Thursday, May 26, 2011

All I Really Need to Know in Life, I Learned From My Kindergartener

(Inspired by “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” by Robert Fulghum)

As my daughter nears her kindergarten graduation, I cannot believe the way these few years have swiftly passed us by. When I close my eyes, I still can feel her snuggled up against my chest, wrapped in a cozy onesie and a cloth blankie, smooth cheek resting on my shoulder. Now, I watch her zip by me at any given moment, eyes laughing and voice bubbling, going a million miles a minute. Watching her easily transition into school, friendships, and the second half of her first decade on this planet, I pause to capture the simple yet profound lessons we can learn from a kindergartener.

• If you’re going to be sloppy with the toothpaste, you might want to put your nice shirt on after you brush.

• Work first, then play. But make sure you do plenty of both. Too much of either leads to less than desirable results.

• Read. Read during the day. Remember that the ability to read is an amazing skill. Later in life, you will probably forget what an intricate process learning to read was, but try not to take the gift of literacy for granted. Above all else, read a bedtime story every night. And if you’re able to, give someone a kiss and a hug before you shut your eyes.

• You can have a Reese cup. Or even two. But make sure you’re eating the healthy stuff, too, and don’t overdo it with the sweets.

• Be nice to everyone, even those who aren’t nice to you. Sometimes people will hurt you, or your feelings. Don’t make it a secret that you’ve been hurt. But if you get no apology, forgive them anyway and move on.

• Laugh every day. As many times as possible.

• Everybody mispronounces a word, gets a problem wrong, or screws up an assignment every once in a while. Accept corrections and criticisms with dignity, and don’t allow yourself to be embarrassed.

• Always tell your mommy and daddy that you love them.

• We all have meltdowns occasionally. If you’re having one, the best thing to do, usually, is take a nap.

• If you don’t understand something, ask. If that question leads to another question, ask that one too. If the person you are questioning doesn’t know the answers, don’t be discouraged, ask someone else. Never lose your sense of curiosity.

• Sing loudly, even if you sing off-key. If you’re trying your hardest and having a good time, no matter what the task, who cares what anybody else thinks?

• Follow the rules. Follow the directions. If you break a rule or skip a direction, be prepared to live with the consequences. When you’ve done something wrong, say that you’re sorry. And mean it.

• When you come home, tell somebody about your day. The more details the better. Then, listen while they tell you about yours.

• The show must go on! I was particularly proud of my little girl for getting up on stage by herself for the first time ever during a talent show. She had a nasty cold, and her partner didn’t show, but Kaliah dancing ballet to “Jesus Loves Me,” the first solo act of the evening, her tiny little figure moving gracefully, cautiously, and a little unsteadily across the stage all by her lonesome self, showed me that bravery comes in all shapes and sizes.

• Enjoy the little things in life. Sunshine. A rainbow. An encounter with a butterfly. Be amazed by the small stuff.

• Love someone all the way to infinity and back. If we all possessed the trusting, innocent love of a kindergartener, we could take our relationships to places we never imagined.

• Go to bed at a decent hour, or you’ll be seriously cranky-pants in the morning.

• Every once in a while, go ahead and be a show-off. Shake it like there’s no tomorrow to “Walk Like an Egyptian.” Be proud of your accomplishments, and share them with your loved ones. Don’t get carried away though—everything you do is a gift from God.

• Be honest. Kindergartners are particularly good at this, as they’ve yet to learn the art of “tact.”

• Have faith the size of a mountain. Be unashamed of it, and willing to share with those who need it. Pray for everyone you love, and even those you don’t. Pray for yourself, too. Always remember that God is with you. Allow your heart to be touched by the bigness of our world and the people in it who need our love.

Thank you, Kaliah Rose, for being the best thing that has ever happened to me.



Monday, April 11, 2011

LOVE it.

This weather. It is AWESOME.

I am sitting in bed in a tank top and pajama pants with the ceiling fan whirling, and it is the ABSOLUTE perfect temperature right now. I love finding happiness in life's smallest pleasures.

Plus I just had a fantastic hot shower after a three mile run and a good forty minutes of raking leaves. There are exactly two trees in the backyard, but, somehow, there are about five hundred and fifty million leaves. Darn Maple. The leaves are pretty when they are brilliant green and on the branches. They're beautiful when they are glowing yellow, red, and orange, and still on the branches.

When they are a putrid, wet, disgusting brown mess to be cleaned up? Not so much.

I suppose it's my fault for procrastinating. I wouldn't have had so many to rake, but, um, I didn't own a rake. Nor did I bother to buy one last fall. Or winter. So I bought one last week, and began raking today, and will finish probably around the time Jesus shows back up.

But for now, it doesn't matter. Spring, I've decided, is a more comfortable season for raking leaves than fall or winter, anyway. Plus, my muscles are pulsing in a delightful way--how amazing is it to lay down in clean sheets, in the quiet, and still feel the adrenaline pumping through your legs? What an awesome feeling.

(I feel like Alec Baldwin's guest star character on this episode of Friends--die hard fans probably know what I'm talking about. He played Phoebe's ridiculously optimistic boyfriend, who kept finding happiness in all of the most insanely ordinary surroundings.)

Hopefully I'm not that annoying. But I am feeling quite blessed today. Life is so short--why not cling to the goodness in your everydays?

And seriously, if you've never run three miles, taken a hot shower, and then thrown yourself into bed during a perfect 79 degree evening...

You are missing OUT.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


The HTML has been screwed up in my last two posts. For the record, I do know how to compose multiple paragraphs. But I am neither computer savvy enough (nor, I suppose, do I care enough) to go back and play with blog settings I don't understand, lest I end up throwing my laptop out the window. I apologize for the inconvenience.

Celebrating the Sweet Life!

So one of my amazing friends had a lovely idea... she's hosting "Celebrate the Sweet Life!" at her house today. A girls only event ("Because chocolate can't get you pregnant!"), we plan on indulging with delicious desserts, delightful beverages, and, of course, incomparable company. I am especially excited because this is a childhood friend that I had all but lost touch with until she so generously reached out to me to contribute to my Peru missions trip. I can't wait to reconnect. First, though, the less lovely parts of my day. Packing. I am officially moving at the end of the month, (into my father's house... next door to where my Sweet Life host, Sarah, grew up... yes, we've literally been friends since diapers!) and have thus far packed (and transferred and unpacked) one box. Dad's house is about a forty minute drive from where I currently live, but luckily, I am in the area about once a week to wait tables at The Cottage Cafe. So, before I go into work, I'll be taking a few boxes each time, and hopefully between now and spring break, a majority of the move will already be completed. Today, I have about five boxes in my car I hope to fill and unload before showering and heading to the Sweet Life. I've also decided I have way too much stuff, and, therefore, will be holding a yardsale next Saturday, weather permitting. My preparations for this have included labeling a large box "Yard Sale" and throwing most of my DVD and VHS (yes, I still have tapes) collection into it. Probably no one will want this stuff, but EVERYTHING MUST GO. I am tired of lugging all this stuff around everytime I move! And since this will probably be the last move for a few years, it's time to clean up. So anything I can't sell, I'll probably just give away. Kaliah, funnily enough, has readily agreed to go through her toys, too-- Dad's house is way smaller than the four bedroom we currently rent, and besides, she has toys from before she could walk that simply sit in boxes in her playroom. I told her she could keep the money from the sale of her things, and she quite excitedly got to sorting. In fact, she has been asking me every morning before school if she can do "more sorting and organizing" when she comes home. I feel like we won the genetic lottery. How blessed I am to have my own flesh and blood actually ENJOY sorting and organizing! So I'll be doing some sorting and organizing, some packing and unpacking, before I am free to enjoy The Sweet Life. Maybe even some yardwork, too. I'll be forced to rake up last fall's leaves before I move--yes, you read that right. Last Fall. (In my defense, that maple tree in the backyard loses approximately one million leaves per season). And my grass is in dire need of cutting, which will be tricky, being as I don't own a lawnmower (the neighbor kid was doing it for me, but they moved a few months ago). My, landscaping my father's house is going to be a challenge! I'm certainly not someone with an aptitude for fixing things... I'm normally on the creation end of disasters. But I think a little at a time, with love, and excitement about restoring the home I grew up in, Kaliah and I will be able to make Dad's house into our home... But first, something I'm already good at: I will close by giving you all a taste of The Sweet Life: My World Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies! Making these bad boys is also on my "To Do" list for today: Awesome Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies From Ms. Jenny Meister (My daughter and I love making these together!) Ingredients 2 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted 1 cup packed brown sugar 1/2 cup white sugar 1 tablespoon vanilla extract 1 egg 1 egg yolk 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips Directions 1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper. 2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. 3. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets for gigantic cookies, or 1/8 cup at a time for slightly less gigantic cookies. J Cookies should be about 3 inches apart. 4. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Friday, April 8, 2011

I've Been a Bad, Bad Blogger...

Truly, I've been terrible at updating this thing. I think I need to figure out a way to get more traffic. Don't get me wrong, the followers that I have--all of four of you? LOL--are awesome, but I feel like if I knew I had an anxious audience awaiting my words of wisdom--or words of nonsense--I'd be inspired to write more often. Or maybe I just need for this dreaded school year to end. Perhaps "dreaded" is too strong of an adjective. But man, I love summer. Sunny beach days, laying on a towel smelling of citrusy sun tan lotion. A bedroom that doesn't look like it exploded because I had an hour to clean it. Open windows, summer evening breeze. And no. More. School. Plus, this summer, I am headed to Peru. That's right! Me, who never goes anywhere. Who, until last year, had only ventured into a state not bordering the Atlantic one time ever (and that for a flight change on the way home from college). I am going to Peru to show and tell of the love of Christ. I am so very excited. Now, I just need to get my camera fixed or buy a new one before I go. So that I may take pictures of all the awesome things God is going to use us to do down there. Also, I should probably brush up on (by which, in essence, I mean, learn) some Spanish. Hasta la vista! (Is it bad that the only Spanish I know is from Arnold Schwarzenagger movies, the kitchen of the Cottage Cafe Restaurant, and perhaps a maximum of three or four phrases from Spanish One back in high school?) Hasta Luego!

Monday, March 14, 2011

As Previously Promised...

...Here is the link to Nutshells, the website I was blogging about in my last post. Definitely worth checking out, should you have a moment! Awesomely enough, you really only need a minute or two, since the premise of the site is to collect memoirs of 100 words or less. So check it out, and if you're interested in entering your own, or voting on those currently entered (I'm in 4th place as of now!), or both writing and voting, contact me and I'll get you the code you need to participate. Also, for those of you who are teachers, the site's creator, my lovely and talented friend Rachel, has accompanying lesson plans.

Also, in my attempt to describe Nutshells in my last post, I labeled the post Flash Fiction, which is just plain idiotic, since anyone who knows anything remotely literary understands that memoirs are, in fact, non-fiction.

But, I digress.

At any rate, should you head over to the site, I think you will be impressed by the diversity of topics and the amazing feats writers are doing in capturing their lives in 100 words or less.

That's all for now, folks!

Oh, snap, I forgot to brag.

I finished my first 10 Mile Race (Time Kennard 10 Mile River Run) a little over a week ago, crossing the finish line in one hour, thirty-six minutes, and twenty-five seconds.

I'd write more about that, but my legs are still sore.

(Just kidding).

I'd write more about it, but I'm tired, and that's not a very fast time anyway, but for a first race, it's decent enough that I thought it was worth mentioning.

Maybe a year from now I can detail my attempts at a marathon over on Nutshells?

Or maybe a marathon is a BIT too ambitious for the time being...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Flash Fiction (A Drabble?)

So an awesome friend of mine set up a great website in which she challenges members to write memoir style story in 100 words or less. This site isn't completely live yet, but when (if?) it opens to the public, I'll post the link. In the meantime, I thought I'd share the piece I wrote. I'm not sure what the technical term for this kind of writing is. "Flash fiction" is a term used in creative writing to describe extremely brief fiction, but definitions vary as to just what the specifications are. A "Drabble" seems to be a work of exactly 100 words, which my piece is... but drabbles, according to the googling I just ever so studiously conducted, tend to deal primarily with the science fiction genre.

So, I don't know what this is. I'm also still contemplating a title.

But it's 100 words. Unless "finger tips" should really be one word. Then I've got room to squeeze in one more adjective somewhere.

Here it is, my memoirish/flash fiction/drabble (dunno if I like the word drabble):

I look down at her, this precious bundle nestled against me, soft pink velvet of her blanket comforting my finger tips.

I look up, blinking away the hot tears that flow down. Smiling at, because, and in spite of this moment.

The beginning and the end. These priceless few minutes. The time that I hold her.

The first time I hold her is also the last time I hold her.

When they take her away, my heart will break.

Hello is also goodbye.

But goodbye is not forever. I hand you to the nurse.

I miss you already, my daughter.

Friday, March 4, 2011

How Do I Love Thee?

How is it that I, an English teacher and writer, fell in love with a man who calls an apostrophe "that floating comma"?

I gotta admit, I'm fascinated with the idea of falling in love. Like it's an accident. Uncontrollable. "Falling." Painful, unplanned... remembering a fall down someone's steps a couple month's ago--quick!

I suppose that in many ways, the attraction I have for the one I love has been like those emotions associated with "falling." But attraction in itself is such an odd process! Why we click with certain people and not others? How the most unlikely person in the room might be the one you fit with just right?

Interesting stuff, is all I'm saying. And no, I'm not a stuck-up language snob, or even a member of the grammar police (for the most part)... but when I read that text the other day, I laughed so hard I almost cried.

The context was we were arguing over the function on your phone that keys words out for you. Because his phone spells out "ain't" for him, my dear one maintains that "ain't" is a word. When I suggested his phone typed it in there for him because he once texted it and his phone memorized it, his reply was: "No. It types that floating comma in there too."

And if that wasn't bad enough, added, "with all it's supper powers."

One of my students? I would have thrown up my hands. Or maybe sent a few erasers flying across the room.

But in this situation, all I can do is smile. And appreciate how the people we care most about in our lives can fit so unexpectedly into those funny moments that give us an opportunity to see how truly different we are.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Day in the Life Of...

Today, on my glorious day off, I...

  • Read a devotional. I know. I said I was going to wake up and read my Bible. But my Bible was downstairs. And my devotional was next to my bed.
  • Sent some sponsorship letters. My intention yesterday was to immediately begin my writing (I'm working on a second novel) following my Bible reading (which, revised, turned into devotional reading). But once I was through with the devotional, I was thinking about my trip this summer. Oh, you haven't heard? I'm planning on going with a missions team to Peru. My original intention was to fund the trip myself, completely. I still may end up doing that. But I also realized that if some people truly wanted to be a part of what awesome stuff we were doing, then maybe it wasn't a terrible thing to let them know I'd be open to receiving their gift. And besides, the donations are tax deductible. I'd been praying about it and thinking about it, so immediately after my devotional, I logged on to facebook and sent some letters to some people. Not a ton (I have 360 facebook friends--how cool is that? 360!), but enough to get a feel for how the sponsorship thing is going. Regardless of whether I have outside contributors or not, I know God is going to do some incredible things in Peru this summer. I can't wait!
  • Went for a run. A six miler! And oh, wow, it was the most perfect running weather imaginable. The temperature was lovely. The wind was gentle and refreshing. It never rained, but it was overcast and cool... and just an all around great time. Time, as in, experience. My actual time was 59 minutes, which isn't particularly impressive, but as I usually run about 9 minute miles in 5ks, 59 minutes isn't awful for me.
  • Finished writing a chapter in said book. (After a shower) I got to work (in my robe and a tee-shirt), hunkered down, and banged out the rest of a chapter that I'd been stuck on.
  • Sent a query. I'm still querying for my first novel, in hopes of obtaining representation.
  • Received a rejection. And this, of course, would be why I'm still querying.
  • Had a cheesesteak on whole wheat from WaWa. Yum.
  • Wrote a Student Learning Map. Even though I never use maps (for anything), our district creates student learning maps for the kids. So since we're starting a new unit tomorrow, I went into school and put in a few hours looking at the concepts we'd decided to focus on with our next unit and wrote the student learning map. Before bed, I need to review the first act of what I'll be teaching (Caesar... at least, having taught it three years in a row, I could pretty much spout out the abbreviated version of the plot on demand...)
  • Reread the first act of The Importance of Being Earnest. I love this play! I've been waiting for an opportunity to teach it. I ordered it the year before last, but for various reasons haven't worked it into the curriculum yet. This year I decided to do it with my honors sections. So excited. I was reading it alone in my classroom and laughing out loud. Sadly, many of my students don't share my excellent sense of humor...
  • Made a billion copies and hand-stapled them all. I know, it hardly seems like blog worthy material, but until you've tackled a copier in a public school system, I maintain that you've never really tasted danger! Or, something like that. Seriously. The copier breaks every other time you go to use it. Or jams itself up and refuses to cooperate. I went all in and even attempted double-sided copies, and, must have been my day: not a single problem. Unless, of course, you count not having a staple function as a problem. I stood and hand-stapled everything for probably a good twenty minutes. But it was cool; I fit some prayer time in.
  • Played on facebook. What day would be complete without doing so? ("Complete," you say, or "productive for a change"?)
  • Went grocery shopping. Totally boring, but I had to do it. Also, I feel that I forgot many items, so I'll probably have to go again before the end of the week.
  • Checked the weather channel approximately 800 times. In my defense, it's not everyday that you have dream running weather (close to 60 degrees) during the day, followed by winter weather advisories in the evening. Umm, if we had a delay or closing tomorrow, that would officially make this my second favorite week of all time. (The first being the week that Kaliah was born. That was a long, long, LONG pregnancy. And holding my baby girl in my arms for the first time? Priceless). But yeah. Unexpected day off/delay following spring temeratures during the daytime would be pretty much like having my cake and eating it too... and by the way, I don't get that expression. What the heck else are you SUPPOSED to do with cake if you don't eat it? Hmmm?

And now, I'm back in my robe, blogging, and dreaming about a delay tomorrow. (I know. But you can't sit cake in front of me and expect me not to salivate. I just don't have that kind of will power.)

Go snow!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Thanks, Abe and George!

A big shout out to the dead presidents who keep me home from school tomorrow!

In all seriousness, we enjoy many freedoms and priviledges that should not be taken lightly, and I know this. Also, the gentlemen we honor on Presidents' Day deserve to be recognized as more than yet another reason that kids have off from school.

Despite this, in this particular moment... I am so, so, SO glad for a day off tomorrow.

So, once again, a big shout out to Abe and George.

You see... I've been so BUSY lately. I know, so have you. So has everyone. But I've gotta be honest, my days have been so jam packed, it's like there's not enough time to even blink, or breathe. Forgive the lame use of hyperbole, but seriously... I'm in definite need of a day off tomorrow.

The idea of having a full day in which I'm not obligated to do anything or be anywhere is beyond exciting. Of course, I'll end up filling it with unexciting yet necessary tasks, such as cleaning, grading, and lesson planning. But there will also be time. Glorious, glorious time.

Time to sleep in. Time to read the Bible. Time to read just for the sake of reading (knocked out Things Fall Apart, by the way. Terribly sad, but a moving novel all the same. Totally get why it's a classic). Time to write. Yes, please, I am DESPERATE for time to write!

Since the Winter Writing Retreat, when I left so inspired and determined, I've found almost no time for writing. I don't know how that happens, but I'm pretty sure it's not unique to me and my writing. I think so many times, when we resolve to do something for ourselves, something we really enjoy, and especially after we've had a taste of doing that something, and are particularly encouraged, this little thing called "life" happens.

And then there are meetings to go to. And homework to sit and supervise as your child attempts to complete it. And stuff to bake. And a little thing called a career. And bedtime stories, and ballet practices, and doctor's appointments, and, and, and...

And the list goes on and on. And whatever it was, that thing that you do just for you (and for me, it's my writing)... it slowly falls by the wayside.

So here I sit, a month after the retreat. Knowing how shamefully few words I've written since I left, so ready to write on and on and on. I suppose it will be a constant struggle, because there won't be any more hours added to the day any time soon.

But I've got to prioritize. And no, my writing cannot come before my daughter. It can't come before God and the hours I put forth serving my church. It can't come before my job. If this means I'll never be published, I suppose I'll just have to accept that now.

But here's the thing--I love writing enough that though it can't be number one, it can make itself onto my list of daily must-dos. It's like 90% of my struggles on this planet... I've just got to get more organized. I've got to get a plan.

As an experiment: I'm going to start setting my alarm one and a half hours earlier. My Bible reading, which is now jammed in either at lunch time, or the end of the day, will now come first, in the extra half an hour. My writing will follow, and then I'll resume my regular schedule.

We'll see how it goes. Anyone who knows me knows I'm not a morning person. But it would do me good to start the day looking at how God wants to speak with me. And to write everyday would help me stay fresh in my work, instead of having to reread everything I wrote before I'm able to continue writing, since it's been so long I can't even remember what I wrote!

Will it work? Time will tell. I won't be afraid to fail... because failure is just another part of life. But I also won't be afraid to try. There is a season for everything... and I'm feeling like I'm due for a change.

And thankfully, tomorrow, with all it's beautifully clean white slatedness, will be the perfect lazy day to implement my plan!

The true test, of course, will follow.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Decisions, Decisions...

So I've recently decided that having spent the last 28 years of my life not caring about the NFL has led me to miss out on a lot of fun. My life is, I'll admit, jam packed as it is, so I don't have it in me to become a die-hard fan. Nevertheless, this is a time of the year that seems like it would be so much more exciting if I had an affiliation or admiration for a particular team. It's kinda late to jump on a bandwagon this year, but I've decided that I should select a team now to lend my devotions to, so that next year, I too can share in the hype, trash talk, celebration, and (usually) crushing defeat that comes with being a football fan.

First, some history. Some of you may know that I was a cheerleader in high school. I never cared too much about football back then (it was really cold outside, usually, and I was always concerned about not falling off the pyramid). But even with my limited knowledge of football, you couldn't help but get passionate about a close game, and when you win that close game--pretty awesome feeling. As I've gotten older, having realized that most boyfriends are a package deal that involve the NFL, my knowledge of how the game is played has increased slightly. Teaching at a high school in which football is the favorite past time of the entire town has really helped get me sucked into the accompanying mania that come along with play-offs and nail-biting matches, too.

So, yeah. I like sports. I sort of understand football now. I've realized that lots of other people feel deep loyalty and joy stemming from following their teams. So, since I'm missing out on this wonderful world of fun, competition, and food (there seems to be lots of eating and drinking during game time), I've decided I need to just go ahead and pick a favorite football team.

Now. No one in my family watches football, so there's no easy team for me to inherit. After having consulted friends and facebook in eliciting advice in this endeavor, here's where I stand in the decision making process:

1. The Ravens. They're from Baltimore, so they're local (ish). Their colors are black and purple, which I like. They're named after a famous poem. Plus that Flacco guy has a cool name.
2. The Steelers. Being from PA, they are also relatively local. (Too bad Delaware just doesn't have a team. That would make this much easier). They are heavy, heavy favorites at the restaurant where I wait tables, so supporting them would probably be fun and exciting at my part-time job. Plus there's a cool hip-hop song out now called "Black and Yellow." I have to admit, though, that yellow is not a great color for me. Plus... what's a steeler?
3. The Saints. I had to put them on here, only because they are Jennifer Scholl's favorite team. Jen is from New Orleans, and because I'm a little afraid of her, I usually do what she tells me to do. (Plus she's a wonderful human being whom I love very much, and she is right just about 100% of the time. She strongly feels that I should become a Saints fan).
4. The Dolphins. I know, they're terrible. Not one person has suggested that I become a Dolphins fan. But they were featured in one of my (don't laugh) favorite movies of all time: Ace Ventura, Pet Detective. Plus they have super pretty colors, and the one time in my life that I ever put money on a game, I supported the (winless, at that time) Dolphins and they managed to pull it together long enough to win their only game of the season. Maybe if I supported them, their luck would turn around.
5. The Redskins. Also kind of local. I've been told they suck, too. But I know someone who works for them... maybe he'd still be willing to get me free seats? Also, an argument from a longtime friend, who wrote via facebook: "Redskins! Long, rich history...and our players don't stab people or assault girls at clubs! *coughraylewiscough* *coughbigbencough*"
6. The Jets. Somewhat close in location to the only other professional sports team I've ever really cared about: The New Jersey Devils of the NHL. As a bonus, like the Steelers, they're still in the running for this year's Super Bowl.

I've also heard arguments supporting Dallas, Denver, Philadelphia, and the Bucs (Sorry, don't even know where they're from). I enjoyed my friend Anna's take on Denver: "Tim Tebow plays for Denver - I think. He is a strong Christian. He was quarterback for Florida, and always gave God the glory and wrote scripture on his face." Scripture on his face, hmm? Fairly compelling argument there.

Philadelphia: I love the city, but even in my lackadaisical interest in professional athletics, I harbor an almost immediate hatred for all teams Philadelphia: It started with my great dislike of the Flyers (which stemmed mainly from the fact that my brother loved them... I know. I was twelve. It seemed like solid reasoning at the time). And actually, even before that, when Mommom was trying to make baseball fans out of us... our loyalty to the Orioles brought with it an intense hatred of the Damn Yankees and (to a lesser extent, of course) the Phillies.

Dunno. There are much more important decisions to ponder: How will I get all of these book projects graded when I keep wandering off to blog or facebook? Where can I go run a 5k before January ends, so as to not screw up my one-race-per-month minimum that's been in effect since May? Do I allow myself the endless pancakes at the Applebees breakfast tomorrow, or try to stay away from the excess carbs? Should I be revising my first novel, or plugging along on my second--or should I be doing both? Now that I've read through the entire Bible, what kind of reading plan should I implement to make sure I'm still in the Word daily? Will I get a literary agent this year?

Decisions, decisions. Maybe I'll just throw the names of the front-runners for favorite NFL team in a hat and draw one. Then I could be done with that question, and it would always be an interesting story to tell, when asked why I like the Whoevers.

Or, as other friends cautioned me, maybe I'm better off to be blissfully uninvolved when it comes to the NFL. Maybe I'll add "STOP WASTING YOUR TIME" to my hat, and if I draw that card, it will mean that I was never meant to be a football fan.


Monday, January 17, 2011

A Love Affair...

This weekend, I experienced one of those once in a lifetime, luxuriously refreshing string of events that you might equate with an unlikely romantic fantasy or an unspoken, secret dream: in a beautiful oceanfront hotel, where I watched the sunrise over the sea, talked all hours into the night and early morning, enjoyed laughter from the depths of the soul, invigorating intellectual conversation, and plastic cups filled with cheap wine, I fell in love...

It wasn't a weekend getaway with a long lost lover (though that might have been nice, too). This weekend, during the Eastern Shore Writing Project's Winter Writing Retreat, I fell in love again with writing, with living, and with people. It was a love affair of different sorts.

I engaged in a whirlwind romance of the mind as my colleagues and I examined the power of words, allowing ourselves to express heartfelt sentiments about writing, teaching, and communicating. I wrote, I reflected, I read my words aloud. I laughed. I felt deeply my own pain and joy, and that of those around me, as we captured the little miracles of life and typed them into existence on our laptops, jotted them into permanence in patterend journals and tattered spiral notebooks. We came together in a way that is truly rare. I realized, once again, that writing is a bridge across cultures, years, gender, experience. I smiled and cried as I was touched by the words of those around me, and I was humbled as I watched my words fall meaningfully onto the ears of others.

I was swept off my feet spiritually, as well. In a place when I was more inspired than I have ever been by the common bonds uniting us, so many vastly different people, I reflected on what God has done for me, the incredible gift of salvation that I believe is found in Jesus Christ. I ran across the boardwalk at sunrise, watching the incredible display of glowing pink rays lighting up a still soft, star speckled sky, the cold ocean consistently lapping the shore below. I thought of how big my God was, yet how accessible He is, to all who seek him. I prayed for my new friends, and thanked God for the amazing blessings He has given me.

Of course, it's all very noble to claim that I had planned this spirtual rejuvenation in conjunction with my adamant need to exercise. Truth is, I had to force myself to run. Self, I began, you've gained at least five pounds if not more over the holidays. You embarassed yourself terribly at your last 5K. If you don't run at least once this weekend, I'm going to kick your own butt later.

So I exercised my resolve and woke up at 5:30 in the morning, as to not interfere with the precious writing time or the socialization to which I had quickly become addicted, having come together with some of the most interesting and fantastic people I had ever known. As I'm too cheap to pay for a gym membership, and too much of a pansy to be hardcore with my running in the icy month of January, I decided a run in the hotel's treadmill would be a special treat.

Down I went to the gym on the second floor, and yes, it's quite possible that I forgot my sweats and had to run in my pajama pants (don't worry. They're gray, and except for the penguins and surfboards across my derriere, I don't think anyone would have noticed anything suspicious about my attire). Luckily, I was the only lunatic in the gym at what I would have thought was an ungodly morning hour.

*Sidenote--I just had to google "butt synonym" to figure out how to spell derriere. True confessions of the randomness of my life.

So anyway, I attacked the treadmill, and it attacked me back. I've only resorted to indoor running a handful of times in my life, and when I checked my mileage after twenty-five minutes, a timeframe when during my normal efforts outside I would have been at close to three miles, I had managed to run just over two. Sweaty, hot, and disgusted by the stuffiness of my gym and my poor performance, I jumped off the treadmill and wandered out to the balcony to breathe in some fresh air.

To my delight, it wasn't a frigid, furious winter morning, as I assumed it would have been. The cold that greeted me was exactly what I needed to refocus my mind. I jogged down the stairs, having found the inspiration to finish what I'd started. I ran the final mile down the deserted Ocean City boardwalk, awed by the spectacular display of nature in the sunrise, convinced that God had chosen this moment to talk to me.

It was a beautiful experience.

The people I spent the weekend with: dear older friends and instant newer ones, too, were truly some of the most fascinating I've ever met. Many of us are teachers. Some of us are students. All of us are writers. Stacie, the single mom of four I invited from my church, one of my favorite friends I made last year, discovered that she is, in fact, a writer. My friend Greg, a college student and full-time construction worker, held his own and kept us in hysterics as he carried his weight as one third of our entire male population (the only time you'll be in the minority as a white male, we joked). His creative documentary on seagulls is both hilarious and a bit scary. Once he posts it online, I'll provide a link. Laura, who has easily done enough living in her short time on this planet to have lived fifteen people's lifetimes, told of her adventures in twenty-one countries, and her Deep Conversations with Random Strangers, a brilliant book idea that stems from her energy and fearlessness in meeting and connecting with new people. I heard sentences from her mouth that I would never anticipate hearing again, things like "So I was in Chicago, and it was after I'd won third place in the Amateur Ventriliquest Competition..." We practiced the art of Deep Conversations with Random Strangers, marching into The Atlantic Hotel in Berlin, demanding to know if this was in fact the hotel Richard Gere stayed in during the filming of Runaway Bride. The gracious owner, who was sidetracked by her duty to check in actual paying guests, handed us the key to Room #20, and up the stairs we went. Cynthia touched the bed Mr. Gere slept in; we all admired the toilet he peed in.

We finished the weekend out with Jody Kelly Wright, a local author and partner of a West Ocean City restaurant. She spoke beautifully, encouraging us all, inviting us to celebrate whatever successes it is that we have achieved, and to constantly challenge ourselves to take it to the next level, whatever that may be. Jody is living my dream. She has had one book published by a small press, and is now an agented author pursuing traditional publication for another of her novels. I think given her energy, dedication, and obvious talent, she is a definite name to watch. As I sat in that room with other aspiring authors, I thought back to that grueling run on the treadmill, and how the moment I stepped outside, I was free to really run. It suddenly became easier, because instead of running in place, I was actually going somewhere. I think so many of us run, run, run through our lives going nowhere, just as I was struggling and huffing away on that treadmill. Only in breaking loose and running in the fresh air, which we are so often afraid to do, because of the cold, because of the inconvenience, because of the unknown, because of the challenge, only when we venture outside, do we find we are finally able to run somewhere. I don't even know that where you go is the important thing... I just know it matters that you are moving in a direction of your choice, as opposed to staying still despite your best efforts.

As I thought about God and all his majesty, the gifts he gives us that we take for granted or get distracted from (the most sacred of which is the gift of His own son), I vowed to not run in place any longer. I vowed to pursue my dreams and those God has for me, and to not settle for running in place, to exhaust myself in a struggle to make it through without actually going anywhere. I want to live life to the fullest. As I returned to Salisbury for church in the evening, my pastor's words summed up my realizations of the weekend:

"It is never too late to be the person you were always meant to become."

Why wait another day? We are given so very few, and they are truly precious. I'm getting off the treadmill now.

Will you?

Why settle for an affair when you could be married?

Here's to living each day to the fullest.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Guess What?

...I got invited to teach a creative writing summer camp!

Yep... it's not official yet, but I was contacted by the directors of the Eastern Shore Writing Project, the amazing sponsors of the best profesional development ever, the ESWP summer institute, which I had a blast completing last year... and they both want me to be the instructor for the Young Writers program at Wor-Wic this summer!

I still have to interview with Wor-Wic... but just being asked to do this is a huge compliment.

I am very excited to share my love of creative writing with talented students. :)

Yay me!

And in other ESWP news... the Winter Writing Retreat is this weekend. Totally stoked for a weekend of writing and relaxing. Rumor has it... there's going to be karaoke.

Look out, Ocean City!

PS--Snowmageddon, I hear you're coming for us again. I SUPPOSE I can handle a day or two off work this week, if you're gonna twist my arm and all... but that's it! ONE or TWO days ONLY! I've got mid-terms to give, and these kids need to know what's on their exam! Plus, if you even THINK about interfering with the retreat...

I'm calling Delaware quits and going to Mexico. Don't think I won't do it, either.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Hello, 2011!

Look at my beautiful daughter, racing into the New Year!

(She's number 132 in the purple. Just in case you didn't know.)

Check out that unbridled joy on her face. Note that this is the begining of her race--she's not smiling because the end is finally in sight, like an unnamed runner from yesterday's post.

By the way, I finished third in my age group. With a time of 28:28, which is far from my best. I'm kinda glad the clock wasn't up, for whatever reason, yesterday. That probably would have dampened my spirits.

But today--what's to be sad about? Nothing, if you are looking at the smile on my little girl's face. Seriously, doesn't it just melt your heart? I bet it would melt even the Grinch's tiny, shriveled heart. You know. Pre-Saving-Christmas, Whoville-Loving, Grinch. The mean one. Even the grumpiest Grinch would have a change of heart in my daughter's presence.

Well. Until she opens her mouth and starts asking fifty bazillion questions, anyway. :)

So on a related note--my legs HURRRRT today. It's what I get for not exercising all month before yesterday's 5k.

Exercise--there's a nice transition for the final segment of today's blog. I'm not great at New Year's Resolutions. I usually make a few half-hearted attempts to lose weight or get more organized or be a better person in general. Traditionally, I blow all my resolutions by the end of January. Anybody else out there with me?

At church this year, one of our Pastors suggested looking at three areas of your life and setting a goal for improvement in each one: Physical, Spiritual, and Relational. That seems doable, even for a Resolution Reject such as myself.

1. Physical--By the end of 2011, I'd like to finish a 5k in the 26es. This goal should be fairly attainable, as long as I get back into my regular running routine soon. I'm not much for jogging in cold weather, but if I can force myself to do it even once every other week, I shouldn't have lost too much ground by the time spring rolls around.

2. Spiritual--I have a goal for this area that is somewhat private. It's kind of big, and I don't want to look stupid if I fail. :) So while I will be sharing it with a few people so that I can feel like I'm being held accountable, I'll hold off on posting it online.

3. Relational--I want to be more patient. I tend to be able to do this with my students, or co-workers, or even friends. But with my closest family members, I tend to lose my temper and snap more easily. I am especially harsh with my daughter and grandmother at times. So I am going to count to ten before I open my mouth when I'm in a situation in which I tend to get angry quickly, and ask myself--is this really a big deal? Is what you're going to say going to hurt feelings? Does it have to be said? If it does, can you phrase it nicely?

So there are my three (well... two and a half, since I didn't really divulge number two...) What are yours? Are you good at keeping resolutions? Or lousy, like myself?