthropology because I never remember to light it at home. I know- this might not be the brightest idea considering my recent history with fires and the amount of loose papers I have flying around on my cluttered desk. But my class was smelling like cleaning supplies and now it smells like heaven. At least, I hope heaven smells like this.

Despite how it may seem, my life hasn't been terribly boring recently. There have been some more typical "blog-worthy" moments but this was me trying to savor life- trying to notice the trivial moments that stack on top of on another to create my ordinary days, and thus make up small pieces of my not-so-ordinary life.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jenny From Alaska

My dad taught me how to ride a bike on a big, blue, banana seat bike with streamers hanging from the wide-set handle bars. I don't remember much about that day- who else was there or even how old I was, but I vividly remember what it felt like the first time he let go. He'd run beside me, grasping the banana seat, and then say, "Ready?" and even if I shook my head saying, "no," he would grin and give me a push and then let go. Joy and fear and adrenaline mingled and rushed through my veins as I furiously pedaled, wanting to make my dad proud and really not wanting to fall or crash into a parked car.

This image came to mind when my parents dropped me off at Westmont my freshman year. Dixie Chicks' "Wide Open Spaces" was ironically crooning from the radio when we first drove through the gates and a few salty tears escaped and trickled down my cheeks; trickled because I saw that straggly-haired little girl on her banana seat, biting her lip, focused straight ahead as her dad ran beside her. And now, once again there was my dad saying, "Ready?" Again, the joy and the fear and the adrenaline. I wanted to make my parents proud and I really didn't want to fall or crash into a parked car.

As a young girl learning to ride, I had pedaled unsure and wobbled terribly at first. I probably took some spills onto the sidewalk but I don't really remember those. So too, that first week of college was a wobbly one. That first year, really. Because riding a bike on your own for the first time is both slightly dangerous and wildly thrilling. That potentional wipe-out lurked in the back of my mind and I missed the secure hand of my father on the banana seat. However, when I looked around that first week at Westmont, I saw lots of other potential friends pedaling by themselves for the first as well. Some feigned confidence but we all were wobbling. We were all figuring it out, some with smiles plastered on their faces and others with looks of terror because those first weeks riding solo were beautiful and freeing but slightly terrifying.

That first year of college was so bizarre because not a soul knew who I was. I was completely anonymous. Not that I was wildly popular before, but people knew who I was. The name "Katie Hardeman" used to communicate much. It used to say that I came from a well-respected family and was pretty good with a basketball. It used to communicate what I had accomplished and what I was about because the people who had watched me grow knew me. And being known brought security. They knew who Katie Hardeman was. And though they shouldn't have, their perceptions of who I was had created part of my identity and shaped how I viewed myself. But now, now no one had any perceptions of me. So who was I if no one was there to tell me? The only perceptions these new folk had of me was that I was blonde, wore shirts that were embarrassingly too short for my long torso and that were occassionally bejeweled with rhinestones.

We all were struggling freshmen, desperate to answer the question, "Who am I?" without anyone from our past chiming in to tell us. We were all pedaling on our own, striving to find ourselves- who we we truly were and who we would become. And in the midst of this self-defining year, I clung to my God tighter than ever before but I also clung to my roommate Jenny like a barnacle on a ship.

Jenny, Amy and I were randomly assigned a dorm room together because we went to bed at similar times and considered ourselves to be the same level of messy. They later confessed that they had spoken on the phone before we all met and were not thrilled about sharing a room with a "basketball player." They assumed that I would be a stereotypical jock and in some regards, I am, but then I think they relaxed when I showed up on the first day with rhinestones on my tank top.
I've since stood in both of their weddings and played with their cute and clever sons.
And I am truly baffled by our God because of these girls; baffled by a God who knew just what we'd need that freshman year. Or rather, just WHO we'd need as we were wobbling on our bikes, pedaling solo for the first time. Jenny and Amy were pedaling right beside me and their presence helped me enjoy the new-found freedom and forget about the fear- the fear of falling and of failure. We gained confidence and pedaled harder and faster and then they were right beside me when I'd wipe out, picking me up and pulling out the gravel from my skinned knees. Jenny and Amy both played major roles in my life during those four years. I shared a queen-sized bed with Amy for our entire senior year and got hours of free counseling from one of the wisest women I know. But since I just saw Jenny this past week, this post is mainly about her.

Jenny is one of those friends who, on paper, seems drastically different from me. She has zero interest in sports. I think she ran a mile once a few years ago. She called me from Grenada to tell me about it. She was a cheerleader and homecoming queen and stranger yet, she's from Alaska. Alaska, where her parents have a pet ferret, moose wander through their backyard and they have this sign in their garage, I mean "airplane hanger." Only in Alaska.
But I've mentioned before how I knew Jenny and I would be close when she suggested leaving our phone message in Russian accents. I knew right then that she was the right kind of weird and we were going to get along just fine. Because despite the cuteness oozing from her petite frame and her total lack of interest in sports, Jenny and I have a weird "soul connection." We share a lot of similar personality traits and these are magnified when we're together. We are both uncommonly quirky though not without our insecurities, and we often think on the same wave link, a wave few other people travel on. Her husband, Chris, noticed it this past week when we kept saying the same comments at the same time. We'd laugh and shrug our shoulders- it's been happening for years. She thinks of me every time she gets the runs and calls or texts me from the pot every time, without fail. We have that kind of friendship. We're admittedly a bit "different" or "odd" some might say, but our "unique" ways of thinking and living are oddly similar. We let down our walls quickly with each other because there was instant trust- like when our spirits first saw each other, they winked and grinned.

That first week of college, Jenny and I were like Siamese twins, undeniably attached at the hip. We arrived at every event together. Sometimes matching.
We climbed walls together and we went to events dressed in ridiculous get-ups together.
This was before the cell-phone era and yet, we always knew where the other was. We followed lots of routines. We'd walk to breakfast together every day singing, "ain't no mountain high enough" complete with hand motions. Then we'd eat our cereal in silence because the mornings were too early for conversation. We'd ride the shuttle to the beach every Tuesday, even when it was cold and we had to wear sweats. Then we'd strap on our uber-cool roller blades and blade to the Farmer's Market and buy flowers and then catch the shuttle back up. The first time we did this, I got a monster blister on my foot and Jenny insisted that she take care of it. (Years later she became a nurse. Go figure) So I let her pour hydrogen peroxide on my foot and poke it with a needle. Then, right as she leaned close to inspect the wound, I pressed down on the blister and squirted that nasty clear liquid right into her face and she screamed and then laughed. We were like Anne of Green Gables and Diana- bosom buddies and kindred spirits.

Jenny inspired me to live more intentionally. Freshman year, she wrote a "thesis statement" for her life which outlined how she would live and posted it above her bed. The next year she woke up every single morning and the first thing she said, without fail was, "I feel fantastic!" We lived together for four years- four marvelous, transforming, unforgettable years. She knows that I will pretend to melt if she turns on artificial lighting when it's not needed and I know that she pees with the door open and likes to eat a bite of chocolate right before bed. We never played the game of trying to appear cooler than we were, or smarter or kinder or better in any way. We just were. And in this way we were each other's confidants and teachers. I taught her not to wave at dirty men honking their horns at us and how to buy a 2 piece bathing suit while she taught me how to put others first, how to use an inhaler (though neither of us really needed one) and how to wear lipstick.
Lesley took the above picture in our sophomore dorm room and then she censored it. I have another censored picture of Lesley sporting only her underwear and cape but it seems mean to post it here although she did somehow allow the censored picture of Jenny and me to be be circulated on the boys floor. (We were horrified) Lesley joined us our sophomore year and was just as bizarre as Jenny and I; I mean, the girl wore capes on a regular basis. The three of us were once accused of travelling together like a pack of wolves. We were first offended since it was not meant kindly, but then honored because we did seem to move together like a pack and would kill for each other if it came to that. (Plus, we found it mildly ironic since the first thing my brother said to Jenny was, "You look like Wiley Coyote.") Before Jenny and Lesley married their college sweethearts, our pack tromped around the woods of Alaska as pictured below:
During those years we cried hard but laughed harder. We went on ridiculous adventures few would believe and talked about ridiculous topics few would understand. Jenny saw through all my pretenses and walls and saw who I truly was. There is something wonderful in that; something beautiful and freeing to be known so well. She knows when I'm even slightly annoyed and then laughs at me for trying to hide it. She has this uncanny ability of picking up on when I'm peeved just by reading my body language or even my tone in a text message and though it sometimes drives me bonkers that she sees through me when I'm pretending not to be irritated, I love that about her. I love that I can't pretend with her even if I want to.

Being with Jenny is like looking in a mirror- and not just because I like to buy us matching clothes. I see who I am more clearly when I'm with Jenny because she knows me so well and I can see myself through her eyes. I once caught her wearing my underwear. She was changing and suddenly looked so guilty but I didn't realize why until she confessed that she had run out of clean underwear. I think it was at that moment that I realized we had really crossed a line in typical friendship levels.

Jenny and her husband Chris now live in Santa Barbara with their remarkably funny and sweet boy Asher and their newest addition: their precious daughter Lola. I have unbelievable amounts of fun when I am with this couple. Chris is just as random as Jenny; he oozes adventure and cracks me up with antics. Plus, he'll play along when I teach them ugly face poses like this:
or this:
I spent one very memorable Thanksgiving with Chris and Jenny when they lived in Grenada:
and took a few "sick days" to hang out with them when they lived in Brooklyn.
Though I loved those long weekends of laughter and adventure, I have most loved these recent years having them live less than 2 hours away. When Jenny had her first baby, the wolf pack reconvened and brought Asher to the mission on his second day out of the womb:
Since they live so close, I can drive up for the day on Jenny's birthday to gorge ourselves on the infamous omlets of Summerland Beach Cafe, where we had always gone during college since breakfast is free for the birthday girl.
And of course we ordered a large stack of pancakes for Asher because we can never decide if we want omlets or pancakes so we pretended like the baby was hungry and then ate 1.5 meals.
Whenever I am with Jenny, I am always eating good food and I am always laughing and I am always encouraged and always edified. We've embarked on countless adventures together but we've also spent years doing nothing together so we have a knack for just "existing." My most recent visit to the Swanson household was no different. We ate giant burritos and scrumptious cupcakes and then downed some Famous Star burgers at Carl's. We sat around their table for 2 hours engaging in some of the most random conversation I've ever been a part of. At one point Chris called WalMart in Anchorage, Alaska to ask if they sold Tiger Tails. That's another thing I love about these two- you never know what to expect with them.

The purpose of my visit was to meet the tiny and beautiful Lola who was growing in the NICU but came home today!
Jenny is an amazing mother with amazing perspective- it was no easy task to have to leave her lil Lola in the hospital.
Lola is pretty incredible and though she is small, I fear my giant man-hands make her appear smaller than she actually is. As I held her, I was reminded of what a marvelous miracle each baby is. And Lola is one stinkin cute miracle.
After hanging out with Lola, we took Asher to the zoo where we imitated the smelly flamingos,
saw parrots doing some inappropriate things, and then hung out with the giraffes.
It was a fantastic day but here's the sad part. The Swansons are moving to Alaska in a few months. This came as no surprise to me and I am genuinely thrilled about the opportunities for them. But selfishly, I'm sad. Sad because despite their efforts to convince me to move to Alaska, I most likely will never live near them again. Sad because I won't be able to be "sick" for a day to drive up on Jenny's birthday. Sad because I won't be able to go to any more of Asher's birthday parties or be at any of Lola's. Sad because well, because my bosom buddy is moving to Alaska which feels as far as the moon.

During that first week of college, we were all quick to slap labels on each other. We did it for identification purposes since our names meant nothing. And we did it based on the little information we knew of one another. Jenny and I called one poor boy, "pensive Adam" for four years behind his back because we caught him looking into the distance on several occasions. I think I was "Katie who plays basketball" and Jenny was "Jenny from Alaska." (Actually, Lesley and I secretly called her 'Jenny with bangs' because in 2000, she was one of the only girls still rockin bangs) Eventually these titles slipped away as we built identities for ourselves. Our names began to communicate more than just where we were from or what we did. They communicated who we were. Jenny Hultquist, aka "Jenny from Alaska" or "Jenny with bangs" later became "my roommate, Jenny" then "my bosom buddy, Jenny" and then she tied the knot and became "Jenny Swanson, my college roommate whom I love to visit because she is always living in exotic places." And although now she returns to her "homeland" of Alaska, she will always be so much more to me than "Jenny from Alaska."

Because Jenny is one of those "forever" friends. One of those friends I plan on laughing with as our hair turns grey. One those friends I trust completely. One of those friends who shows me who I am. One of those friends I can share all my secret fears with and my hopes and my heart and my underwear. And though I'm sad about her leaving, I now have a wonderful reason to frequent the great state of Alaska.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Recommendations

A few recent discoveries have changed my life and I feel it is my responsibility as a blogger and as a Christian to pass on these tips to improve your life as well.

1. TOMS shoes. I don't mean to appear cool or trendy by promoting these shoes that are actually quite cool and trendy but they are marvelous. They make me dance and leap when I wear them. Literally. (But only when I'm in the teachers lounge or classroom or kitchen by myself) I don't know if they have the same effect on all their users, but I can't help but twirl and prance like a ballerina when I wear them. My parents got me a pair for Christmas and though some might consider them way too casual to teach in, I wear them about once or twice a week to school. My students think I'm cooler because I wear them but that's not why I do it. I wear them because they are so comfortable. The tile in Hall A can be quite slippery, as I've discovered the hard way, but these shoes enable me to cross-country ski down the halls. I love it. Oh and the company gives away a pair of shoes to a kid in a third-world nation when you buy a pair. Let's be honest though, that's not what motivated me. I just liked them. My brother, always the cynic, tells me that not only are they expensive and ugly and lacking in support, Sketchers now does the same thing and gives away TWO pairs of shoes to poor kids. To him I say, "Good grief, Charlie brown. Lay off my cute, comfy shoes that are making me cooler than I actually am. Plus, Sketchers are lame."

2. Kindle. Another Christmas present and another discovery that has increased my happiness levels exponentially. I used to keep a book with me at all times (you never know when you'll need one) but now I carry 10 with me and it is marvelous. I can read in traffic and long lines, in gyms and on long bus rides. Life is better with books and even better with a Kindle.

3. Flat bread at Subway. Kelsi, my assistant coach, introduced me to this hidden treasure and I'm never going back to regular Subway bread. Now I can actually taste the meat and cheese that previously were lost in my giant bites of pure carbs. Not that I was concerned about the carbs; I just wanted to taste the cheese. I added a new addition to my vegetable variety as well. Cilantro. So small and so delicious. Granted, I typically end up with it stuck in my teeth but that's why I carry floss with me at all times. Floss and 10 books.

4. Power balance wristband. I'll be honest. I'm not totally sure how well it works. Trent did tests to show me how when I wear it I am more flexible and stronger and have better balance. When scrimmaging against my girls, I have found myself a bit stronger and have been making some crazy left-handed hook shots but I'm not sure if I should credit those moves to the band or sheer luck. I'd like to believe it was the magic band. However, the first day I wore it, I did two, not one but TWO, face plants. One while I was explaining to someone why I was wearing it. I think that classifies as irony. The second time I was running from my nephews while playing "Go Hide n Seek" as Vander calls it. They tend to cheat and only count to five so I really have to boogie to get a good hiding spot. However, I tried to sprint through the kitchen in my new TOMS and ate it pretty hard. Hudson immediately tackled me while I lay on the kitchen floor laughing. I also confess, that I partly wear it because I think it's cool. Can I admit that here? I will. Sometimes I want people to think I am cooler than I am. So I wear things like TOMS and power balance wristbands. I probably won't admit that to your face, though.

5. Parks And Recreation. Not the actual places. The show. It just came back on and my Thursday nights of pure comedy are complete again. I never actually watch on Thursday nights but it is part of a pretty phenomenal line-up of laughter. (I use Hulu which you should probably know about. I won't include it on my list of recommendations because I assume most people know about it and I don't want to pull another, "Hey you guys, have you heard of Pandora?" when everyone knew about it for at least 3 years before me. But grandma, grandpa, if you don't know about Hulu, look into it) On last night's first episode Amy Poehler gives a motivational speech while she plays the theme song from Chariots of Fire in the background. Rob Lowe, who plays a ridiculously intense character, sobs. I laughed so hard I scared my cat. Plus, the "Swanson Pyramid of Greatness" was incredible. Dad, you will love this Bobby Knight/Johnny Wooden wanna be.

6. James Horner. He will change your life for the better. I promise it. Well, maybe not for everyone, but some of you will really like this. I discovered him when I bought the Avatar soundtrack (can you see why I need to wear things to increase my coolness factor?) He does the music for epic movies like Braveheart and Titanic and his station includes songs from such classics as The Gladiator and Dances with Wolves. I programmed him as a new Pandora station just today and have been thinking all day, "my life will never be the same." Maybe I'm exaggerating but I LOVE this music. It is inspirational and makes grading essays kinda fun. I've been playing the game, "guess which movie that's from?" with myself all afternoon. I confess that I usually cheat but I guessed one was from Pirates of the Caribbean and I cheered aloud for myself. (Only got one strange glance) Maybe you aren't into inspirational music. Maybe you prefer music with words. Suit yourself. But if you're looking for a fun game to play with your friends or want to be inspired and feel like your boring, banal existence is actually as adventurous and epic as the movies, create a James Horner Pandora station. He will not disappoint.

How about you? I've shared six of my life-altering recommendations. You have any for me?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Movie- Going Rules

I am a bit of a regular at the movie theaters. That may be putting it lightly. I'm the type who has a Regal card and is continually racking up points for free movies and free small drinks. I purposely go to the movies on Tuesdays for dollar popcorn days. (for card-carrying folk only) I'm the type who often goes to the movies by myself and sometimes even prefer to be alone. I love to feel like I'm actually IN the story and if my chatty Kathy friend is giving me her running commentary, I cannot fully engage. Plus, sometimes none of my friends or family will enjoy the weird movies I want to see. And there are the other times I'm just plain ashamed to admit I want to see a movie. (I saw The Hangover and laughed myself silly at very inappropriate jokes and felt no judgment from the strangers I was surrounded by) I'm also the type who usually sees a double feature and occasionally will hop to three or four movies in one day (like I did with my dad on Christmas day. Our goal is to one day see five).

I have countless fond memories inside these full-screen wonderlands. In high school, while other kids were dancing at cool parties, I donned my pajamas and brought a pillow to the theaters. In college, I found a group of fellow Westmont students who also loved Harry Potter and we all saw the first midnight showing together though we had never previously met. (It was a magical night until my coach found out I was at the movies until 3 AM the night before a game and ripped me a new one. Totally worth it.) I went to the movies in Mozambique by myself even when I didn't understand a word and there were no subtitles. I planned my trip to visit Jenny in New York based on the weekend Eragon was first released in theaters. (don't judge- those dragon books are delightful) I made Trent go to the movies with me when we were in Ireland and we missed the infamous match between Federer and Nadal that was supposedly "the best tennis match of all time." He was beyond livid when he realized we missed it because we were at the movies and said, "Katie, we will admit this to no one. We will watch the replay and go to our graves claiming to have seen this match live." Sorry sucker. Wasn't Hancock worth it though?

I've sat in midnight showings and midday showings, waited in countless bathroom lines, and snack lines and of course the infamous Twilight premier lines. (We waited 8 hours. Worth every butt cramp and vampire-crazed, teeny bopper scream) I love everything about the theaters and clearly, I've spent a lot of time inside them. I feel this wealth of experience gives me some authority in matters pertaining to rules for the theaters.

Of course, the theaters have their own set of rules, several of which are made to be broken. However, there is a set of unwritten rules that is now, for the first time to my knowledge, being written. I confess, that I have broken several of these rules. However, I felt the necessary amout of guilt and shame that I fear many oblivious movie-goers do not feel when they break them. So here is my public service announcement, my attempt to make the world a better place....at least for the easily annoyed such as myself.

Movie-Going Rules

1) Make yourself invisible. I am not an anti-social hermit. I like people. I really do. I like people watching in long lines and I like packed theaters because of the ambiance it creates. However, for me to completely engage in a movie and reach maximum levels of movie-going enjoyment, there are several moments when I need to forget that you exist. I don't mind hearing you laugh as long as it is in appropriate moments and isn't too loud or obnoxious. I don't mind hearing you gasp if the movie warrants a gasp. I don't even mind hearing you cry softly or even sniffle- especially in movies like Marley and Me, but don't get carried away. (All I remember about I Am Sam is my friend Lori sobbing uncontrollably. It was funny because she's my friend and we all were crying but sobs are typically highly frowned upon. Sorry Lor) Basically, I want to forget that you are next to me. I need you to disappear. You're in your bubble. I'm in mine. We're all happy.


This becomes quite tricky though when you are forced to sit a few inches from me. In such a case, here are some guidelines for disappearing: Don't put your arm on our shared barrier. If the cupholder between you and your friend is available, don't you dare use the one between us. Don't cross your leg over into my space. Don't laugh louder or longer than everyone else. Don't even think about talking to the characters. And don't share opinions of the previews loudly enough so I hear them. By all means, form opinions on previews and share them with whomever you came with. This is one of my favorite parts about the movie-going experience. How can you see the trailer for The Roommate and not have a comment? However, these comments must be made at the volume of a hushed whisper as you lean into the receiver's bubble. I don't want to hear your comments unless I came with your or they are really funny.


2) Choose your seat wisely. Breakage of this rule is a serious violation- enough to win you a glare from me, a scoff, and I might even get up and move in silent protest of your idiocracy. It is a tricky rule, however, because it changes depending upon the amount of people in the theater. Let me break down the scenarios:

a. Half- 3/4 full theater. Don't you dare sit right next to me. If there are plenty of seats available, the one seat buffer is the absolute minimum space requirement. If possible, make it two. Back to the bubble anaology- the farther away you are from me, the less chance I will have of noticing your existence. Women nation-wide are privy to this rule and have been putting their purse on the seat next to them for a reason. But if I don't put my purse there, please don't take it as an invitation to enter my space.

b. Packed theater. The rules completely change in this scenario. In this case, if you leave the one seat buffer and/or put your purse down to ensure a buffer, you are a grade A buffoon and selfish B. That's right. A "B." People will be floundering as they search for contiguous seats and they could have perfect seats but you, you went and tried to create the buffer. Not allowed, my friends. This is not allowed. This peeves me so greatly that I will sometimes purposefully find two people who have created a buffer in the same row, will ask if that seat is taken, and then ask the entire row to move over. Typically, I would hate "stepping on so many toes" but I'm so worked up by the indecency of the seat buffers, that I don't care. I actually did this on Christmas day which is part of the reason I didn't feel too badly about my neighbor smelling my smelly roast beef sandwich. (I'll explain in rule 6) She tried to create the buffer in a packed house. She got her just desserts and had to move and then sit next to me, the girl who not only brought in a smelly sandwich, but got a case of violent hiccups that shook all the seats close by.

c. Empty- 1/2 full theater. Don't come near me. Don't come in my row. Don't come right behind me. And don't you dare go right in front of me so I can't put up my feet. One moronic woman did this to me and I did the half snort/half "I can't believe you just did that" laugh and then moved up a row. I'm sure she felt the weight of my judgment and never did this again.

3) Go to the bathroom BEFORE the movie so you don't have to climb over me. The space between rows is ridiculously tiny. Even for the thinnest of movie-goers, walking past someone sitting in a theater is going to be a struggle. It's not as bad as on a plane, but inevitably will cause a bit of awkwardness. So I recommend that we all take preventative measures and buy snacks and go pee before the movie. And know your bladder size. If it's not very large, please don't get the very large coke.


4) Climb over me with caution. There will be times when this awkward manuever is completely unavoidable. In my perfect world, it wouldn't happen because everyone would sit in the middle first and then fan their way out to the aisles, but I realize these expectations are unrealistic. So when you do have to put your butt or crotch just a few inches from my face, please proceed with caution. First, make me aware of your presence and give me a moment to move my purse and scootch back as far as possible. (I confess I didn't always follow this rule and I once kicked over a rather large lady's coke. She was not happy. I honestly thought I was going to get punched.) Then, after you've made your presence known, get by me in one step. No use prolonging this awkward dance with you baby-steppin past me. It's your call if you prefer to put your butt or crotch in my face. I personally face the victim so I can give the apologetic look while I scoot by and because I'm clumsy and fear that I'll lose my balance and end up sitting on their lap.


5) Eat quietly and at correct times. Popcorn is delicious and should be had by all while at the theaters. (Try throwing in some junior mints- it's like a chocolaty, minty surprise in each bite.) However, that buttery goodness can be loud and I do not want to hear you chewing. Ever. Throughout most of the movie, it is loud enough for you to chomp away. So go ahead. Grab ridiculously giant handfuls of popcorn and go to town. Some stray kernels will inevitably stick somewhere on your clothes but don't be embarrassed; it happens to all of us. However, there are certain moments when you are not allowed to chew freely:

a. in between previews. There is that terrible 3 second delay between trailers when there must be complete silence in the theater. Complete silence. I've often held my breathe during this delay. This is NOT the time to munch on your popcorn. If you've already put at bite in your mouth, you must either wait it out or suck the crunch out of the bite and then swallow it soggy. Those are your only two options.

b. during tragic or sad scenes of the movie that are very quiet. If I'm crying as Woody, Buzz, Rex, and friends hold hands and prepare to die together, I do NOT want to hear you chewing your food. There was a long, quiet conversation in Country Strong in which I held a bite of taco in my mouth for 2 minutes. It was disgusting, but I am considerate. I recently brought an apple to the movies. Unconventional I know, but it was a three-movie day and popcorn and candy was not going to cut it. I needed some substance. Kevin James has some words for people like me in this clip but I don't care. (starts at minute 5) Sometimes a girl needs some fruit when watching a movie. However, I realized it was a risky move because of the loud crunch factor. So I only took bites during very loud moments and other than the core that I may or may not have thrown under my seat, no one had a clue that I had devoured an apple during the movie.

Last year my roommate and I saw This Is It. I'm sure it was fabulous. I vaguely recall enjoying it. However, what I remember most clearly was the colleague we saw the movie with. He chomped at every quiet moment. I was appalled. Having no previous conversation about this unwritten rule, I was much relieved when my roommate said, "Gosh, did you hear him chewing? Doesn't he realize that no one eats right then?" (See, I'm not crazy. Or my roommate is too. Whatever.) We later informed our ignorant colleague of the moments when he is not allowed to chew his popcorn. He had no idea. This is why this announcement is so important.

6) Don't bring in smelly food. By all means, bring in your food. This is one of those "written rules that should be broken." Those prices are ridiculously exorbitant and I die a little every time I come unprepared and have to fork over 3 bucks for a box of MnMs. My college roommate and her husband have been known to sneak in family-size meals from Taco Bell which is acceptable because tacos don't smell too strongly. Beware of the hard shell crunch, though.

I don't feel badly about this little "rule-breaking" because the theaters don't offer much of a "food" selection. Hot dogs scare me in general and other than at ballparks, I feel it's taking a leap of faith to buy a hot dog from anywhere else. Nacho cheese and I have never gotten along and the other options look down right disgusting. 8 dollars of disgusting. No thank you. And sometimes popcorn just isn't enough- especially if you're pulling a 10 hour day at the theaters. So come prepared but don't you dare bring in something smelly. Egg rolls? Think again. Teriyaki chicken? I don't think so. Chinese food in general? Probably not. Again, you're in your bubble; I'm in mine. And I don't want the odor of your bubble to waft over into mine.

I confess that I recently broken this rule. I blame my selfish, sinful nature. It was Christmas and I wanted to enjoy good food on Christmas, even if I was in the theaters. So I packed my dad and I homemade roast beef sandwiches. I heated up the roast from Christmas Eve dinner and made one of the best sandwiches I've ever had. However, we were in a packed house watching True Grit when I opened my sandwich bag and the strong scent of roast beef filled the theater. I cringed a bit and noticed the lady next to me kept glancing at my sandwich. I felt the necessary amount of guilt and shame and then I savored every bite of that goodness. I tried to avoid all eye contact the lady next to me since I knew I had broken a rule and entered her bubble, but at the end of the movie, she said, "Where did you find that sandwich? It looked delicious." Apparently her glances my way were envious ones, not hateful. She is more gracious than I.

7) Put your phone away. This is one rule the theaters already have that I stand firmly behind. And occasionally even enforce. Your ringer had better be turned off. In fact, I don't even want to hear your phone vibrating. I saw Avatar with my parents and during the one awkward and quiet alien sex scene, suddenly "the voice of truth" was singing loudly from my mom's purse. She tried to pull the, "it's not mine" routine and stared straight ahead but she was sandwiched between my dad and me, two people who will not let that slide. We both elbowed her and she fumbled around until Casting Crowns had sung their chorus three times, and though it was probably excruciatingly obnoxious for the rest of the theater, I actually wasn't too bummed. Normally I'd be annoyed, but this time I wasn't because I momentarily forgot that I was sitting by my parents watching giant, blue aliens have sex so I was thankful for any distraction. When my mom later checked her missed calls, she discovered that the timely call had been from my dad. A good ol' fashioned pocket call. These two are going to be trouble in their sixties.

Oh and if you're going to try to sneak a text in during the movie, watch your head. I will throw junior mints at you. How have some people still not caught on to the fact that your phone lights up when you're reading or sending a text? And the theater is pitch black. I can see your stupid phone from 50 rows away if you're sitting lower than I am no matter how hard you try to cover the glare. And for some reason, I can't stop staring at that tiny little light until it goes away. So can you please stop? The world can spin on without you for 2 hours. Please people, put your phones away. Better yet, leave 'em at home.

8) Clapping for a movie is allowed in extreme cases only. I've added an eighth rule because my friend Katie hates odd numbers and because while I sat in two movies last night, I realized another crucial rule. Clapping for a movie- when can you do it? I'm glad you asked.

a. Midnight showing of Harry Potter or Twilight? Go ahead and put your hands together before AND after the movie. When you've waited for months for a movie to be released and then waited for hours to see it, you should be pretty pumped and clapping is totally appropriate. Everyone is excited. However, keep your cat-calls to a minimum. Let's cheer together at the beginning but once the dialogue begins, zip it please.

b. The movie must be epic. Not just really good or great. It must be phenomenal. While my roommates saw The Black Swan last night, I saw The King's Speech. Since I had an extra half hour, I sat in the last part of The Dilemna. I typically love Kevin James and Vince Vaughn but I had just come from The King's Speech, a spectacular drama, so I felt dumb and disappointed watching the drivel that was this attempt at a comedy. It was truly awful in my opinion and I regretted not waiting in the lobby and reading my book. What's even worse is that people clapped at the end. Clapped for this waste of time. I think I may have subconsciously shot them a dirty look. You cannot clap for crap. Comedies rarely warrant claps. Laugh yourself silly but you can only clap if the movie was epic- which comedies rarely are.

c. There must be a packed houses, or at least 3/4 full theater. Lots of people is a necessary ingredient when deciding if you should clap or not. The mob mentality feeds this urge to clap. I think that is why those bozos in The Dilemna couldn't help themselves. Do you clap for an epic movie that you've rented? If you do, know that you're kinda weird. Most of us don't though, because we need the company of at least 50 others agreeing that this movie was indeed epic and did move us all. When you've laughed and cried and sighed together and been genuinely touched by a movie, clapping together seems appropriate. It's as if you are acknowledging as one body, "We just experienced a remarkable journey together and we are thankful for it." The King's Speech was indeed an epic movie- though perhaps I loved it so much because I'm a sucker for historical movies. It typically would warrant a clap but not on this night. Why not? There weren't many people in the theater. One person clapped at the end and I felt super awkward for them. I wanted to say, "I agree- awesome movie. But there's not enough of us on this journey to warrant a clap. Sorry guy."

I realize my list is a bit lengthy and I may sound a bit ridiculous, but if the world would follow these eight rules, life would be a little greater. Help me out if I forgot any rules. Do you agree with any of these or am I being completely inane?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Meg n Mere

I had the pleasure of introducing the chapel speaker on Wednesday. She needed no introduction since she's a bit of a celebrity in these parts, but I consider her a dear friend and used my 2 minutes with the mic to let the kids know what kind of friend Megan is: the kind that has a love for Jesus that seeps out of her pores. And the kind who convinces you to prank someone by peeing in their water bottle.

Many of the teachers at Valley had Megan in class and her science teacher and I had lunch duty together the next day so we were swopping Megan stories and he said something that stuck with me.

"Friendships like that make life rich."

I smiled when he said it because truly, I am one of the richest girls in the world. My life is full, overflowing really, because of the friendships I have. This journey has been immensly "rich" because of the girls who have walked beside me. Or run beside me, sat, skipped, and jumped beside me.

Everyone claims they have really great friends. The cool thing is, to us- they are just that: really great. Another's group of friends might bore me to tears but my group is just right for me. It's like they're my own personal flavor at Cold Stone. Others might think Vanilla and Chocolate with Reeses and carmel isn't perfect, that it's too plain or simple, but it is the perfect amount of flavor and texture for me, the perfect amount of laughter and accountability.

These friends have not only gone through life by my side; not only have they laughed with me and danced with me and sang, pulled pranks, and pranced in rain with me. They've molded me. God fashioned my heart and created me and He continues to shape and recreate who I am, but He often uses the hands of several hilarious, God-fearing girls to do so.

Two such girls played crucial roles in the remolding process while in college. They were teammates but much more than teammates; they became sisters and pointed me to God and to the straight and narrow path time and time again by their words and the ways they lived. We were reunited for Megan's wedding and though our time was brief rather than the concentrated days, weeks, and months we shared in college, I was reminded of they gift they have been to me. I was reminded of the years of laughter we shared but also how a bond was formed during those formative years that I doubt can be broken. Something about living so close, seeing each other every day, eating cafeteria food together and riding busses together; something about spending hours together in the gym or the weight room or airports or restaurants and experiencing life so closely together every day, seems to make that friendship bond infallibly strong.

The last time the three of us had been together was along with our quirky fellow teammate, Katie who I wrote about here, when we flew to Houston for Meredith's wedding 5 years ago. Megan and I had been introduced as, "Meredith's friends who can really eat." We were flattered. Megan wrote a remarkable song for the bride and groom which she performed at the wedding and I did what I do best and caused a scene without meaning to. I left the bathroom completely unaware that abnormally long strips of toilet paper had attached to each of my heels. I walked past a large group of men with strange facial expressions and turned to find Megan and Katie both doubled over laughing so hard they couldn't speak. We spent that weekend in Houston like we did in college, laughing and laughing and laughing some more. Now, five years later, Megan took her first steps on this same journey called "married life" and Mere and I sat side by side with mile-wide smiles and lots of giggles throughout the ceremony.

I had to leave early from the wedding to coach our game so sadly, I did not get pictures with the blushing bride, but if you are like me and enjoy seeing other people's weddings, watch this video. It's the best wedding video I think I've ever seen.

Today Megan speaks at high schools around the country. She is bold and fearless and filled with the Spirit. She is a gifted speaker and has an energy and passion that even Red Bull can't fathom. Like Red Bull, hanging out with this girl will give you wings. She is crazy and hungry for life and for fun but more importantly, for God. And her hunger is contagious.

In college though, her faith was still being refined. I marvel at the work God has done when I consider the wild and silly girl from 2002 who has become the wild and silly yet wise and focused woman of 2011. I have zero normal pictures with Megan from college. If we were on the bus, we were making faces and playing rock-paper-scissors, best out of 50.
Or if the team was playing in an out-of-state tournament, were playing in the hotel room and putting on surprisingly painful, self-heating facial masks.
Mere and I are two years older than Meg so we played our first two years together and didn't think we could possibly have any more fun or laugh any harder than we had. But then Megan joined the team. Megan is one of those girls who is known everywhere she goes because she is so bizarre and outragous and so dang funny. Mere and I got a glimpse however, that most of the crowds don't get. We got to know Megan's heart- to see her hurt and cry and struggle as she grappled to find her identity in those first years of college.

Megan was (and continues to be) a ball of raw energy in college. After hanging out with her it felt a bit like a tornado or the Tazmanian devil had swirled by: we were left exhausted, possibly injured, and with incredible memories. I already had a hunger for adventure in college but Megan fed that hunger. When I was tempted to hole myself up in the library and study, Megan pried my fingers off the books and convinced me to skateboard in the middle of the night or sneak into Steve Martin's backyard where we discovered treasures you cannot even imagine. Need proof? We found a guillotine, giant slides, fences made out of bikes and this giant rubix cube:
Megan has a knack for making ordinary days memorable. She is searching for fun and adventure around every corner and when it doesn't exist, she creates it. Her bachelorette weekend was as unconventional as she is and we got quite a few raised eye brows when we went to a fancy schmancy spa with our faces and clothes splattered in paint. She documented that little adventure here. She threw a second annual "Prom" for a New Year's Eve party complete with balloon arches, punch, a DJ, and a prom king and queen. Here are some pictures from that memorable night:
Me with Megan and Rachel, the two phenomenal prom planners.
Jumping for joy with my brother Travis and sister-in-law Emma.
Emma and I had quite the afternoon shopping at thrift stores for our dresses since we don't have our original prom dresses. We also had quite the time doing "shake face" pictures.
I also dragged my poor roommates to this random adventure. They might not appear thrilled about it here but they loved wearing these disgustingly poofy and sparkly dresses.

Every time I see Megan these days I am guaranteed two things: I will laugh and I will think. Yes, she is hilarious and wildly random, but she also is intentional and insightful and asks great questions, the kind that don't allow you to be fake or surfacy. My last two years of college were made wilder and more memorable because of this wonderfully unique friend.

Then there's Meredith.

Meredith and I have a friendship and a closenss that might confuse those who know us both. She is classy and lady-like, fasionable, and sophisticated with such a soft femininity that it truly is odd that she and I, a girl who wears sweatpants more often than jeans and makes "that's what she said" jokes probably a little too often, would become such inseperable friends. She was offended when I told her brother's girlfriend that she is high maintenance but she can't deny it. (although high maintenance people always seem to do just that) Meredith brought out the "girly" inside of me. She taught me how to wear jewelry and convinced me to shower after our games and wear normal, cute clothes every once in awhile. (Normal and cute in 2000 ironically meant overalls)
I still remember the day we both accidentally dressed as twins and I refused to let her change because I found it so humorous. While she brought out my "softer" side, I brought out her wild and "inappropriate" side and made her laugh at things like horse poo:
We rubbed off on each other in beautiful ways and I see now how God was using the both of us to mold us into the women we would become. She taught me that joy is a choice and when I was angry or frustrated in a game and most people were terrified of me, she would call me out on it and tell me to choose joy. She is brave and bold and I hope a little of that rubbed off on me as well. She taught me about accountability and honesty in friendship and she freely shared her Texas-sized opinions with me when I was being foolish so I freely shared my own when she was dating the wrong guy. We connected on a spiritual level and though we talked about boys and basketball a lot, we talked about God much more. We were on similar spiritual journeys, both seeking more of Him and struggling with complacency and insecurities, and thus we became partners on our journeys to know and desire God more. We had a common love for basketball and getting tan but it was our common thirst for Him is what bonded us. We made countless memories together but it was our mutual love for Christ that differentiated our friendship from the other girls we'd laugh with.

I still remember the first time I ever heard the song, "I Can Only Imagine." I was in her parent's home in Houston when she played it for me and I cried and cried and we talked about our longing for heaven. Meredith was always doing that- she was always pointing me to heaven. When I had played terribly and was feeling discouraged, it only took a brief walk to the locker room with Mere to cheer me up. She would say something, just the right thing, to make me laugh and remind me why I'm on the planet. She was like my own personal compass, constantly pointing me back to God and my true purpose when I tried to search for my identity in basketball.

After college, despite my efforts to convince her to stay in sunny southern California, she moved back to Houston- that hot, sticky city full of big hair and big trucks, and well, big everything. She has two absolutely adorable kids, Jake and Olivia, who both have big eyes and big smiles and she has a third on the way. She is a marvelous mother and clearly is living in a VERY different stage of life than I am right now. I hadn't seen Mere in about 2 years. However, when she came into town for Megan's wedding, we curled our hair together and chatted and laughed and confessed and encouraged like we were still "bus buddies" travelling home from a basketball game together. (I have lots of matching pictures with Mere. This one was from Midnight Madness and Mere, always trying to be taller, was on her toes and me, always being a punk, went up on mine as well so she'd still look short)
We've both changed remarkably since our college years. We laugh about how if we had to do it all over we would have worn sun screen and hats and we wouldn't have frequented the tanning beds. But as my wrinkles begin to emerge, I hope I don't grow self-conscious. Rather, I hope I see them and remember all the hours I spent laying on the beach with Mere, or at the pool, or by the library. I hope I laugh about the time a girl hit on her while we sunning. I hope I smile as I think about how we were "burning off our zits" in the tanning beds. Because it wasn't just the sun that left unchangable marks on us, we left marks on each other; we are permanently changed by our years together. And even now, 6 years after our graduation, we still tend to dress oddly similar.
Both Megan and Meredith played critical roles in the formation of who I've become. Both pointed me to adventure and fun but also to Jesus. Both have made my life rich. Deliciously rich, indeed.