Saturday, April 30, 2011

More food confessions

Today I went to the grocery store to stock up on necessities for the week. I came home with the following:



Fruit Loops

Tina Fey's new book

water balloons

a discounted chocolate Easter bunny

You may have realized by now that I'm not exactly what you'd call a "healthy eater." My roommate and I chaperoned prom last night (details later) and at one point during the dinner she looked at my plate and said, "Good work, Katie. You ate the broccoli."

I was glad someone had noticed. However, my stomach hurt later that night and I'm pretty sure it was because of the vegetables.

I was thinking about my eating habits today as I warmed up a tamale for lunch. I recalled the first time I had a tamale. I was 22. I tried to eat the corn husk.

Unfortunately, this little mishap happened in the teacher's lounge at my first job. The history department got quite a kick out of it. Later that year, they were not terribly surprised when I learned the hard way that tin foil cannot be put in the microwave. So I caused a tiny kitchen fire. No big deal. No one was hurt.

Here are a few other food confessions:

Age 16. I learned that a "girl" cheese sandwich is actually a GRILLED cheese sandwich. I blame my family and their lack of enunciating all those years. Unfortunately, I learned this lesson when I tried to be funny in the lunch line at my new school and ordered a "boy cheese sandwich."

Age 17. I learned that a mai tai is an alcoholic drink. I was in Hawaii with my friend Stefanie and her parents and after an exhausting afternoon of catching waves on our blow up rafts, Stef and I met her mom by the pool and were both parched.
photo taken straight from the scrapbook we made on the plane ride home

Stef asked for a drink of what her mom was drinking. Then her mom offered me some.

"What is it?"

"A mai tai."

"What's that?"

"It's a bunch of fruit juices combined."

"Cool. Yes please."

I naively took a giant swig and came very close to spewing it all in her face. I made a terrible face that I still make every time I try alcohol.

"That is THEE grossest fruit juice I have EVER tried!"

Once they stopped laughing at my contorting face, they told me about the rum. Not cool, Mrs. Schilling. Not cool.

Age 19. I learned that hot peppers are more than hot; they are crippling. My roommate Jenny dared me to take a bite of a habanero chili in the grocery store. I didn't think it was that big of a deal. It was small and a pretty shade of orange. How bad could it be?

I couldn't feel my tongue for two days.

Age 20. I learned that cabbage looks an awful lot like lettuce but does not taste like it. My dad sent me to the store to get ingredients for the famous Hardeman tacos. I came home with cabbage. I made this same mistake at age 26 while in Mozambique. Both times I ate the cabbage thinking, "Man, this lettuce sure is rubbery."

Age 26. I learned that fish and chips is actually fish and fries. I always thought it was a bit bizarre that people would eat fish with potato chips and I'm not a fan of potato chips in general so I had never ordered this meal. That is until I was on Spring Break in Cape Town and all my friends were ordering fish and chips. Apparently I can be a follower sometimes. I was pleasantly surprised with the massive mound of fries on my plate and then a little pissed that no one had ever told me that chips is code for fries.

I realize that I've now written two posts about food in one week. Don't worry, I'll try to keep it to a one post per week minimum.

Time to eat that sprinkled donut I've been saving and continue reading Bossypants. Speaking of, I have to share my favorite line from the book so far because I relate to it all too much. After listing parts of her body that she is grateful for, Tina writes:

"I would not trade any of these features for anybody else's...I wouldn't even trade the acne scar on my right cheek, because that recurring zit spent more time with me in college than any boy ever did."

Mine's on the left cheek though.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Actual Boogie Man

Two thousand years ago, Jesus was cruising around the earth in his "Jesus sandals" since, as my old prof used to say, the word had become flesh and "moved into the neighborhood." However, while Jesus was teaching and healing and changing the course of history, the Zuni people were in America chillin' here:
Nuts, right?

But they were. We visited the ruins and I was blown away.

At the same site, we saw many inscriptions like this one:
made by explorers and conquistadors from Spain dating back to the 1600's. They came to conquer and convert. Though I appreciate the alliteration, those two verbs seem like oil and water- they just don't seem to mix.

Then at the end of the 1600's, a mission was built by Spanish Franciscan priests and later restored to this:
but it wasn't active for very long.

My thoughts have spiraled around, twisting and turning and causing me much pain and confusion as I try to grasp what God's plan was for the Zuni people and what that plan is today. I have more questions than answers.

However, lately God has been teaching me the importance of having a simplistic, childlike faith. He's been showing me that though I can't know what His original plan was for the Zunis, or why He allowed them to endure such oppression, or what will happen to those Zunis who hadn't heard of Him- that despite all these questions and more, there are certain truths I CAN know.

I can know that my God is not merely the "white man's God" as many Zunis falsely believe.

I can know that He loves them more than I can and created them with purpose.

I can know that He is powerful and just and most importantly, that He is loving. That He IS love.

So these are the truths I cling to.

I fear that stereotypes and television have twisted our perspectives of the Native American people so there are a few things I'd like to set straight concerning the wonderful Zuni people. I am by no means an expert. Heck, I've spent two weeks total with them. But in those two weeks, I have gained a love and respect for a people group completely immersed in a unique culture all their own, a culture untouched and untainted by American society.

The road to Zuni is a lonely one. Few cars travel in. Few cars travel out.
There is natural beauty surrounding the enclave of adobe homes and shops but driving onto the reservation, it is striking how truly "in the middle of nowhere" it sits.
When you walk the streets of the reservation, it truly feels as if you've left America and entered another country, another world, another reality. But rather than describe the sandy streets and dusty, desolate neighborhoods, allow me instead to give you several snap shots of truth about the Zuni people.

* The Zunis have fabulous hair. Maybe you knew this already but as our guide at the National Park was speaking, I was very distracted by his gloriously glossy and thick pony tail stretching down to his lower his back. I came very close to asking him what shampoo he uses but I refrained. I may or may not have secretly sniffed his hair as he passed by.

* The Zuni children are like any other children in the world. They want attention and love and lots of piggy-back rides.
They enjoy dancing,
shooting hoops,
and playing hangman.
They give bunny ears
and mischievous grins
and great hugs.
They wear camo
play down by the banks,
and lose their teeth.
They think it's gross when I take out my Invisalign and they laugh when their friends fart. In fact, one first grade girl was teasing her friend so much when a loud fart slipped out in front of me that I had to sing the fart the song to them.

What fart song?

The one my brothers used to sing before they'd rip a loud one. It goes like this:

Silence please.
Everybody freeze.
Do do do do do do

Brilliant lyrics, I know. But they loved it and one of the girls made me sing it seven times until she had it memorized. The next day she ran up to me while I was talking to some of our high school students and sang it perfectly. My students looked shocked and bewildered but I was the proud teacher, grinning ear to ear.

* The Zuni children are afraid of the boogie man. But here's the thing. They actually have a real-life boogie man. He's called the A'toshle and carries a whip and a bloodied knife as he enters the homes of disobedient children. Years ago he tried to enter the Zuni Mission School but the administration refused to let him on campus. Yeah, that's one way to make your kids obey.

* The Zunis are searching for meaning and purpose in life. Both years we attended their traditional Kachina dances which are performed for a few weeks each year. At these dances, the men dress as certain gods and dance to appease the "spirits." They are beautiful dances but solemn affairs. There is no laughter or smiling or joy- only the beat of the drums, the shuffle of feet and empty stares. The children have learned at a young age to behave- no toddler is ever out of line upon threat of losing a finger if they misbehave.

Though the dances are elaborate and costumes bizarre, both years I've watched them, I've been reminded of the mall in my own home town. As men parade in colorful masks, I think of Orange County women parading in stores searching for their own "masks" to wear to bring meaning and purpose. Because everyone searches for meaning. And if they aren't searching for Jesus, the results are the same: they look pretty strange and are stuck in darkness.

Just as the woman buying yet another designer outfit is searching for contentment in the wrong places, so too these dances performed by the Zunis are a fruitless attempt to find peace where peace cannot be found.

Regardless of what happens to the unbeliever after death, I am confident that a life with Jesus is a thousand times better than a life without him. So I grieve for the Zunis as I grieve for the shopaholics. I want to shake them both and say, "Look, look what has been done for you. Look who loves you. Look who wants you. Won't you turn to Him and find meaning in being His beloved?"

But I don't.

Because I'm a chicken.

And I don't want to offend.

But Pastor Meekhof, who has been serving this community for twenty plus years, told us that the longer he is there, the less he worries about offending and the more he is concerned about truth. The truth can set them free from the stranglehold sin has on their lives- the shackles of alcoholism and abuse and a religion of hopelessness. And so he fearlessly speaks the truth with boldness but also ALWAYS in love.

* The Zunis are trying to be healthy. Several of the people are largely overweight so to encourage healthy lifestyles, every month there is a race in which many in the community participate. It was a tad surreal to hear the drums beating as we ran a 5K alongside a good chunk of the tribe. I ran with a bunch of my high school girls and cannot yet decide what was the highlight of this event:

1) getting chased by a four year old Zuni girl growling at us

2) receiving a free t-shirt and popsicle afterwards


3) getting asked to dance by a woman passing by when the drums stopped and country music started blaring. (she was joking....I think)

* The Zunis are a private people. The Zuni language is spoken ONLY by them and has no known relation to any other language in the world. Chyeah. The world! The Zuni religion is practiced ONLY by Zunis. Not only this but only the Zuni MEN are even allowed to know what the religious beliefs actually are. This seems to be why only women work at the mission to field the religious questions asked by tourists. Their answers about the kachinas are always conveniently, "I don't know because I'm a woman." Questions are not answered about their religious beliefs and curiosity is squelched at a young age.

However, many of the youth are leaving the reservation and returning with questions. Questions like: if our dances are supposed to appease the spirits, why are so many people oppressed by alcoholism and abuse? Where are the so-called "blessings" we're supposed to be receiving?

Our prayer is that the children would continue to question- that the students who attend the Christian school where we worked would see the inconsistencies in the Zuni religion, that their curiosity would be reawakened and they would search for truth and hunger for more.

This sign highlights the presence of tagging hoodlums on the reservation but more importantly, it highlights the extreme privacy and solemnity surrounding their religious ceremonies.
Notice the rule to "keep your distance from religious figures." Out of respect, we kept our heads down and did not make eye contact with the kachinas as they passed but I definitely was walking backwards at one point and turned to find myself nearly face to face with one. You can imagine the gasp that escaped from my lips but luckily my students were mature enough not to laugh as I shook my head at myself.

* The Zunis like snow cones. While I waited for our students to purchase jewelry, I sat on the steps outside the store and watched two grown men working at their make-shift snow cone stand. They made several sales while I watched, one to a man with Down Syndrome, and I couldn't help but notice our similarities. We're all on this planet together and though we may look and sound different, our humanity binds us together. We all are searching for meaning and we all (or at least most of us) like snow cones on a hot day.

* The Zunis are proud of their identity. I confess that I've occasionally used the phrase, "If you ain't Dutch, you ain't much." This is ironic since I don't actually speak a word of Dutch and the Dutch people probably wouldn't accept me as one of them. But the fact remains that my roots are in Holland and we all find identity in our roots- it makes up who we are.

I also love being an American and my American heritage does play a large role in how I view the world. The Zunis are no different. They have a rich culture that has been thriving for thousands of years. They have their own language and religion and it makes sense they they would feel special and unique because they have their own identity.

However, this makes turning to Jesus quite difficult. If a Zuni becomes a Christian they are mocked and excluded from society. Last year I spoke with one woman who became a follower of Christ while sitting in jail. Her fellow inmates derided her for turning to the "white man's god."

Thus, the people who fill the seats on Sunday mornings at the Reformed Church, are the people who had no where else to turn. They are the people who were hurting so badly that being ostracized by the community didn't seem all too terrible. They are the sick, the outcast, the forgotten, and the marginalized. And I can't help but think that they are exactly the type of people Jesus would have been hanging out with when He walked the earth.

The people who have it all together don't seem to need Jesus. The religious leaders don't need him- they have all the power they need. Neither do the wealthy shoppers need him- they can buy all they need. But the broken know they need a savior. The hopeless and hurting search for hope and healing which can only be found in Jesus.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Crunchwrap Supremes and Broiled Fish

I'm still processing my week on the Zuni Reservation and am not ready to write about it quite yet. However, I will say this. I learned boatloads about myself and my God and His kingdom and power and it is overwhelming trying to put the experience into words. However, one thing I learned about myself that it is easy to put into words is the fact that I can eat. Like A LOT.

I made this realization today when the Zuni team met in my room at lunch to debrief. One of the girls was quick to point the finger at my giant ham sandwich with a confused and amused expression. She had popped by my room during 4th period and caught me devouring Chick-fil-a fries which I had said were my lunch. By "lunch" I had meant appetizer but I forgot I was going to see her during our actual lunch. I am not typically a "sauce" person but I'm pretty sure I could drink the Chick-fil-a sauce by itself. Plus, their waffle fries are sometimes as big as my face! Less than a mile from my school, naturally my "prep" period typically involves me driving through to "prepare" myself for the day with sheer goodness.

This girl who caught me in my "double lunch" happened to be the same one who, on the drive home, laughed a little too loudly at me in Taco Bell when I ordered a Crunchwrap Supreme. She was laughing because I had already snuck over to Sam's Club and eaten a giant slice of meaty pizza. She had taken a bite of it and informed me it tasted like "poo in a shoe." Since I concurred that it was not a life-changing slice of pizza and everyone else was eating Crunchwrap Supremes, I decided to find out what all the hoopla was about and get one myself. I was not disappointed. Those babies are delicious.

You probably should know that this student's laughter and mockery was mainly sparked by the comment I had made moments BEFORE lunch: "I'm not really that hungry but I could eat." She continues to quote me on this.

Perhaps I should have noticed my "issue" with food when we started out the trip with a stop at Denny's and I out-ate the three grown men at my table. What can I say? Belgian waffle grand slams are kind of amazing. At least I refrained from the bacon milkshake. Twas tempting but due to Lent and giving up desserts, I passed.

On Easter, I read the resurrection stories at the ends of the gospels and was stoked about a number of things. One of these being the fact that resurrected Jesus ate broiled fish. This actually sounds pretty nasty and I'm confused as to how they did this without an oven and a broiler. But the fact remains that Jesus was eating after he was resurrected and this gives me great hope that heaven really is going to be sweeter than I can imagine. I'm guessing there won't be Denny's bacon or Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supremes, but maybe the food will be even better. I know- like that's really even possible?

So here's my profound Easter thought: I love food and will be eating it for all eternity in my resurrected body thanks to Jesus.


I wonder if there'll be waffle fries...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Go-to stories

Last week I was over at my sister's house and her boys, ages four and two, asked me to tell them their bedtime story. Before going into their room, Heidi informed me that they like real stories from our past. Wild and crazy stories.

So I told them stories about Alaska.

Jenny, my college roommate, is from Anchorage and the summer after we graduated, my other roommate Lesley and I embarked on a summer of adventure.

Vander and Hudson stared at me with wide eyes as I told them about the moose that tromped through their backyard,
the airplane that landed on water,
and the night when the sun didn't set until midnight so we stayed up fishing while getting eaten by mosquitos. (I'll never forget waking up the next morning and seeing poor Lesley's face COVERED in mosquito bites.)
The boys loved the story about how we hunted a giant porcupine with gardening tools.

And they listened with wide-eyes as I told them about our boat breaking down in the middle of a deserted lake and Jenny and I having to travel along bear paths littered with fish bones to find help. We stole a canoe and paddled to the nearest house where we found a man who could fix the boat. Here we are returning to the boat from our mission:
They loved hearing how Jenny caught a halibut that was half her size:
and, suckers for any stories with bathroom humor, cracked up when I told them about how Lesley and I went to the bathroom in the woods.
One of my favorite memories of Lesley was on this "mission" in the woods when she refused to explore a cave with me. I went in and a few minutes later, let loose a blood-curdling scream which sent her sprinting towards the water. Our brilliant plan had been that if we ran into a bear, we would run into the ocean and hope the bear couldn't swim. I will NEVER forget her face when I came sprinting out of that cave.

I was only supposed to tell the boys one story but they conned me into telling them seven. When I finally convinced them I had no more Alaska stories and had to go, they insisted on knowing when I would return. Here was my conversation with Vander:

Vander: Will you be here in the morning?

Me: No, I have school.

Vander: Can you come over and play after school?

Me: Sorry, bud. I'm actually going on a trip because my friend is getting married.

Vander: Oh. Who's your friend? He's very inquisitive.

Me: Her name is Lori. You haven't met her. Jenny and Lesley, the girls from the stories, will be there too.

Vander: eyes wide and clearly very excited Oh good. You guys can make some more good stories and then you can come tell them to us.

Me: laughing at his logic Okay. I'll try

I thought about this conversation a lot as I drove up to Santa Cruz with Jenny. What makes a story a "good" one?

I think Vander's definition might differ from someone like Donald Miller's. I loved his book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, which is about living life as one great story but honestly, I've forgotten what it said.

Are wild animals and life-threatening situations necessary elements for a good story? Does it have to be set in an exotic location? Does someone always have to be squatting in the woods to make the story good? Actually, this DID happen during the wedding weekend when a certain nursing mother, who shall remain nameless, didn't want to walk to the bathrooms and squatted by the car. But no, I don't think a character HAS to pop a squat in the open to make a good story. Nor are life-threatening situations or exotic locations necessary.

However, I have found that there are always several reoccurring themes in my "go-to" stories. You know- the stories you go to when you want to impress- the stories you use on first dates- the stories that are continually retold whenever someone who HASN'T heard the story is present. A go-to story never gets old.

My "go-to" stories always involve the following:

some element of randomness,

a dash of adventure,

a surprise twist,

a mix of unique characters,

and some laughter.

Check that. LOTS of laughter.

I had been looking forward to Lori's wedding weekend for weeks, maybe months. I couldn't wait to celebrate Lori Lester as she became Lori Brown and I couldn't wait to be with Iron Well again. Yes, Iron Well- my college friend group that named ourselves. We are certainly a "mix of unique characters" and laughter is always present when we're around each other. All we needed was some randomness, some adventure, and a surprise twist and voila- we would create a go-to story. Confession: I first spelled "voila" as whala- thank you google for helping me not look like an idiot.

I can have fun with these girls sitting anywhere, doing anything. So whether we were hanging out in a coffee shop or devouring Swedish pancakes or arranging flowers or eating vegetarian Sri Lankan food, we were always entertained. And yes, vegetarian Sri Lankan sounded absolutely disgusting so I ate Del Taco Tacos beforehand which I later regretted when the food turned out to be fabulous. Sorry I doubted you, Lor!

But while I was having a wonderful time simply being with my girls, I knew these weren't stories that would entertain Vander and Hudson. We needed adventure; we needed randomness; and we needed a surprise twist. We got it one night when I had a sudden craving for a freshly baked cookie.

I voiced this craving to Jenny who agreed it was a valid one. Then we turned to Lesley and with her yelping magic, we discovered a cookie place open until the wee hours. This should have been our first clue that it was not an ordinary bakery we had found.

Jenny, Lesley, Erin and I swerved through the dark, deserted streets of Santa Cruz and quickly realized we were in a bit of a ghetto. The map led us down a tiny, dead end street with no street lights and no bakeries. However, there was a tiny restaurant which Lesley figured out was the place. I was very skeptical. "This is how people get killed" was a thought running through my mind as we walked through this door:
And by "door", I mean FLAPS. But we pushed past the flaps were suddenly inside a cluttered kitchen. "Yes, people definitely are killed in scenes like this one."
"Ummm....hello?? Anyone here?"

We walked further and stumbled into heaven.

Cookie heaven.




Oh man, do I sound like Rob Bell? Jenny and I listened to "Love Wins" on the car ride and I can't get his voice out of my head.

We had found our randomness, our adventure, and our surprise twist. Cookie heaven was incredible.

There were massive mounds of cookie dough lying about.
Tray upon tray of sweet sugary goodness.
It smelled like heaven.

It tasted like heaven.

It was heaven.

I think Rob Bell would agree with me on this if he ever visits Night Owl Cookies.
We giggled like school girls and peppered the poor college-age lad with questions about his mysterious, late night cookie business. Apparently, no one actually comes to the place; they just deliver cookies. We later realized that the residents of Santa Cruz are big marijuana fans so late night cookie deliveries make perfect sense.

No bears or moose or giant halibut were involved, but this was a random adventure nonetheless with a very pleasant surprise at the end of a dark, dead end street: cookie heaven.

I told this story to Vander and Hudson last night and they were not amused. I thought for sure they would love the picture I painted of a cookie heaven. They love cookies. But they politely listened and then immediately asked for another story.

Four year olds have a way of letting you know when your story bombs- when it's a "I guess you had to be there" story. They much preferred the story of when my brother Travis brushed our dog with my hairbrush and I got so mad, I took the brush and started beating him with it. They didn't understand how ghetto streets late at night are just as scary as potential bear caves. Oh well.

We took our treasured cookies back to the hotel where we met up with Amy and Anne and the four husbands present who had found beer. Go figure.

Amy and Anne brought their baby monitors into Jenny and I's hotel room where Jenny put down her own baby girl and the 10 of us feasted on hot cookies and beer. Well, the girls had milk:)

This story may not have entertained my nephews in the least, but it is one I think I'll remember for years. It does seem to be a "you had to be there moment" so I probably won't share this one on first dates, but it will always be a special memory. The main reason it is so special is not because of my obsession with hot cookies, but rather because of the "mix of unique characters" involved.

Characters make a story. And when you have characters like this:
most moments together are going to be pretty dang unforgettable, even if they aren't all "go-to" stories.

Note: Tomorrow I'm headed to an Indian Reservation for Spring Break. I went last year on this same mission trip with the school and it was my absolute favorite week of the year. Zuni, New Mexico might as well be Madagascar for how foreign it feels so naturally, I love it:)

I'm bound to bring home some "good stories" but I won't have phone or Internet for the week so don't look for any updates on here for a bit. I do plan on writing more about Lori's actual wedding and telling stories that actually involve the lovely bride, so those will come later as well.

Peace out. What? Did I really say that? Yes. Yes, I did. Because it's nearly 1 am and I'm driving 10 straight hours tomorrow beginning at 6 AM. Awesome. Why do I do this to myself




Thursday, April 14, 2011

Freshmen boys need grace

Teaching freshmen can be a hoot. They are a breed all their own and I love them. Freshmen boys especially are a species unlike any other. I love that I still tower over all of them and can easily defeat them in an arm wrestling competition. (not that I've tried- that might be a little weird for everyone) In teaching three freshmen classes this year, I've found there are several truths about freshmen boys that are no longer surprising. For instance...

I am not surprised when their body odor is overpowering and makes me want to vomit a tiny bit. So I keep strong smelling candles burning in my room.

I am not surprised when they avoid talking to girls because they don't know what to say or how to say it. So I pair them up with girls and force them to talk about vocabulary.

I am not surprised when they make inappropriate remarks. So when I overheard one boy mention the word orgasm in class, I didn't freak out, but rather gave him my stern look and ultra stern lecture about inappropriate conversations.

I am not surprised by their obsession with warfare. So I'm not too concerned that they spend the class period fake killing each other from across the room. Although I was a bit worried when one boy sent me an e-mail and signed it, "so and so, killer, war buff (WW1/2), weapons expert. There's a line buddy, and you're dancing dangerously close to it.

Finally, I am not surprised that they lack social awareness. So I only chuckled to myself when a boy repeatedly picked his nose with his pinky finger while making eye contact with me during a lecture. I'm 88 % sure he ate his treasures but at least he was sneaky about this.

However, despite being well-acquainted with this breed of species known as freshmen boys, several of them surprised me this week.

First, one boy came into my room after school to apologize. You have no idea how huge this was. This was a boy who, if I had to pick one student out of all 102 of mine, I would have guessed to be the one most likely to shoot me. Not that it was ever an actual concern, but let's just say that I wouldn't have been totally shocked if he pulled a gun on me during a vocab quiz. I seem to get one of these every few years. They are delights. Sarcasm noted?

A few weeks back, I really embarrassed him in class. I hadn't meant to but he had been a new kind of mean to one of my sweet, dorky girls and I have little tolerance for meanness- especially when it's directed at a sweet, dorky girl. So I stared him down and lectured him in front of the class about how he treats his classmates.

I regretted how I handled myself. I left school that day with a sick feeling in my gut.

But I prayed hard that God would help me love this boy and what do you know, He answered. Still, I walked on egg shells around him, his death glares no less disturbing despite my prayers.

And then he came into my room after school one day and apologized. He apologized for his arrogance and behavior and I wanted to cry.

So I did.

Once he left the room of course.

His apology was very sweet and very surprising.

The next freshmen boy to surprise me did it by praying for me. He asked how my grading was going and I admitted that it was a bit overwhelming because I have so much to do.

To which he replied, "I thought of you the other night at youth group and how much you have to grade. I've been praying for that and will continue to do so."

Cue the jaw drop.

How does one respond to such a sweet surprise?

Tears of course.

My last surprise came while reading journals. The prompt was to write about a person who influenced them simply by how they lived. Two boys wrote about their dads. These two boys both drive me a bit bonkers. They are loud and obnoxious and in constant need of attention and correction.

The previous week they had to write about a truth they discovered about themselves and one of these boys wrote about the time he discovered just how good-looking he is. Yeah. A whole paper about his thick hair and good looks. This was NOT surprising.

But it was more than surprising when that same boy wrote about how his dad has a brain tumor and the other difficult boy wrote about how his dad died in the summer.

Yeah. I know.

I sat at my desk weeping for these boys and the pain they are living with, the pain they are masking so well. No wonder they want attention. I thought of all the times I've been short with them and my heart hurt.

This last surprise was not just about them and the sorrows they hide; it was about myself.

I realized that if I had known about their hurts, I would have been offering them more grace. And I don't think that should be the case. I wish I was the type of teacher who has enough love and patience to shower on all her students- treating them all with the kindness and mercy due to a child living through tragedy.

But I don't.

And that's when I realized how much I've been relying on my own abilities in the classroom. I am a nice person but only to a certain degree. I have a breaking point and my freshmen push me there daily. I have tired days and hungry days and "I'm feeling cranky so stay out of my way" days when my patience is thin and my mercy is thinner.

As a teacher, I'm constantly trying to balance mercy with justice and I often fall flat on my face in the process. I NEED God to show me the balance. I NEED Him to help me love my students better.

As I attempt to "keep in step with the Spirit" and live by His power, I'm slowly discovering the balance of mercy and justice. I see that I have access to the divine ability to love on these hurting children as they need to be loved, but I need to tap into that power- to pray for it daily. I haven't been doing that lately. And it's become more than clear that my abilities alone are glaringly insufficient.

This is what surprised me: I had been relying on my own strength without even realizing it.

Sure, these freshmen boys are in desperate need of discipline and correction and guidance. But they need grace too. And on my own, I'm quite stingy with grace. I save it for the "deserving" which seems pretty ironic, oxymoronic actually since grace is supposed to be for the UN-deserving.

I offer myself plenty of excuses for why I'm not more patient or loving or merciful to my students- to the ones who really get on my nerves and don't seem to deserve my patience or love or mercy. And then I'm reminded that this is exactly what God has done for me- extended His patience, His love, and His mercy to me, me the undeserving.

So maybe I should follow suit. I don't think I'm quite as obnoxious as certain freshmen boys, but I certainly am just as undeserving of my great God's great grace.

Monday, April 11, 2011

If you ever wet your pants at work...

don't panic. If you are wearing a scarf, the problem can be quickly solved.

A story in pictures about

1) how to hide a pee stain

2) how to wear a scarf

3) how to take solo poses

4) and why you should never eat fruit.

Today I rolled out of bed at 7:10 and showed up to the staff meeting at 7:30 dressed like this:
Things were going smoothly until break. Without time for my usual 3 eggo waffles, I was famished by 10 o'clock and ready to eat my hand. Maybe both of them. Luckily, I've claimed an entire drawer in the staff fridge and filled it with snacks.

When Katie is hungry, nobody is happy.

I opted for grapes.

So I rinsed them off and put them on a plate and felt very adult because (a) I had shown up on time to the weekly meeting and (b) I was eating fruit.

However, the mishap came when I went to toss the plate in the trash. Apparently my grapes had been sitting in a giant pool of water which, of course, ended up here:
I did what any normal person would do.

I laughed.

Then I ripped off my scarf to try to absorb the spill.
It didn't work.

So I looked to my colleagues for help.

This is why I love teaching at Valley.

They gave me some fabulous suggestions for how to wear my scarf to hide the fact that it looked as if I had wet myself.

One option was to wear my scarf as a skirt:
But the wet spot was still visible.

Someone else suggested wearing the scarf around my neck:
Clearly, this was not effective in the least bit...

unless I were to walk around like this:
which we decided would be a bit too conspicuous and awkward for everyone.

Our trend-setting Bible teacher offered this brilliant suggestion:
which I was seriously considering until I looked down and realized my pants had dried.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

10 Peeves

I consider myself to be a positive person but I suspect that I am peeved more often than most. I mean, I did create this list of things that bother me. Super positive people probably don't create such lists. Or if they do, their list probably isn't 301 items long. And their list probably doesn't rhyme. Actually, 301 isn't even the extent of my pet peeves in life. There are MANY more that I either didn't remember at the time or just couldn't find a rhyme for. In honor of the 10 on the 10th theme, here are 10 more things that bother me that didn't make the original list.

10 Recent Peeves

1. Getting a grounder. This is not a baseball reference. A grounder is a special species of zit. If you don't know what I'm referring to, consider yourself blessed and pray to Jesus that you never experience the hell that is a grounder. But so you can sympathize with me, let me explain.

A grounder is a zit that lurks beneath the surface of your skin and is roughly the size of a small marble. My most recent offender was on the chin. These guys are not only eyesores, they are painful. Hard as rocks it is tempting to squeeze the sucker to shrink it down fast. However, no pus will ever squirt from a grounder. No, no such satisfaction will be found. If you squeeze, all you'll find is clear liquid that oozes out. And if you do attempt to drain the grounder, you will be rewarded with a giant dime, sometimes quarter-sized scab on your face. Covergirl can do little to help in these situations. My poor brother used to get these right between the eyes. We called him Cyclops.

2. Getting a pedicure and choosing a bad color. If I'm forking out the big bucks for a pedicure, it means my nasty toes are going to be seen in public and I'm trying to mask their abnormal length with a pretty color. Few moments are worse than looking down after a pedicure to discover the pretty "spring purple" you envisioned actually looks like it's straight from your grandmother's collection. No offense, grandma. Even if you notice the poor color choice after just one toe is painted, there's no turning back. If you are the type to stop the lady and request a change, I applaud you. You are freaking ballsy.

I don't ever want to get on the bad side of the ladies in those salons. I'm not exactly sure why but they intimidate the heck out of me. I'm already refusing their five dollar flower and they're already very disappointed in me for refusing the callus removal that apparently I so desperately need. So I can only imagine what would happen if I were to make a color change request. I'm assuming harsh words in Vietnamese would be spoken and lots of dirty looks would be involved. Thus, I have ugly toes for the next few weeks.

To make matters worse, the day after my pedicure was "A Day Without Shoes" at school so all my students saw my old lady toes.
3. Being asked if I'm okay. This is fine if you see me crying or lying on the floor in pain. But if there are no tears involved and I don't appear to need an ambulance, don't ask me if I'm okay. Ask me how I'm doing. When you ask, "Are you okay?" I hear, "Wow, you look miserable. What on earth is wrong with you?" If I'm having a great day and nothing is wrong, this question makes me slightly paranoid.

This peeve is right up there with people telling me to smile. "Dude, I might be thinking about the people in Japan right now. You don't know what's going through my head. I'm not going to feign happiness for your sake, so keep your smiling commands to yourself."

This post is starting to make me sound more cynical and negative than I am. I do smile. Quite often actually. But sometimes I don't and I hate when people command me to.

4. Getting a terrible song stuck in my head. Barbie Girl is a repeat offender but the most recent tune that would not leave me alone was Shaggy's "It Wasn't Me." If you don't know the chorus, consider yourself lucky. If you do, you can understand why it was inappropriate for me to be humming this tune in my classroom. How these songs ever are recorded and put on the radio baffles me.

My first year teaching I had a student who entered the classroom every single day singing Cher's, "If I could turn back time..." because I made the mistake of telling her that I hated that song. I know no other lines. Those six evil words would spin in my head all day long. It was a very cruel joke.

5. Carrying a giant load of laundry up and down the stairs. Whites are the worst. Inevitably I'll drop 7 socks along the way and each time I try to bend down to retrieve it, another one will jump out of my arms. I'm pretty sure they've planned this.

6. Hearing my neighbors roll out their trash cans. Could these be any louder? Does anyone else experience a tiny heart attack every time this happens? It sounds like a peal of thunder breaking loose out of nowhere and always makes me jump and gasp and thus, feel like a fool.

Luckily, it's typically only my cat who witnesses me getting scared and she understands. The other day I turned the corner and almost ran into her. We both jumped. I tried to laugh about it with her but she ran away.

7. When kids write "idk" on a quiz. Yeah. It happens. More often than you'd believe. Not only have they shown me that they aren't retaining anything I've taught them, they are using their texting language to reveal that they have no concern whatsoever about grammar or the English language in general. This quiz however, despite the spelling error, was given half-credit for creativity and skill because the self-portrait is shockingly accurate:
8. Commercials during March Madness. I watched quite a bit of basketball in the month of March and beginning of April. I love 30 Rock but grew sick of Alec Baldwin and his Capital One commercial pretty quickly. Geico and Home Depot were other culprits that made me want to scratch out my eyeballs.

9. Getting locked out of my classroom. Long story short, my classroom keys ended up inside the class while me and the entire class were outside. I hustled to the other side of campus to get a spare set and was given about 10 keys. This was a problem for two reasons.

1- I am terrible with keys. I can never quite get them to work and had to try 10 different keys while my whole class watched.

2- This set of keys didn't include the key to my room. I did what any cool, calm, and collected teacher would do and screamed and threw the keys to the floor. Then I marched away to find a janitor and told the class to be quiet and not disrupt the other classes. They laughed. Perhaps because I had just screamed in the hall.

10. When zippers do this:

Monday, April 4, 2011

Thursday's awkwardness

I have a love/hate relationship with awkwardness. I love it sometimes as it does make for great stories but I prefer to witness someone else enduring the awkwardness rather than myself. So sometimes I try to avoid it. Case in point, this morning I arrived at church 15 minutes late. I'm late by nature but it was purposeful today as I was trying to miss the meet n greet. Instead of the typical, "Turn and say hello" meet n greet time, my church is forcing us to be social and mingle for about five minutes.

This would be fine if I didn't go to church by myself. Searching for someone to make small talk with for five minutes sounds a little bit like torture so I figured I'd just leave a little later this morning. I know some of you are judging me right now. You're thinking I'm ridiculously anti-social and need to toughen up. You might be right. But I hate small talk worse than mosquito bites and parking tickets.

My genius anti-social plans were foiled, however, when they decided to move the meet n greet to later in the service. I arrived just in time to awkwardly mingle with strangers. Truth be told, it wasn't painful at at all. But it could've have been. So I tried to dodge it.

Some days, however, there is just no dodging the awkwardness. It finds me everywhere. Last Thursday was such a day. There was nothing extraordinary about this day or these awkward moments. Most people probably wouldn't have even noticed the awkwardness but as the self-proclaimed "awkward magnet," I did.

Here's how my day unfolded.

I began by riding my bike to school. I love riding my bike but perhaps because I am the awkward magnet, I've found myself blushing several times while pedaling. A guaranteed awkward moment is when drivers don't notice you in the crosswalk. I've been hit by a car twice because of this. Talk about AWKWARD. So I've learned the hard way that you must make eye-contact with those right-turning cars even when the green man is lit up and you have the right of way.

On this particular morning, it was my turn to go but the lady wouldn't look at me. I finally thought she noticed me so I went. But apparently she hadn't seen me and went at the same time. Before colliding, I quickly put my foot down and shot her a dirty look. She gave a very apologetic look and even threw me the sorry wave. Man, I sure felt like a bike-riding, dirty look-giving jerk. I hate when I give my "white witch of Narnia" look too soon.

Next, I got to my classroom and made a terrible discovery: I had terrible gas. It was not normal. I gagged a little. I later discovered the source of this rancid, dead raccoon scent: the milk I had been drinking had been expired for a week. I don't typically get gas and thus, have not had to think about how to avoid the awkwardness it can create. I knew crop-dusting wouldn't work because the smell was just too awful. My students would be on to me.

I like to think through "worst-case scenarios" and I've often found myself in situations where I've thought, "This would be an especially inopportune time to get diarrhea." I don't get diarrhea more often than others but for some reason I am paranoid about pooping my pants in public. Thus, whenever I'm on planes with turbulence, this is what I stress about:

How can I make it to a toilet right now if I need to?

I need a plan before I can relax. However, I hadn't thought about exit plans for situations in which I get terrible gas. So I panicked.

I confided in a colleague in the teacher's lounge, hoping for some advice, but he only shook his head at me and laughed. Not helpful. Only moments before twenty-five observant freshmen entered my room, I had a stroke of genius and realized I had some strong smelling on candles on my desk. I lit them all. Nearly every student commented on the smell of my room that day but at least they weren't talking about the roadkill scent emitting from my rear.

When speaking to a friend's husband about this, he pointed out that I had made a brilliant discovery: how to give yourself terrible smelling gas. He said this could be used as a weapon and I agreed that if I ever need to sabotage a date, all I need to do is drink expired milk.

How about you? Other than lighting candles or using the gas as a weapon, what would you do if you had terrible gas and were confined to a single room? Any and all tips are welcome, I need to be prepared in case there is a next time.

Later during the school day, I was lucky enough to witness two awkward moments happening within seconds of each other. I love awkwardness but I especially like when it happens to others. I was walking with a fellow teacher to the teachers lounge and we passed a student of hers who waved. She thought he was going for a high five. Classic mistake.

Right as she went for the high five, he had already lowered his hand and I was already laughing. Then just two seconds later, we had reached the lounge and as I opened the door, another student raised his hand for a high five. But my friend didn't notice and waltzed into the lounge leaving the poor boy hanging and me laughing. Again.

After school, I drove to my tax appointment. Gosh, I feel so adult just saying that. On the way there, I was behind one car at a red light. The light changed and the car didn't go. I was still feeling bad about my premature dirty look from the morning so I waited patiently. However, the car behind me was not so patient. He honked loudly and obnoxiously and I knew the poor Tercel thought it was coming from me. I realize I probably shouldn't have gotten awkward at this point, but I did. I pointed to the car behind me in case the Tercel was looking to see who the impatient honker was.

On the car ride home I made a rookie mistake inviting awkwardness upon myself. I rolled my window down. Big mistake. But it was a beautiful day and I was blaring my classical music station, pretending I was in England in the 1800's. I was jolted out of my day dream when a dirty truck pulled up next to me at a red light with their windows down as well.

I felt them staring so I turned down the violins just a smidge. But they kept staring. They were dirty old men. I just knew it. But I kept my eyes fixed straight ahead. "I'm in England in 1800. Those dirty men do not exist." I took my water bottle and took a swig just to have something to do. Then I sent a fake text. It was the longest light of my life.

These hooligans then started making animal sounds at me. Yes, animal sounds. I was used to this in Mozamique but now was in a pickle pondering a bunch of questions:

"Should I pretend like I can't hear your degrading and obnoxiously loud cat calls even though my window is down?"

"Should I roll up my window now or does that make this more awkward?"

"Are my doors locked?"

"How long is this frickin light?"

I finally got so annoyed that the awkwardness passed and I turned to face them both and said, "hello." They found this hilarious and started cracking up but luckily the light turned and I peeled out of there as I rolled up my window. Lesson learned.

Girls, can you help me out? How do you respond to obnoxious cat calls?

My final dance with awkwardness was a literal dance. I stopped by Target before returning home and though I didn't wet myself in the parking lot like my dear friend Lesley recently did (she tells the story here), I had a good chuckle.

It was the classic, I'm trying to pass by you so I step to the right just as you do. So I step to the left. Just as you do. So I step back to the right. Right as you do. We end up brushing shoulders, just narrowly avoiding a full body collision. I think I make this more awkward because I actually love when this happens. I typically make sounds like, "Whooooa, whoa, whoa." After I danced with the poor Target employee, I laughed and said, "That was awesome." He did not concur.

Surely, I'm not the only one who experiences these moments on a regular basis. Any advice in how to avoid or deal with these moments is welcomed and appreciated. Also, if you have four minutes, go to this post and watch the guitar interview. This guy is an expert in creating awkwardness.