Friday, December 09, 2005

Pink Pants and Santa Shoes

I remember reading a children's book when I was little about how different countries of the world celebrated Christmas. The illustrations showed drawings of little boys and little girls in their native garb holding a symbol of their way of celebrating (a synechdoche, if you will). In my heart of hearts, those pictures have continued to come to mind when I hear again of those traditions. If I close my eyes, I can still see the German child holding her leather shoe filled with fruit and candy. She's wearing a red skirt with little flowers and over it a white apron. I see her blonde hair and shy smile.

Tuesday night, Gena and I were beginning our four-flight trudge up to our apartment to have a quiet cup of decaf and enjoy the stretchings of the cat and the twinklings of our small Christmas tree. Gena stopped on the first landing and said, "Oh! Look!" Two small pairs of shoes were in the stairwell outside our landlord's door. They each had an orange, a wrapped gift, and a treat bag. "St. Nikolaus has been here..." Gena and I giggled. "Oh, I have to take a picture!" I whispered.



Alex and Katharina, our landlord's children, in the tradition that has gone hundreds of years before them, put their shoes out on Dec 5 for St. Nikolaus. Huh, I thought. They're not old leather shoes with woolly tops . . . they're tennis shoes and fun bright Euro-school shoes. And an image of Katharina's bright pink pants replaced the red skirt of my memories.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Deck the Claws

Ah... thanks, Sean--a topic. Similarly to a man-of-glass shipping himself to the Americas as a Christmas present, this post will arrive in pieces.


kitties get advent calendars, too... "meow-meow-meow-meow-meow, meow-meow, meow, meow." the girl is Alyssa, one of my roommate's small group girls. she loooooves Edwina.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Death by Death Ray

The things you find when you google yourself... egosurfing, I believe it is aptly named. The following are excerpts from the very first episode of Law & Order in 1990. (I'm the dead girl.)

Dr. Raza: My children want to stay in this country, my wife wants to stay, and to stay, all I have to do is to be perfect all the time!

Det. Mike Logan: Well you, uh, fell a little short of perfection on Suzanne Morton's chart.
_______________


Philip Nevins: Isn't it possible that pneumonia killed Suzanne Morton?

Medical Examiner: It's possible that death rays from Mars killed her. But I don't think so.

Monday, October 24, 2005

A Two-Edged Hope

"We must come to accept and even honor our creatureliness. The offering of ourselves can only be the offering of our lived experience because this alone is who we are. And who we are--not who we want to be--is the only offering we have to give."
--Richard Foster, Prayer

There is so much in my heart right now--so much to say. It's so full, and I can feel it bubbling over already. It seeped into ten pages of my journal on the trainride home from Stuttgart tonight. It flowed into a two-hour conversation with my roommate. And it's currently coursing its way into a post... Maybe the moment when I have much to say is the same moment I should say nothing.

My voice hurts from writing. My throat aches as if I have cried out to Him audibly. If I had, would You have heard me more? If I groaned, would You listen? You are still to be praised. I will still praise You. I must. For You alone know me. You alone hear and recognize my voice. You alone know when I rise and when I lay down. You alone keep me from travelling alone, though the seat next to me remains free.

You are in Jerusalem. You are in Baden-Württemberg. You are in my heart. You hem me in from behind and from before. You--One full of grace and truth. There is freedom in You, and I will not choose mere emotion. I will not choose what I want if it is not what You want. I will not choose self-fulfillment... at least, I'm having a pretty strong moment here, and I don't want to.

How long, my God? How long will I continue to judge by a man's exterior? His verneer? How much am I missing in those around me? Help me to look--to really look--and to know how to respond actively, intentionally, lovingly to what I find there.

Yeah, life is going to go on--it must, and I'll feel tomorrow a bit less than I do today. But I will hold on to hope--the hope that I do, in fact, want You.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Subtitled: I Can't Keep This From You

1.

Our landlord Tomas came up to introduce his family to us last week--his wife Birgit, his son Alexander, and his daughter Katharina. Thomas was telling us about rent and how to get DSL, Birgit was listening, Alexander was hanging on the stairwell railing, and Katharina stood in front of her father beaming up at us.

Alexander looks just like the little kid in Jerry Maguire of "The human head weights eight pounds" fame. Katharina is just too cute for words. They're both in elementary school, which I think starts this week or next. So, of course, when I made cookies last Friday for my students I had to make some for Alex and Katharina, too! Alex answered the door.

"Hallo?"

"Diese sind für Ihnen."

"Ah, ok. Danke!"

"Bitteschön! Schönen Tag!"`

"Tchuß!"

"Tchuß!"

It was a short conversation as he was apparently entertaining a little friend who was over for the day.

2.

Gena and I were walking to our apartment from our new parking spot--right up against the clock tower on the cobblestone square. A teenage boy was sitting on a park bench with one of the largest dogs I have ever seen. It was laying down, but all we could see was brown fur.

"Wie heißt er?" (What's his name?)

"Er heißt Elton John," he replied with a grin.

Gena and I started laughing.

"Er sieht ihn aus!" (He looks like him!) I smiled.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Uphill

"What am I doing?!" In front of me was yet another steep slope in the mountain trail. "I don't think I can do this anymore," I thought to myself but wasn't about to say it out loud. Most of the cross country kids were a good way ahead of me, but Kathryn from Personnel had stayed back to make sure I didn't lose my way.

"This should be the last steep one before we get to the llamas," she shouted over her shoulder. "Okay," I panted back.

"Go, Happy Camper! You're doing great!" One of the cross country guys had stayed behind on a log to nurse a bad ankle. He didn't know my name, so he was cheering me on by the lettering on my tshirt. I smiled at him. It was a brief smile, however. His log was right in the middle of that hill.

I made it to the llamas where the rest of the team was already stretching. My face was as red as my tshirt, and there were a couple happy-camper jokes. There were no llama jokes. I wanted to make one, but I wanted to puke more than I wanted to think about llamas. So I did.

"I feel so horrible that I just don't know if I ever want to run again ever, and if that's true, how am I going to get down this mountain?" I thought to myself. So I just started walking. After a few hundred feet, I started jogging, then I began running. The next 25 minutes were gloriously beautiful. The trail weaved back through the forest, into a glen, past the public pool and camping grounds, back through a cute little neighborhood, across Haupstrasse, and onto school grounds. I had a big smile on my face when I joined the team's stretching circle. It was as if I had completely forgotten how much pain I had been in.

These first ten days in Germany have been fast-paced and fun, but they have been hard, too. You can read and prepare for culture shock as much as you like, but there's really no way to be completely prepared for it.

I think the biggest struggle for me right now is just how long it takes to get simple tasks done. Going to the grocery store takes longer because I'm not familiar with the items on the shelves. Getting tasks done at school takes longer because I missed orientation, and I don't know how to do simple things like print out a schedule. I must limit my non-food shopping errands to one or two stores a day because stores in Germany close at 6:00 p.m. I'm in kindergarten all over again and find myself doubting my worth and abilities. I think I find a lot of self-worth in multitasking. But I really think that this is just the initial uphill climb. There are genuine moments of beauty that deserve attention as well and God has been good. My next post will include these moments.

For now, if you could pray that my body would be quickly healed of the same bug that I had before I left for my Germany trip last March, that would be awesome. I start lessons with students on Monday, and my schedule is almost complete. They will be coming to my studio on Friday for lunch so we can chat and mingle. Many of them are very advanced, and I am nervous and excited all at once. I will have pictures as soon as I can download my camera software.

Thank you for your patience with me.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


an outfit that will not be making the trip. alas, fare thee well . . .

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

*insert trumpets here*



Dearest Highness Ellen,

*insert groveling bow here*

Mine ears have heard the most wondrous tales of your talent and beauty from afar. The good Queen Rachel and the newly-crowned Queen Jennie speak only of the delights of being a member of your court. They have praised your goodness and your generosity and have compelled me to come before you with my plea.

I am no more than your loyal servant, but I come before you on bended knee. Dare I ask it? Would you bestow such grace upon me as to induct me into your court? Nay, I should be so lucky as to find favor merely to be your musician or jester.

So here I am with nothing and no one to recommend me, but I ask all the same. Would you be so kind as to coronate me?

Your Loyal Subject,
Lady Suzanne

p.s. I might just make you an original Royal Handbag.

Time to Get Ill

Licensed to Ill is only $7.99 on iTunes. Thirteen white-man-overbiting, head-nodding, arms-pumping-above-head tracks for the same price as half a batman tshirt.

Sure Shot isn't on it, though. I had to purchase that one separately.

If leaving this place should feel a bit like dying, then I am expecting St. Peter to meet me at the gate greatly disappointed if I haven't met my Beastie Boys quota by Friday.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Leaving on a Jet Plane

I am leaving!! My flight leaves Friday, and I am in mass-panic mode. I may not post much this week, but I'll try to at least leave vignettes if at all possible.

Yesterday: co-hosted wedding shower for Chris and Alicia. They will be getting married while I'm gone. It was my first time to meet Alicia, and she is beautiful. I'm very proud of your choice, Chris, and very excited for you. I then proceeded back to Paula and Adam's and fell asleep on their bed, forcing them to take the couches. Sorry about that.

This morning: breakfast with Kevin and Latonya and back to Ta-town.

It's a beautiful Sunday, isn't it?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Scrubbing & Surfing

The dental assistant job ended yesterday, and I find myself once again unemployed. So what do I do to occupy my day? I clean the bathroom. For three hours. Three hours, folks. And this is not a large bathroom. The tall people on Ellen's site would hit their knees when they squat. Somehow, I managed to scrub for half an afternoon. I scrubbed and re-organized our three-person corner caddy and found the hole that the ants have been climbing through. And Rachel was right. Mr. Clean's Magic Eraser is a miracle-worker. I swear, all I did was gently wipe, and the soap scum ring around the bottom of the tub packed its bags yelling, "I'm packing my bags and yelling!"

It is so clean that I have come to the edge of the linoleum several more times today (I've been drinking a lot of water) and been compelled to remove my shoes before entering. Ahhhhh. It feels so nice to have a clean bathroom. I'm wondering how long I can hold out on taking that next shower . . .

I also found this picture of my old friend Andy Scott from OBU. He's a diving coach at Duke now!! Way to go, Andy!!

And for those few yet faithful fans, the Barbie saga has returned.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Jesus Christ

I went to see The Killers tonight for the first time--nice. I gotta admit I was a bit skeptical about them at first, but I highly recommend you catch them live if at all possible.


mm, mm, good

After rocking out to "Somebody Told Me" and "Mr. Brightside," we went to IHOP for late-night pancakes. It was our 18-year-old waitress Rashael's second night on the floor by herself, "So I hope I do okay," she told us as she set down our pitcher of decaf. "You're doing a great job," we assured her. She was so cute about explaining her waitressing thoughts out loud to us. At one point, our conversation lulled to find her leaning against the divider next to our table. "I didn't want to interrupt you guys, so I thought I would just stand here and listen until you noticed me." How can you not just smile about that?


i found this picture in a google image search for an ihop pic-- let me be that happy to have pancakes.

It took a while for our food to come out, and we were excited when we saw Rashael (pronounced Ruh-SHELL) come around the divider with plates of eggs and pancakes lined up her arms. "Short stack?" she asked Matt. "Who did you call me?" he asked. "JESUS CHRIST!" she answered and blushed. Apparently the plates had been hotter than she had anticipated, and our hunger pangs were quelled momentarily for several minutes of laughter.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Tooth and Nothing but the Tooth

So I've been pretty busy this week. By night, catching up with friends on the phone, trying to raise the last 35% of my monthly support, and writing thank-yous for those wonderful souls who make up the first 65%. By day--a dental assistant. No, you read that right--a dental assistant.


i did this all by myself!


I am now a semi-certified, x-ray-developing, instrument-sterilizing, patient-room-cleaning, coffee-making, trash-taking-out-ing dental assistant. And let me tell you, I am exhausted. Teaching piano doesn't really fall into your 8-5 work schedule. It is 10:17 pm as I type this, and I wanted to be in bed two hours ago. My dental hygienist roommate Amy's boss (d'ya get all that?) hired me for this week plus a couple days. It's pretty perfect timing really. But that's how this whole week has been--perfect timing.

At some point last week, I had reached the breaking point. August 5 was my goal-date for being in Germany, and, well, I'm still in Wichita. "God, I am unemployed and not at full support--how am I going to do this? Is this really what you have called me to do? Am I really with you? Am I just making this up?" And the tears welled up. It was the first time I had cried out of frustration and fear. All tears up to that moment on my couch had been about saying goodbye to dear friends, family, or places--these were out of doubt. I had reached the end of me.

Within an hour, my friend Austin walked into the same restaurant where my friends and I were eating lunch. "Hey, I think we can help you out on that support thing." The next night at the movie theater we ran into Amy's friend Amber. "Well, send me information on supporting you." Before walking into a pizza place the following day, I heard "Suzanne!" Natalie wanted me to send her family more information on supporting me. My support jumped from 41% to 65% in one week.

It only takes a little thing like money for me to begin to doubt his ability to be God. He turns Jupiter and Mars in their orbits, and yet I doubt his power to move the hearts of those I ask. The wealth of the nations is his, and I can't trust his ability to provide next week's groceries. He loved me first, and I cannot begin to fathom it.

"My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water."
--Jeremiah 2:13

Muddy water. I've sacrificed the moisture in my hands for sanitization processes and latex gloves this week, and yet I'm still not willing to give up my muddy water. These cisterns, these wells of mine--they're not deep, they're just familiar. There's too much me in this picture. Trust really does require abandon--and until now, I've been trusting my online bank account.

God, lead me to your cisterns. Help me to recognize them. Give me courage to drink deeply.

Monday, August 01, 2005

100 Things About Moi (II of IV)

26. The worst lie I ever told was at summer camp in Wisconsin. We had meals family-style, and I seemed to always get stuck at the end of the table, where the servings plates got passed last. This particular evening, we were having fried chicken, and I had my eye on a particularly juicy-looking piece when Jackie, who slept two bunks over from me and had made fun of my favorite t-shirt, decided she wanted that piece, too. I seethed under my breath, "That Jackie is such a pig!" "What," asked her friend next me, "What did you say?" "Um, I said my friend Jackie's on a dig . . ."

27. I am actually a world-famous journalist that was forced into the witness-protection program after single-handedly protecting the long-lost language of the tribe of Widuni, which survived near-extinction by re-introducing the adjectival hyphen.

28. My lying and hyphenating skills have greatly improved since fifth-grade summer camp.

29. I like shoes.

30. I really like shoes, but I've only worn one pair of hot pink Reef's for the entire summer.

31. I'm not really a Coldplay fan. Many apologies.

32. It is a secret dream of mine to one day attend an Aerosmith concert. oops.

33. I don't like change . . .

34. I got my first CD my sophomore year of high school. I had had two really cool pine racks that each held 100 cassettes hanging in my room. In my mind, there was no economic need to entirely redo the format of my music collection. So, I procrastinated. One afternoon I was shopping at the mall with my friends. We were browsing in a Christian bookstore, and I recognized the band playing over their speakers--Out of the Grey. They were a current favorite of mine, and I walked over to the CD section of the store. "Excuse me, do you know what's playing right now?" "Why yes, it's Out of the Grey, and this is their CD right here!" I replied to the woman who had asked. It turns out, she wanted to buy it for her daughter. "You think she'll like it?" "Well, that's the one I'd buy if I had the money," I said. There was only one CD left, and next thing I knew, the clerk was handing me a plastic sack, telling me it was mine. "Um, no, I don't think so . . . " "Um, yes, I'm pretty sure this is yours." A stranger had purchased my first CD for me. I still like that cd.

35. I bought my first CD player shortly after receiving my first CD and winning the school-wide candy sales competition (see #23-24), which granted me a $125 shopping spree at the mall.

36. Between the two of us, my roommate and I own five cats. No, after three re-readings, that is not a misprint. We have five cats, they are family, and I can identify each of them by the jingling of their collar alone.

37. I was a senior rookie on drill team--meaning, it was my first year of drill team, and I was a senior. I never got entirely comfortable with being in a leotard that year in front of the whole school.

38. I am a HUGE Adam Sandler fan. The love affair began with Billy Madison my junior year of high school. "Stop looking at me, Schwan!" It's still in my top five. Mr. Deeds is my current favorite.

39. "Mrs. Lippe's car . . . is green." Mine is currently a silver Jetta, but my dream car is an orange Scout, and my high school English teacher's name was Mrs. Lippe.

40. I won my first swing dance contest last night. This comes as a shock to me as well.

41. I love experiences that speak to deeper parts of my spirit. Swing dancing has become one of these things. I had my first private lesson today with a kick-ass teacher from Chicago. She worked almost the entire hour on keeping my body and frame in a position that allows me to follow my partner (the lead). Following is really about positioning myself to respond to whatever the lead throws my way. It was positioning that stuck out to me today--there is intention in that word. There is an art, a will, a discipline in allowing myself to be led, rather than a limp-limbed slinging-about. It occurred to me that I am incapable of sensitivity to God's gentlest proddings without that same art, will, and discipline. Thanks, Evin.

42. I sucked a bee up my nose at summer camp in Wisconsin in fifth grade. I think it may actually have been one of those water mimics, but the bee-thing makes a better story, so we're going with the bee.

43. I can't stand cottage cheese or tapioca pudding. I think it must be a texture thing.

44. The list of lessons (we're talking private lessons) that I have had at some point in my life in no particular order: gymnastics, ballet, soccer, softball, tennis, golf, crocheting, baton-twirling (seriously), drawing, piano, guitar, painting, swing dancing, jazz, swimming, Spanish, voice, violin, scrapbooking, driving, jazz piano, racquetball, knitting, typing, strength-training, German, cooking, wine-tasting, basket-weaving (also seriously).

45. I can be indecisive (maybe also insecure) about choosing clothes for the day. I have been known to go through three outfits before deciding. I just don't like the part of the day when I have to decide what to wear. Can we invent an iPod shuffle mode for my closet? Please?

46. I love journaling, but blogging has kept me from writing as much as I used to. As Oscar Wilde's Gwendolyn says, "I carry my diary with me wherever I go. It is always best to have something sensational to read on the train."

47. I may forget birthdays and anniversaries, but I never forget trash day.

48. I like to buy cereal, but I don't really like to eat it. Mikey, the rabbit, and Fred Flintstone call to me as I walk past their aisle, and I just can't resist. "Ooh, look, I can get a big cool bag of generic Cocoa Pebbles, and look how much I'd save . . . " I had two bulk Raisin Bran boxes for over a year--I packed them and moved them to our new home and still didn't eat them, then sold them in a garage sale. I'm currently working on a box of generic Bran Flakes and am determined to finish them before the week is out. Feel free to ask me about those later.

49. I first encountered the word determined in a Superman comic on a ski vacation with my family when I was 7 or 8. I remember asking my dad, "Why is Superman always DEET-uhr-myned?"

50. One of my favorite quick-wit moments (since I have had many) happened at a small gym that used to be downtown where Amy and I had memberships. We had just finished working out this particular day and were hanging out at the front desk. A UPS worker had exercised that morning and was heading off to work in his uniform. "Thanks, Kim! See you tomorrow!" he said on his way out. My friend looked confused, "Did that UPS guy just work out?" "That or he's delivering a gym bag," I quipped. *insert laugh machine*

Sunday, July 24, 2005

What makes a Christian marriage unique? How can we, as Christians, be expected to weather lives that those without Jesus are not expected to survive or even respond well to? Is there any difference? Can I really make a difference? Can I really love someone well and permanently? Is that even possible? What really happens when the googly-eyes are gone? What then? Choice? Courage? Do they really exist?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

100 Things About Moi (I of IV)

1. I really like baseball. This is defined by relishing the memory of the Athletics in the 80's and going to Ranger games with my family as a kid. My brother collected the baseball cards, and I organized them. We once counted over 10,000 cards. So, I guess, really, I like to organize, and baseball got in the middle.

2. I witnessed Nolan Ryan's 5000th strikeout from the first baseline at Arlington Stadium. My dad bought me a t-shirt, which I no longer own (dangit!). This may or may not have been the same game that I told God that if Ruben Sierra got a base hit, then that meant I was supposed to marry Rueben Foster (my second grade love). Ruben rounded to third base. All in all, it was a good day for everyone.

3. One of my pet peeves is radio commercials that have cars honking in them. I usually only listen to the radio in the car, and my heart skips a beat, I check my rearview mirror, and I completely lose my train of thought. This irritates me because . . .

4. Most of my brilliant ideas come while I am vacuuming, showering, or waiting in the drive thru at Taco Shop.

5. In second grade, I wanted to invent a typewriter that typed in cursive. Second grade was a big year . . .

6. My first job was as a ride operator at Six Flags over Texas on the Log Ride. I don't think that's the technical name of the ride, but I had called it that since I was a kid. It had always been my favorite.

7. The only time in my life that I have ever enjoyed black coffee was a nine-month stretch last year of opening Starbucks at 5:00 a.m. I was a regular opener, and my tastebuds weren't awake enough to protest. Or maybe there was a lot of lobbying . . . I plead the fifth.

8. I LOVE Roald Dahl. When my mom found out, she began to buy up his entire works at Half-Price Bookstores across the Dallas metroplex. My favorites to this day: The BFG, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, and The Twits. I checked out The Twits at our local library at least half a dozen times. (That was just a very wordy sentence for "I really liked it.")

9. As a kid, I owned about five goldfish, one at a time, and I named three of them Virginia.

10. I wasn't allowed to have pets as a child, except for the Virginias. So I collected porcelain cats. I had a space on top of my dresser reserved for their rompings, and I loved to arrange so they had optimal interaction with one another so they didn't get lonely. (See #11)

11. Jim Henson's "The Christmas Toy" changed my life. I had always been sure that my stuffed and porcelain animals came to life when I left the room, and now I had proof.

12. I love Diet Dr. Pepper, even though it is probably eating through the lining of my entire digestive system. Yum . . .

13. To me, ellipses denote sarcasm &/or humor . . .

14. I intend to quit drinking Diet Dr. Pepper and its cousins when I get to Germany--they're more expensive there, and harder to find--to borrow the immortal words of Tom Petty: "I'm taking the easy way out."

15. The very first non-Christian concert I went to was at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver to see The Allman Brothers. It's been a semi-illustrious five years.

16. After publishing my blog, I read my own post at least three times for editing purposes . . . and to chuckle at my own fine sense of humor.

17. I don't think I look good in yellow, but I love yellow so I wear it anyway.

18. I love mornings, even though I don't often get up to enjoy them when I can.

19. Spiders scare me, and I can't kill them--but only when I'm around someone who is not scared of them (or they're big-ass spiders). If the other person is the wienie, then something clicks and I can squish away.

20. I taught my dream-self how to wake up. I was sick of getting bullied by all the monsters, zombies, and my brother in my dreams and not being able to scream to wake myself up. So one night in my sleep, I just said, "Come on, Suzanne, swallow!" And after I swallowed, I could scream--which, I think really came out more of a mellow "Ungh . . . " but did the trick nonetheless.

21. My Barbies always suffered natural disasters when they were in my care--hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis. You think they would've picked up on their meteorological circumstances and worn more clothing.

22. I'm a hoarder. Hmm. That sounds a little harsh--I'm very sentimental.

23 & 24. My first known super power was being able to see through walls. In first grade, I always raced to be the first one done with bathroom break so I could be at the front of the line. Now, I am naturally competitive and that deserves its own number, but this particular race was so that I could practice seeing through "the wall." The front of the line was a corner in the middle of a dog-leg hallway (there's some golf terminology for ya). And if I leaned out just so, the wall became half-way transparent. I didn't tell anyone because I didn't want to reveal myself just yet--I mean, you just don't know who you can trust, right?

25. My sixth grade science teacher revealed to me that I, in fact, did not have a super power when he had us hold toilet paper tubes next to our hand and un-focus our eyes. Evil villain. I crushed a homemade confetti egg on his head later that year--bet you didn't see that coming, did ya, evil science teacher? Ha.

Last Week of the Firsts

Well, it's finally here . . . my last week of teaching as I've known it. I've been looking forward to it, and now that it's here, I'm just not sure if I'm ready to leave. Today, one of my cute little students gave me this picture from our spring recital and some nice, travel-sized shampoos--because I'm going to be traveling . . . sooo cute.


rowan

Part of me wonders if I'm missing them enough. Acclamation to a new student has always seemed to give me butterflies. My very first official lesson with a student (that was not a photo-lab buddy) was in graduate school. The university gave me an assistantship--to this day I'm not sure why they picked me, and I nearly puked before that first lesson. Turns out, the student had perfect pitch and was majoring in violin--sure, no pressure.

It has gotten better since then, but I still get those same jitters during the first couple lessons with new students. I want to be able to give them my best and let's be honest . . . I want them to like me, too. Did you learn much from teachers you didn't like?

There were four semesters of private lessons and two semesters of teaching group lessons. It was nice sharing a studio (a.k.a. glorified practice room) with another teacher--both of whom are still good friends. Chris went on to get his doctorate at University of Oklahoma and Paula is currently working on hers at UMKC.

It was in the middle of a conversation with Chris that I first really experienced a decent spiritual/musical discussion. My faith could be a vital part of my academia--in fact, it was whether I chose to see it or not. And there have been many "moments" sitting next to the bench in which my mini-lecture on shaping a phrase or the discipline of practicing has alluded to more than just musical reality.

There have been little epiphanies of "my goodness, what a wonderful teacher I am!" and "my goodness, what a terrible teacher I am!" But I would say that overall, I think teaching is one of the gifts God has given me, and if I had not taken that assistantship and my current teaching position, I may not know it yet.

So I'm going to miss these guys. I have learned so much from them. It feels a little bit like moving away from a first crush or a first home. They were first. And they always will be.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Bloggers, Culottes, and Comp

I'm in Cincinnati this weekend visiting my friends Robert and Bobbie. If I were explaining that last sentence to you in person, it would probably come out, "I'm going to see Bobert and Robbie.. uh, I mean..." When he picked me up from the airport, Robert suggested that I reverse the order and say 'Bobbie and Robert.' You're right, Robert, it is easier to say--and type--but I might just have to revert to 'the Bobs.' Being friends with us single people is easy--only one name to remember and repeat. Couples become more complicated... more consonants to deal with. I think my couple friends owe it to me to shorten and/or combine their names. Wouldn't that be supported by Scriptural cleaving and such? So thanks, Bobs, for a so-far delightful stay in Cincinnati. I'll have to introduce you to my friends Dugh sometime... or maybe Driz.

Today is a very exciting day. Not only are Chactory and The H-ood Prince commercially available, but I got to meet my fellow blogger Rachel. I've probably been reading her blog since April or May. I'm really not sure--time seems to pass so quickly in cyberspace. On the way to the Starbucks we were meeting at, I think I was actually nervous. I've gotten to know old friends like Myl-vin even better through their blogs, but this was kind of the opposite--I was about to meet a person for the first time that I thought I felt close to already. Is this what internet dating feels like, Amy, er... Damy?

But there was no reason to be nervous--she's really cool. And she bought my latte. Our conversation came so easily, and my world got a little bit smaller. We went to rivaling TCA's in the Dallas area, and she laughed, "Oh, you were one of those cheerleaders [with the knee-length culottes at basketball games]." It turns out her husband Jared is an MK and went to an international school in Asia very similar to Black Forest Academy, where I will be investing the next two years of my life, and I think that's cool.

She's a full three inches taller than me, and I must say I am very jealous. She's 100% Dutch, and she doesn't like to agonize over big decisions. (I'm not sure those two things are related, though.) Her dad's rule of thumb--God's calling equals ability plus opportunity plus desire. We both think the desire part is very important but highly underestimated by many in the Christian community.

Rachel, it was very nice to meet you, too, on this rainy day in Ohio. Thanks for noticing my bat tattoo and knowing it was because of my Batman fetish. I'm very excited about your TA position--I really do think you're going to be a great teacher. And I would sign up for your English Comp class if it weren't for the fact that I'm leaving the country and you'd have to read my writing on a regular basis . . . um, wait . . .

I promise to resume the Barbie saga if you'll let me call you Jachel . . . or Rared? And now that we know we have the ability and the desire to be friends, I guess we'll just have to wait for the opportunity.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

You Did What? Part Two

Allright, so this second installment might be a little anticlimactic--that's okay. That's exactly what I'm going for.

Quick review--I had just attempted to embarrass my brother by standing on my chair and introducing him to the whole restaurant, and in the attempt successfully embarrassed myself and the rest of my family. (Serge has since added me to his 'friends list.' Maybe I should try to embarrass my friends and family more often.) So after our delightful lunch at a Chili's that will have to wait a nice even month before my return, Amy and my sister and I met up with my friend Bambi. Yes, this is the Jack that we all know and love. She's been one of my best friends since college. We grew up in almost the same neighborhood in Flower Mound, Texas, and it took going to a small baptist university in Arkansas to meet.

We stopped at the Grapevine Mills Outlet Mall and Blockbuster and headed home to watch Hitch and sleep soundly. Everyone was changing into their pjs before we started the movie--I had washed my face, and Bambi was sitting on the stairs talking on her cell phone.

Now, it was really hot last weekend in Texas. Really hot. When Myles came up from Waco this week to visit, he kept talking about how nice it was--it was still in the 90's here in Kansas, and it is still humid, but Texas is a freakin sauna right now.

So I'm really hot after washing my face, right? Right. My face is nice and cool, but the rest of me is ready for a slip and slide across the atrium's marble tile floor. "Hey, Bambi, are you hot?" I walked toward her on the stairs and then I remembered that she was on the phone. She nodded and pointed toward the keypad next to the door.

"Oh, okay," and I walked toward the keypad. "Hmm... here's the plus sign, where's the minus sign? Maybe if I hit the plus sign, it'll show a minus sign on the screen..."

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!


is it hot in here, or is it just me?

The whole house was echoing BEEP, YOU STUPID IDIOT, BEEP, FREAKIN BEEP!! Bambi came over to the pad and started hitting buttons.

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! WHUURRRRRRP! WHUURRRRRP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!

Wait a second... that's not the thermostat... that's the alarm system! And that's not the change temperature button... that's the medical alert button! Ah, crap, did we hit the fire department button, too?

"Don't you know the code?" I asked Bambi.

"No, Suzanne, I don't know the code." She was trying really hard not to punch me. Oh yeah, did I mention that we were staying at the house that she was housesitting... and they wouldn't be home for a week... and that she couldn't get ahold of them because they were at a lake house and their cell phone was out of their coverage area? Yeah.

After looking frantically for a code written anywhere in the house and getting hung up on by the Brinks people twice and having two firetrucks and one medical alert truck full of at least fifteen emergency workers show up lights flashing and sirens blaring in that quiet neighborhood at 11 p.m. ... it was quite humiliating.


um, it wasn't this guy

Fifty-five minutes later, while the BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! WHURRRRP! WHURRRRP! is still blaring and our nerves are smoking cigarettes, two police chiefs are still inside the doorway waiting for Brinks to call them back with a code. "So how exactly did the alarm get set then?" the second in command asked Bambi. "Um, she thought it was the air conditioner."

They just kinda stared at me with that grimace that seems to size you up and say, "Yeah, I can see that. I think I knew it was her when I walked through the door. There's no way she's got a masters degree in anything."

I wanted to shout, "I'm not an idiot! Ok, maybe I am, but I didn't want you to find out!" Instead, I asked, "You guys seen Ladder 49?"

They didn't think it was funny.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

You Did What? Part One

Eh-hem, so yesterday, I mean Sunday, was one of the more beautifully embarrassing days of my life. Unlike Bobbie's and Natalie's stories, however, (which were bee-utiful!!) half of my embarrassing day was on purpose.


maybe not as embarrassing as being these guys...

Amy and I roadtripped to my parents' bed and breakfast for the fourth of July weekend. We were going to go to the Grand Canyon, but we decided we were both too broke for that--that may have been a cover-up, though, for not having made reservations for the most well-travelled weekend of the year. Are there two l's in travelled? or is it traveled? I'm too lazy to look it up. So we got some good time in with my family. Yea! A couple of free meals and a free cozy room! It was nice.

My brothers Dimitri and Serge were in rare form. Serge has officially given me permission now to spell his name "Serge" instead of "Surge" (his self-proclaimed & self-spelled nickname) like the caffeinated beverage, so I'm taking full advantage. His real name is Sergei, but that's just too Russian for him. He's also threatened to name his children Dew and Pepper.

Well, my dad took all seven of us out for lunch at Chili's on Sunday after the other guests at the inn had left. The restaurant was packed. My sister Tat, Amy, and I entertained ourselves by watching Dimitri and Serge check out the cute hostesses. Teenage boys are so funny--mostly because they take themselves so seriously.

The boys argued for a good part of the meal--mostly about what Serge was and was not capable of. "Man, I just don't get embarrassed," he said with his arms bent up from the elbows, his shoulders shrugged, and his head shaking slightly back and forth--one could have mistaken him for having a tic. "No one can embarrass me."

"Is that right?" I asked. "No one?"

"Nope. No one. Whatchu got?"

I stared at him. Silent.

"You think you can embarrass me? Uh-uh."

A grin slowly spread across my face.

"I know what you're going to do, you're going to tell that story about..."

My chair scooted back from the table, and my hands reached for my drink. Next thing I knew, my feet were in my chair, and I was rapping on my plastic mug with my fork.

"Attention, Chili's! Can I have your attention please!"

A young hipster in a booth opposite us glanced over in mid-conversation with his cute girlfriend. A waitress with a full tray of food on her shoulder and a tray jack in the other hand eyed me and slowed down on her way to the next table. Our blonde waiter was headed toward our table with refills on tea and stopped in his tracks. There was still some chatter on the other side of the partition, but it was definitely getting quieter.

"Yes, thank you! I have an announcement to make! This is my brother Serge, he's 17 and he just had his first date with a girl last night!" There were a few oohs and aahs. Ok, maybe that was just in my head. I didn't freakin make crowd cards or anything.

"And he also says he can't be embarrassed, so if you could all help me by giving him a nice, big round of applause!..." The hipster and waitress broke out into applause with the rest of the restaurant as Serge stood up to receive it with a bow. I sat back down, and my heart was pounding out of my chest. I looked around the table to find blank, blinking stares.

When Dimitri came back to his seat (he had apparently left the table as soon as he saw his sister climbing toward the tabletop), Serge started again, "That didn't embarrass me!"

"Excuse me!" A woman from the table behind us was leaning in toward Serge. "You mentioned he had just had his first date with a girl... how many dates has he had with boys?"

"Ha-ha-ha-ha!" my dad belly-laughed, and my mom said, "Oh, that was a good one!" Serge just sat shaking his head and fighting to keep his cheeks a nice tan color instead of the rosy one that was creeping in. "I'll get you back for this," he said, "but I'm not embarrassed!"

"That was a good one, though, wasn't it?" I asked.

"Yeah, that was pretty cool."

Monday, July 04, 2005

Yesterday was one of the more beautifully embarrassing days of my life.

Friday, July 01, 2005

The E-burfing Challenge!

Ok, so it's been a slow day...

Do you ever type in random words or phrases into Ebay's search engine when you're feeling bored or blue? Today I went through "super cool neat," "super cool great," and "oh my gosh." Look where "oh my gosh" got me, oh my gosh!



Let's see who can beat that one, shall we? I promise to subjectively choose a winner by July 8. The winner will be sent (yes, by snail mail) a hand-picked gem from my garage sale adventures.

Happy E-burfing!! (Ebay-surfing)

Free Cameron!!

You know you want to be like me and take the survey....

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

Monday, June 27, 2005

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Whether I Go to the Right or to the Left

I didn't know what to expect this week in Canada. Oh yeah... so I'm in Canada.

For those of you who have just recently tuned in, I will be moving to Germany at the beginning of August to serve as piano instructor for the children of missionaries at Black Forest Academy. I have hesitated to say "I have been called to..." But man, it is becoming more and more apparent that God is pushing, pulling, hemming me in from behind and going before me. He has been preparing me for this my entire life:

*Listening to German language tapes during the commute to elementary school with my dad.
*Studying in Salzburg and gaining a deeper passion for the Germanic language and people.
*Choosing music as a study and career when it was one of my deepest insecurities.
*Growing up in a private Christian school myself and knowing the joy of relationships and the pain of working so closely with Christians.
*Having 5 years of teaching experience now in a similar private school setting.
*Helping me to release strongholds of bitterness and unforgiveness in the past two weeks.

When I got off my flight Monday from Denver to Winnipeg, Kim and I realized we were both there for the same training with Janz Team Ministries. We found out we were both going to BFA as well. Customs checked our passports and when we had exited the customs area, we were confronted with a choice between two waiting rooms. Our chatter stopped, and we paused for a moment to think about which way to go.

"GO LEFT!" a voice behind us boomed. We jumped, then giggled and well... we went left. The man with his cart and luggage went right. And Isaiah's words came pouring out of me: "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'" God is definitely telling me this week that this is His way, and I am to walk in it. He has been confirming that with those who are supporting me financially. He has been showing me His way through those who have prayed over me and are praying for me and who have promised to continue praying for me. He is showing me His way through the stories and journeys of the others here who are being sent.

He is doing what He said He would do. I have had to pull an Indiana Jones and step where I have seen no bridge. How does one go about raising $2500 a month? How do I get past my pride of asking for help? How do I lay aside my fear of rejection and my anxiety of what others will think? God, how will you move? How will you bring this about? I cannot see it or imagine it, so I tend to disbelieve it. Help me to continue to listen and step whether I can see the sand on the bridge or not.

You are faithful. You are faithful. You are faithful. You are faithful.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Hair Don't's & Kitty Do's



So I'm not sure about the new haircut. It's a bit shorter than it's been lately. Janz Team training is next week in Canada, and I've got a thing about meeting people for the first time when I don't think I look like myself. I walked out of the salon after this picture had been taken and put it right up in pigtails . . . kind of. What do you think?

Amy's gone for a week, so I made dinner for one this evening--Moroccan chicken with ginger, honey, tomatoes, zucchini, and slivered garlic. Yum. I glanced out the kitchen window as I was rinsing off the cutting board between veggies. Fuzzy, Amy's cat, was staring at me from the top of my car. I waved at her, and she gave me a wide-eyed meow. I guess she was just saying hi. What a great cat. The other day I gave Amy my corduroy coat that she has loved since the day we met. "Really?" she asked incredulously. "Is there anything that you want of mine?" I thought for a second as I sorted the mail. "Can I have Fuzzy?" She told me to keep thinking.


kitchen with a view

Thursday, June 09, 2005

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the iPod


shuffle me, baby, yeah!

I have recently discovered the wonders of the iPod. For one, I really like typing "iPod." I feel so dirty typing a lower case letter before the capital. It makes me feel like a rebel. There's an entire instant-messaging world out there with a blatant lack of respect for the capital letter--a world in which e. e. cummings would s.t.a. (stand tall and proud). The words for which my pinky finger will still dutifully stretch out for the shift key? God, Bible, and iPod.

I purchased the iPod 20 GB in order to pack my 200+ cds into the lining pocket of my purse for the move. iTunes stopped counting my library music in hours 75 cds ago. It now announces "1886 songs, 5.2 days, 6.96 GB." 5.2 days! It's a life goal of mine now to last on shuffle mode for 5.2 days and listen to every track. I'll keep you updated. We'll stick in a sidebar counter. "One down and only 3.6 to go."

And speaking of shuffle mode, I believe that might be my favorite feature. I don't like it enough to buy just the iPod Shuffle. There's a control factor involved in the original iPod. If I'm listening to Queen's "You're My Best Friend" and it reminds me of James Taylor's "You've Got a Friend," I don't have to wade through three nocturnes, a Batman theme song, and Ben Harper's "Mama's Got a Girlfriend Now" to get to it.

Shuffle mode is like squeezing the last ounce of toothpaste out of the tube. It's responsible and efficient and minty fresh.

Shuffle mode is an equal opportunity employer. Larry Norman, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Lucinda Williams each get paid diddly-squat to serve onion rings and mop the floors until it's their turn to take the stage.

Shuffle mode is the international language of love. In German, it is Zufaellige Titel--literally, shuffled titles. "Now playing..." translates "You're hearing..."

Other areas of my life that I wish I could put on shuffle:
5) my closet -- I would love to wake up wearing that blue shirt that always gets hidden at the back or those jeans that I have totally forgotten I own.
4) language -- today we're going to speak croatian.
3) old friends -- Aubrey came to see me last week. Who knows who would be next... Cade? Jamie? Bobbie? Kim? I would get to see everyone in a shuffle period of at least three months.
2) the bed that Amy's cat pees on -- it's usually mine.
1) books -- maybe then I'd finally make it all the way through Moby Dick and have the guts to sell Max Lucado in the garage sale.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Bye Bye Batgirl!

It's a sad/exciting day. Due to the sheer amount of stuff I have to pack and put in storage/give away/ship to Germany, I have decided to sell my prized collection of DC Comic glasses on Ebay. :( So that's why it's a sad day.


holy lack of a caption, batman!

However, this same event is also an exciting one due to the expenses that moving to Europe tends to incur, and the timing of Batman Begins that comes out next Wednesday. So technically, a move and a movie have increased the number of potential buyers for my collection and have thus increased the potential income that such a collection might bring. So that's why it's a semi-exciting day as well. Hopefully six days from now will be an even more exciting day.


riddle me this...

If you are interested in giving these beloved children a home (or just want to see what holiness looks like on Ebay), check out my auctions.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Of Strange Lands & Felines



I'm sorry. I've tried to not be one of those people that talks about their pets on their blog, but I thought maybe these pictures were appropriate. Meet Edwina. She will be receiving her pet passport soon and travelling to Germany courtesy of the seat in front of me and a couple of sedatives. She has begun her language studies and currently tries her paw at Bird. She is also considering changing her name to Brigitte. (p.s. when you go to the "bird" link, click on bi-lingual. this is what dwini sounds like when she stares out the window, too)

what was that?

naptime

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Richard and the Winter Wind

this is an audio post - click to play


Richard is in third grade. His parents are from China, but he grew up in Alabama. He speaks perfect Chinese, which makes that little 'bama accent even cuter.

Richard's assignment was to come up with a story to go with the piece he was practicing this week: "Winter Wind." This is his story. He hadn't written it out, and I wasn't prompting him. You'll catch words like "mayor" and "meeting." :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

I am Jack's Melted Face

I've got the worst headache, and I'm tired, and I have to get up early in the morning to teach, but I just have to write. I've been putting it off.

I've been reading 1 Samuel this week. Faithful Hannah feverishly prays for a son, and her gift-child at age twelve recognizes the voice of God more clearly than Eli, the high priest of Israel does. Then Eli's evil priest-sons are killed violently in battle because they asked for sacrificed meat to be roasted instead of boiled. And Eli falls off a rock and breaks his neck when he hears the news. Granted, he didn't fall off a rock when he first learned of their meat-roasting habits, so he kinda had it coming.

In the same battle that Eli's sons are killed, the ark of the covenant is captured by the Philistines. God's people mourn because they think His presence has been taken from them. The Philistines think they're hot stuff for having the ark until the rats and the tumors start popping up. I personally picture Arnold Schwarzeneggar as a rogue Philistine telling some young innocent, "Eet's naht a ... ok, eet ees a TU-mah." They end up sending the ark to four of the five Philistinian cities as a test to see if cancer-carrying vermin continue to pour out. By the time the ark nears the fifth city, the people are outside waving their hands and wailing to be spared of the ark--please don't send us this God.

The concept of the ark of the covenant has always fascinated me. God had his people build him a gold box for a house. The movie Raiders of the Lost Ark gave me nightmares in eighth grade. All the melting of faces and stuff--ew. (Hmm, Kevin talked about melting faces this week, too...) And then I read about the return of the ark to one of the towns on the outskirts of the promised land. As kind of an afterthought the author explains God's judgment. The ark returneth verily and greatly unto the people of Israel. There was much rejoicing and ... oh yeah, He melted the faces off 70 men who looked inside it, too.

And sitting on my front porch, I nearly choked on my coffee--half because I didn't remember the melting faces actually being in there, and half because I would've been one of the ones to look. It's not in the holy museum. It's just in this guy's house. I'm a chosen one. He's my God, why wouldn't he want me to look? Okay, so he told me us not to look, but surely he didn't mean me right now in this situation. I can already hear the excuses. I mean, just look at how many times I typed the first person pronoun in this paragraph! It's all about me. I think about me. And italics. I think about italics, too.

NPR's All Things Considered had a special report today about the scientists who discovered a persistent low-frequency hum in the mid-70's. Two non-Ivy league astronomers won the Nobel Prize for discovering the 15-million-year-old residual sound of the Big Bang. It was science's first physical evidence for all of life coming into existence in a single moment. Interestingly, they also cite it as evidence for all of life eventually ending apocalyptically in a moment. They interviewed one of those astronomers who had this to say about their conclusion: "When you've eliminated all the probable possibilities, then you must conclude that the least possible is the most probable."

Can't you just imagine the power that must have unleashed in that moment when the dark void first heard the words "Let there be ..." Couldn't the universe have replied with a primal birthing scream that was so powerful we could still hear it today? Wouldn't that have been the birth of sound itself? Systems of harmonics yawning and flexing their newly-found muscles?

A God that overwhelming--a God that ancient--asking His people to build him a little ark. All of a Big Bang God in a box. That'd be enough to melt anyone's face off.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Please...

What does your alone time with God look like when it happens? I don't want to know about what you've read unless you've applied it--no theology or 'isms. Don't tell me about what you want it to look like. I don't want C. S. Lewis or G. K. Chesterton or anyone else with cool initials and fantastic writing skills. I want you. Give me a flawed, real peek into your relationship with Him. I'm struggling right now, and I'd appreciate your input, and I'm too tired for image-maintenance.

Tuesday, May 10, 1:45 pm
Thanks for your transparency. I easily replace getting to know God with doing stuff for God.

If my roommate Amy were to water the plants, mow the yard (even sweeping after edging), take out the trash, vacuum, dust, make our beds, clean the cat litter, and make my dinner--that would seem wonderful and healthy to both of us. But if she were to do all these things and go through that same day without speaking to me, I would be hurt and not care a lick about the lawn or litter. I don't want to treat God like that.

It takes a lot for me to just sit and be still. When Amy and I watch movies, I always have something in my hands to do (It drives her crazy). What must it be like to need Him like I need air? What must it take for me to get to that point of trusting Him like I trust this computer chair?

Right now, He feels a little bit like a suitor that I'm not sure is cut out for me. So I don't always return his calls, and when we do hang out, I make sure I do all the talking--the relationship is easier to control that way. When he asks a hard question, I have a witty retort and casually turn the subject to the latest on itunes or that project I hear he's into in China. At the end of the date, I'm sure to thank him for the coffee so he can't say I'm an ingrate, and I give him a vague promise of doing it again sometime. I smile to friends when asked about him later and remark, "Yeah, he's a nice guy . . . I'm just not sure about that China-thing, though."

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

"There's a fish in the perculator!"


forbidden love

Ok, I don't know how many of you out there have watched Twin Peaks. I personally was too young to be able to appreciate it when it was on television in 1991. David Lynch is a genius, though. Twin Peaks was unique in its plotline (a precursor to the X-Files), using the mystery of a small-town high school girl's murder to develop its characters. If you are a fan, please sign the petition to release the second season on DVD. Pretty please?


"Now, that's a darn good cup of coffee!"

Allright, what it really breaks down to: I have been able to rent the first season at Blockbuster, but no one has the second season. NO ONE! I don't know what happens! I'm dying here! And don't go telling me either if you know! There are websites that could tell me, but I've been avoiding them. Sweet, Cooper, hang in there, buddy!

I don't promise anything special will happen to you, but I do promise to give you a hug if I'm ever close enough to.

Please sign here.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The Blue Slide

I watched an 87-year-old woman go down a slide last night. She'd been visiting her son and grandsons, who happen to be my piano students. In mid-Ode to Joy, Mark turns around to look out the large glass window into their backyard. "Grandma's going down the slide!"

Their jungle gym literally rivals the public one across the street. It has swings and a wiggling ramp and a rope climb, and of course--the glory of the playground--two slides. There's the smaller Yellow One that has one curve in it and no cover which, for those a little more timid, allows for hand-holding while sliding. But Grandma was climbing the stairs of the Blue One. The Blue One -- higher and covered and with at least two complete curves. There's no hand-holding on the Blue One.

"Can I be done?" I looked down to see Mark's eyes pleading with me. "Grandma's going down the slide!"

"Ok, but tell Michael it's his turn."

The picture through the window showed Mark running as fast as he could out to the playground to join his dad and his little brother Michael. Grandma disappeared behind the entrance to the slide. There were some encouraging cheers from her grandsons in the swings, and her son was standing at the bottom with his arms out wide. And they waited. And they waited. Then there they were--little grandma legs flailing after a few seconds of neopropylene thrills.

"A-ha-ha-ha!" my own laugh surprised me. It echoed against the living room ceiling and into the kitchen, and I realized I was the only one in the house. The laughs were involuntary, and as soon as I thought one was done, a new one bubbled up to the surface. Michael came running into the living room.

"Grandma just went down the slide!"

"I watched her," and I laughed.

Grandma came in later to plop down exhaustedly into the chair next to the piano. It took her five or six minutes to come back inside the house after the slide. "I've been wanting to do that all week!" she sighed, and her wrinkled old face spread into a wide ribbon of satisfaction.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

5k A-Ok

This morning, I ran my first 5K . . . 3.1 miles. I believe that's the furthest I've ever gone running toward something. I'm no Forrest Gump. The last half mile was inside the zoo--the last half mile. By that time, I didn't care all that much about the hyenas and hippos. Though, the elephants were still kinda cool. "Oh . . . pant . . . pant," I said to Katie, my running buddy, "there . . . ele . . . phants . . . "

The thing was, I didn't realize that the race continued inside the zoo. When we got close to the gates, I kicked it in. Once inside, I didn't see anybody stopping--bad sign. So I had to recover and keep up some kind of a pace just to stay with Katie. Katie's a good pace-setter. I wouldn't have done nearly as well without her. I mean, there is a lot of pride attached to doing something like that on your own, but there's a lot that gets pulled out of you when you're with someone else--especially someone else that's pretty well matched.

As Katie pulled ahead to pass runners in front of us, I would pull to the side and follow her around. It was just understood that we were staying together. As I stared past her back, it occurred to me that I need pacesetters in my life. I needed Katie to decide to pass the girls with walkmans in front of us (do they still make walkmans?), because if she hadn't, I wouldn't have. I had been telling myself that I was just trying to finish this thing. But there was a lot more in me than I thought. Because of Katie, I exceeded my own expectations today. I probably could have finished those 3.1 miles by myself. But it wouldn't have been in 31 minutes.

In a brief Boston marathon moment, we poured our dixie cups of water over our heads at the 1.5 mile mark, laughing. Just afterwards, we passed the park restrooms and saw a girl come sprinting out to rejoin the race. "She went to the bathroom, and she's still beating us," I panted to Katie.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Dumbbutt

Dumbbutt is my brother. He has been since he was eight--I was eighteen. Somehow the name "Dumbbutt" came to replace Dimitri's Christian name. It probably happened after pointing to his nose and saying "ear" after an hour-long session of learning what his bodyparts were in English. Our pastor walked up to meet Dima at lunch one day, "And what's your name?" My little brother grinned through his cute Russian accent, "I'm Dumbbutt!" My mother covered her eyes and groaned.

He's sixteen now, a sophomore in high school, and we still call him Dumbbutt. When I was home over spring break, he pulled the drawstring from his athletic shorts over his head and walked around our sister Tatiana's room dancing and singing "I love dan-cing . . . oh yes I do . . . I love dan-cing . . . na-na-na-na-na-na." Tat and I couldn't stop laughing, and I snapped a photo of him with my camera phone and titled it, you guessed it, "Dumbbutt."

This morning I decided to change the wallpaper on my phone--Ben Folds needed a rest. I grinned when I saw Dimitri's picture. "Menu . . . Photo gallery . . . Assign pic . . . Wallpaper . . ." I waited a few seconds and the phone replied: "Dumbbutt Activated."

Dumbbutt activated. Yes, indeed. Reminds you just a smidge of the Wonder Twins, too, doesn't it?

Monday, April 04, 2005

Happy Birthday, Sweet Friend

Sweet, sweet is the greeting of the eyes,
And sweet is the voice in its greeting,
When adieus have grown old and goodbyes
Fade away where old Time is retreating.

Warm the nerve of a welcoming hand,
And earnest a kiss on the brow,
When we meet over sea and o'er land
Where furrows are new to the plough.
--John Keats

This picture was taken two summers ago in Boston. I was in town for a chamber music festival, and Peter was kind enough to let me stay at his place and give me a lift to Brandeis University. We hadn't seen each other in ... one, two ... five years--not since our semester together in Austria. We had Indian food, and he let my friends and me into the old theater in Boston that he worked at. He was a ... oh dangit, Peter, I'm going to forget the proper term ... projectionist? Is that right? It's not projector... Hmm. I have come to expect to find Peter behind a camera of some sort, that's for sure. He studied film at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass, won a filmmaking award in Vermont for a short entitled Waiting for the Time Being, and is currently finishing up a masters degree in art at the Art Institute of Chicago.

He's going to hate me for telling you all that, but I can't help it--I'm proud of him. He's one of the most passionate people I know--and I swear he had just shoved some kind of food in my mouth before he snapped that polaroid. B**tard.
In Letters to a Young Poet, Rilke wrote:

There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must," then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.

Man, Peter, I think of you when I read that.
One of my favorite photos from my semester in Europe is a black and white that Peter took in the small practice room at the school. I was practicing Liszt's Un Sospiro (A Whisper). He told me it was his portrait of me. I think I told him then that it was inaccurate--that it didn't feel like me. But I think there's something deeper in me that is beginning to nod. I'm beginning to see that it's who I want to be.

Let me have a tenth of the passion you possess. Your pursuit of excellence and honesty is truly beautiful. Thank you for your kindness and your encouragement. You have taught me a great deal, and I am grateful. Have a beautiful birthday.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Girly Prejudice

"Here's a tip I've never used: I understand you can learn a great deal about girldom by reading Pride and Prejudice, and I own a copy, but I have never read it. I tried. It was given to me by a girl with a little note inside that read: What is in this book is the heart of a woman. I am sure the heart of a woman is pure and lovely, but the first chapter of said heart is hopelessly boring. Nobody dies at all. I keep the book on my shelf because girls come into my room, sit on my couch, and eye the books on the adjacent shelf. You have a copy of Pride and Prejudice, they exclaim in a gentle sigh and smile. Yes, I say. Yes, I do." --Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

I'm kinda embarrassed to be girly. I always have been. In high school, I wore oversized clothes and would only wear lip gloss and would never apply it in front of my dad. I didn't bother to brush my hair until sixth grade. And my sixth grade year book picture proves it. Someday when I'm famous, this is the picture they'll dig up. So I'm giving them a head start. Nowadays, I'll pair my funky red velvet Airwalks with a dress or carry my beat-up army mapbag as a purse with slacks and a blouse to teach. It just makes me feel better.

But I've always loved Pride and Prejudice. My mom and I used to watch A&E's Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy on Saturday mornings. We could quote lines to each other. A few birthdays ago, she bought me the DVD's. Now I only have to change the disc once instead of hopping up to insert six videos. If you sneak up on me, you'll find me stepping back and forth between Lizzy and Darcy's "moment." But I would never let you see on purpose, especially if you are a boy.

Lizzy: "My feelings ... are so different now. In fact ... they are quite ... the opposite."

Darcy stands facing her with the goofiest love grin on a movie-face ever.

The A&E miniseries made me fall in love with Colin Firth. It just happens. Whoever plays Darcy, quotes Darcy, will soon have the ladies following in unified cooing. I say this from experience because I just watched the new remake of P&P, and thought it was kinda cheesy, but Orlando Seale still made my laptop wallpaper.


i think we'd make a nice couple, don't you?

I don't pride myself in unified cooing. I like to do my cooing solo. Ah, but what the heck...

Coo.

I Still Love You, Pool!

Natalie said she would play pool with me yesterday at the Y! Pool! And it's free with our paid monthly memberships! Free! I was so excited!

And then we found the pool tables. I guess you get what you pay for. The tips of the cue sticks had come off long ago, so while it saved the Y the cost of cue chalk, there was a hollow rattling with every shot as if my stick had hit the table. I mean, those nine-year-olds in the corner could've thought I didn't really know what I was doing. And then the 8-ball had a bite taken out of it like some kid (with very sharp teeth) had asked it a question, and it gave the wrong answer. Huh. That joke has potential.

I used to have a love affair with pool. My senior year of college, Cade and I would head to the student center and trade in our ID for balls and sticks. I can't remember what time of day, though it must've been afternoon-ish. Man, it was fun. He would kick my butt, but it was fun. And I like to think I got to be pretty good. 'Course, I like to think my German got pretty good, too, but my last little excursion to the Motherland made me think otherwise when I ordered driver's ed instead of a train ticket. Oh right, I already told you that one. Sorry.

So Katie and I have been playing pool more. 'Cept we've had to pay $10/hr for a good smoke-free table with no old men staring at our butts while we make our smooth long shots OR going to the smoky places for only a buck a game (i usually learn more trick shots from the dirty old men.) I don't think I'll mind the smoke or the money now, though. Free sucked.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Click here

i'm sorry, my cat's on my lap & i'm pecking, so just do it.

Holy Bingo, Batman

My roommate and closest friend, Amy, has played bingo every night this week. Every night this week. In the process, she has won over $400. Over $400. So I went with her tonight. I tend to be more enthusiastic about going when she's had a big week like this. In the beginning of our bingo adventures, she had to drag me. Now, I volunteer. I was completing the caller's sentences tonight. (It was my sixth time). So far, my grand total of winnings comes to $16.50. $16.50--that's it. And that wasn't even on Good Friday.

Yes, I found myself praying to God for the $1,000 progressive jackpot so that I could pay my insanely-high taxes at just about the time the Son of God's side was being pierced with a sword at hundreds of passion plays. That's the kind of focus I had today.

I had a cranberry-orange scone and a darn good cup of coffee this morning with an old friend (as old as my four-and-a-half years in Wichita allows friends to be). The two of us haven't talked by ourselves in over a year, and she asked me after an hour about why I had called her in the first place. I tried to be honest. I think maybe I was too honest and then not honest enough.

The truth is, I tend to write people off. If they hurt me or say things that hurt my pride or that i think hurt my pride, i avoid them. I can say hurtful things about them to other people. I look for people who agree with me to back me up. It's a subtle thing--this competitive spirit in relationships. There are a couple people in my life that I just don't talk to. And it might not be obvious to anyone else, but it's obvious to me. And it's obvious to a cross-defeating Christ, and He has been letting me know about it.

So I told her that I called her earlier this week as a step toward defeating the competitiveness, the sinful self-sufficiency, the bitterness. And I tried to tell her that. But it's hard to tell someone that you are taking a step toward forgiveness by contacting them, so it came out kind of weird and awkward without the use of the word forgiveness. And afterwards, in trying to explain all this on the phone to Kevin, I realized that I had actually avoided the crucial part of this exercise--dealing with my heart.

Coffee and conversation were a cover-up. Even in my efforts to forgive, I am alarmingly self-sufficient. I need much more than a smile on my face and an encouraging word to forgive. I need a miracle. I need grace. I need a cross.

Jesus, I don't want to write you off anymore. (p. s. i really could use some help paying my taxes, Lord of All)

Monday, March 21, 2005

Saturday, March 19, 2005

What I Love Can Kill Me

It would only take 233.23 cans of Diet Dr. Pepper to kill me. I am assuming this is all at one time, which is good. Because I have probably already drunk this much Diet Dr. Pepper. (have drank this much Diet Dr. Pepper?)

On the upside, it would only take 211.68 cans of Diet Coke to kill me. So I've definitely made the right coke decision. (where i'm from, if it's fizzy, it's coke)

I think a lot less could kill me if it were in a bucket and my head got stuck in that bucket. And maybe it would only take about 1 can falling on my head from the top of the empire state building to put me in the ground.

(thanks, rachel)

p.s. the title's a link.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

A Celebration of Dancing Shoes

There are at least three thrift stores within a one-mile radius of our home. I randomly pulled into one of them on the way home from working out this morning. Even as I was parking my car two spaces away from the door, I was asking myself what I was doing there. "I don't really need anything," I tried to tell myself. But as I was already parked and out of the car, "Aw, what the hey."

This particular shop is run by a church I think because there's always a Bible verse on the white board in the entryway, and the music they play is usually a flute or clarinet version of a classic hymn or worship song from the eighties. I found a pretty blue cable-knit cardigan sweater, a long polka-dotted scarf to use as a belt, and a much-needed set of white embroidered sheets. Amazing Grace started trickling from the speaker overhead. This time, there were words, too. I hadn't realized it, though, until a thick female voice from the next aisle entered at the second phrase. "....that saved a wretch like me!"

The voice was coming from the shoe aisle. I continued to look at handbags and suitcases because I didn't want my huge grin to make her self-conscious. Well, actually, I just didn't want her to stop. She sounded like a woman who knew what she was singing, and her voice seemed to fill the store, though no one else seemed to notice her. I decided to brave the shoe aisle. My eyes began the up-down-left-right scan of the cubbied pairs of dress shoes, and I almost missed them. Black strapped heels. "Wait, are those...." They were. Black character shoes--dancing shoes.

Now, this moment would hold a lot more significance for you, the reader, if I had informed you at an earlier time of my quest for dancing shoes. I haven't needed them like I need hummus or a good book or a budget. But the swingdancing, though lately intermittent, has been nearly a Sunday night habit. Three weeks ago, Holli, Katie, and I took a six-hour class on a Saturday morning. Yes. Six hours. The shoes I have work, but I kept thinking how nice it would be to have a good pair of character shoes.

"Only a dollar? I knew there was a reason I came in here," I thought out loud.

"Yes, hon, there is always a reason," the singing woman was looking right at the dancing shoes that were now on my feet and fit perfectly. "God is . . . He knows what He's doin. And them are some nice dancin shoes, mm-hmm."

"Let it Be" began to play as we walked toward the counter to pay for our finds.

And when the night is cloudy,
There is still a light that shines on me,
Shine on until tomorrow, let it be.
I wake up to the sound of music
Mother mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
Let it be, let it be.
There will be an answer, let it be.
Let it be, let it be,
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

God is . . . He does know what He's doing. A random stop at a thrift store, and He spoke to me through a singing stranger. And some nice dancin shoes.

Jailhouse Talk

I had to get a personal background check today. "It's behind the new courthouse beside the church in the lobby of the jail, hon," Tracy from the county sheriff's office told me over the phone. "You can't miss it." After circling the block three times, I finally didn't miss it.

I was the only person in the jail lobby not smoking or contemplating smoking, and I was the only person in pigtails. I saw the Records Office sign and made straight for the door. The lady behind the bullet-proof glass gave me a funny look when I asked to get a background check. "Well, hang on, I'm new here, too," she explained. So she got a quick lesson from a coworker on how to tell young naive girls in pigtails how to fill out a piece of paper with their name and address requesting information on whether or not their meth lab's been busted and if they had to kill someone in the process.

"Why do you need the check?" she asked.

"I'm applying for a teaching position overseas," I replied.

"Okay, we'll have that right out."

I sat in an orange chair and discovered that my phone could download worldwide weather maps at no charge for the next 24 hours.

"Allright, here you go," she rapped on the thick glass. There was some muttering from the women in the cubicles behind her. "Oh, they want to know what you're going to be teaching."

"Piano."

"What?" I hear a woman behind her yell. She turns back toward them and plays an air piano. Muffled voices. "They want to know where you're going to be teaching."

"Germany."

"Germany." More muttering...

"She wants to know if you'll say something in German." She opened the door to the office so that everyone could hear me.

"Danke fuer meine Papier!" I shouted.

"Allright, whatever," came the reply.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Batman Begins

Woo-hoo for another Batman! That's right, folks, the superhero superstar that refuses to be relegated to your local video store is back in full-force by the persons that brought you Newsies, Dawson's Creek, and some other stuff.

"Nice work, Anakin . . . I mean, Bruce."

Really? Liam? Doesn't that seem just a little too, um . . . familiar? Katie Holmes is in this one, and I must say that I am glad to see the heroine pendulum swinging toward brunettes again. Godspeed you Holmeses, Portmans, Garners, and Olson-twin-with-dark-hair-s.

"I love this job more than I love taffy ... and I'm a man who enjoys his taffy."

This is pretty much the batman I fell in love with. Okay, not this one. This is just some guy dressed up in a batsuit. Adam West, current mayor of Quahog, was really my first love. It never bothered me that strings held his cape up in the 'wind' and that his muscular structure would never allow those Pow- and Wham-producing feats every day after school. I've never really been a fan of large pecks anyway.

nothin like a ford
The car was cool, don't get me wrong. Cade told me as we were walking into a KC Goodwill that he saw the man that bought the set Batmobile from one of the previous movies. The man donned a batsuit and drove around town in it. Wish I coulda seen that.
I don't like change, but I have to admit I like the new Batwheels.

I think he is contemplating deep-fried bananas here. I personally really like deep-fried ice cream. I'm sure bananas are good, too. I learned from some new Canadian friends last week that you can also fry Oreos, Twinkies, and probably Ho-Hos, too.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Too Many Marshmallows

Maybe it was the handfuls of marshmallows that I felt compelled to stuff in my mouth this morning. Maybe it's that I only had good sleep until about 4:00 a.m. Maybe it's the swirling emotions in my chest and nasal cavities. Maybe it's cause I don't feel like a missionary.

I remember walking down the aisle at school chapel when I was twelve. I told God after a long sermon, probably from a man living in Mali or over the Great Commission passage, that I would be a missionary. In my mind, this meant that I could expect to get a letter from Him in the next couple days stating the exact head-hunting tribe in Africa that He had assigned me to. The letter never came. In fact, it still hasn't come.

How could living in a western culture be missionary work? How could learning a language I have coveted since elementary school be a valid spiritual assignment? How could God be asking me to do what I love to do in a place that I would love to do it in?

Before my freshman year of college, my piano professor, David Allen Wehr, called me to say hello and tell me what pieces he would like me to work on before classes started. I remember him calling me Stephanie and telling me to prepare Copland's The Cat and the Mouse and some others for the fall. I showed up scared out of my mind with the assigned music for my first college lesson. "Oh, I gave Stephanie that piece. You're working on this one," he explained.

I'm not altogether convinced that God hasn't assigned me the wrong piece. There's someone named Gertrude or Brigitta out there holding my pygmies letter, and I'm holding my breath in hopes that they won't find me.

Book Meme

[got this from Rick]

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the fifth, sixth and seventh sentences on your blog, along with these instructions.
5. Don't you dare dig for that "cool" or "intellectual" book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it. Just grab what is closest!


"Household cleaning products display warnings against everything from fumes to prolonged skin contact. Prescription drugs often bear warning labels about recommended dosages and possible side effects. Even a seemingly harmless packet of scented potpourri carries the warning that it should not be ingested!"

from Pure Sex by Ed Young

I'm sooooo tired . . .

*It's 4:00 am by my body's clock.
*I have been awake for 22 hours.
*My hair has been in the same pigtails since Frankfurt.
*A German agent checked my passport and ticket before I went through security. He told me I looked like Heidi and that he hoped I enjoyed my flight to Miami Beach. (I was flying to Dallas)
*I got the last standby ticket on the first American flight to leave Frankfurt when the flight was oversold with 20 people ahead of me on the waiting list. I don't know how that happened.
*I got to tell a new Slavic friend named Martina, who was staying in the Frankfurt hostel because her mother is in the hospital, why I believed there was a God, and she thanked me for it.
*I forewent the bulk of packing a towel for the night in the hostel, so I am currently not a little bit stinky.
*I was beginning to feel pretty good about my language skills again when I proceeded to ask a German train conductor in German if I could purchase a 'Fahrschule' from him. "A Fahrkarte?" he asked. I had just asked him to sell me a traveling school.
*I'm home and well. More later. For now, sleep.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

On the 27th Anniversary of the Day of My Birth

King James and I had a reunion today.

I couldn't find my special Bible--I think I left it at Holli, Cely, and Katie's house. So I dusted off the old broken blue pleather King James-er given to me three months after my birth by some dear family friends. The school where I spent kindergarten through tenth grade didn't allow us to use a version other than King James... I think because of evil things like copyrights and paraphrases. I got pretty used to hearing the 'thees' and 'thous.' Since leaving the school, however, I can't remember cracking the blue pleather, and the NIV translations have replaced my KJV memory verses. It was a beautiful day today--almost 75--and it was porchswing time once again (armed with kleenex and claritin).

O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me.
Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.
Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.
Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.

In second grade, I discovered highlighting. I had noticed Dad obediently ruffling through his Bible to find Hezekiah-something that the pastor had rattled off in a foreign language on Sunday morning. And there they were! Flashes of color on the tissue-thin pages. They couldn't have been pictures. They were too small and monochromatic to be pictures. Why did his have color? Mine was only black and white. Then I noticed the girl sitting next to me in chapel had color in hers, too. She had written in her Bible! Her Bible! We weren't allowed to make any marks in our readers, but here she was making marks in color in God's book! After school, I went straight to my dad's desk where I knew he kept his yellow highlighter for his calendar. I took the highlighter and my Bible back to my room and shut the door. I opened up to page one and began my beautification process. Random verses of the first three pages of Genesis are still an aged yellow. My childhood was apparently before cell phones and pink highlighters, because almost all of the highlighting throughout is yellow. Also yellow but done a few years later:

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.
Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.

I leave for Germany Tuesday to "survey the land," as D.D. puts it. This time it's not a vacation. This time I am visiting a new people and a new place that God may be calling me to claim as my own. Tuesday looms like Easter weekend--excitement for Resurrection Sunday mixed with the dread of knowing Good Friday must come first.

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.
How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.

As you read this, would you please pray that God would heal my body before I leave and that I would hear His voice clearly while I am there? Thanks.